Oct 262018
 
 October 26, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Ernst Haas Greece 1952

 

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)
Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)
Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)
ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)
UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)
Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)
World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)
Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)
Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)
Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)
Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

 

 

So what’s the net effect of QE?

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)

October has been a terrible month for equities. Yet, this is only a start of what’s to come.

Despite the rout, the S&P is just barely down for the year.

Expect a “Lost Decade”

Why?

The Shiller PE Ratio also known as “CAPE”, the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings Ratio, is in the stratosphere. It’s not a timing mechanism, rather it’s a warning mechanism. The main idea is that earnings are mean reverting. On that basis, stocks are more overvalued than any time other than the DotCom era. But that is misleading. In 2000 there were many sectors that were extremely cheap. Energy was a standout buy then. So were retail and financials. It’s difficult to find any undervalued sectors now other than gold.

Read more …

Another Reuters headline says: “World stocks head for worst losing streak in over half a decade..”

Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)

Asian shares skidded to 20-month lows, S&P futures fell sharply and China’s yuan weakened at the end of a turbulent week for financial markets on Friday, as anxiety over corporate profits added to lingering fears about global trade and economic growth. The gloom enveloping Asia was at odds with a bounce on Wall Street overnight, highlighting fragile investor confidence, as shares of tech titans Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc fell sharply after the closing bell on disappointing earnings. In Friday’s Asian session, S&P E-mini futures slumped 0.88 percent, setting up a potentially rough session for U.S. markets which had crumbled on Wednesday on concerns about earnings and sent global equities into a tailspin.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.04 percent, erasing tiny gains made in the opening hour and hitting its lowest level since February 2017. Not helping was a slide in the Chinese yuan past a key level, refocusing market attention on slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. Shares in Europe are seen following Asia down, with London’s FTSE expected to open 0.9 percent lower, Germany’s DAX off 1 percent and France’s CAC 40 down 1.2 percent, according to David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “There’s no question that the weight of sentiment has been building,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut in Brisbane, highlighting in particular rising geopolitical tensions including Brexit, and “internal financial tension” in China.

Read more …

Big tech big losses.

Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)

So far in October, the S&P 500 has booked 13 losing days, including October 10, when the index dropped 3.3%, and October 24, when it dropped 3.1%. Then came today, with the feel-good moment of a boisterous 1.9% gain. And then came after-hours trading, and nearly everything went to heck, particularly the FANGMAN stocks that weigh so heavily on the index with their $4-trillion market cap. And Friday morning looks already ugly.

All of the FANGMAN stocks were in the red in late trading:
Facebook [FB]: -2.3%
Amazon [AMZN]: -7.4%
Netflix [NFLX]: -2.8%
Google’s parent Alphabet [GOOG]: -3.7%
Microsoft [MSFT]: -1.5%
Apple [AAPL]: -0.4%
NVIDIA [NVDA]: -2.8%

There were some standout reasons: Amazon plunged after it reported record profit but missed on revenues and guided down Q4 expectations for sales and profits, a sign of slowing revenue growth. It was down as much as $150 a share, or almost 9%. Google’s parent Alphabet reported that revenues grew 22%, which missed expectations. Earnings beat, but a considerable slice – $1.38 billion! – of those earnings came from the gains in its portfolio of equity securities. CFO Ruth Porat warned that traffic acquisition costs would increase further as consumers are shifting search activity from desktop computers to mobile devices. Shares plunged up to 5%.

Read more …

Can Draghi stop purchasing Italian bonds?

ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)

The European Central Bank (ECB) took no action on Thursday, leaving its benchmark interest rates unchanged. However, the ECB confirmed that its plan to end monetary easing by the end of the year remains on track. “Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council will continue to make net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the new monthly pace of 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018,” the ECB said in a statement. “The Governing Council anticipates that, subject to incoming data confirming the medium-term inflation outlook, net purchases will then end,” the bank added.

The decision takes place as concerns mount over Italy’s fiscal policies and their potential impact over the stability of the euro area. The end of the ECB’s massive crisis-era stimulus program could be a challenging moment for European bonds, given that the ECB will no longer be in the market purchasing sovereign paper and providing some sort of backstop. This could add further pressure, mainly on Italy, given the widespread concerns over its debt pile.

Read more …

There’s a taste of Italy here, though political leanings are very different.

UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Labour would reverse cuts made by the government since 2010 as Labour highlighted more than £108bn needed to “end austerity”. Labour’s pre-budget review said it would take £42bn to reverse departmental spending cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had already highlighted another £19bn needed to stop further cuts to government. Some £33.5bn would be required to reverse cuts to social security and social care, Labour said. McDonnell pledged to increase spending on the National Health Service, adult social care, and schools, at a speech in London to business and trade union representatives.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Theresa May, also said she would end the policy of austerity instituted by her predecessor David Cameron and continued by the current government. May told the Conservative party conference: “After a decade of austerity, people need to know that their hard work has paid off.” However, policy experts have highlighted that the government’s pledge leaves room for manoeuvre. The £19bn bill calculated by the IFS, a non-partisan thinktank, would be needed to prevent further cuts in spending to government departments whose budgets are not protected, under one definition of “ending austerity”.

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Why invite more of the same?

Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)

Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, has referred the lawyer Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, for criminal investigation. In a statement, Grassley said he was referring the two to the justice department for a “criminal investigation relating to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation”. Swetnick, who was represented by Avenatti, came forward in late September to allege that Kavanaugh took part in efforts to gang-rape women at drunken parties. She said she too was gang-raped at one such party, but did not directly accuse Kavanaugh of being involved.

Kavanaugh categorically denied the accusations calling them “a joke” and “a farce” in his testimony before the Senate. Avenatti has become an increasingly high-profile opponent of Donald Trump after coming to prominence as the lawyer of Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti has been an outspoken critic of Trump on cable TV and social media. He is also mulling a run for the White House in 2020. Swetnick was the third woman to come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process for the supreme court. The Senate approved Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50-48 vote in early October.

Grassley accused Swetnick and Avenatti of knowingly misleading the committee. “That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” said the Iowa Republican. “It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future,” Grassley said.

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Inequality has become a dangerous game, but greed wins the day every day.

World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. The richest people on Earth increased their wealth by a fifth to $8.9tn (£6.9tn), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS. The fortunes of today’s super-wealthy have risen at a far greater rate than at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast wealth. The report by UBS and accountants PwC said there was so much money in the hands of the ultra-rich that a new wave of rich and powerful multi-generational families was being created. “The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the UBS Billionaires 2018 report said.

“That period bred generations of families in the US and Europe who went on to influence business, banking, politics, philanthropy and the arts for more than 100 years. With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st century multi-generational families are being created.” The world’s 2,158 billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4tn last year, more than the GDP of Spain or Australia, as booming stock markets helped the already very wealthy to achieve the “greatest absolute growth ever”. More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4tn to be handed down over the next 20 years.

“A major wealth transition has begun,” the report said. “Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each.

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Completely insane.

Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)

Twitter has suspended noted anti-war commentator, economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts, 79, served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1982. He was formerly a distinguished fellow at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Roberts maintains an active blog. He’s also vehemently against interventionary wars around the world, and spoke with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news in a Tuesday article – in which Roberts said that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty was a handout to the military-security complex.

The former Reagan administration official clarified that he does not think “that the military-security complex itself wants a war with Russia, but it does want an enemy that can be used to justify more spending.” He explained that the withdrawing from the INF Treaty “gives the military-security complex a justification for a larger budget and new money to spend: manufacturing the formerly banned missiles.” [..] The economist highlighted that “enormous sums spent on ‘defense’ enabled the armaments corporations to control election outcomes with campaign contributions,” adding that in addition, “the military has bases and the armaments corporations have factories in almost every state so that the population, dependent on the jobs, support high amounts of ‘defense’ spending.”

“That was 57 years ago,” he underscored. “You can imagine how much stronger the military-security complex is today.” -Sputnik. Roberts also suggested that “The Zionist Neoconservatives are responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the INF treaty, just as they were responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty [in 2002], the Iran nuclear agreement, and the promise not to move NATO one inch to the East.”

Read more …

So Assange still doesn’t have his internet back, but he does talk to an Ecuador court via video link.

Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)

The presiding judge in WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s case against the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has reportedly said that the court made a mistake by appointing an English translator who doesn’t speak Australian. The anecdote was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday and allegedly took place at the first hearing of Assange’s lawsuit against the ministry. Speaking via video link, Australian-born Assange complained to the court that his state-appointed translator from English to Spanish was not cutting it. It’s unclear what exactly the issue was, but Judge Karina Martinez apparently thought Assange’s Australian accent was thick enough to warrant a dedicated expert.

While Australian English is the most spoken dialect Down Under, it is by no means a separate language. The Australian dialect originated in the late 18th and early 19th century from convicts who were the first British settlers to arrive in New South Wales. Admittedly, the Australian vernacular is quite distinct, has rich slang, and peculiar terms. Differences in pronunciation and vocabulary can at times leave an average British or American English speaker perplexed. Assange’s accent, however, is far from the thickest around. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, accusing the government of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms” with a set of new rules.

The government files released by an Ecuadorian opposition lawmaker last Tuesday outline the efforts of the Latin American country to prevent Assange from engaging in activities that “could be considered political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states.” They also limit Assange’s visitation rights, force him to pay his own medical bills, and even threaten to take away his cat if he doesn’t look after it properly. Assange’s lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, has accused Valencia of “isolating and muzzling” the fugitive, himself an Ecuadorian citizen since December 2017. Garzon said Assange still has no access to the internet, despite Ecuador’s earlier announcement it would restore communications.

Read more …

Worth a try.

Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)

A group of Canadian doctors are to begin prescribing trips to an art gallery to help patients suffering a range of ailments become a picture of health. A partnership between the Francophone Association of Doctors in Canada (MFdC) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will allow patients suffering from a number of physical and mental health issues, along with their loved ones, to take in the benefits of art on health with free visits. The pilot project is unprecedented globally, according to its organizer. The project will see participating physicians prescribe up to 50 visits to the MMFA during treatment, each pass valid for up to two adults and two minors.

So far 100 doctors have enrolled to take part over the course of a year, Nicole Parent, head of the MFdC, told AFP Thursday. The numbers offer proof that doctors have “a sensitivity and openness to alternative approaches if you want” Parent said, citing scientifically proven benefits of art on health. The benefits are similar to those patients can get from physical activity, prompting the secretion of a similar level of feel-good hormones, and can help with everything from chronic pain to depression, stress and anxiety. The pilot program will allow organizers to gather data and analyze results, allowing for the development of protocol for identifying patients.

Read more …

This summer (which starts Dec 20).

Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

Mass bleaching and coral death could be likely along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely. The forecast period covers November 2018 to February 2019 and the risk extends to the southern Great Barrier Reef, which escaped the mass mortality seen in the middle and northern parts of the reef in 2016 and 2017.

“This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years,” said marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. “These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.” Hoegh-Guldberg said it was particularly worrying that the long-range forecasts were already showing high chances of bleaching and mortality before March, which is the main month of the year for bleaching events.

He said if the models proved accurate it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. “To really have the full picture we’re going to have to wait for those projections that cover the main part of bleaching season,” he said. “Given sea temperatures usually increase as we get towards March, this is probably conservative.”

Read more …

Mar 202018
 
 March 20, 2018  Posted by at 10:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Times Square at night 1954

 

Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies (Sky)
Alzheimer Care For Americans Alive Today Projected To Cost $47 Trillion (BBG)
The Stock Market Meltup Is Over: Morgan Stanley (MW)
It’s Not Just Tech. Credit Markets Give Fuel to Equity Rout (BBG)
How Economies Could Insure Themselves Against The Bad Times (Shiller)
US Expected To Impose Up To $60 Billion In China Tariffs By Friday (R.)
Facebook Stock Value Down $35 Billion On Cambridge Analytica Controversy (Ind.)
Former Obama Campaign Director: Facebook Was “On Our Side” (ZH)
How Facebook Made Its Data Crisis Worse (BBG)
Tech World Experiencing A Major ‘Trust Crisis’ – Futurist (CNBC)
If You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It (Jim Kunstler)
Over 70% of US Citizens Believe America Is Controlled By A ‘Deep State’ (RT)
UK Tories Set To Slump To Record Low At Local Elections (G.)
Former French President Sarkozy In Custody Over Libya Funding Probe (F24)
Greece Undermining EU-Turkey Migrant Deal, German Report Says (K.)

 

 

Is there anything sadder in the world?

Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies (Sky)

The last male northern white rhino has died in Kenya, keepers have confirmed. The 45-year-old animal died from “age-related complications”, leaving only two females of his subspecies alive. In a statement, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya said the rhino, called Sudan, was put down after his condition “worsened significantly” and he was unable to stand. Scientists have gathered his genetic material and are working on developing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to save his subspecies. In a statement, the zoo wrote: “Sudan will be remembered for his unusually memorable life. “In the 1970s, he escaped extinction of his kind in the wild when he was moved to Prague Zoo. Throughout his existence, he significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females.

“Additionally, his genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies. “During his final years, Sudan came back to Africa and stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength.” Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO, said: “We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. “He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity. “One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists worldwide.”

The northern white rhino population in Uganda, Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic was largely wiped out by poachers in the 1970s and 1980s, fuelled by a demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine and dagger handles in Yemen. Four fertile northern white rhinos, two male and two female, were moved from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta with high hopes they would breed in an environment similar to their native habitat. Although they were seen mating, there were no successful pregnancies.

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To be fair, we’re killing our own species too. Where is the US going to find the $47 trillion?

Alzheimer Care For Americans Alive Today Projected To Cost $47 Trillion (BBG)

Alzheimer’s disease is among the most expensive illnesses in the U.S. There’s no cure, no effective treatment and no easy fix for the skyrocketing financial cost of caring for an aging population. Spending on care for people alive in the U.S. right now who will develop the affliction is projected to cost $47 trillion over the course of their lives, a report issued Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association found. The U.S. is projected to spend $277 billion on Alzheimer’s or other dementia care in 2018 alone, with an aging cohort of baby boomers pushing that number to $1.1 trillion by 2050. Research so far has been stymied by clinical failures. By one count, at least 190 human trials of Alzheimer’s drugs have ended in failure.

No company has successfully marketed a drug to treat it, though many big pharmaceutical companies, including Merck and Pfizer, have tried. Biogen, a company based in Cambridge, MA, saw its shares dive last month after it said it was expanding the number of participants in its trial for the drug aducanumab. However, significant cost savings can be achieved, according to the new report, by the simple act of early diagnosis. Currently, individuals are typically diagnosed in the dementia stage, rather than when they have developed only mild cognitive impairment [MCI]. Identifying the disease early can allow it to be better managed, in part with existing drugs that treat its symptoms. In doing so, the study postulates, America could save $7.9 trillion over the lifetimes of everyone alive right now.

The Alzheimer’s Association commissioned researchers at Precision Health Economics to study the potential savings of obtaining an earlier diagnosis. It used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a “nationally representative sample of adults age 50 and older,” run by the University of Michigan and supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. The $7.9 trillion in savings was derived from a scenario in which all adults who develop Alzheimer’s receive an early diagnosis in the MCI stage. The cumulative cost in such a circumstance is projected at $39.2 trillion—far below the $47.1 trillion that would be spent under current diagnostic patterns.

[..] There are now an estimated 5.5 million Americans aged 65 or older with Alzheimer’s. In 2025, that number is projected to be 7.1 million. By 2050, it could reach 13.8 million. Along with the increasing costs, the report also found Alzheimer’s to be increasingly lethal. It’ss currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and deaths attributed to it jumped by 123% between 2000 to 2015, the report found.

Read more …

What stock market?

The Stock Market Meltup Is Over: Morgan Stanley (MW)

The stock market meltup is over. At least, that’s the prognosis of one prominent Wall Street strategist who believes the torrid January rally that gave way to a correction may have been the market’s short-term apex. The S&P 500 jumped 7.5% between the end of 2017 and Jan. 26, when it notched the last in a string of record closes at 2,872.87. “We think January was the top for sentiment, if not prices, for the year. With volatility moving higher we think it will be difficult for institutional clients to gross up to or beyond the January peaks,” said Michael Wilson, chief U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley Institutional Securities, in his weekly note on Monday. “Retail sentiment indicators also look to have peaked in January and we do not see anything on the horizon to get retail investors more bullish than they were following a tax cut.”

As a result, the much-anticipated meltup in stocks that numerous strategists had been forecasting since last year won’t likely happen in 2018, he said. A meltup is an unexpected rise in asset prices as investors surge into the market on fear of missing out. “When we look at our internal data combined with industry flows and sentiment, we think there is a strong case that January was the melt-up, or at least the culmination of it,” Wilson added. One key point in Wilson’s thesis is that gross leverage by Morgan Stanley’s hedge fund clients hit an all-time high in January. Gross leverage, according to the strategist, is a good measure of investor willingness to assume risk.

The record was also set right before the early February “volatility shock” forced investors to scale back their exposure to risk and Wilson does not expect gross leverage to return to January levels any time in the near future.

Going forward, Wilson expects U.S. stock returns to be mostly driven by increase in earnings estimates. “If we just roll forward the current bottom-up estimates, the forward earnings per share would be $166 and $170 by June 30 and September 30, respectively. That is approximately 3% and 5% higher than today’s $161. Not exciting, but not very bad either,” he said. “However, those numbers might need to come down if we start to see some evidence of lower margins since consensus forecasts assume no operating margin degradation. That is another reason why we think the S&P 500 makes its highs for the year this summer. It’s also a wild card that has big idiosyncratic risk at the stock level in our view.”

Read more …

The many faces of debt.

It’s Not Just Tech. Credit Markets Give Fuel to Equity Rout (BBG)

Equity investors grappling with a technology selloff, trade tensions and hawkish monetary chatter have a new foe to contend with: growing angst in credit markets. After resisting the full force of the gales that swept through markets earlier this year, corporate bonds are sending ominous messages. Traders are jumping out of the asset class as investment-grade spreads sit near their widest in six months and yields rise to the highest in more than six years – just as stock investors seek to recover from the first S&P 500 correction in two years. “If credit spreads widen, the equities with bad balance sheets will underperform,” said Louis de Fels at Raymond James Asset Management. “We’re quite cautious on the quality of the assets.”

Corporate bonds held by smart money have historically proven a leading indicator for the direction of stocks. That may spell disappointment for investors heeding Wall Street advice to shift towards equity, a late-cycle outperformer. “Credit leads equities and will underperform,” said Andrew Brenner at Natalliance Securities in New York, citing Federal Reserve hikes, signs of softer U.S. output and corporate sales of short-term U.S. debt. “We expect equities to catch up on the downside.” For now, stock investors appear sanguine. U.S. equity funds took in a record $34.5 billion in the week to March 14, compared to just $2.4 billion for bonds, according to Stanford C Bernstein. That brings the quarterly total for debt funds to $37.3 billion, the slimmest quarterly addition since the three months ending in December 2016, the data show.

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But in the end it’s just another form of debt.

How Economies Could Insure Themselves Against The Bad Times (Shiller)

The time has come for national governments around the world to start issuing their debt in a new form, linked to their countries’ resources. GDP-linked bonds, with coupons and principal that rise and fall in proportion to the issuing country’s GDP, promise to solve many fundamental problems that governments face when their countries’ economies falter. And, once GDP-linked bonds are issued by a variety of countries, investors will be attracted by the prospect of high returns when some of these countries do very well. This new debt instrument is especially exciting because of its monumental size. Although issues may start out small, they will be very important from the outset. The capitalised value of total global GDP is worth far more than the world’s stock markets and could be valued today in the quadrillions of US dollars.

[..] I have been advocating something like GDP-linked bonds for 25 years. In my 1993 book Macro Markets, I described the world’s GDPs as the “mother of all markets” and emphasised a form of debt called “perpetual claims”. But I did not work out a real plan of implementation and advocacy. [The book] ‘Sovereign GDP-Linked Bonds’ does just that. The basic idea is simple enough. Governments issue GDP-linked bonds to raise funds, just as corporations issue shares. By issuing such bonds, governments pledge to pay in proportion to the resources they have, measured by their countries’ GDP. The price-to-GDP ratio of GDP-linked bonds is essentially analogous to the price-to-earnings ratio of corporate shares. The difference is that GDP is an order of magnitude larger than corporate profits represented by the stock market.

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Well, it won’t be boring.

US Expected To Impose Up To $60 Billion In China Tariffs By Friday (R.)

The Trump administration is expected to unveil up to $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports by Friday, targeting technology, telecommunications and intellectual property, two officials briefed on the matter said Monday. One business source, who has discussed the issue with the administration, said that the China tariffs may be subject to a public comment period, which would delay their effective date and allow industry groups and companies to lodge objections. This would be considerably different from the quick implementation of the steel and aluminum tariffs, which are set to go into effect on March 23, just 15 days after President Donald Trump signed the proclamations.

A delayed approach could allow time for negotiations with Beijing to try to resolve trade issues related to the administration’s “Section 301” probe into China’s intellectual property practices before tariffs take effect. The White House declined to comment Monday. China has vowed to take retaliatory measures in response. A source who had direct knowledge of the administration’s thinking told Reuters last week that the tariffs, authorized under the 1974 U.S. Trade Act, would be chiefly targeted at information technology, consumer electronics and telecoms and other products benefiting from U.S. intellectual property. But they could be much broader and hit consumer products such as clothing and footwear, with a list eventually running to 100 products, this person said.

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But Zuckerberg sold just in time.

Facebook Stock Value Down $35 Billion On Cambridge Analytica Controversy (Ind.)

Facebook stock dropped $35bn (£25bn) by close of trading on Wall Street, as the company deals with questions over its privacy rules in the wake of a scandal involving data firm Cambridge Analytica harvesting a vast repository of user information. The social media giant’s stock value declined by around 7%, paralleling losses throughout the technology industry and raising questions about the controversy inflicting lasting damage to Facebook’s bottom line. It amounted to the largest single-day%age decline for Facebook stock since 2014, with the drop outpacing broader declines across Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite all shed more than a percentage point in value by market’s close. Prominent tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet all saw declines as political pressure on Facebook intensified, building on months of deepening scrutiny of the tech sector by elected officials.

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Six degrees of Facebook.

Former Obama Campaign Director: Facebook Was “On Our Side” (ZH)

The recent controversy and escalating scandal over Facebook’s decision to ban Trump-linked political data firm Cambridge Analytica over the use of data harvested through a personality app under the guise of academic research has opened a veritable Pandora’s box of scandal for the Silicon Valley social media giant. Carol Davidsen, who served as Obama’s director of integration and media analytics during his 2012 campaign (in her LinkedIn profile she says she was responsible for “The Optimizer” & “Narwhal” big data analytics platforms), claims – with evidence, that Facebook found out about a massive data-mining operation they were conducting to “suck out the whole social graph” in order to target potential voters.

After Facebook found out, they knowingly allowed them to continue doing it because they were supportive of the campaign. “[M]ore than 1 million Obama backers who signed up for the [Facebook-based app] gave the campaign permission to look at their Facebook friend lists. In an instant, the campaign had a way to see the hidden young voters. Roughly 85% of those without a listed phone number could be found in the uploaded friend lists. What’s more, Facebook offered an ideal way to reach them,” reads an article Davidsen posted as a prelude to her postings.

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I doubt that it can make it worse. We haven’t seen the beginning of it.

How Facebook Made Its Data Crisis Worse (BBG)

Facebook tried to get ahead of its latest media firestorm. Instead, it helped create one. The company knew ahead of time that on Saturday, the New York Times and The Guardian’s Observer would issue bombshell reports that the data firm that helped Donald Trump win the presidency had accessed and retained information on 50 million Facebook users without their permission. Facebook did two things to protect itself: it sent letters to the media firms laying out its legal case for why this data leak didn’t constitute a “breach.” And then it scooped the reports using their information, with a Friday blog post on why it was suspending the ad firm, Cambridge Analytica, from its site. Both moves backfired.

On Friday, Facebook said it “received reports” that Cambridge Analytica hadn’t deleted the user data, and that it needed to suspend the firm. The statement gave the impression that Facebook had looked into the matter. In fact, the company’s decisions were stemming from information in the news reports set to publish the next day, and it had not independently verified those reports, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. By trying to look proactive, Facebook ended up adding weight to the news.

On Saturday, any good will the company earned by talking about the problem first was quickly undone when reporters revealed Facebook’s behind-the-scenes legal maneuvering. “Yesterday Facebook threatened to sue us. Today we publish this,” Carole Cadwalladr, the Observer reporter, wrote as she linked her story to Twitter, in a post shared almost 15,000 times. The Guardian said it had nothing to add to her statement. The Times confirmed that it too received a letter, but said it didn’t consider the correspondence a legal threat.

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You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Tech World Experiencing A Major ‘Trust Crisis’ – Futurist (CNBC)

Big brands have to reestablish trust with consumers on data safety, futurist Chris Riddell told CNBC at Credit Suisse’s annual Asian Investment Conference on Tuesday. Riddell, who describes his job title as “fundamentally seeing how technology is changing humanity,” said the world is currently experiencing a severe “trust crisis.” “People now are more willing to share data than ever before” but the of data breaches at major companies break “trust and confidence,” he stated.

Social media platform Facebook is currently under fire amid allegations that private data firm Cambridge Analytica lied about deleting user data it had improperly obtained from a Russian-American researcher in 2015. “We’re in an era of category killers, where one organization is dominating in an industry,” Riddell said, pointing to Facebook and Google as examples. The challenge for those businesses is to rebuild trust and use technology to create transparency, he continued.

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RussiaRussiaRussia

If You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It (Jim Kunstler)

Various readers, fans, blog commenters, Facebook trolls, and auditors twanged on me all last week about my continuing interest in the RussiaRussiaRussia hysteria, though there is no particular consensus of complaint among them — except for a general “shut up, already” motif. For the record, I’m far more interested in the hysteria itself than the Russia-meddled-in the-election case, which I consider to be hardly any case at all beyond 13 Russian Facebook trolls.

The hysteria, on the other hand, ought to be a matter of grave concern, because it appears more and more to have been engineered by America’s own intel community, its handmaidens in the Dept of Justice, and the twilight’s last gleamings of the Obama White House, and now it has shoved this country in the direction of war at a time when civilian authority over the US military looks sketchy at best. This country faces manifold other problems that are certain to reduce the national standard of living and disrupt the operations of an excessively complex and dishonest economy, and the last thing America needs is a national war-dance over trumped-up grievances with Russia.

The RussiaRussiaRussia narrative has unspooled since Christmas and is blowing back badly through the FBI, now with the firing (for cause) of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe hours short of his official retirement (and inches from the golden ring of his pension). He was axed on the recommendation of his own colleagues in the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, and they may have been influenced by the as-yet-unreleased report of the FBI Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, due out shortly.

The record of misbehavior and “collusion” between the highest ranks of the FBI, the Democratic Party, the Clinton campaign, several top political law firms, and a shady cast of international blackmail peddlars is a six-lane Beltway-scale evidence trail compared to the muddy mule track of Trump “collusion” with Russia. It will be amazing if a big wad of criminal cases are not dealt out of it, even as The New York Times sticks its fingers in its ears and goes, “La-la-la-la-la….” It now appears that Mr. McCabe’s statements post-firing tend to incriminate his former boss, FBI Director James Comey — who is about to embark, embarrassingly perhaps, on a tour for his self-exculpating book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.

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Going mainstream doesn’t seem to fit the deep state’s preferences.

Over 70% of US Citizens Believe America Is Controlled By A ‘Deep State’ (RT)

Over 70% of US citizens in the Republican and Democratic parties believe America is controlled by a “deep state” of unelected government officials, according to a new poll. They also fear state surveillance, it reveals.
Although most Americans interviewed are not familiar with the term ‘deep state’, when they heard the definition as a cadre of unelected government and military officials who secretly influence government policies, a majority expressed belief in its ‘probable existence’ according to the Monmouth University poll released Monday.

Additionally six in 10 of those polled think that these unelected government figures wield too much power when it comes to shaping federal policy. “We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge. But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘deep state’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Donald Trump has popularized the term ‘deep state’ over the course of his presidency. In January he blasted the ‘deep state’ Department of Justice for allegedly shielding a Hillary Clinton aide who used a non-secure private email account while conducting government business. The poll also highlights widespread fears of state surveillance, with 80% of Americans believing that the US government currently spies on the activities of its citizens. “This is a worrisome finding. The strength of our government relies on public faith in protecting our freedoms, which is not particularly robust. And it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. These concerns span the political spectrum,” Murray added.

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When incompetence shines through. They’re pitching anti-Corbyn attack ads on…Facebook.

UK Tories Set To Slump To Record Low At Local Elections (G.)

Conservative party support in London looks set to slump to a record low at the local elections on 3 May as the young, ethnically diverse electorate turns to Labour in increasing numbers. Projections from the Tory peer and psephologist Robert Hayward indicate the Conservatives will lose about 100 council seats. If they lose more than 93 – less than three seats in each of London’s boroughs – the Tories would fall below their previous low of 511 councillors in the capital. That came in 1994, just after the pound had fallen out of the exchange rate mechanism and Labour had begun the recovery that led to its 1997 general election landslide. “I’d be surprised if the Tories did not have an all-time low number of councillors,” Hayward said.

“Labour were very successful in London in the general election last year and I’d expect that to continue in 2018.” The Tories could even lose their two flagship boroughs of Wandsworth, which has been in Conservative control since 1978, and Westminster, which has been Tory since the last local government reorganisation in 1964. More likely, Barnet in north London might go Labour and the Liberal Democrats could triumph in Kingston in south-west London where they are also targeting the neighbouring council, Richmond. The most spectacular reverse would be the loss of Kensington and Chelsea, the Conservative heartland won by Labour with the narrowest of margins at last year’s general election, where the Tory council has come under fire for its mishandling of the Grenfell Tower fire.

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He took the money and then killed him.

Former French President Sarkozy In Custody Over Libya Funding Probe (F24)

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been called in for questioning by investigators looking into suspected Libyan financing of his 2007 election campaign, an official in the French judiciary said Tuesday. Libyan officials from the Gaddafi era have claimed they helped finance Sarkozy’s election campaign. An investigation into the case has been underway since 2013. It is the first time Sarkozy has been questioned in the inquiry. The hearing comes several weeks after a former associate, Alexandre Djouhri, was arrested in London as part of the investigation and later released on bail. Investigators are examining claims that Gaddafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy €50 million overall for the 2007 campaign. Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time of €21 million.

In November 2016, French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine said he delivered three suitcases from Libya, containing five million euros in cash, to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff and campaign director, Claude Guéant, between 2006 and 2007. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, has always denied the allegations. A lawyer for the former French president could not be reached immediately for comment on Tuesday. Sarkozy had a complex relationship with Gaddafi. Soon after his election to the presidency, Sarkozy invited the Libyan leader to France for a state visit and welcomed him with high honors. But Sarkozy then put France in the forefront of NATO-led airstrikes against Gaddafi’s troops that helped rebel fighters topple his regime in 2011.

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In other news: war is peace.

Greece Undermining EU-Turkey Migrant Deal, German Report Says (K.)

Data published by the German newspaper Die Welt suggest that Greece has been undermining the European Union-Turkey deal signed two years ago to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to the continent. Citing unnamed officials in Berlin, Brussels and the EU’s border agency Frontex, the report alleges that the Greek government has moved a large number of asylum seekers from the Aegean islands to the mainland, effectively preventing their return to Turkey. The message is that any asylum seeker who manages to land on one of the Greek islands, he can then move on to central Europe, officials told the newspaper.

According to EU figures cited by the newspaper, between March 2016 and January 2018, 62,190 asylum seekers landed on the Aegean islands, of whom 27,635, or 45%, were subsequently transferred to mainland Greece. German officials told the newspaper that only a very small number of people whose asylum request had been turned down by authorities had been returned to Turkey. Greece, the same officials said, is effectively creating an incentive for migrants hoping to enter the continent which could lead to a spike in arrivals.

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Feb 062018
 
 February 6, 2018  Posted by at 9:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


 

Dow Jones Hit By Biggest Single-Day Points Drop Ever (Ind.)
Stocks Crumble In Vicious Sell-off As ‘Goldilocks’ Trade Unravels (R.)
Europe Joins Global Stock Selloff With Biggest Drop in 20 Months (BBG)
‘Short-Volatility Armageddon’ Craters Two Of Wall Street’s Favorite Trades (MW)
Volatility Spike Boosts US Options Hedging Activity (R.)
Traders Panic As XIV Disintegrates -90% After The Close (ZH)
Machines Had Their Fingerprints All Over a Dow Rout for the Ages (BBG)
Commodities Dragged Into Global Selloff as Oil to Copper Get Hit (BBG)
Bitcoin Tumbles Almost 20% as Crypto Backlash Accelerates (BBG)
The Fed’s Dependence On Stability (Roberts)
A Quandary (Jim Kunstler)
21st Century Plague (MarkGB)
UK Court To Rule On Lifting Assange Arrest Warrant (AFP)
Robots Will Care For 80% Of Elderly Japanese By 2020 (G.)
Berlusconi Pledges To Deport 600,000 Illegal Immigrants From Italy (G.)

 

 

4% is nothing.

Dow Jones Hit By Biggest Single-Day Points Drop Ever (Ind.)

Newfound market volatility has shattered what had been a long period of stability and mounting value. The Dow’s dive erased gains for the year so far and extended a multi-day slump that saw the Dow drop by some 600 points on Friday. In addition setting a new record for number of points dropped in a day, the Dow’s 4.6% decline in value was the most substantial since 2011. It was still less severe than declines during market-rocking events like the 2008 financial crisis, when the Dow shed 7% of its value in its worst single-day hit. Earlier in the day the Dow had plummeted by nearly 1,600 points before recovering much of that value. It has swung some 2,100 points in the last week of trading, a slide approaching 8%.

In addition to the Dow shedding value, the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq both saw declines of around 4%. The S&P 500 declined to about 7.8% below its all-time high. With thriving markets toppling records in recent months, some analysts said the pullback was all but inevitable. After cresting to a record high in January, the Dow has retreated by 8.5% from that apex. “It’s like a kid at a child’s party who, after an afternoon of cake and ice cream, eats one more cookie and that puts them over the edge,” David Kelly, the chief global strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management, told the Associated Press.

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Worldwide.

Stocks Crumble In Vicious Sell-off As ‘Goldilocks’ Trade Unravels (R.)

A rout in global equities deepened in Asia on Tuesday as inflation worries gripped financial markets, sending U.S. stock futures sinking further into the red after Wall Street suffered its biggest decline since 2011 in a vicious sell-off. S&P mini futures fell as much as 3.0% to four-month lows in Asia, extending their losses from the record peak hit just over a week ago to 12%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 4.3%, which would be its biggest fall since the yuan devaluation shock in August 2015, turning red on the year for the first time in 2018. Japan’s Nikkei dived 6.8% to near four-month lows while Taiwan shares lost 5.5% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 4.9%.

Monday’s stock market rout left two of the most popular exchange-traded products that investors use to benefit from calm rather than volatile conditions facing potential liquidation, market participants said. The ructions in markets come after investors have ridden a nearly nine-year bull run, with low global rates sparking a revival in economic growth and bright corporate earnings. That good times may be nearing at end if Wall Street is anything to go by. U.S. stocks plunged in highly volatile trading on Monday, with the Dow industrials falling nearly 1,600 points during the session, its biggest intraday decline in history, as investors grappled with rising bond yields and potentially higher inflation.

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They’ll all keep claiming that fundamentals are solid.

Europe Joins Global Stock Selloff With Biggest Drop in 20 Months (BBG)

European stocks headed for their worst drop since the aftermath of the Brexit referendum as traders in the region caught up with an overnight selloff in the U.S. and Asia. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 2.6% as of 8:16 a.m. in London, with all industry groups firmly in the red. After a strong start to 2018, most European stock benchmarks have wiped out gains for the year in a rout that is extending into a seventh day for the broader regional benchmark. Sentiment has been hurt by worries over rising government bond yields and the outlook for the trajectory of interest rates. “There is a sense out there that this is, in a way, a release of some of the pent-up low volatility we’ve seen over the past year,” said Ben Kumar, an investment manager at Seven Investment Management in London, which oversees about 12 billion pounds.

“We have been sitting on quite a large cash pile for some time and at some point, we will look to invest that. There may be a bit more pain to come before we start seeing a real dip to buy.” Cyclicals including automakers, technology and basic resources were among the worst sector performers. Still, data on Monday showed economic momentum in the euro-area climbed to the fastest pace in almost 12 years, and German factory orders surged in the last month of 2017. That’s leading some fund managers and traders to bet that equities are experiencing an overdue pullback rather than a deeper correction. “Market tops have probably been set for a pretty long time now on many equity indexes,” Stephane Barbier de la Serre, a strategist at Makor Capital Markets, said by phone.

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They’ll have a hard time accepting the demise of easy money.

‘Short-Volatility Armageddon’ Craters Two Of Wall Street’s Favorite Trades (MW)

One of the most popular trades in the market, betting a period of unnatural calm would continue, may have amplified selling pressure in the stock market on Monday market participants said. At least two products tied to volatility bets were severely whacked with the hemorrhaging that could pose challenges to the exchange-traded notes. One popular product, the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term ETN, was down 90% in after-hours trade on Monday, following a session in which the Dow Jones Industrial plunged by 1,175 points, or 4.6%, while the S&P 500 index tumbled 4.1%—both benchmarks coughed up all of their gains for 2018.

The Cboe Volatility Index, meanwhile, skyrocketed by about 118%, marking its sharpest daily rise on record. The VIX uses bullish and bearish option bets on the S&P 500 to reflect expected volatility over the coming 30 days, and it typically rises as stocks fall. The XIV, meanwhile, was designed to allow investors to bet against a rise in volatility and such bets had been a winning proposition until recently, when equities accelerated a multisession unraveling fueled by fears that the Federal Reserve will be forced to raise borrowing costs faster than anticipated due to a potential resurgence in inflation, which had pushed Treasury yields higher. Monday’s stock-market drop may have been amplified because those making bets that volatility, as measured by the VIX, would remain relatively subdued, were caught wrong-footed.

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Ultra low volatility is purely artificial.

Volatility Spike Boosts US Options Hedging Activity (R.)

Wall Street’s “fear gauge” notched its biggest one-day jump on Monday in over two years, as U.S. stocks slumped and investors took to the options market in search of protection against a further slide in equities prices. Stocks slid in highly volatile trading on Monday, with the benchmark S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrials suffering their biggest respective%age drops since August 2011 as a long-awaited pullback from record highs deepened. For the Dow, the fall at one point of nearly 1,600 points was the biggest intraday point loss in Wall Street history. The CBOE Volatility Index, better known as the VIX, is the most widely followed barometer of expected near-term volatility for the S&P 500 Index. On Monday, the index ended up 20.01 points at 37.32, its highest close since August 2015.

“The day started out fairly orderly, but somehow it took a turn for a worse, and then panic set in,” Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab. “There may have been some pretty sizeable program trades that were clicked in. It just looks like some institutional program selling,” he said. The intensity of the selloff drove traders to the options market and trading volume surged to 35.5 million contracts – the third busiest day ever and the busiest day since Aug. 21, 2015, according to options analytics firm Trade Alert. VIX call options, primarily used to protect against a spike in volatility, accounted for nine of Monday’s 10 most heavily-traded contracts. Overall VIX options volume hit 3.6 million contracts, or about three times its average daily volume.

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VIX can trigger some pretty dramatic events.

Traders Panic As XIV Disintegrates -90% After The Close (ZH)

Today’s market turmoil has left more questions than answers. “What was frightening was the speed at which the market tanked,” said Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, Birmingham, Alabama-based senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management, who helps oversee about $17 billion. “The drop in the morning was caused by humans, but the free-fall in the afternoon was caused by the machines. It brought back the same reaction that we had in 2010, which was ‘What the heck is going on here?” Some tried to blame it on a fat-finger or ‘machines’, but in this case it was not the normal cuprits per se… “There was not a single self-help; there were no outs; there were no fat fingers that we saw,” Doug Cifu, CEO of high-speed trading firm Virtu, told CNBC. “There were no busted trades, no repricing. It was just an avalanche of orders around 3 o’clock-ish.”

But while we noted earlier that US equity futures were extending losses after the close, but the real panic action is in the volatility complex. Putting today’s VIX move in context, this is among the biggest ever… And it appears Morgan Stanley was right to bet on VIX hitting 30…

But the real action is in the super-crowded short-vol space. XIV – The Short VIX ETF – after its relentless diagonal move higher as one after another Target manager sold vol for a living… just disintegrated after-hours, down a stunning 90% to $10.00.

Which is a problem because as we explained last summer, the threshold for an XIV termination event is a -80% drop. What does this mean? Well, in previewing today’s events last July, Fasanara Capital explained precisely what is going on last July:

“Additional risks arise as ‘liquidity gates’ may be imposed, even in the absence of a spike in volatility. In 2012, for example, the price of TVIX ETN fell 60% in two days, despite relatively benign trading conditions elsewhere in the market. The reason was that the promoter of the volatility-linked note announced that it temporarily suspended further issuances of the ETN due to “internal limits” reached on the size of the ETNs. Furthermore, for some of the volatility-linked notes, the prospectus foresee the possibility of ‘termination events’: for example, for XIV ETF a termination event is triggered if the daily percentage drop exceeds 80%. Then a full wipe-out is avoided insofar as it is preceded by a game-over event.” The reaction of the investor base at play – often retail – holds the potential to create cascading effects and to send shockwaves to the market at large. This likely is a blind spot for markets.

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Algorithms rule what is left.

Machines Had Their Fingerprints All Over a Dow Rout for the Ages (BBG)

Risk parity funds. Volatility-targeting programs. Statistical arbitrage. Sometimes the U.S. stock market seems like a giant science project, one that can quickly turn hazardous for its human inhabitants. You didn’t need an engineering degree to tell something was amiss Monday. While it’s impossible to say for sure what was at work when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 1,597 points, the worst part of the downdraft felt to many like the machines run amok. For 15 harrowing minutes just after 3 p.m. in New York a deluge of sell orders came so fast that it seemed like nothing breathing could’ve been responsible. The result was a gut check of epic proportion for investors, who before last week had been riding one of the most peaceful market advances ever seen. The S&P 500, which last week capped a record streak of never falling more than 3% from any past point, ended the day down 4.1%, bringing its loss since last Monday to 7.8%.

“We are proactively calling up our clients and discussing that a 1,600-point intraday drop is due more to algorithms and high-frequency quant trading than macro events or humans running swiftly to the nearest fire exit,” said Jon Ulin, of Ulin & Co. in an email. To be sure, not all of the rout requires inhuman agency to explain. Markets are jittery. Bond yields had been surging and stock valuations are approaching levels last seen in the internet bubble. Much of today’s selloff was perfectly rational, if harrowing – particularly coming after last week’s plunge in which the Dow fell 666 points on Friday. Observers looking for an electronic villain trained most of their attention on the roughest part of the tumble, a 15-minute stretch starting about an hour before the close. That’s when an orderly selloff snowballed, taking the Dow from down about 700 points to down a whopping 1,600. It quickly recovered.

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When commodities trade is separated from what industries actually use, and they become financial tools only, inevitable.

Commodities Dragged Into Global Selloff as Oil to Copper Get Hit (BBG)

Commodities from crude oil to metals and iron ore dropped as the global equity rout and surge in market volatility spurred investors to pare risk, cutting positions in raw materials even as banks and analysts stood by the asset class given the backdrop of solid global growth. Brent crude slid as much as 1.2% to $66.82 a barrel, heading for a third daily drop and the longest losing run since November. On the London Metal Exchange, copper sank as much as 2% to $7,025 a metric ton as zinc, lead and nickel declined. Iron ore futures fell 1.2% in Singapore. Global equity markets are in retreat after Wall Street losses that began in the final session of last week worsened on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting its biggest intraday point drop in history.

The selloff – triggered in part by an initial rise in bond yields and concerns about the pace at which the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates – is spilling into commodities, which rallied in late January to the highest level since 2015. Still, Citigroup said now’s the time for investors to add positions in metals. “Clearly there is a risk off tone in the markets that will weigh on the sector,” said Daniel Hynes at Australia & New Zealand Banking. “But there is no fundamental reason for this selloff to change our view of commodity markets.” Miners and energy companies fell as share benchmarks spiraled downward. In the U.S. on Monday, Exxon Mobil and Chevron were among the worst performers in the Dow. In Sydney, BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, dropped 2.7% as Rio Tinto traded lower. Oil producer PetroChina lost as much as 7.3% in Hong Kong.

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6,100 as I write this.

Bitcoin Tumbles Almost 20% as Crypto Backlash Accelerates (BBG)

Bitcoin tumbled for a fifth day, dropping below $7,000 for the first time since November and leading other digital tokens lower, as a backlash by banks and government regulators against the speculative frenzy that drove cryptocurrencies to dizzying heights last year picks up steam. The biggest digital currency sank as much as 22% to $6,579, before trading at $7,054 as of 4:08 p.m. in New York. It has erased about 65% of its value from a record high $19,511 in December. Rival coins also retreated on Monday, with Ripple losing as much as 21% and Ethereum and Litecoin also weaker. “Although no fundamental change triggered this crash, the parabolic growth this market has experienced had to slow down at some point,” Lucas Nuzzi, a senior analyst at Digital Asset Research, wrote in an email. “All that it took this time was a large lot of sell orders.”

Weeks of negative news and commercial setbacks have buffeted digital tokens. Lloyds joined a growing number of big credit-card issuers have said they’re halting purchases of cryptocurrencies on their cards, including JPMorgan and Bank of America. Several cited risk aversion and a desire to protect their customers. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said he supports efforts to bring clarity to cryptocurrency issues and that existing rules weren’t designed with such trading in mind, according to prepared remarks for a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday on virtual currencies. Bitcoin’s longest run of losses since Christmas day has coincided with investors exiting risky assets across the board, with stocks retreating globally. Bitcoin so far seems to be struggling to live up to any comparison with gold as a store of value, which is an argument made by some of its supporters. Bullion edged higher as other safe havens – the yen, Swiss franc and bonds – also gained.

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Stability breeds instability. Minsky.

The Fed’s Dependence On Stability (Roberts)

Last week, I discussed how the Federal Reserve will likely be the culprits of whatever sparks the next major financial crisis. To wit: “In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has been the catalyst behind every preceding financial event since they became ‘active,’ monetarily policy-wise, in the late 70’s. As shown in the chart below, when the Fed has lifted the short-term lending rates to a level higher than the 10-year rate, bad ‘stuff’ has historically followed.” This past week, as Ms. Yellen relinquished her control over the Federal Reserve to Jerome Powell, the Fed stood by its position they intend to hike rates 3-more times in 2018.

With the entirety of the financial ecosystem now more heavily levered than ever, due to the Fed’s profligate measures of suppressing interest rates and flooding the system with excessive levels of liquidity, the “instability of stability” is now the biggest risk. The “stability/instability paradox” assumes that all players are rational and such rationality implies avoidance of complete destruction. In other words, all players will act rationally and no one will push “the big red button.” The Fed is highly dependent on this assumption. After more than 9-years of the most unprecedented monetary policy program in human history, they are now trying to extricate themselves from it. The Fed is dependent on “everyone acting rationally,” particularly as they try to reduce their balance sheet. The first attempt was seen in January. Well…sort of…but not really.

While the Fed did “reduce” their holding by $28 billion in January, it followed an increase of $21 billion in December. Which brings up several questions? Was the ramp up/run down just a test of the market’s stability? (Seems likely.) With the market throwing a “conniption fit” last week, will the Fed rethink their balance sheet reduction program? (Probably) More importantly, with the government on the verge of another “shut down” this coming week due to the expiration of the “continuing resolution” from three weeks ago, will the Fed continue its current path in the face of an event that could lead to fiscal instability? (Probably not) We will soon find out.

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There will be a second Special Counsel.

A Quandary (Jim Kunstler)

The Resistance pulled out all the stops last week in its shrieking denunciation of the Nunes Memo, and the various complaints had one thing in common: a complete lack of interest in the facts of the matter, in particular the shenanigans in the upper ranks of the FBI. Give a listen, for instance, to last Thursday’s Slate’s Political Gabfest with David Plotz, John Dickerson, and Emily Bazelon, the three honey-badgers of Resistance Radio (like the fabled honey-badgers of the veldt, they don’t give a shit about any obstacles in pursuit of their quarry: Trump). They’ve even been able to one-up Nassim Taleb’s defined category of “intellectuals-yet-idiots” to intellectuals-yet-useful-idiots.

The New York Times, with its termite-mound of casuistry artists, managed to concoct a completely inside-out “story” alleging that the disclosure in the Nunes memo of official impropriety at the FBI was in itself an “obstruction of justice,” since making the FBI look bad might impede their ability to give Trump the much wished-for bum’s rush from the White House. There was already enough dishonesty in our national life before the Left side of the political transect decided to ally itself with the worst instincts of the permanent Washington bureaucracy: the faction devoted to ass-covering. The misconduct at the FBI and DOJ around the 2016 election is really quite startling.

How is it not disturbing that Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr brokered the Steele Dossier between the Fusion GPS psy-ops company and the FBI, when Fusion GPS was employed by the Clinton campaign, and Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS? How is it okay that this janky dossier was put over on a FISA court judge to get warrants to surveil US citizens in an election campaign? How was it okay for Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s wife to accept $700,000 from the Clinton family’s long-time bag-man, Terry McAuliffe, when she ran for a Virginia State Senate seat, a few months before McCabe assumed command of the Hillary email investigation? How was it not fishy that FBI Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, Peter Strock, and his workplace girlfriend, FBI lawyer (for Andrew McCabe), Lisa Page appeared to plot against Trump in their many cell-phone text exchanges?

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Deceit as the big killer.

21st Century Plague (MarkGB)

The Black Death was a medieval pandemic which swept through the ‘old world’ in the 14th Century. It arrived in Europe from Asia in the 1340s and killed an estimated 25 million people, about 50% of the population. The social and economic consequences of this were ‘permanent’: it created a labour shortage which ended the medieval institution of serfdom. In short: Increased demand for labour + reduced supply of labour + chaos = collapse of status quo. What emerged from the chaos was a rudimentary ‘free market’ in labour and goods. The age of capitalism had begun…the unforeseen consequence of a plague, borne on a creature that looked like this:

The pandemic we face in the 21st Century is a psychological phenomenon rather than a biological one, but in my view, it is equally parasitic. Its name is ‘deceit’, and our political & economic institutions are riddled with it. The majority of people I speak to know that something is badly wrong with our societies and our economies – they feel it when they pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV or engage with the internet. Some of us try to disconnect from the drama and the constant stream of claim and counterclaim, in order to try to ‘get on with normal lives’ – but we feel something is badly wrong nevertheless. Some of us gather ourselves into political parties, protest movements, and/or intellectual cliques in order to discuss how to ‘fix’ what ails us.

And every 4 or 5 years, the majority of us go out and vote for an individual or a group of people that we hope will bring change…and then…we get more of the same. We just got, for example, the 3rd president in a row who ran on a promise of peace, and then immediately went looking for war. What the majority of people have not yet realised is that the politician’s ‘promise’ is part of the deceit – it’s what keeps you coming back for more, hoping this time will be different. It never is – it’s just a new coat of paint on a crumbling wall. What the majority of people have not yet realised is that the politician’s ‘promise’ is part of the deceit – it’s what keeps you coming back for more

It matters little whether you believe an individual candidate is a ‘good’ person, or a ‘bad’ person. Once in office he or she becomes a tool for the maintenance of the status quo – evidently. Why is this? Because the system is not run for your benefit. Its primary function is the concentration of power and wealth within the system itself, to serve the vested interests of a relatively tiny group of people. These are the manifestations of the 21st-century plague – the institutions of deceit: 1) A monetary system rigged for the banks and globalised corporations. 2) A military-industrial complex that requires endless war. 3) Politicians that are controlled by 1 & 2. 4) A mainstream media that is complicit with 1 to 3.

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Expect appeal after appeal.

UK Court To Rule On Lifting Assange Arrest Warrant (AFP)

A British court is to decide Tuesday whether to lift a UK arrest warrant for Julian Assange, potentially paving the way for the WikiLeaks founder to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has spent the last five years. If the court rules in Assange’s favour, allowing him to leave the embassy in the British capital without fear of arrest, it would be the first time that he has stepped outside embassy grounds since seeking asylum there in June 2012. Assange entered the Ecuadoran embassy to dodge a European arrest warrant and extradition to Sweden over a 2010 probe in the Scandinavian country into rape and sexual assault allegations.

Sweden dropped its investigation last year, but British police are still seeking to arrest Assange for failing to surrender to a court after violating bail terms during his unsuccessful battle against extradition. Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers told a London court last week that the warrant had “lost its purpose and its function”. He said Assange had been living in conditions “akin to imprisonment” and his “psychological health” has deteriorated and was “in serious peril”. The court heard that the 46-year-old was suffering from a bad tooth, a frozen shoulder and depression. But prosecutor Aaron Watkins called Assange’s court bid “absurd”. “The proper approach is that when a discrete, standalone offence of failing to surrender occurs, it always remains open to this court to secure the arrest,” Watkins said.

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You like this future? It’s all yours. Who needs people?

Robots Will Care For 80% Of Elderly Japanese By 2020 (G.)

Japan’s elderly are being told to get used to being looked after by robots. With Japan’s ageing society facing a predicted shortfall of 370,000 caregivers by 2025, the government wants to increase community acceptance of technology that could help fill the gap in the nursing workforce. Developers have focused their efforts on producing simple robotic devices that help frail residents get out of their bed and into a wheelchair, or that can ease senior citizens into bathtubs. But the government sees a wider range of potential applications and recently revised its list of priorities to include robots that can predict when patients might need to use the toilet. Dr Hirohisa Hirukawa, director of robot innovation research at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said the aims included easing the burden on nursing staff and boosting the autonomy of people still living at home.

“Robotics cannot solve all of these issues; however, robotics will be able to make a contribution to some of these difficulties,” he said. Hirukawa said lifting robotics had so far been deployed in only about 8% of nursing homes in Japan, partly because of the cost and partly because of the “the mindset by the people on the frontline of caregiving that after all it must be human beings who provide this kind of care”. He added: “On the side of those who receive care, of course initially there will be psychological resistance.” Hirukawa’s research centre has worked on a government-backed project to help 98 manufacturers test nursing-care robotic devices over the past five years, 15 of which have been developed into commercial products.

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This is what Brussels and Berlin invite by ignoring the issue.

Berlusconi Pledges To Deport 600,000 Illegal Immigrants From Italy (G.)

Silvio Berlusconi has pledged to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy should his centre-right coalition enter government after elections on 4 March, as tensions simmer over the shooting of six Africans by a far-right extremist on Saturday. The 81-year-old rightwing former prime minister said in a TV interview that immigration was a “social bomb ready to explode in Italy” and that the shooting in Macerata posed a security problem. “Immigration has become an urgent question, because after years with a leftwing government, there are 600,000 migrants who don’t have the right to stay,” said Berlusconi. “We consider it to be an absolute priority to regain control over the situation.” Berlusconi’s Forza Italia has forged an alliance with two far-right parties, the Northern League and the smaller Brothers of Italy, for the elections.

The three-time former prime minister is banned from running for office after being convicted of tax fraud, but could still end up pulling the strings of power should the coalition gain enough of a majority to govern. “When we’re in government we will invest many resources in security,” he said. “We will boost police presence and reintroduce the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative … Our soldiers will patrol the streets alongside police officers.” Berlusconi took a swipe at the EU for failing to share the burden of Italy’s migrant arrivals, saying: “Today, Italy counts for nothing in Brussels and the world. We will make it count again.” Italy is a favoured landing point on Europe’s southern coastline for people making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often on board unseaworthy boats, to enter the continent. However, 2017 was a turning point for Italy: the country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop-off, thanks to a controversial agreement between the EU and Libya.

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Nov 142016
 
 November 14, 2016  Posted by at 9:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Wyland Stanley Transparent Car, General Motors exhibit, San Francisco 1940

Era of Low Interest Rates Hammers Millions of Pensions Around the World (WSJ)
President Trump Will Fumigate The Fed (Mises Inst.)
Teslas in the Trailer Park: California Faces Its Housing Squeeze (NYT)
China Home Sales Value Rose 38% YoY in October (BBG)
Emerging Market Bond, Currency Markets Face ‘Meltdown’ After Trump Win (CNBC)
Bond Rout Deepens as Trump Bets Boost Dollar, Industrial Metals (BBG)
We Are Living In A Depression – That’s Why Trump Took The White House (G.)
Deplorables 1, Empire 0 (Edwards)
Morgan Stanley: “Trump Policies Are Like Schrodinger’s Cat” (ZH)
It’s Trump Versus New Normal In Play For US Growth (BBG)
‘Nobody’ Won the 2016 Presidential Election – and It Was a Landslide(TAM)
What So Many People Don’t Get About the US Working Class (Joan C. Williams)
EU Offers Trump Cooperation While Signaling Policy Firmness (BBG)
Trump Splinters Europe: UK, France, Hungary Snub EU Emergency Meeting (ZH)
Julian Assange To Be Interviewed Today Over Sex Assault Claim (G.)

 

 

Trouble coming to the USA: “They range from as low as a government bond yield in much of Europe and Asia to 8% or more in the U.S.”

Era of Low Interest Rates Hammers Millions of Pensions Around the World (WSJ)

Pension funds around the world pay benefits through a combination of investment gains and contributions from employers and workers. To ensure enough is saved, plans adopt long-term annual return assumptions to project how much of their costs will be paid from earnings. They range from as low as a government bond yield in much of Europe and Asia to 8% or more in the U.S. The problem is that investment-grade bonds that once churned out 7.5% a year are now barely yielding anything. Global pensions on average have roughly 30% of their money in bonds.Low rates helped pull down assets of the world’s 300 largest pension funds by $530 billion in 2015, the first decline since the financial crisis, according to a recent Pensions & Investments and Willis Towers Watson report.

Funding gaps for the two biggest funds in Europe and the U.S. have ballooned by $300 billion since 2008, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Few parts of Europe are feeling the pension pain more acutely than the Netherlands, home to 17 million people and part of the eurozone, which introduced negative rates in 2014. Unlike countries such as France and Italy, where pensions are an annual budget item, the Netherlands has several large plans that stockpile assets and invest them. The goal is for profits to grow faster than retiree obligations, allowing the pension to become financially self-sufficient and shrink as an expense to lawmakers. ABP,[Europe’s largest pension fund], currently holds 90.7 cents for every euro of obligations, a ratio that would be welcome in other corners of the world.

But Dutch regulators demand pension assets exceed liabilities, meaning more cash is required than actually needed. This spring, ABP officials had to provide government regulators a rescue plan after years of worsening finances. ABP’s members, representing one in six people in the Netherlands, haven’t seen their pension checks increase in a decade. ABP officials have warned payments may be cut 1% next year. “People are angry, not because pensions are low, but because we failed to deliver what we promised them,” said Gerard Riemen, managing director of the Pensioenfederatie, a federation of 260 Dutch pension funds managing a total of €1 trillion. Benefit cuts have become such a divisive issue that one party, 50PLUS, plans for parliamentary-election campaigns early next year that demand the end of “pension robbery.” “Giving certainty has become expensive,” said Ms. Wortmann-Kool, ABP’s chairwoman.

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Sounds like that’s a good thing for pensions. But my guess is it’s way too late.

President Trump Will Fumigate The Fed (Mises Inst.)

Trump’s occasional dovish comments do not match the passion and enthusiasm of his repeated hawkish campaign trail rhetoric. For the past year, the president-elect has been railing against the “false economy” that the Fed has created, as well as the political influence that runs rampant throughout the central bank. Perhaps Trump’s most scathing attack on the institution came last October, when he insinuated that Fed actions are crippling the middle class without creating any type of benefit to the economy at large. “[Chairwoman Yellen] is keeping the economy going, barely,” he said. “You know who gets hurt the most [by her easy money policies]? The people that went through 40 years of their life and saved a hundred dollars every week [in the bank].”

He then paused and shook his head for added effect before adding: “They worked all their lives to save and now what happens is they’re being forced into an inflated stock market and at some point they’ll get wiped out.” These anti-Fed talking points were recycled often on the campaign trail. In September, Trump attacked the Fed for putting us in a “big, fat, ugly bubble” and for keeping rates artificially low for political purposes, points that he again repeated in the first presidential debate. The business mogul has also promised to audit the Fed within the first 100 days of his administration and even included a criticism of the central bank in a recent online video ad. Team Trump’s economic advisers paint an even more optimistic picture of his future monetary policy.

Some of today’s most reasonable mainstream economic voices are included in his inner circle. These names include David Malpass of Encima Global, who co-signed a letter with Jim Grant opposing the Fed’s “inflationary” and “distortive” quantitative easing program; John Paulson of Paulson & Co., who made billions from shorting the housing market before the Great Recession; Andy Beal, a self-described “libertarian kind of guy” who blames the Fed for the credit crisis; and the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore, who told CSIN in 2012 that he is a “very severe critic” of the Fed’s “incredibly easy-money policies policies of the past decade.”

While none of Trump’s economic advisers are by any means Austrians, they are far more hawkish than most of Presidents Bush and Obama’s past economic advisers. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, has even said that these advisers are pushing Trump to nominate two “hard money” candidates to fill the Fed’s current vacancies. “A core view of many Trump advisors is that the extended period of emergency policy settings has promoted a bubble in the stock market, depressing the incomes of savers, scared the public and encouraged capital misallocation,” Shepherdson told Market Watch. “Right now, these are minority views on the Fed policymaking committee, but Trump appointees are likely to shift the needle.”

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Growth like tumors grow.

Teslas in the Trailer Park: California Faces Its Housing Squeeze (NYT)

For all its imagination about the future, Silicon Valley’s geography looks a lot like the past. Today’s college-educated millennials might be crowding into city centers, but each day employees at companies like Google and Facebook endure hours in cars or on buses commuting to squat office complexes that have all the charm of a Walmart. Many employees say they would prefer to live closer to work. But these companies reside in small cities that consider themselves suburbs, and the local politics are usually aligned against building dense urban apartments to house them. Take Palo Alto, the Silicon Valley city that has become emblematic of the state’s reputation for rampant not-in-my-backyard politics. Palo Alto has one of the state’s worst housing shortages. With about three jobs for every housing unit, it has among the most out-of-balance mixes anywhere in Silicon Valley.

But instead of dealing with this issue by building the few thousand or so apartments it would take to make a dent in the problem, the city has mostly looked to restraining a pace of job growth that the mayor described as “unhealthy.” Farther up the peninsula near San Francisco, the small city of Brisbane told a developer that its proposal for a mixed-use development with offices and 4,000 housing units should have offices for about 15,000 workers, but no new housing. Play that out a thousand times over and the crux of the state’s housing crisis is clear: Everyone knows housing costs are unsustainable and unfair, and that they pose a threat to the state’s economy. Yet every city seems to be counting on its neighbors to step up and fix it.

The results are strange compromises like the one made by Rebecca and Steven Callister, a couple in their late 20s who live in a double-wide trailer in a Mountain View mobile home park whose residents are retirees and young tech workers. Mr. Callister is an engineer at LinkedIn, the sort of worker who, in most places, would own a home. But given the cost of housing in Mountain View and the brutal commute times from anywhere they could afford, a trailer makes the most sense and lets him spend more time with the couple’s two young children. “We joke that it’s the only mobile home park with Mercedeses and Teslas in the driveway,” Mrs. Callister said. “It’s like the new middle class in California.”

In contrast to Palo Alto, Mountain View is trying to wedge new apartments into its office parks. Much of the action centers on the North Bayshore area, a neighborhood of low-slung office buildings surrounded by asphalt parking lots.

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So many stories about market curbs, all the time. But this is still the reality.

China Home Sales Value Rose 38% YoY in October (BBG)

China’s new home sales growth slowed in October from a year earlier, suggesting the push by policy makers to rein in runaway prices is getting traction. The value of homes sold rose 38% to 941 billion yuan ($138 billion) last month from a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data the National Bureau of Statistics released Monday. The increase compares with a 61% gain the previous month. Local authorities in nearly two dozens cities have since late September rolled out property curbs ranging from raising down-payments for first and second homes to ruling some potential buyers ineligible.

China’s banking regulator has told banks to review their business related to mortgage lending and property development loans, after China Minsheng Banking Corp. suspended approvals of some non-standard mortgages in Shanghai. Slower home sales have helped moderate credit growth. New medium- and long-term household loans, mostly residential mortgages, stood at 489.1 billion yuan in October, down from 571.3 billion yuan in September, according to central bank data on Friday. New yuan loans edged down to 651.3 billion yuan last month from 1.22 trillion yuan in September.

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It’s just dollars coming home, and that not as positive a sign as many seemt ot hink.

Emerging Market Bond, Currency Markets Face ‘Meltdown’ After Trump Win (CNBC)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump appears to have burst the bond bubble, putting emerging markets (EM) from Mexico to Indonesia at the sharp end of a sell-off. Expectations of fiscal stimulus, infrastructure spending and reflationary policies under a Trump administration were fueling inflation fears, sending benchmark U.S. ten-year Treasury yields and the dollar surging. Expectations for tighter monetary policy and a December rate hike by the Federal Reserve were also playing a role. In the wake of last week’s election outcome, the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield climbed above 2% from levels below 1.8% in the days before the result, with many analysts pointing to expectations that Trump’s promised policies would spur a resurgence of inflation and further interest rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

That created a negative feedback loop for emerging market assets. Indonesia’s rupiah fell by as much as 3% against the dollar on Friday to five-month lows, hurting local stocks, with the declines extending on Monday. Malaysia’s ringgit also fell to its lowest against the dollar since late 2015, near levels not seen since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998. Central banks last week in Malaysia and Indonesia intervened to support their currencies, while foreign investors have slashed holdings of sovereign EM bonds perceived as most risky. Analysts were rejigging their outlook for Asian bonds. “Asian fixed income assets have operated on a ‘lower for longer’ assumption’ for U.S. rates since June,” RBS economists led by Vaninder Singh wrote. “This assumption is being challenged. High-yielding currencies will have to re-price to become attractive again.”

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A bit much casino for me.

Bond Rout Deepens as Trump Bets Boost Dollar, Industrial Metals (BBG)

Routs in global bonds and emerging markets intensified, while the dollar climbed with U.S. equity futures and industrial metals as investors position for the wave of fiscal stimulus that Donald Trump plans to unleash. Sovereign bonds in the Asia-Pacific region slid with U.S. Treasuries, extending a record debt selloff, amid speculation President-elect Trump’s pledge to boost infrastructure spending will trigger U.S. interest-rate hikes as economic growth and inflation pick up. Bloomberg’s dollar index climbed to a nine-month high as an earthquake weighed on New Zealand’s dollar. Japanese shares were set for their best close since April after gross domestic product data, while shares in developing nations fell. Copper surged to a 16-month high and gold slumped.

Trump’s election victory continues to send shockwaves through global markets, having already led to $1.2 trillion being wiped off the value of bonds worldwide last week as equities added about $1 trillion and industrial metals soared by the most in four years. Emerging markets are being hit by an exodus of capital as speculation builds that the U.S. is headed for an era of rising interest rates and more protectionist trade policies. “In the short-term the election of Donald Trump as president is causing a bit of uncertainty and markets tend to overreact to that,” said Shane Oliver at AMP Capital. “I suspect the dust will settle down in the next couple of months and this sort of market overreaction will provide opportunities.”

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Absolutely.

We Are Living In A Depression – That’s Why Trump Took The White House (G.)

Words matter. The process of understanding why Donald Trump is now heading for the White House starts with the correct description of what has happened in the eight years since Barack Obama became president. Some economists call the turbulent period that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers the Great Recession. Others say the US along with other developed nations is experiencing secular stagnation. Anything, it seems, to avoid using the D word: depression. The dictionary definition of a depression is a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity, which sums up precisely what has occurred since 2008. Growth rates globally have remained low despite colossal amounts of stimulus. Living standards have barely risen and the threat of deflation has loomed large.

The depression since 2008 has not been as severe as that of the 1930s but there are echoes of it all the same: in the food banks that are the new soup kitchens; in the mass movements of migrants in search of a better life who are the modern equivalent of the Okies in the Grapes of Wrath; and in Trump, who has tapped into anger that has been bubbling away quietly for decades. The turning point for the average American worker came in the mid-1970s because for the first 30 years after the second world war the gains from rising prosperity were evenly shared. But this trend was broken around the time of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam war. Since 1975, productivity in the US has more than doubled, but average hourly compensation has increased by only 50%. The fruits of growth have been captured by the few, not the many.

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“Created by the wars that required it, the Machine now creates the wars it requires.”

Deplorables 1, Empire 0 (Edwards)

It’s done. The foolish, arrogant propaganda excreted by the captive press of the Imperial Establishment is flushed, and they and their owners are eating their hubris, choking down the bitter, toxic medicine they inflicted on themselves. The nightmare they swore could never win is the Chosen One. What this may mean to them, to all of us, and to The Empire, no one can guess. The origin, though, of what Michael Moore called the greatest “Fuck You” in our political history, is clear behind the shock and awe of the elite. Between them, Trump and Clinton diligently stripped away the last shreds of the rent and ragged camouflage that disguised our zombie body politic.

Behind the mantra of Exceptionalism, the American Empire has behaved with exactly the same solipsistic arrogance all empires have embraced. Internationally it has raged, as imperial China did, as if with a “Mandate of Heaven”, flaunting self-interest with no regard for other nations or the laws of war. It has inflicted misery, chaos, and death on many millions of the poor and helpless for a Full Spectrum Dominance it could never impose. America’s Capitalist War Machine has raped and destroyed many countries for its profit, and destablized the entire world in its megalomania. Schumpeter said it best, of Imperial Germany’s military industry: “Created by the wars that required it, the Machine now creates the wars it requires.”

America has been transformed over time from a civil democracy with imperial economics to a militarist empire with vaudeville democracy. This was accomplished by binding both wings of the duopoly to the exclusive interest of Predatory Capitalism with corrupting money. A corporate state imposed via political and military power is the essence of Fascism. For generations, Americans have been dosed with the ultra-nationalist poison of Exceptionalism, with its implicit racist subtext, and its sexism buried in a hoo-rah masculinity cult, but it has always been flavored with the sweetening agent that We, The People, were both masters and beneficiaries of our benign, patristic system. The last several decades have painfully taught any conscious observer that this is a cynical fiction.

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I thought he was a straight talker…

Morgan Stanley: “Trump Policies Are Like Schrodinger’s Cat” (ZH)

As the sellside reports analyzing the post-president Trump world keep pouring in, one that caught our attention was from Morgan Stanley’s Andrew Sheets in which the strategist openly admits that pretty much nobody has any idea what is coming: “Most remarkably, however, after three debates, two conventions and an election that seemed to last forever, there remains a great deal of uncertainty over what type of president Trump will actually be. In an election that was dominated by coverage of tweets, videos and emails, policy questions received surprisingly little airtime. And those questions are now crucial for markets.

“To a remarkable extent, investors we’ve spoken to both before and after November 8 disagree on what President-Elect Trump will actually do. Many have told us, confidently, that they believe that, while he said some extreme things on the campaign trail, he is ultimately a moderate, pragmatic businessman. A deal-maker who will delegate policy to experts, lead with market-friendly (almost Keynesian) fiscal stimulus and ultimately avoid a large fight on trade. Other investors take a less benign view. They say the President-Elect should be taken at his word, and that since the start of his campaign he has defied predictions that he would moderate his tone or policy message.”

The problem, according to Morgan Stanley, is during the campaign, “Trump was a master at keeping both possibilities open, broadening his appeal. Like Schrodinger’s cat, his policies existed in a state of being both pragmatic and radical, all at the same time. Upcoming cabinet appointments offer clues to which interpretation is right. Until then, we promise to keep an open mind, and focus on modelling the different paths a Trump administration could take, and what it means for markets.”

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“The market’s been looking for the fiscal theme to take over,” said Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin. “The burden of responsibility has shifted..”

It’s Trump Versus New Normal In Play For US Growth (BBG)

Count this among the ways that Donald Trump’s election has rocked the financial world: monetary policy is no longer in charge. The president-elect’s proposals for significant commitments to spending and tax cuts have shifted the burden of stimulating growth from central banks, for the moment at least. “The market’s been looking for the fiscal theme to take over,” said Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin. “The burden of responsibility has shifted,” with those who doubt the market’s recalibration being the ones who need to prove their case. That accounts, in part, for the enthusiasm for equities and commodities. Expectations of faster U.S. inflation are also spreading to Europe and Japan as seen in rising breakeven rates.

Trump may get some of the spending and, especially, the tax cuts he wants from Congress. Whether these will have the effect the market is now betting on remains to be seen. Trump will be pushing against an economy that is on a lower long-term growth trend in what many economists call “the new normal.” As a candidate, he promised an expansion of 3.5% or faster. If it doesn’t materialize, will he double-down on his policies? The upward surge in bond yields across the curve, inflation expectations and the dollar may complicate Trump’s plans. Futures show traders are locking in bets on a December rate increase. It’s possible that tightening financial conditions may slow the Fed from further moves until stimulus bears fruit.

But monetary policy is no longer what’s driving these moves. Increasingly, central banks may see themselves in a defensive role, reacting to events rather than dictating trends. The greenback’s rally is already forcing Asian and Latin American central banks to protect their currencies. More such moves may be in the offing if dollar gains continue. Will Europe and Japan turn to the Trump model in an attempt to boost growth and inflation in ways monetary policy hasn’t? Europe may have a limited ability to increase spending, while Japan has essentially exhausted that growth channel, too, said Robert Tipp of Prudential. But for now, after growing weary of monetary-led slow growth, markets are grasping at Trump’s answer to the New Normal.

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People don’t vote when the only choices are -perceived to be- elites.

‘Nobody’ Won the 2016 Presidential Election – and It Was a Landslide(TAM)

“Nobody for President, that’s my campaign slogan,” Nick Cannon asserted in “Too Broke to Vote,” his viral criticism of the American electoral process from March of this year. Now, it turns out nobody for president won the 2016 election in a landslide. According to new voter turnout statistics from the 2016 election, 47% of Americans voted for nobody, far outweighing the votes cast for Trump (25.5%) and Hillary (25.6%) by eligible voters. And the “I voted for nobody” group is actually much larger than the 47% reported because that number only includes eligible voters. How many millions of Americans under the legal voting age – not to mention the countless millions who have lost their voting rights – voted for nobody, as well? Factoring in those individuals, around 193 million people did not vote for Trump or Clinton.

That’s nearly two-thirds of the population of the United States. Nobody also seemingly won the presidential primaries, with only 9% of Americans casting their votes for either Trump or Clinton. So when does nobody take office? Nobody won the majority of votes in the primaries or the general election, and the two main candidates who were running didn’t “win” the popular vote — they simply slightly outcompeted each other considering neither garnered over 50% of the eligible voters’ ballots. That’s where the real debate begins. As I wrote back in August when the primary voter turnout rates came in, one could argue that Trump (and Obama) do not have a legitimate mandate to rule over the people of the United States. Trump did not win the majority of Americans’ votes – not even close.

When all Americans are included, Trump only garnered the votes of about 19% of us. This means the United States will be ruled over by a small minority of voters who elected someone to continually impose their political positions on the other 81% of us. Of course, as is the case with Democrats looking to assign blame for Hillary’s loss, pundits and political pontificators argue the people who didn’t vote have no right to complain about the outcome. After all, a non-vote or a vote for a third-party candidate was, in actuality, a vote for Trump. But that logic is flawed. The majority of Americans don’t vote anymore because the political system no longer represents them. We’ve been disenfranchised by decades of corrupt, unrepresentative politicians.

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“The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. ”

What So Many People Don’t Get About the US Working Class (Joan C. Williams)

My father-in-law grew up eating blood soup. He hated it, whether because of the taste or the humiliation, I never knew. His alcoholic father regularly drank up the family wage, and the family was often short on food money. They were evicted from apartment after apartment. He dropped out of school in eighth grade to help support the family. Eventually he got a good, steady job he truly hated, as an inspector in a factory that made those machines that measure humidity levels in museums. He tried to open several businesses on the side but none worked, so he kept that job for 38 years. He rose from poverty to a middle-class life: the car, the house, two kids in Catholic school, the wife who worked only part-time. He worked incessantly. He had two jobs in addition to his full-time position, one doing yard work for a local magnate and another hauling trash to the dump.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he read The Wall Street Journal and voted Republican. He was a man before his time: a blue-collar white man who thought the union was a bunch of jokers who took your money and never gave you anything in return. Starting in 1970, many blue-collar whites followed his example. This week, their candidate won the presidency. For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap. One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. [..] Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect.

Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic. Trump’s blunt talk taps into another blue-collar value: straight talk. “Directness is a working-class norm,” notes Lubrano. As one blue-collar guy told him, “If you have a problem with me, come talk to me. If you have a way you want something done, come talk to me. I don’t like people who play these two-faced games.” Straight talk is seen as requiring manly courage, not being “a total wuss and a wimp,” an electronics technician told Lamont. Of course Trump appeals. Clinton’s clunky admission that she talks one way in public and another in private? Further proof she’s a two-faced phony.

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The EU’s hubris is incredible, the disconnect to reality near complete. They’ve all fallen over each other to insult Trump over the past year, and now they come with vows and demands?

EU Offers Trump Cooperation While Signaling Policy Firmness (BBG)

The EU promised to cooperate with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump while vowing to stand by international agreements he has questioned including United Nations deals to curb climate change and ease sanctions on Iran. After a dinner in Brussels to discuss future EU-U.S. relations in the wake of Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 American election, European foreign ministers also signaled a determination to maintain their opposition to Russia’s encroachment in eastern Ukraine. “We are looking forward to a very strong partnership with the next administration,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters late Sunday after hosting the gathering. “For us, it’s extremely important to work on the climate-change agreement implementation but also on non-proliferation and the protection of the Iranian nuclear deal.”

Trump’s win last week threatens to upend eight years of EU-U.S. cooperation during the tenure of President Barack Obama and decades of trans-Atlantic relations underpinned by NATO. As the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, Trump raised doubts about UN accords on global warming and Iran’s nuclear program that the Obama administration helped to forge and about the benefits of U.S.-led NATO. Trump also had praiseworthy words for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and support for pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine prompted the U.S. and EU to impose sanctions that remain in place. “The EU has a very principled position on the illegal annexation of Crimea and the situation in Ukraine,” Mogherini said. “This is not going to change regardless of possible shifts in others’ policies.”

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This is the Europe Trump will encounter. No unified voice in sight anymore. And that’s before all the referendums and elections.

Trump Splinters Europe: UK, France, Hungary Snub EU Emergency Meeting (ZH)

While America’s so-called “establishment”, the legacy political system and mainstream media, appear to be melting, and transforming before our eyes into something that has yet to be determined, Europe also appears to be disintegrating in response to the Trump presidential victory: as the FT reports, in a stunning development, Britain and France on Sunday night snubbed a contentious EU emergency meeting to align the bloc’s approach to Donald Trump’s election, exposing rifts in Europe over the US vote. Hailed by diplomats as a chance to “send a signal of what the EU expects” from Mr Trump, the plan fell into disarray after foreign ministers from the bloc’s two main military powers declined to attend the gathering demanded by Berlin and Brussels.

The meeting, which comes as Trump appointed his key deputies – chosing the more moderate establishment figure, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, to be his chief-of-staff over campaign chairman Stephen Bannon, who becomes chief strategist and counsellor – was supposed to create a framework for Europe in how to deal with a “Trump threat” as Europe itself faces an uphill climb of contenuous, potentially game-changing elections over the coming few months[..] The split in Europe highlights the difficulties “European capitals face in coordinating a response to Mr Trump, who has questioned the US’s commitments to Nato and free trade and hinted at seeking a rapprochement with Russian president Vladimir Putin” much to the amusement of famous euroskeptic Nigel Farage who was the first foreign political leader to meet with Donald Trump at the Trump Tower over the weekend.

Trump’s move infuriated members of Europe’s fraying core, with Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeting: “If Trump wanted to look statesmanlike to Europe, receiving Farage was probably the worst thing he could [do].” As the FT adds, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson dropped out of the Brussels meeting, with officials arguing that it created an air of panic, while French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault opted to stay in Paris to meet the new UN secretary-general. Hungary’s foreign minister boycotted the meeting, labeling the response from some EU leaders as “hysterical”. Johnson’s refusal to attend will add to an already difficult relationship with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has told colleagues that he cannot bear to be in the same room as the British foreign secretary.

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In time for a pardon? Or does Sweden still have darker designs? Why are Swedish people not more enganged in this scandal?

Julian Assange To Be Interviewed Today Over Sex Assault Claim (G.)

The Ecuadorian government has welcomed moves by the Swedish authorities to interview Julian Assange, who will be questioned on Monday inside its embassy over a sex assault allegation. Representatives from the Swedish prosecutor’s office and the Swedish police will be present while questions are put to the WikiLeaks founder by an Ecuadorian official. Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecuador and has been living inside the embassy for more than four years. He believes that if he leaves the embassy he will be extradited to the US for questioning about the activities of WikiLeaks. He denies the allegation against him and has been offering to be interviewed at the embassy.

Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s foreign minister, said: “We are pleased that the Swedish authorities will finally interview Mr Assange in our embassy in London. “This is something that Ecuador has been inviting the Swedish prosecutors to do ever since we granted asylum to Mr Assange in 2012. “There was no need for the Swedish authorities to delay for over 1,000 days before agreeing to carry out this interview, given that the Swedish authorities regularly question people in Britain and received permission to do so on more than 40 occasions in recent years. “Ecuador has never sought to stand in the way of any legal process in Sweden. “What we have asked from Sweden, and the UK, are guarantees that Mr Assange will not be extradited to a third country, where he could be persecuted for his work as a journalist.

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Feb 122016
 
 February 12, 2016  Posted by at 10:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC Ezra Meeker’s Wild West show rolls into town, Washington DC 1925

Japanese Stock Market Plunges 5% As Global Rout Gathers Pace (Guardian)
Asian Shares Slip As Bank Fears Add To Global Gloom (Reuters)
Global Assault on Banks Intensifies as Investors Punish Weakness (BBG)
Emerging Stocks Rout Deepens on Risk Aversion as Currencies Drop (BBG)
Yuan Declines Most in Two Weeks as Global Selloff Saps Sentiment (BBG)
Asia’s Rich Advised to Buy Yen as BOJ’s Negative Rates Backfire (BBG)
Who Stole The Yen Carry Trade? (CNBC)
If Credit Is Right, The S&P Is Facing A 40% Crash (ZH)
How Much Further Could Stocks Fall? (BI)
S&P Cuts Deutsche Bank’s Tier 1 Securities Rating To B+ from BB- (Reuters)
The Week When Central Bank Planning Died? (MW)
China Buys The World With State-Backed Debt (FT)
China Turns a Glut of Oil Into a Flood of Diesel (BBG)
11.5% Of Syrian Population Killed Or Injured (Guardian)
Greeks At Frontline Of Refugee Crisis Angry At Europe’s Criticism (Reuters)
The Grandmothers Of Lesvos (Kath.)

I’ve asked the question before: how much longer for Abe? He demanded the GPIF moved its pension money into stocks.

Japanese Stock Market Plunges 5% As Global Rout Gathers Pace (Guardian)

The global stock market rout has continued in Asia Pacific with Japanese stocks plunging nearly 5% as investors continued to dump risky assets amid uncertainty about the stability of the financial system. Tokyo was heading for its biggest weekly fall for more than seven years, after fears over a slowdown in the global economy and an overnight selloff in banking shares sent the Nikkei share average down by 4.84%. After 24 hours’ respite offered by a public holiday on Thursday, the Nikkei share index sank below 15,000 points for the first time in 16 months. The Nikkei has fallen 12% over the week, putting it on course for its biggest weekly drop since October 2008.

Markets across the region were caught up in the selling despite the promise of a better day when oil prices jumped 5% on comments by an Opec energy minister sparked hopes of a coordinated production cut. South Korea’s main Kospi index ended the day 1.4% while the Kosdaq index of smaller stocks was suspended after plummeting more than 8%. The Hang Seng index was off 1% in Hong Kong. In Australia, where shares entered bear territory earlier in the week, stocks closed down more than 1% led lower by the country’s huge banking sector. The sell-off came despite comments from the Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens that fears of global slump were “overdone” and that investors were panicking.

The sell-off on Friday prompted the value of the yen, gold and government bonds to soar as investors rushed to traditional safe-haven assets. The yen was 110.985 to the US dollar on Thursday – its lowest level since October 2014 – punishing Japanese exporters, whose overseas earnings will suffer further if the yen continues on its current trajectory. “The markets are clearly starting to price in a sharp slowdown in the world economy and even a recession in the United States,” said Tsuyoshi Shimizu, chief strategist at Mizuho Asset Management.

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Hmmm. We haven’t talked about Japanese banks much yet, have we?

Asian Shares Slip As Bank Fears Add To Global Gloom (Reuters)

Asian shares slipped on Friday as mounting concerns about the health of European banks further threatened a global economic outlook already under strain from falling oil prices and slowdown in China and other emerging markets. The prices of yen, gold and liquid government bonds of favoured countries soared as investors rushed to traditional safe-haven assets. “The markets are clearly starting to price in a sharp slowdown in the world economy and even a recession in the United States,” said Tsuyoshi Shimizu, chief strategist at Mizuho Asset Management. “I do not expect a collapse or major financial crisis like the Lehman crisis but it will take some before market sentiment will improve,” he added.

MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5%. Japan’s Nikkei fell 5.3% to a 15-month low as sudden spike in the yen took most investors by surprise. “It is hard to find a bottom for stocks when the yen is strengthening this much. It is hard to become bullish on the market in the near future,” said Masaki Uchida, executive director of equity investment at JPMorgan Asset Management. “But the valuation of some (Japanese) bank shares is extremely cheap. So for long-term investors, it could be a good level to buy,” he added. Financial shares led losses in Australia and Hong Kong though their declines are still modest compared to peers in Europe and the US.

The strengthening yen touched 110.985 to the dollar on Thursday, rising almost 10% from its six-week low touched on Jan 29, when the Bank of Japan introduced negative interest rates. The currency last stood at 112.22 yen, hardly showing any reaction after Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso stepped up his verbal intervention on Friday, saying he would take appropriate action as needed. MSCI’s broadest gauge of stock markets fell 0.6% in Asia on Friday, flirting with its lowest level since June 2013. It has fallen fell more than 20% below its record high last May, confirming global stocks are in a bear market.

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Banks are bubbles.

Global Assault on Banks Intensifies as Investors Punish Weakness (BBG)

Credit Suisse Group AG shares plunged to the lowest in a generation and a one-year contract to insure Deutsche Bank debt against default surged to a record as a global rout in financial companies intensified. Theories abound as to what lies behind the selloff, with some traders fretting over falling oil prices, China’s slowing economy and negative interest rates. A pullback by some sovereign-wealth funds has also been blamed for lower asset prices. Whatever the cause, the hammering has been the worst in Europe, where concerns persist about the health of some of the biggest banks eight years after the financial crisis. “The market is aggressively penalizing banks,” said Nikhil Srinivasan at Assicurazioni Generali in Milan. “It’s going to be a challenging 2016, and I don’t see a short tunnel – this could go on for a while.”

Investors are fleeing lenders that show signs of weakness, as Societe Generale did yesterday when the Paris-based bank said it might miss its profitability goal this year. The stock plunged 13%, the most since 2011. Both Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank published dismal fourth-quarter results in recent weeks that have sent shareholders and bondholders to the exits. U.S. lenders haven’t been spared. JPMorgan dropped to the lowest in more than two years after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday that the central bank was taking another look at negative interest rates as a potential policy tool if the U.S. economy faltered, a scenario some investors view as a possibility amid a darkening outlook for world growth.

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South Korea even halted its small cap trading for a while.

Emerging Stocks Rout Deepens on Risk Aversion as Currencies Drop (BBG)

Emerging-market equities headed for the worst weekly drop in a month and currencies retreated as anxiety over the worsening outlook for global growth sapped demand for riskier assets. South Korea’s Kospi led declines on Friday, poised for its worst week since August, as benchmark indexes in the Philippines and Indonesia fell. Chinese shares traded in Hong Kong slumped while markets in mainland China, Taiwan and Vietnam remain closed for Lunar New Year holidays. Malaysia’s ringgit and South Africa’s rand weakened the most and a gauge of 20 developing-nation currencies was set for its first five-day drop since mid-January.

World equities descended into a bear market on Thursday amid growing skepticism that central banks can arrest the slide in the world economy, and as crude oil in new York closed at the lowest level in more than 12 years. Signals from central banks in Europe and Japan that additional stimulus is likely did little to ease concerns about growth. Investors ignored a second day of testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, whose indication that the U.S. won’t rush to raise interest rates failed to stem a global selloff.

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Beijing is going to have a real exciting weekend.

Yuan Declines Most in Two Weeks as Global Selloff Saps Sentiment (BBG)

The offshore yuan fell the most in two weeks, tracking Asian currencies and stocks lower as a global selloff eroded the appeal of riskier assets. Equity markets sank into bear territory amid skepticism central banks can arrest a slide in the world economy. The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index fell for a second day while stocks in Hong Kong headed for their lowest close in more than three years. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said this year’s global tumult was in response to a drop in the yuan and in oil prices, and not the U.S. central bank’s rate increase in December. A gauge of the dollar’s strength rose 0.1% on Monday, paring its decline from Feb. 5 to 0.8%.

The yuan traded in Hong Kong fell 0.16% to 6.5399 a dollar as of 11:50 a.m. local time, ending three days of gains, according to China Foreign Exchange Trade System prices. The currency is headed for a 0.4% advance for the week. China’s onshore financial markets will reopen on Monday, after a week-long holiday, with investors watching out for what the People’s Bank of China will do with the yuan’s reference rate. “There’s a tug of war right now as people are debating whether the dollar’s weakness and its effect on emerging-market currencies will be sustainable,” said Sim Moh Siong, a foreign-exchange strategist at Bank of Singapore Ltd. China’s central bank is likely to keep the yuan’s fixing stable on Monday, he added.

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The hilarious reaction to Kuroda’s, and Abenomics’, failure.

Asia’s Rich Advised to Buy Yen as BOJ’s Negative Rates Backfire (BBG)

Money managers for Asia’s wealthy families are favoring the yen as it benefits from the turmoil in global financial markets. Credit Suisse is advising its private-banking clients to buy the yen against the euro or South Korean won because the Japanese currency remains undervaluedversus the dollar. Stamford Management Pte, which oversees $250 million for Asia’s rich, told clients the yen is set to strengthen to 110 against the dollar as soon as the end of this month. Singapore-based Stephen Diggle, who runs Vulpes Investment Management, plans to add to assets in Japan where the family office already owns hotels and part of a nightclub in a ski resort. The yen has outperformed all 31 other major currencies this year as Japan’s current-account surplus makes it attractive for investors seeking a haven.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s Jan. 29 decision to adopt negative interest rates has failed to rein in the currency’s advance. “All existing drivers still point to more yen strength,” said Koon How Heng, senior foreign-exchange strategist at Credit Suisse’s private banking and wealth management unit in Singapore. “The BOJ will need to do more to convince the markets about the effectiveness of its negative interest-rate policy.” The yen has appreciated 7% against the dollar this year to 112.32 as of 12:10 p.m. in Tokyo Friday. It touched 110.99 Thursday, the strongest level since Oct. 31, 2014, the day the BOJ unexpectedly increased monetary stimulus for the second time during Kuroda’s tenure.

That’s a drawback for the central bank governor. He needs a weaker yen to help meet his target of boosting Japan’s inflation rate to 2% and keep exports competitive. Stamford Management has briefed some of the families whose wealth it helps to manage about the firm’s “bullish stance” on the yen, said its chief executive officer, Jason Wang. “The adoption of negative interest rates reeks of desperation to me,” Wang said. “It’s akin to an admission by the BOJ that conventional monetary policy is ineffective in hitting their 2% inflation target.”

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Abe.

Who Stole The Yen Carry Trade? (CNBC)

Japan’s descent into a negative interest rate policy should have weakened the yen, but instead it’s spurring a rally as appetite for using the currency to fund other bets wanes. The yen strengthened on Thursday to highs not seen since October of 2014, with the dollar fetching as few as 110.98 yen. That’s despite the Bank of Japan (BOJ) blindsiding global financial markets on January 29 by adopting negative interest rates for the first time ever – a move that should spur outflows of the local currency, not inflows. Instead, a confluence of factors – worries about banks’ profits, a commodities price slump and uncertainty over the Federal Reserve’s hiking path – is causing an old favorite, the yen carry trade, to fall out of fashion, which means the currency is moving in the opposite direction to that expected in the wake of the BOJ’s surprise rates move.

“The advent of negative rates is compounding concerns about underlying strains in the financial sector and bank profitability,” Ray Attrill, co-head of foreign-exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Wednesday. Japanese investors are repatriating funds in part because the BOJ’s move sparked concerns that other central banks could wage a campaign of competitive rate cuts in response. This in turn caused worries about global banks’ earnings because negative interest rates in Japan – as well as low interest rates globally – dents the banks’ net interest margins. That’s a driver of why bank shares have sold off particularly viciously in recent weeks amid a wider global market rout.

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“…and credit is always right in the end!”

If Credit Is Right, The S&P Is Facing A 40% Crash (ZH)

…and credit is always right in the end! 1,100 is the target…

High Yield bond yields and Leveraged Loan prices are at their worst since 2009 as it seems the hosepipe of QE3 liquidity (its the flow not the stock, stupid) is slowly unwound from a buybacks-are-over equity market.

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The Doug Short graph comes with a ton of caveats, but stock valuations sure look high.

How Much Further Could Stocks Fall? (BI)

A few months ago, I noted that stocks were so frighteningly expensive that they could fall more than 50%. I also noted that that would not be the worst-case scenario. Well, since then, stocks have fallen sharply, and they’re now down about 15% off their highs. So how much further could they fall? On a valuation basis, I’m sorry to say, they could fall much further. It would take at least another 30% drop from here – call it 1,200 on the S&P 500 – before stock prices reached even historically average levels. And that would by no means be the worst-case scenario. Why do I say this? Because, by many historically predictive valuation measures, even after the recent 15% haircut, stocks are still overvalued to the tune of ~60%. That’s better than the ~80% over-valuation of a few months ago.

But it’s still expensive. In the past, when stocks have been this overvalued, they have often corrected by crashing — in 1929, 1987, 2000, and 2007, for example . They have also sometimes corrected by moving sideways and down for a long, long time — in 1901-1920 and 1966-1982, for example. After long eras of over-valuation, like the period we have been in since the late 1990s (with the notable exceptions of the lows after the 2000 and 2007 crashes), stocks have also often transitioned into an era of undervaluation, often one that lasts for a decade or more. In short, stocks are still so expensive on historically predictive measures that they are priced to deliver annual returns of only about 2%-3% per year for the next decade. So a stock-market crash of ~50% from the peak would not be a surprise. It would also not be the “worst-case scenario.” The “worst-case scenario,” which has actually been a common scenario over history, is that stocks would drop by, say 75% peak to trough.

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Coco no more.

S&P Cuts Deutsche Bank’s Tier 1 Securities Rating To B+ from BB- (Reuters)

Rating agency Standard and Poors on Thursday said it cut Deutsche Bank AG’s Tier 1 securities rating to B+ from BB- and also lowered Deutsche Bank Capital Finance Trust I perpetual Tier 2 instrument rating to BB- from BB. S&P said the bank’s €4.3 billion pro forma payment capacity for 2017 should be sufficient to enable continued Tier 1 interest payments, but its German GAAP earnings prospects are difficult to foresee amidst restructuring and volatile market conditions. The rating change with a stable outlook reflects the expectation that the Frankfurt-based bank will make steady progress during the next two years towards its financial and operational targets for 2020, S&P added.

Shares of Deutsche Bank have fallen about 40% since the start of this year as shareholders expressed doubts over the management’s execution of its two-year turnaround plan, announced last October. The bank, seeking to reassure investors, said on Monday it had “sufficient” reserves to make payments due this year on AT1 securities. Deutsche Bank is also looking at buying back several billion euros worth of its debt in an effort to reverse the falling value of its securities, the Financial Times said on Tuesday. However, S&P expects the German bank’s profitability to remain relatively poor in 2016-2017, due to restructuring charges and likely further litigation provisions.

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Close, yes.

The Week When Central Bank Planning Died? (MW)

Has the “Yellen put” finally expired? Financial markets are in the grips of a global rush to safety. Central banks, whose flood of liquidity have been given much of the credit for the sharp postcrisis rise in stocks and other asset prices, seem unable to stem the tide. “This week may go down in financial history as the week when central bank planning died—the 2016 version of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It sounds worse than it is, as this was always coming,” said Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank, in a Thursday note. Markets took little comfort in two days of testimony by Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average posted their fifth straight decline Thursday. The yen, meanwhile, has soared despite the Bank of Japan’s easing efforts.

It was the Bank of Japan’s surprise decision in late January to impose a negative rate on some deposits that appeared to rock investor faith. As MarketWatch noted at the time, the move was viewed by many economists as desperate. Moreover, with central banks continually undershooting inflation targets despite extraordinarily loose policy, there are growing fears that the ability of monetary policy to affect the real economy has been impaired. The ability of central banks to steer the market—or vice versa—was first dubbed the “Greenspan put,” then renamed the “Bernanke put,” and, finally, the “Yellen put.” A put option gives an investor the right to sell the underlying security at a preset strike price. In other words, bullish stock investors could count on central bankers to keep a floor under the market. That’s what some think is finally coming to an end.

“We have relied on central bankers to fix the world’s economic woes, when all they could really do was to get the global financial system back on an even keel,” said Kit Juckes, global macro strategist at Société Générale, in a note. “Keeping policy too easy, for too long and boosting asset markets in the vain hope that this would deliver a sustainable pickup in demand has meant that even a timid attempt at normalizing Fed policy has caused two months of mayhem.” Now, amid a growing realization that central banks’ powers are on the wane, investors are rushing for havens, he said. The Bank of Japan wasn’t the first major central bank to go negative. It joined the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank, as well as the Swedish and Danish central banks. But there are fears that negative rates will prove counterproductive.

Central banks have implemented negative rates in an effort to halt the hoarding of cash in a bid to fuel spending and push up inflation. But skeptics fear the strategy could backfire. “The increasing number of central banks adopting [negative interest rate policies] is weighing on the profit outlook for financial companies that now must pay to hold some of their reserves at the central bank and hurting the performance of the global financial sector.,” wrote Jeffrey Kleintop, global chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, in a blog post. A main worry is that banks might have to push up lending rates to cover the cost of holding some reserves at the central bank. As a result, it’s the financial sector, not falling oil, that has been the leading driver of the fall in global stocks in 2016, Kleintop said (see chart).

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Now combine this with Kyle Bass’ assertion that FX reserves are already depleted. What exactly are they buying foreign companies with then?

China Buys The World With State-Backed Debt (FT)

The warnings are clear for ChemChina. The company behind China Inc’s biggest outward investment bid will be hoping to avoid the unhappy experiences suffered by some of the country’s earlier trailblazers. The state-owned oil company Cnooc , for example, ran into problems after it paid a record $15bn in 2013 for Nexen, one of Canada’s largest oil firms. Cnooc began with good intentions, paying a 60% premium to Nexen’s share price, only to suffer from the prolonged slump in global oil prices. A huge pipeline spill and a retreat from promises to safeguard Canadian jobs — it fired senior Nexen executives and laid off hundreds of staff — have further dented goodwill around the deal. Investments by other Chinese stalwarts have also hit turbulence, falling at regulatory hurdles or unravelling for commercial reasons.

“Chinese investment overseas is a double-edged sword,” says Derek Scissors, of the American Enterprise Institute. The outward embrace of China Inc raises a series of challenges for target companies and countries, he adds. Common problems arise from a mismatch of regulatory systems, a clash of corporate cultures and commercial miscalculations. China is not alone in having deals that hit problems — it happens to US and European companies also. But increasingly the issue for Chinese deals is debt. Analysts say that a surge in the indebtedness of corporate China since 2009 has meant that many of its largest companies are looking for acquisitions abroad while dragging behind them mountains of unpaid loans and bonds. ChemChina, which is offering $44bn for Syngenta, the Swiss agrichemical giant, is a case in point.

Its total debt is 9.5 times its annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda), putting it into the “highly-leveraged” category as defined by Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency. This, say analysts, highlights the nature of ChemChina’s planned acquisition before even a cent has been paid. The proposed deal is not between two commercial businesses but between the Chinese state and a Swiss company. “Bids like that by ChemChina are backed by the state,” Mr Scissors says. “There is no chance a company as heavily leveraged as this would be able to secure this level of financing on a commercial basis. “If your financials are out of whack with every commercial company on the planet then you can call yourself commercial but you are not,” he adds. The issue with debt is by no means confined to ChemChina.

The median debt multiple of the 54 Chinese companies that publish financial figures and did deals overseas last year was 5.4, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Many would be regarded as “highly leveraged”. Some companies are almost off the chart. Zoomlion, a lossmaking and partially state-owned Chinese machinery company that is bidding for US rival Terex, has a debt multiple of 83; by comparison Terex’s is 3.6. China Cosco, a state-owned shipping company, is seven times more indebted than Piraeus Port Authority in Greece, which it bought for €368.5m last month . The state-owned Cofco Corporation, which recently reached an agreement with Noble Group, the commodities trader, under which its subsidiary Cofco International would acquire a stake in Noble Agri for $750m, has debts equivalent to 52 times its ebitda.

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Wiping out the entire region’s oil processing industry.

China Turns a Glut of Oil Into a Flood of Diesel (BBG)

Fuel producers from India to South Korea are finding that rising refined products from China are cutting the profit margins they’ve enjoyed from cheap oil to the lowest in more than a year. Worse may be coming. China’s total net exports of oil products – a measure that strips out imports – will rise 31% this year to 25 million metric tons, China National Petroleum Corp., the country’s biggest energy company, said in its annual research report last month. That comes after diesel exports jumped almost 75% last year.

“If China dumps more fuel into the market, international prices will crash,” said B.K. Namdeo, director of refineries at India’s state-run Hindustan Petroleum. “It will be similar to what happened to crude prices due to the oversupply. If international prices of oil products come down, then it will hurt margins of all refiners.” A common measure of refining profitability in Asia – the margin from turning Middle East benchmark Dubai grade into fuels including diesel and gasoline in the regional trading hub of Singapore – slid this week to the lowest level since October 2014, adding to mounting evidence that China’s exports are weighing on Asian processors.

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Let’s blame Russia.

11.5% Of Syrian Population Killed Or Injured (Guardian)

Syria’s national wealth, infrastructure and institutions have been “almost obliterated” by the “catastrophic impact” of nearly five years of conflict, a new report has found. Fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) – a far higher total than the figure of 250,000 used by the United Nations until it stopped collecting statistics 18 months ago. In all, 11.5% of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011, the report estimates. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Overall economic losses are estimated at $255bn (£175bn).

The stark account of the war’s toll came as warnings multiplied about Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which is in danger of being cut off by a government advance aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian militiamen. The Syrian opposition is demanding urgent action to relieve the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians. The International Red Cross said on Wednesday that 50,000 people had fled the upsurge in fighting in the north, requiring urgent deliveries of food and water. Talks in Munich on Thursday between the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, will be closely watched for any sign of an end to the deadly impasse. UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva are scheduled to resume in two weeks but are unlikely to do so without a significant shift of policy.

Of the 470,000 war dead counted by the SCPR, about 400,000 were directly due to violence, while the remaining 70,000 fell victim to lack of adequate health services, medicine, especially for chronic diseases, lack of food, clean water, sanitation and proper housing, especially for those displaced within conflict zones. “We use very rigorous research methods and we are sure of this figure,” Rabie Nasser, the report’s author, told the Guardian. “Indirect deaths will be greater in the future, though most NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and the UN ignore them. “We think that the UN documentation and informal estimation underestimated the casualties due to lack of access to information during the crisis,” he said. In statistical terms, Syria’s mortality rate increased from 4.4 per thousand in 2010 to 10.9 per thousand in 2015.

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“Beyond commands, we’re human. We’ll lose heart, we’ll cry, we’ll feel sad if something doesn’t go well. There isn’t a person who won’t be moved by this..”

Greeks At Frontline Of Refugee Crisis Angry At Europe’s Criticism (Reuters)

Some EU members have suggested Greece should be suspended from Schengen if it does not improve. But the criticism and threats have been met with anger in Greece. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said the EU was “confused and bewildered” by the migrant crisis and said the bloc should take responsibility like Greece has done, despite being crash-strapped. Most Greeks, including the coast guard, the army, the police were “setting an example of humanity to the world,” Tsipras said. For those at the frontline, foreign criticism is even more painful. “We’re giving 150%,” said Lieutenant Commander Antonis Sofiadelis, head of coast guard operations on Lesvos. Once a dinghy enters Greek territorial waters, the coast guard is obliged to rescue it and transport its passengers to the port.

”The sea is not like land. You’re dealing with a boat with 60 people in constant danger. It could sink, they could go overboard,” he said. More than a million people, many fleeing war-ravaged countries and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, reached Europe in the past year, most of them arriving in Greece. For the crews plying a 250-km-long coastline between Lesvvos and Turkey, the numbers attempting the crossing are simply too big to handle. It is but a fraction of a coastline thousands of kilometers long between Greece and Turkish shores. ”The flow is unreal,” Sofiadelis said. Lesvos has long been a stopover for refugees. Locals recall when people fleeing the Iraqi-Kurdish civil war in the mid-1990s swam across from Turkey. Yet those numbers do not compare to what has become Europe’s biggest migration crisis since WWII and which has continued unabated despite the winter making the Aegean Sea even more treacherous.

After days of gale force winds and freezing temperatures, more than 2,400 people arrived on Greece’s outlying islands on Monday, nearly double the daily average for February, according to United Nations data. Sofiadelis, the Lesvos commander, said controls should be stepped up on the Turkish side, while Europe should provide assistance with more boats, more staff and better monitoring systems such as radars and night-vision cameras. Greek boats, assisted by EU border control agency Frontex, already scan the waters night and day. By late morning on Monday, Captain Frangoulis and his crew – including a seafaring dog picked up at a port years ago – have been at sea for more than 24 hours. Each time his crew spot a boat that could be carrying migrants “our stomach is tied up in knots,” Frangoulis said.

”There’s this fear that everything must go well, everyone boards safely, no child falls in the sea, no one’s injured.” Though fewer than 10 nautical miles separate Lesvos from Turkish shores, hundreds of people have drowned trying to make it across. Patrol boats, as well as local fishermen, have often fished out corpses from the many shipwrecks of the past months, the bodies blackened and bruised from days at sea. After every rescue operation, a sense of relief fills the crews. Once the Agios Efstratios docked at the Lesvos harbour on Monday, Frangoulis’ beaming crew helped passengers disembark, holding up crying babies in their arms. ”There’s no room for sentimentalism. We execute commands,” Frangoulis said of the rescue operations. “Beyond commands, we’re human. We’ll lose heart, we’ll cry, we’ll feel sad if something doesn’t go well. There isn’t a person who won’t be moved by this,” he said.

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Real people.

The Grandmothers Of Lesvos (Kath.)

Even as the high winds whip up the sea they still come. I spot two black dots far away on the horizon: rubber dinghies that have set off from the Turkish coast, overladen with men, women and children. If she could, 85-year-old Maritsa Mavrapidi would walk down the road from her front gate to the beach of Skala Sykamias and wait – as she has done so many times in the past – for the boats to land. After all, she knows exactly what it means to be refugee. “Our mothers came here as refugees from Turkey, just across the way, and they were just girls at the time. They came without clothes, with nothing,” she says. “That’s why we feel sorry for the migrants.” Maritsa prefers not to go out on cold days. Her cousins would also have liked to be at the beach to help the newcomers but they also avoid bad weather.

Efstratia Mavrapidi is 89 and Militsa (Emilia) Kamvisi 83. The latter was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize along with a Lesvos fisherman as representatives of the islanders who have taken the refugees into their hearts and their homes. “Dear Lord, we never expected this: people coming through the storm,” says Maritsa. “As soon as they step off the boat they say prayers and kiss the ground; it’s unbelievable. They’re to be pitied. And there are so many babies, tiny little things. It breaks your heart to see the babies in such a sorry state, trembling with cold.” I sit with the three women in Militsa’s home. The village’s olive grove starts at the back of the house and from the front there’s a view to the sea. “I’ve moved downstairs because I have volunteers who help the refugees staying upstairs,” she says.

[..] They share roots and a hard life. Their mothers arrived on Lesvos on fishing boats from Asia Minor in 1922. They are reminded every time they see refugees landing on the island’s shores of the scenes of exodus their mothers had described. “My mother had three babies when she came from Turkey,” remembers Efstratia. “She had no clothes for the youngest and had to tear her underskirt to wrap it in.” Back in Turkey Militsas’s father had been engaged to a different woman. “He packed up his sewing machine and a trunk of clothes as they prepared to leave, but his fiancee and her mother were killed. He came to Lesvos alone and later met my mother.” They know from the stories they were told that the islanders were not particularly welcoming to the new arrivals from Asia Minor.

“The locals were scared that the refugees would settle here,” says Maritsa. “Eventually they did. They bought land and got married.” One of the places where many of the refugees put down roots was Skala Sykamias. Here, in this spot that was the birthplace of celebrated novelist Stratis Myrivilis, the refugees experienced poverty and suffering. “They led very sad lives and had many children, like the migrants that coming today,” says Militsa. “They made their homes in olive storage sheds. Four families could live in one room, separated by hanging carpets,” adds Efstratia.

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Jan 122016
 
 January 12, 2016  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


V&APA Bowie age 16 in the Kon-Rads 1963

RBS Cries ‘Sell Everything’ As Deflationary Crisis Nears (AEP)
An ‘Extremely Normal And Realistic’ 26% S&P 500 Drop Is Taking Shape (MW)
Oil Down 20% Since Start Of Year, $10 Target Looms (Reuters)
Plunging Prices Could Force A Third Of US Oil Firms Into Bankruptcy (WSJ)
China Resorts To ‘Nuclear Strength’ Weapons To Defend The Yuan (Guardian)
Chinese Official: Bets Against Yuan Are ‘Ridiculous and Impossible’ (WSJ)
China Banks Feel The Heat Of Meltdown (FT)
China FX Reserve Sell-Off To Soon Move Beyond US Treasuries (Reuters)
Why China’s Market Illness Has Gotten More Contagious (WSJ)
China Rout Threatens to Spawn India Crisis (BBG)
EU Set To Weigh China’s Eligibility For Lower Import Tariffs (BBG)
South Africa’s Flash Crash Exposes Cracks in Currency Liquidity (BBG)
Saudi Arabia Plays Down Riyal Peg Fears (FT)
Banks’ Worst Fears Eased as Basel Soft-Pedals Capital Overhaul (BBG)
Canadian Stocks Fall in Longest Slump Since 2002 (BBG)
Discovery (Jim Kunstler)
It’s Time For Europe To Turn The Tables On Bullying Britain (Luyendijk)
Migrant Flows ‘Still Way Too High,’ EU Tells Turkey (AFP)
Mass Migration Into Europe Is Unstoppable (FT)

As things shape up the very way we always said they would, others claim ownership of the story.

“China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the ‘Goldlocks love-in’ of the last two years..”

RBS Cries ‘Sell Everything’ As Deflationary Crisis Nears (AEP)

RBS has advised clients to brace for a “cataclysmic year” and a global deflationary crisis, warning that major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may plummet to $16 a barrel. The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the turbulent months before the Lehman crisis in 2008. “Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small,” it said in a client note. Andrew Roberts, the bank’s credit chief, said that global trade and loans are contracting, a nasty cocktail for corporate balance sheets and equity earnings. This is particularly ominous given that global debt ratios have reached record highs. “China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the ‘Goldlocks love-in’ of the last two years,” he said.

Mr Roberts expects Wall Street and European stocks to fall by 10pc to 20pc, with even an deeper slide for the FTSE 100 given its high weighting of energy and commodities companies. “London is vulnerable to a negative shock. All these people who are ‘long’ oil and mining companies thinking that the dividends are safe are going to discover that they’re not at all safe,” he said. Brent oil prices will continue to slide after breaking through a key technical level at $34.40, RBS claimed, with a “bear flag” and “Fibonacci” signals pointing to a floor of $16, a level last seen after the East Asia crisis in 1999. The bank said a paralysed OPEC seems incapable of responding to a deepening slowdown in Asia, now the swing region for global oil demand Morgan Stanley has also slashed its oil forecast, warning that Brent could fall to $20 if the US dollar keeps rising.

It argued that oil is intensely leveraged to any move in the dollar and is now playing second fiddle to currency effects. RBS forecast that yields on 10-year German Bunds would fall time to an all-time low of 0.16pc in a flight to safety, and may break zero as deflationary forces tighten their grip. The European Central Bank’s policy rate will fall to -0.7pc. US Treasuries will fall to rock-bottom levels in sympathy, hammering hedge funds that have shorted US bonds in a very crowded “reflation trade”. RBS first issued its grim warnings for the global economy in November but events have moved even faster than feared. It estimates that the US economy slowed to a growth rate of 0.5pc in the fourth quarter, and accuses the US Federal Reserve of “playing with fire” by raising rates into the teeth of the storm. “There has already been severe monetary tightening in the US from the rising dollar,” it said.

It is unusual for the Fed to tighten when the ISM manufacturing index is below the boom-bust line of 50. It is even more surprising to do so after nominal GDP growth has fallen to 3pc and has been trending down since early 2014. RBS said the epicentre of global stress is China, where debt-driven expansion has reached saturation. The country now faces a surge in capital flight and needs a “dramatically lower” currency. In their view, this next leg of the rolling global drama is likely to play out fast and furiously. “We are deeply sceptical of the consensus that the authorities can ‘buy time’ by their heavy intervention in cutting reserve ratio requirements (RRR), rate cuts and easing in fiscal policy,” it said.

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How about 50%? Standard & Poor’s 1500 index – a broad basket of large, mid and small company stocks – is already down -26.9% from its 52-week high.

An ‘Extremely Normal And Realistic’ 26% S&P 500 Drop Is Taking Shape (MW)

It’s been a brutal start to 2016 in the markets. But the way this chart is setting up, there’s a lot more pain on the way, according to J.C. Parets of the All Star Charts blog. “We’re down 9% from the all-time highs in the S&P 500 SPX, +0.09% and I see people acting like two-year-olds that just had their favorite toy taken away from them,” he said. “Why, because the market is down 9% from its highs last year after rallying over 220% over the prior 6 years? Please.” He goes on to explain how this recent spate of selling action isn’t unusual and how “things get absolutely destroyed all the time.” Like the British pound, energy, emerging markets and agricultural commodities, to name just a few.

“And these are real collapses in prices, not this 9% nonsense that people are getting all worked up about because it’s the S&P 500, or Apple or something that they’re too sensitive about,” Parets wrote in his blog post. He used the chart above to support his prediction that the S&P is headed toward the 1,570 level, which would be an “extremely normal and realistic” 26% correction from the top. Or another 20% from where it stands now. “This is a ‘sell rallies’ market, not a ‘buy the dip’ environment,” he added. That’s not to say there won’t be bounces. “Go look at a list of the best days in stock market history, they all come during massive selloffs,” Parets said. “I would expect this decline to be no different and the rallies we do get should be vicious.”

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And now Lybia comes on line…

Oil Down 20% Since Start Of Year, $10 Target Looms (Reuters)

Crude oil prices continued a relentless dive early on Tuesday, falling almost 20% since the beginning of the year as analysts scrambled to cut their 2016 oil price forecasts and traders bet on further price falls. U.S. crude West Texas Intermediate was trading at $30.66 per barrel at 0531 GMT on Tuesday, down 75 cents from the last settlement and about 20% lower than at the beginning of the year. Earlier it traded at $30.60, the lowest since December 2003. Brent crude futures fell 83 cents to $30.72 a barrel. Earlier they declined to $30.66, their lowest since April 2004. Brent has fallen nearly 20% in January and, like WTI, has declined on every day of trading so far this year.

Trading data showed that managed short positions in WTI crude contracts, which would profit from a further fall in prices, are at a record high, implying that many traders expect further falls. “It’s going to be a very interesting year in oil,” said Ric Spooner at CMC Markets in Sydney. “The lower the price goes, the faster in time we are likely to form a base and recover.” Analysts also adjusted to the early price rout in the year, with Barclays, Macquarie, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Standard Chartered and Societe Generale all cutting their 2016 oil price forecasts on Monday. “A marked deterioration in oil market fundamentals in early 2016 has persuaded us to make some large downward adjustments to our oil price forecasts for 2016,” Barclays bank said.

“We now expect Brent and WTI to both average $37/barrel in 2016, down from our previous forecasts of $60 and $56, respectively,” it added. But it was Standard Chartered that took the most bearish view, stating that prices could drop as low as $10 a barrel. “Given that no fundamental relationship is currently driving the oil market toward any equilibrium, prices are being moved almost entirely by financial flows caused by fluctuations in other asset prices, including the USD and equity markets,” the bank said. “We think prices could fall as low as $10/bbl before most of the money managers in the market conceded that matters had gone too far,” it added.

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It’ll be epic.

Plunging Prices Could Force A Third Of US Oil Firms Into Bankruptcy (WSJ)

Crude-oil prices plunged more than 5% on Monday to trade near $30 a barrel, making the specter of bankruptcy ever more likely for a significant chunk of the U.S. oil industry. Three major investment banks – Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup – now expect the price of oil to crash through the $30 threshold and into $20 territory in short order as a result of China’s slowdown, the U.S. dollar’s appreciation and the fact that drillers from Houston to Riyadh won’t quit pumping despite the oil glut. As many as a third of American oil-and-gas producers could tip toward bankruptcy and restructuring by mid-2017, according to Wolfe Research.

Survival, for some, would be possible if oil rebounded to at least $50, according to analysts. More than 30 small companies that collectively owe in excess of $13 billion have already filed for bankruptcy protection so far during this downturn, according to law firm Haynes & Boone. Morgan Stanley issued a report this week describing an environment “worse than 1986” for energy prices and producers, referring to the last big oil bust that lasted for years. The current downturn is now deeper and longer than each of the five oil price crashes since 1970, said Martijn Rats, an analyst at the bank. Together, North American oil-and-gas producers are losing nearly $2 billion every week at current prices, according to a forthcoming report from AlixPartners, a consulting firm. “Many are going to have huge problems,” said Kim Brady at consultancy Solic Capital.

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“Its actions are comparable to steps taken by other central banks when they previously fought against international speculators, such as George Soros..”

China Resorts To ‘Nuclear Strength’ Weapons To Defend The Yuan (Guardian)

The Chinese authorities have resorted to “nuclear strength” weapons to deter an attack on the yuan by short sellers and convince sceptical investors that they are in control of the country’s spluttering financial system. China’s central bank fixed the currency firmer again on Tuesday but traders were not persuaded and the currency slipped in early trade despite what dealers called aggressive intervention to support the currency. The gap between the mainland yuan and its offshore counterpart had grown in recent days but suspected intervention by China’s state-owned banks brought them almost into line on Tuesday. The action sent the rate at which banks charge each other to borrow yuan in Hong Kong to a record high of 67% on Tuesday.

“The market suspects that the People’s Bank of China is possibly using major state banks to directly drain yuan liquidity in offshore markets,” said a dealer at an European bank in Shanghai. The dealer described the strength of the central bank’s actions as being of “nuclear-weapon” level strength. “Its actions are comparable to steps taken by other central banks when they previously fought against international speculators, such as George Soros,” he said. [..] Perceived mis-steps by China’s authorities have stoked concerns in global markets that Beijing might be losing its grip on economic policy, just as the country looks set to post its slowest growth in 25 years. Amid suspicions by some in the market that China wants the yuan to devalue in order to boost its ailing exporters, sources suggested there were moves afoot for China’s cabinet to take a bigger role in overseeing financial markets.

The state council has set up a working group to prepare for upgrading the cabinet’s financial department to bureau level, said a source close to the country’s leadership. Officials were doing their best to talk up the currency [..] The central bank’s chief economist Ma Jun said on Monday that the bank planned to keep the yuan basically stable against a basket of currencies, and fluctuations against the US dollar would increase. Han Jun, deputy director of the office of the Chinese Communist party’s leading group on financial and economic affairs, said a more substantial decline in the yuan was “ridiculous” and “impossible”.

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The louder their claims, the lower confidence goes.

Chinese Official: Bets Against Yuan Are ‘Ridiculous and Impossible’ (WSJ)

Wagers that the yuan will slump 10% or more against the dollar are “ridiculous and impossible,” a senior Chinese economic official said Monday, warning that China had a sufficient tool kit to defeat attacks on its currency. “Attempts to sell short the renminbi will not succeed,” said Han Jun, deputy director of the office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, at a briefing at the Chinese Consulate in New York. “The expectations of markets can be changed.” The comments are the latest demonstration of Chinese officials’ determination to defeat those betting that yuan declines will intensify. They echo comments such as ECB President Mario Draghi’s 2012 “whatever it takes” speech, made when European government bonds issued by weaker countries were under attack.

Yet analysts said China’s plan carries considerable risks, potentially creating tension with the government’s efforts to integrate itself into the global financial architecture. Currency-market interventions are costly and risk confusing investors by adding to volatility, some said. “These interventions work well only if they’re undertaken in the context of much broader reforms,” said Eswar Prasad, a former top China hand at the International Monetary Fund and now an economics professor at Cornell University. Bets against the yuan, or renminbi, have picked up in 2016, sending the currency to its lowest level in nearly five years against the dollar and widening the gap between the official Chinese yuan fixing and the so-called offshore market in Hong Kong, where the government is less involved.

On Monday, the yuan rose 0.3% against the dollar in China and rose 1.5% in the offshore market, to 6.5863 per dollar. In late New York trading, the yuan was up 0.4% to 6.5666 per dollar. The debate over the direction of the yuan has captivated Wall Street since last August, when China roiled financial markets by reducing the currency’s value against the dollar by 2% on Aug. 11, its largest single-day decline in two decades. Further yuan devaluation would threaten to exacerbate existing problems in the global economy, where sluggish demand for goods and services is tripping up growth. Many nations have sought to bolster flagging domestic growth by increasing exports, but a sharp decline in the yuan would likely undermine such efforts by making Chinese goods cheaper and more competitive abroad.

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“China’s banks could require up to $7.7 trillion of new capital and funding over the next three years…” But that’s just part of the story; it’s still based on very low amounts of bad loans -“barely 1% at the big lenders, and 1.8% at mid-tier banks this year-, and that doesn’t seem realistic. Fitch puts it at 21%(!).

China Banks Feel The Heat Of Meltdown (FT)

If the US or Europe had experienced the kind of equity market slump that China has suffered of late, its financial institutions would be quaking and leading the list of biggest fallers in Shanghai and Hong Kong trading. As it is, the big banks have seen their share prices tumble by about 10% over the past two or three weeks, far less than the 15% slump in the Shanghai Composite index. On the face of it, there may be good reason for that. Traditionally China’s large financial institutions are not big stock market players — retail investors make up the bulk of the market. In reality, the banks are the most exposed to China’s ills. They are directly bound up in the stock market turmoil and the government’s efforts to shore up sentiment against the flood of selling. Figures relating to the past week or so are not yet available.

But during a similar rout in early July last year, 17 banks — including the big five listed but partly state-owned groups — lent more than $200bn to facilitate broker purchases of shares and funds. Even without the seizure of their balance sheets to prop up the equity market, China’s banks are pretty troubled. Like banks in the west before the financial crisis, China’s lenders — with government encouragement — have inflated a vast credit bubble, funding the country’s ambitious companies and fast-expanding property market. Chinese banking assets now amount to more than $30tn. Over the past decade, credit growth has consistently topped 10% a year. (It peaked at close to 35% in 2009.) Even this year, it is expected to be double the 6-7% forecast rate of GDP growth.

Last August, JPMorgan estimated China’s non-financial industry private sector debt at 147%, half as much again as in 2007. The downturn in China’s fortunes — particularly across its heartland heavy industry — is already hitting the banks. Annual non-performing loan rates have been doubling annually since 2012. China Merchants Bank, China Everbright and ICBC are seen as among the most troubled. China bulls point to the still low level of NPLs — barely 1% at the big lenders, and 1.8% at mid-tier banks this year, according to analyst forecasts. As a gauge, NPLs in Greece have risen to between 30 and 40% amid that country’s crisis. But China experts at independent research house Autonomous suggest investors are underestimating a spiralling problem. Across the board, loan losses will rise by $845bn this year, Autonomous predicts. That, they think, will be enough to shrink profits by 6% at big banks.

[..] Investors in China’s banks may well recognise that the lenders cannot be compared with institutions that operate along western lines and will expect hazier disclosures and readier state interference. They are also likely to think that China will not allow its banks to fail. But if analysts, like those at Autonomous are to be believed, China’s banks could require up to $7.7tn of new capital and funding over the next three years.

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Exporting deflation.

China FX Reserve Sell-Off To Soon Move Beyond US Treasuries (Reuters)

The unwinding of China’s foreign exchange reserves could soon extend beyond U.S. Treasuries, with U.S. corporate and euro zone sovereign bonds among the assets most vulnerable to selling from Beijing, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Monday. China sold a record $510 billion of FX reserves last year to counter the damaging impact on an already decelerating economy from the surge of capital fleeing the country. The lion’s share of that came from $292 billion sales of U.S. Treasury debt, followed by $92 billion sales of U.S. stocks, $3 billion of U.S. agency bonds and $170 billion of non-U.S. assets, according to BAML estimates. China increased its U.S. corporate bond investments by $44 billion last year to $415 billion, BAML strategists estimated, adding that it won’t be long before investors turn their attention to other assets Beijing could potentially sell.

“In the next two months I would still say Treasuries. But if the pressure continues beyond that, it’s non-U.S. assets, and in the U.S. space it’s definitely corporates and agencies,” said Shyam Rajan, rates strategist at BAML in New York. Rajan and his colleagues estimate that China’s $3.33 trillion FX reserves comprise $1.15 trillion non-U.S. assets (mostly short-dated euro-denominated bonds), $415 billion U.S. corporate bonds, $212 billion in agencies, $266 billion stocks and $1.29 trillion of Treasuries. Selling across these bonds may not automatically trigger a sharp rise in their yields though, Rajan said, pointing to the experience of Treasuries in the latter part of last year when swap spreads moved below zero.

“The way to trade the reserve flow story is through relative value trades, such as the swap spread tightening in Treasuries. I would imagine it plays out the same way in other markets too,” Rajan said. Last year’s record unwind brought China’s total FX reserves to a three-year low of $3.33 trillion. Most analysts expect that to be depleted further this year. JP Morgan estimates that capital flight from China since the second quarter of 2014 has totaled $930 billion, while credit ratings agency Fitch on Monday put the figure at over $1 trillion. U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley on Monday joined Goldman Sachs in lowering its forecast for the Chinese yuan, citing the ongoing flow of capital out of the country and need for a weaker currency to support the economy.

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Nothing much has changed, other than suspicions that Beijing can’t handle the downfall. But global exposure to China is still the same, it’s just been ridiculously downplayed.

Why China’s Market Illness Has Gotten More Contagious (WSJ)

The Shanghai stock market is undersized and isolated. Its market capitalization is less than one-quarter the size of New York’s. Just 37% of its shares are available to trade, and foreigners own only a tiny fraction. Yet the tide of selling by Chinese investors last week—along with an unexpectedly sharp move to weaken the yuan—rolled through stocks, commodities and currencies across the globe. The chain reaction heralds a new era for China, whose financial-market muscle has long been underdeveloped compared with its economic heft. On Monday, Chinese shares resumed their slide. The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 5.3%, leaving it down 15% in the new year. U.S. shares stumbled but covered their losses in the final hour of trading and closed up slightly.

Oil fell to a new 12-year low in the U.S., and currencies in countries like South Africa and Russia fell sharply. Until last year, few in global markets took their cue from Shanghai, which has a history of roller-coaster trading. In the summer of 2015, a sharp plunge in the Shanghai Composite, after a 60% rise earlier in the year, combined with a surprise yuan devaluation to trigger a global selloff. Attention soon faded, and Shanghai’s market ended the year up 9.4%. But last week’s meltdown again showed China’s market influence. And to many, it suggested an even more ominous possibility: that Beijing may be fumbling its management of China’s economy. That could have disastrous consequences for the prices of goods and commodities, and thus markets, around the world.

Today, China accounts for about 11% of world gross domestic product, 12% of the globe’s oil consumption and about half the demand for steel. It is the No. 1 trading partner for countries from South Korea and Australia to Brazil and soaks up exports worth more than 10% of GDP from Singapore and Taiwan. Despite tight controls over the currency and the banking system that wall off China from much of the global financial system, China’s huge presence in global trade means the country is more tightly tied to the rest of the world than ever. Its roaring growth has been a boon to Western stock markets like Germany’s, whose exchange is filled with manufacturers that sell machines and factory equipment there.

Now, China ties may be a liability. In Europe, whose companies get 10% of their revenue from the Asia-Pacific region, the pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 is down 7% in 2016 through Monday, and Germany’s DAX is down 8.5%. Europe is especially vulnerable to a China slowdown: Its own economic growth has been weak for years, and the Continent has been counting on exports to plug the gap. Nearly 10% of the exports from the 28-member EU go to China. The story isn’t the same everywhere, though. U.S. companies get only 5% of their revenue from Asia-Pacific. They also can rely on a more buoyant domestic economy. The S&P 500 was down 6% this year through Friday.

Read more …

And India is one of the first victims of the popping China Ponzi.

China Rout Threatens to Spawn India Crisis (BBG)

A deepening slowdown in China threatens to derail India’s economic growth, triggering financial market upheaval and a falling currency, Vishal Kampani, the nation’s top investment banker, said. “If China keeps getting hit like this, the yuan has to devalue, and we will see another crisis in India,” Kampani at JM Financial, the South Asian country’s top M&A adviser last year, said in a Jan. 8 interview. “I refuse to believe that India will stand out and will look very different.” Indian stocks and the rupee fell Monday, tracking declines in other emerging markets as volatility in China sapped risk appetite globally. China’s efforts to stabilize the yuan failed to halt equity losses, reviving concern about the Communist Party’s ability to manage an economy set to grow at its weakest pace since 1990. India’s benchmark S&P BSE Sensex Index fell 0.4% on Monday in Mumbai after dropping as much as 1.4% earlier.

The rupee weakened 0.2% to 66.7725 against the dollar as of 4:11 p.m. local time. A devaluation of the yuan could weaken the rupee, creating “huge problems” for Indian companies that have to pay back dollar loans, Kampani said. China is India’s largest trade partner and third-largest export market, so a slowdown there could prolong a record slump in the South Asian nation’s overseas shipments, which declined 12 straight months through November. A China-led rout in Indian markets also risks damping private investment, already hurt by credit lines choked by bad debt and a legislative gridlock that’s blocked economic bills. That would boost pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sustain public spending even at the risk of worsening Asia’s widest budget deficit. Modi has seen his economic agenda stall in parliament, disappointing investors who bet that his landslide win in 2014 would speed up reforms.

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In which the richer nations can once again overpower the poorer.

EU Set To Weigh China’s Eligibility For Lower Import Tariffs (BBG)

European Union policy makers are poised to kick off deliberations to determine whether EU industries ranging from steel to solar can keep relying on import tariffs to fend off aggressive Chinese competitors, the opening salvo in a political and economic battle due to last all year. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will hold an initial debate Jan. 13 about whether the bloc should recognize China as a market economy starting in December. Such a step would make it more difficult for European manufacturers such as ArcelorMittal and Solarworld AG to win sufficiently high EU duties meant to counter alleged below-cost – or “dumped” – imports from China.

The talks will pit free-trade governments in northern Europe against more protectionist ones in the south, put Europe on a possible track that the U.S. is staying off and produce a political verdict on whether communist China has come of age economically 15 years after it joined the World Trade Organization. In addition to being a political prize for Beijing, market-economy status would be a business boost for China, whose growth has slumped to the weakest since 1990 and which suffered a 10% fall in stocks last week. “This is one of the hottest issues on the agenda,” Jo Leinen, a German MEP who chairs its delegation for relations with China, said by phone from Saarbruecken, Germany, on Jan. 7. “It’s a hot potato. The Chinese are pushing for market-economy status and interests are divided in Europe.”

The matter combines top-level political calculations with tricky economic and legal considerations. With the EU struggling to bolster economic growth and keep Greece in the euro area, leaders across Europe have courted China for investment in infrastructure and orders of goods such as Airbus planes. While it’s the EU’s No. 2 trade partner behind the U.S., China is grouped with the likes of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Mongolia in seeking market-economy designation by Europe and faces more European anti-dumping duties than any other country. The import levies cover billions of euros of Chinese exports such as stainless steel, solar panels, aluminum foil, bicycles, screws, paper, kitchenware and office-file fasteners, curbing competition for producers across the 28-nation EU. Market-economy status for China would signal more European trust in Beijing by ensuring the EU uses Chinese data for trade investigations affecting the country.

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Emerging markets will start collapsing outright, Brazil, South Africa, China and more.

South Africa’s Flash Crash Exposes Cracks in Currency Liquidity (BBG)

It took just 15 minutes on Monday morning for South Africa’s rand to plummet 9% in what traders said may be a prelude of the new normal in the global $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market. Such flash crashes will probably become more common in foreign-exchange trading as liquidity shrinks amid tighter regulation and reduced demand for emerging-market assets, according to Insight Investment and Citigroup.The rand slid to record lows versus the dollar and yen in Asian trading before recovering the bulk of the day’s losses almost as swiftly. “The rand isn’t alone in this,” said Paul Lambert at Insight Investment, a Bank of New York Mellon unit, which manages more than $582 billion.

“The rand is another reflection of the change in the liquidity environment in which we’re all operating. We’re learning that unless there are clients on the other side, banks are very unwilling to take risk onto their books.” Volatility in the rand versus the dollar surged toward the highest level in four years, while a measure of global currency price swings climbed to the most since October. The difference between prices at which traders are willing to buy and sell the rand, used as a gauge of liquidity, was about 1.5 times wider on average in the past six months than it was during the first half of 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In a phenomenon that’s also hit U.S. stock markets in recent years, regulation is pushing banks to reduce their size and cut down on market making, making it more difficult to trade without prices moving adversely. A reduction in liquidity has contributed to similar price swings in fixed-income securities, including the $13 trillion U.S. government bond market. Bursts of volatility in currency markets and diminishing liquidity are another affliction for emerging economies such as South Africa, which seek to secure overseas investments amid slowing growth, a rout in commodities and domestic political challenges. Boosting international trade and capital inflows is made harder by currency turmoil as investors and banks become less willing to take on additional risk.

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A rock and an impossible place.

Saudi Arabia Plays Down Riyal Peg Fears (FT)

Saudi Arabia sought to cool talk about the future of its currency peg, saying movements in the forward market were the result of market “misperception” about the state of the kingdom’s economy. Oil price declines and rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have pushed up the cost of riyal-dollar forward prices and questioned the validity of the 30-year-old peg. In a statement, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency said it would “uphold its mandate” of maintaining the peg at SR3.75 to the dollar, “backed up by the full range of monetary policy instruments including its foreign exchange reserves”. The statement was prompted by forward market volatility, said governor Fahad al-Mubarak, which he attributed to “mispricing linked to market operators’ misperception about Saudi Arabia’s overall economic backdrop”.

Economic and financial indicators were stable, underpinned by its net creditor position and a sound and resilient banking system, Mr al-Mubarak said. Oil price woes are weighing on several commodity currencies, not least Russia’s rouble, which dropped more than 1% to a 13-month low. Further rouble declines would cut across the Central Bank of Russia’s strategy for resuming its easing cycle, said Rabobank’s Piotr Matys, and increased the risk of a prolonged recession. Oil’s impact on the Saudi kingdom would prompt markets to “worry more” about falling reserves and the exchange rate pegs of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, said Kamakshya Trivedi of Goldman Sachs in a note, “especially if attempts at fiscal adjustment are not credible or unsuccessful”.

Simon Quijano-Evans at Commerzbank acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had four years’ worth of reserves to cover budget and current account deficits. But he added that without a sustained upward oil price move, market speculation about the peg would increase. “History has shown us that if a policy peg is not economically viable, there really is little point in holding on as the intrinsic benefits from the set-up eventually become its principal vulnerabilities,” he said. Gulf bankers were unconcerned, saying the peg had survived worse financial backdrops. In the late 1990s, when oil prices were even lower, the finance ministry toiled under domestic debts totalling more than 100% of gross domestic product. Sama still has $627bn in foreign reserves, down 14% on last November, as the kingdom burns through its savings to fund the deficit and an expensive war in Yemen.

“Traders are forgetting about Saudi firepower,” said one senior Gulf banker. “This is a low-cost trade with a huge potential payout,” said another senior financier. “Those bearish oil may want to bet that pressure will become too great for Saudi. Possible, but not my scenario.”

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Nothing has changed, nothing at all. The bankers still write the rules that are supposed to keep them in check.

Banks’ Worst Fears Eased as Basel Soft-Pedals Capital Overhaul (BBG)

Global banking regulators pledged to refrain from further tightening capital requirements with new rules to be finalized in 2016, dispelling industry fears that triggered intense lobbying efforts over the past year. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision doesn’t plan to raise capital requirements across the board in the remaining projects of its post-crisis bank rule overhaul, it said Jan. 11 after a meeting of its oversight body, chaired by ECB President Mario Draghi. The group, which includes the Bank of England and U.S. Federal Reserve, said it will assess the potential costs of any additional action. “The committee will conduct a quantitative impact assessment during the year,” the group said in a statement. “As a result of this assessment, the committee will focus on not significantly increasing overall capital requirements.”

Basel’s slate of rules for this year, including a review of trading risks that the committee endorsed on Jan. 10, have faced heavy criticism from bankers, who say onerous new capital charges would crimp their ability to lend. The overhaul of how banks value risky assets has led industry executives to warn a regulatory onslaught – sometimes referred to as Basel IV – is still ahead, even after the last decade of new rules designed to prevent another market meltdown. Karen Shaw Petrou at Federal Financial Analytics said the Basel’s latest statement is a response to bankers’ warnings. “Global regulators clearly hope to tamp down continuing talk of a ‘Basel IV’ rule, emphasizing in both action and statements that continuing changes are recalibrations, not hikes,” Petrou said in an e-mail.

Draghi said the agreements reached by the Basel committee and the upcoming agenda seek to provide greater clarity about the capital framework and, “a clear path for completing post-crisis reforms.” As part of this process, the regulator will hold a public consultation on removing internal-model approaches for some risks, such as the Advanced Measurement Approach for operational risk, as well as on “setting additional constraints on the use of internal model approaches for credit risk, in particular through the use of floors.” The committee also sounded a soft note on another lingering worry of bankers, the unweighted leverage ratio. It will keep the minimum amount of capital per total assets unchanged at 3%, when it becomes a binding requirement in 2018, it said. For the world’s biggest banks, there may be an add-on, it said, without elaborating.

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Canada has so much more to go.

Canadian Stocks Fall in Longest Slump Since 2002 (BBG)

Energy’s drag on Canadian stocks showed no signs of abating as the nation’s benchmark equity gauge slumped a ninth straight day, the longest losing streak since 2002. Canadian equities have lost 7.4% during this period with the Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index failing to post a positive trading day in 2016. Crude futures in New York tumbled to a 12-year low. Analysts at Morgan Stanley projected Brent oil may slump to as low as $20 a barrel on strength in the dollar. Brent dropped 6.7% to $31.32 a barrel in London. Bank of America Corp. cut its average 2016 Brent forecast to $46 a barrel from $50. “Risk appetite will not return until we start to see crude carve out a bottom,” said David Rosenberg at Gluskin Sheff in a note to clients.

The S&P/TSX fell 1% to 12,319.25 at 4 p.m. in Toronto. The gauge capped a 20% plunge from its September 2014 record on Jan. 7, hitting a magnitude in declines commonly defined as a bear market. Canada was the second Group of 7 country to see its benchmark enter a bear market, after Germany’s DAX Index did in August. Energy producers sank 2.7%. The group, which accounts for about 20% of the broader index, was the worst-performing sector in the S&P/TSX last year.

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The demise of retail.

Discovery (Jim Kunstler)

It looks like 2016 will be the year that humanfolk learn that the stuff they value was not worth as much as they thought it was. It will be a harrowing process because a great many humans are abandoning ownership of things that are rapidly losing value — e.g. stocks on the Shanghai exchange — and stuffing whatever “money” they can recover into the US dollar, the assets and usufructs of which are also going through a very painful reality value adjustment. Of course this calls into question foremost exactly what money is, and the answer is: basically a narrative construct. In other words, a story explaining why we behave the way we do around certain things. Some parts of the story have a closer relationship with reality than other parts. The part about the US dollar has a rather weak connection.

When various authorities — the BLS, the Federal Reserve, The New York Times — state that the US economy is “strong,” we can translate that to mean giant companies listed on the stock exchanges are able to put up a Potemkin façade of soundness. For instance, Amazon.com. The company continues to seem like a good idea. And it reinforces that idea in the collective imagination by sending a lot of low-priced goods to your door, (all bought on credit cards), which rings your (nearly) instant gratification bell. This has prompted investors to gobble up Amazon stock. It’s well-established by now that the “brick-and-mortar” retail operations are majorly sucking wind. Meaning, fewer people are driving to the Target store and venues like it to buy stuff. Supposedly, they are buying stuff at Amazon instead.

What interests me in that story is the idea that every single object purchased these days has a UPS journey attached to it. Of course, people also drive to the Target store, though I doubt they leave the place with just one thing. That dynamic ought to call into question just how people are living in the USA, and the answer to that is: spread out all over the place in a suburban sprawl living arrangement that has poor prospects for being reformed or mitigated. Either you drive yourself to the Target store for a slow-cooker and a few other things, or Amazon has to send the brown truck to each and every house. Either way includes an insane amount of transport, and sooner or later both the brick-and-mortar chain store model and the Amazon home delivery model will fail.

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Joris is primarily funny here. But he wants to ‘reform’ the EU, and that’s a dead end. One point is good: EU’s finance center can’t be in a country outside of it. So the UK threat to leave would force banks and multinationals out of London.

It’s Time For Europe To Turn The Tables On Bullying Britain (Luyendijk)

So let us start talking now, out loud in Brussels as well as in Europe’s opinion pages and in national parliaments, about the offer we are going to make to the Scots, should they prefer Brussels to London in the event of Brexit. Let’s also discuss in which ways we are going to repatriate financial powers from London to the European mainland. It is strange enough that Europe’s financial centre lies outside the eurozone, but to have it outside the EU? That would be like placing Wall Street in Cuba. Clearly multinational corporations from China, Brazil or the US cannot have their European HQs outside the EU. So let’s have an EU summit about which European capitals these headquarters should ideally move to. Make sure the English can hear these discussions, and in the meantime keep an eye on how the value of commercial real estate in London plummets.

Or consider the UK-based Japanese car industry – would Greece, with its excellent port and shipping facilities, not be its ideal new home? Oh yes, and sooner or later, the 1.3 billion Indians will object again to not having a permanent seat on the UN security council when 55 million English do. Let’s work out what favours we want from India in exchange for our support. The best way for the EU to prevent Brexit is to start preparing for it, loudly. But this is not enough. European politicians and pundits must not be shy of cutting England down to size. This is the chief problem for those in England trying to make the EU case: they must acknowledge first how irrelevant and powerless their country has become. Except that is still a huge taboo. Seen from China or India, the difference between the UK and Belgium is a rounding error: 0.87% of world population versus 0.15%.

But this is not at all how Britain sees itself – consider the popular derogatory expression “a country the size of Belgium”. But alas, what a missed opportunity this referendum is. A child can see that the EU needs fundamental reform and just imagine for a moment that England had argued not for a better deal for Britain, but for all of us Europeans. How electrifying it would have been if Cameron had demanded an end to the insanely wasteful practice of moving the European parliament back and forth between Strasbourg and Brussels. If he had insisted on a comprehensive overhaul of the disastrous common agricultural policy, on the long overdue reduction in salaries and tax-free perks for Eurocrats, and on actual prosecution of corrupt officials. Instead he has set his sights on largely symbolic measures aimed at humiliating and excluding European migrants, safeguarding domestic interests versus those of the eurozone and, no surprises here, guarantees for London’s financial sector.

Ultimately, as far as the EU is concerned, the English are only in it for themselves. All the more reason, then, for Europeans to stop imploring them to stay in, and begin using their strength in the negotiations.

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These clowns actually believe they’re in control.

Migrant Flows ‘Still Way Too High,’ EU Tells Turkey (AFP)

The number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece is “still way too high”, a top EU official said Monday, a month and a half after a deal aimed to limit the flow. EU vice president Frans Timmermans said Turkey and Brussels had to speed work up on implementing the action plan, while Ankara reaffirmed it was looking at a measure to tempt more Syrians to stay in Turkey by granting them work permits. “The numbers are still way too high in Greece, between 2,000-3,000 people (arriving) every day. We cannot be satisfied at this stage,” Timmermans told reporters after talks with Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir in Ankara. “The goal of this (action plan) is to stem the flow. 2,000-3.000 (arrivals) a day is not stemming the flow. But we are in this together and we will work on that,” he added.

Under the November 29 deal, EU leaders pledged €3 billion in aid for the more than 2.2 million Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey, in exchange for Ankara acting to reduce the flow. Under pressure from voters at home, EU leaders want to reduce the numbers coming to the European Union after over one million migrants reached Europe in 2015. Yet there has so far been no sign of a significant reduction in the numbers of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other troubled states undertaking the perilous crossing in rubber boats from Turkey’s western coast to EU-member Greece. Turkish authorities on a single day last week found the bodies of at least 36 migrants, including several children, washed up on beaches and floating off its western coast after their boats sank.

In the latest tragedy Monday, two women and a five-year-old girl died when a boat carrying 16 Afghan migrants sank in bad weather off the Aegean coast, reports said. “I believe we need to speed our work to get some of the projects in place,” said Timmermans. “I also said to the minister that we need… to be very explicit on what elements of the action plan have already been implemented and where we still need work.” Bozkir said that Turkey was expending “intense efforts” on halting the migrant flow, saying the Turkish authorities were stopping 500 people every day. “We will try to reduce the pressure on illegal immigration by giving work permits to Syrians in Turkey,” he added.

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Dead on. Not a bright future. As long as the right wing keeps rising in the face of incompetence.

Mass Migration Into Europe Is Unstoppable (FT)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans populated the world. Now the world is populating Europe. Beyond the furore about the impact of the 1m-plus refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 lie big demographic trends. The current migration crisis is driven by wars in the Middle East. But there are also larger forces at play that will ensure immigration into Europe remains a vexed issue long after the war in Syria is over. Europe is a wealthy, ageing continent whose population is stagnant. By contrast the populations of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are younger, poorer and rising fast. At the height of the imperial age, in 1900, European countries represented about 25% of the world’s population. Today, the EU’s roughly 500m people account for about 7% of the world’s population. By contrast, there are now more than 1bn people in Africa and, according to the UN, there will be almost 2.5bn by 2050.

The population of Egypt has doubled since 1975 to more than 80m today. Nigeria’s population in 1960 was 50m. It is now more than 180m and likely to be more than 400m by 2050. The migration of Africans, Arabs and Asians to Europe represents the reversal of a historic trend. In the colonial era Europe practised a sort of demographic imperialism, with white Europeans emigrating to the four corners of the world. In North America and Australasia, indigenous populations were subdued and often killed — and whole continents were turned into offshoots of Europe. European countries also established colonies all over the world and settled them with immigrants, while at the same time several millions were forcibly migrated from Africa to the New World as slaves. When Europeans were populating the world, they often did so through “chain migration”.

A family member would settle in a new country like Argentina or the US; news and money would be sent home and, before long, others would follow. Now the chains go in the other direction: from Syria to Germany, from Morocco to the Netherlands, from Pakistan to Britain. But these days it is not a question of a letter home followed by a long sea voyage. In the era of Facebook and the smartphone, Europe feels close even if you are in Karachi or Lagos. Countries such as Britain, France and the Netherlands have become much more multiracial in the past 40 years. Governments that promise to restrict immigration, such as the current British administration, have found it very hard to deliver on their promises.

The EU position is that, while refugees can apply for asylum in Europe, illegal “economic migrants” must return home. But this policy is unlikely to stem the population flows for several reasons. First, the number of countries that are afflicted by war or state failure may actually increase; worries about the stability of Algeria are rising, for example. Second, most of those who are deemed “economic migrants” never actually leave Europe. In Germany only about 30% of rejected asylum seekers leave the country voluntarily or are deported. Third, once large immigrant populations are established, the right of “family reunion” will ensure a continued flow. So Europe is likely to remain an attractive and attainable destination for poor and ambitious people all over the world.

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Jan 112016
 
 January 11, 2016  Posted by at 9:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Thin White Duke

David Bowie Dies Aged 69 (Reuters)
Chinese Stocks Down 5%, As Rout Ricochets In Asia (MarketWatch)
Chinese Stocks Extend Rout as Economic Growth Concerns Deepen (BBG)
Yuan Liquidity Extremely Tight, Interbank Rates Soar In Hong Kong (BBG)
London Hedge Fund Omni Sees 15% Yuan Drop, and More in a Crisis (BBG)
Australia Bet The House On Never-Ending Chinese Growth (Guardian)
India Concerned About Chinese Currency Devaluation (Reuters)
China PM: We’ll Let Market Forces Fix Overcapacity (Reuters)
Fed’s Williams: “We Got It Wrong” On Benefits Of Low Oil Prices (ZH)
Free Capital Flows Can Put Economies In A Bind (Münchau)
Pensions, Mutual Funds Turn Back to Cash (WSJ)
UK House Price To Crash As Global Asset Prices Unravel (Tel.)
The West Is Losing The Battle For The Heart Of Europe (Reuters)
Newly Elected Catalan President Vows Independence From Spain By 2017 (RT)
Dutch ‘No’ To Kiev-EU Accord Could Trip Continental Crisis: Juncker (AFP)
Britain Abandons Onshore Wind Just As New Technology Makes It Cheap (AEP)
400,000 Syrians Starving In Besieged Areas (AlJazeera)
World’s Poor Lose Out As Aid Is Diverted To The Refugee Crisis (Guardian)

Bowie’s secret: hard work.

David Bowie Dies Aged 69 From Cancer (Reuters)

David Bowie, a music legend who used daringly androgynous displays of sexuality and glittering costumes to frame legendary rock hits “Ziggy Stardust” and “Space Oddity”, has died of cancer. He was 69. “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” read a statement on Bowie’s Facebook page dated Sunday. Born David Jones in the Brixton area of south London, Bowie took up the saxophone at 13. He shot to fame in Europe with 1969’s “Space Oddity”. But it was Bowie’s 1972 portrayal of a doomed bisexual alien rock star, Ziggy Stardust, that propelled him to global stardom. Bowie and Ziggy, wearing outrageous costumes, makeup and bright orange hair, took the rock world by storm.

Bowie said he was gay in an interview in the Melody Maker newspaper in 1972, coinciding with the launch of his androgynous persona, with red lightning bolt across his face and flamboyant clothes. He told Playboy four years later he was bisexual, but in the eighties he told Rolling Stone magazine that the declaration was “the biggest mistake I ever made”, and he was “always a closet heterosexual”. The excesses of a hedonistic life of the real rock star was taking its toll. In a reference to his prodigious appetite for cocaine, he said: “iI blew my nose one day in California,” he said. And half my brains came out. Something had to be done.”

Bowie kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004 but marked his 69th birthday on Friday with the release of a new album, “Blackstar”, with critics giving the thumbs up to the latest work in a long and innovative career. British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.” Steve Martin from Bowie’s publicity company Nasty Little Man confirmed the Facebook report was accurate. “It’s not a hoax,” he told Reuters.

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Close to circuit breaker again. Plunge protection.

Chinese Stocks Down 5%, As Rout Ricochets In Asia (MarketWatch)

China shares slid Monday, and losses in other regional markets deepened, as a rout that knocked trillions of dollars off global stocks last week ricochets back to Asia. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 5.3% to 3,018 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index was last down 3.5%. Shares in Hong Kong sank to their lowest in roughly 2.5 years. The Hang Seng Index was off 2.4% at 19,970, on track to close below 20,000 for the first time since June 2013. A gauge of Chinese firms listed in the city fell 3.5%. Australia s benchmark was down 1.3%, and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.7%. Japan s market was closed for a national holiday. Worries about weakness in the Chinese yuan and how authorities convey their market expectations continue to unnerve investors.

Poorly telegraphed moves last week exacerbated volatility in China, and triggered selling that spread to the rest of the region, the U.S. and Europe. Concerns about China’s stalling economy, with the yuan weakening 1.5% against the U.S. dollar last week, has sparked selling in commodities and currencies of China s trading partners, and sent investors to assets perceived as safe. “There’s no reason for Chinese stock to move up for now”, said Jiwu Chen, CEO of VStone Asset Management. He said investors are closely watching for hints in coming days from officials on their outlook for shares and the yuan, noting that authorities have nudged the yuan stronger starting Friday.

Earlier Monday, China’s central bank fixed the yuan at 6.5833 against the U.S. dollar, guiding the currency stronger from its 6.5938 late Friday. It was the second day the bank guided the yuan stronger, after eight sessions of weaker guidance. The onshore yuan can trade up or down 2% from the fix. The onshore yuan, which trades freely, was last at 6.6727 to the U.S. dollar, compared with 6.6820 late Friday. It reached a five-year low of 6.7511 last Thursday. China’s central bank appears to have spent huge amounts of dollars to support the yuan amid decelerating economic growth and the onset of higher U.S. interest rates. The country’s foreign-exchange regulator said over the weekend that its reserves are relatively sufficient. Reserves dropped by $107.9 billion in December, the biggest monthly drop ever.

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“Policy makers have to be cautious in using intervention as they can’t rescue the market all the time.”

Chinese Stocks Extend Rout as Economic Growth Concerns Deepen (BBG)

Chinese stocks fell, extending last week’s plunge, as factory-gate price data fueled concern the economic slowdown is deepening. The Shanghai Composite Index slid 2.4% to 3,109.95 at the break, led by energy and material companies. The producer price index slumped 5.9% in December, extending declines to a record 46th month, data over the weekend showed. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index tumbled 3.5% at noon, while the Hang Seng Index fell below the 20,000 level for the first time since 2013. “Pessimism is the dominant sentiment,” said William Wong at Shenwan Hongyuan Group in Hong Kong. “The PPI figure confirms the economy is mired in a slump. Market conditions will remain challenging given weak growth and volatility in external markets and the yuan’s depreciation pressure.”

Extreme market swings this year have revived concern over the Communist Party’s ability to manage an economy set to grow at the weakest pace since 1990. Policy makers removed new circuit breakers on Friday after blaming them for exacerbating declines that wiped out $1 trillion this year. [..] The offshore yuan erased early losses after China’s central bank kept the currency’s daily fixing stable for the second day in a row, calming markets after sparking turmoil last week. While state-controlled funds purchased Chinese stocks at least twice last week, according to people familiar with the matter, there was little evidence of intervention on Monday. “Sentiment is very poor,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific Yamaichi Hong Kong. “I don’t see any clear signs of state buying in the mainland market. Policy makers have to be cautious in using intervention as they can’t rescue the market all the time.”

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Yuan shortage.

Yuan Liquidity Extremely Tight, Interbank Rates Soar In Hong Kong (BBG)

Interbank yuan lending rates in Hong Kong climbed to records across the board after suspected intervention by China’s central bank last week mopped up supplies of the currency in the offshore market. The city’s benchmark rates for loans ranging from one day to a year all set new highs, with the overnight and one-week surging by the most since the Treasury Markets Association started compiling the fixings in June 2013. The overnight Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate surged 939 basis points to 13.4% on Monday, while the one-week rate jumped 417 basis points to 11.23%. The previous highs were 9.45% and 10.1%, respectively. “Yuan liquidity is extremely tight in Hong Kong,” said Becky Liu, senior rates strategist at Standard Chartered in the city.

“There was some suspected intervention by the People’s Bank of China last week, and the liquidity impact is starting to show today.” The offshore yuan rebounded from a five-year low last week amid speculation the central bank bought the currency, an action that drains funds from the money market. Measures restricting overseas lenders’ access to onshore liquidity – which make it more expensive to short the yuan in the city – have also curbed supply. The PBOC has said it wants to converge the yuan’s rates at home and abroad, a gap that raises questions about the currency’s market value and hampers China’s push for greater global usage as it prepares to enter the IMF’s reserves basket this October. The offshore yuan’s 1.7% decline last week pushed its discount to the Shanghai price to a record, prompting the IMF to say that it will discuss the widening spread with the authorities.

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What would make one think this is not a crisis?

London Hedge Fund Omni Sees 15% Yuan Drop, and More in a Crisis (BBG)

Omni Partners, the $965 million London hedge fund whose wagers against China helped it beat the industry last year, said the yuan may fall 15% in 2016, and even more if the nation has a credit crisis. The currency, which tumbled to a five-year low last week, would have to drop to 7 or 7.5 a dollar to meaningfully reverse its appreciation and be commensurate with the depreciation of other slowing emerging markets, Chris Morrison, head of strategy of Omni’s macro fund, said in a telephone interview. The yuan slumped 1.4% last week to around 6.59 in Shanghai. “While Chinese authorities have been intervening heavily in the dollar-yuan market, they cannot ultimately fight economic fundamentals,” Morrison said, adding that even the 7-7.5% forecast would be too conservative if China were to have a credit crisis.

“You’ll be talking about the kind of moves that Brazil and Turkey have seen, more like 50%, and that’s how you can create serious numbers like 8, 9 and 10 against the dollar.” The yuan’s biggest weekly loss since an Aug. 11 devaluation prompted banks including Goldman Sachs and ABN Amro Bank, which Bloomberg data show had the most-accurate forecasts for the yuan over the past year, to cut their estimates for the currency. The options market is also signaling that the yuan’s slide has plenty of room to run, with the contracts indicating there’s a 33% chance that the yuan will weaken beyond 7 a dollar, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The declining currency, a debt pile estimated at 280% of GDP and a volatile equity market are complicating Premier Li Keqiang’s efforts to boost an economy estimated to grow at the slowest pace in 25 years. While intervention stabilized the yuan for almost four months following an Aug. 11 devaluation, the action led to the first-ever annual decline in the foreign-exchange reserves as capital outflows increased. Policy makers also propped up shares in the midst of a $5 trillion rout last summer, including ordering stock purchases by state funds. While a weaker yuan would support China’s flagging export sector, it also boosts risks for the nation’s foreign-currency borrowers and heightens speculation that the slowdown in Asia’s biggest economy is deeper than official data suggest.

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A hard rain is gonna fall.

Australia Bet The House On Never-Ending Chinese Growth (Guardian)

Over the last couple of decades, China has undergone profound change and is often cited as an economic growth miracle. Day by day, however, the evidence becomes increasingly clear the probability of a severe economic and financial downturn in China is on the cards. This is not good news at all for Australia. The country is heavily exposed, as China comprises Australia’s top export market, at 33%, more than double the second (Japan at 15%). A considerable proportion of Australia’s current and future economic prospects depend heavily on China’s current strategy of building its way out of poverty while sustaining strong real GDP growth.

To date, China has successfully pulled hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty and into the middle class through mass provision of infrastructure and expansion of housing markets, alongside a powerful export operation which the global economy has relied upon since the 1990s for cheap imports. Though last week’s volatile falls on the Chinese stock markets alongside a weakening yuan sent shockwaves through the global markets, Australia’s exposure lies much deeper within the Chinese economy. The miracle is starting to look more and more fallible as it slumps under heavy corporate debts and an over-construction spree which shall never again be replicated in our lifetimes or that of our children.

As of the second quarter of 2015, China’s household sector debt was a moderate 38% of GDP but its booming private non-financial business sector debt was 163%. Added together, it gives a total of 201% and its climbing rapidly. This may well be a conservative figure, given it is widely acknowledged the central government has overstated GDP growth. Australia, though it frequently features high on lists of the world’s most desirable locations, currently has the world’s second most indebted household sector, at 122% of GDP, soon to overtake Denmark in first place. Combined with private non-financial business sector debt, Australia has a staggering total of 203%, vastly larger than public debts at all levels of government.

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There’ll be alot of this.

India Concerned About Chinese Currency Devaluation (Reuters)

India on Friday called the slide in China’s yuan a “worrying” development for its flagging exports and said it was discussing possible measures to deal with a likely surge in imports from its northern neighbour. Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the yuan’s fall would worsen India’s trade deficit with China. While the government would not rush into any action, it had discussed likely steps it could take to counter an expected flood of cheap steel imports with domestic producers and the finance ministry, she said. The comments came a day after China allowed the biggest fall in the yuan in five months, pressuring regional currencies and sending global stock markets tumbling as investors feared it would trigger competitive devaluations.

“My deficit with China will widen,” she told reporters. India’s trade deficit with China stood at about $27 billion between April-September last year compared with nearly $49 billion in the fiscal year ending in March 2015. India steel companies such as JSW Ltd have asked the government to set a minimum import price to stop cheap imports undercutting them. A similar measure was adopted in 1999. “We have done ground work but are not rushing into it,” Sitharaman said when asked if India would impose a minimum import price for steel.

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?? “..even during an enormous steel glut last year, China had to import certain high-quality steel products, such as the tips of ballpoint pens. ..”

China PM: We’ll Let Market Forces Fix Overcapacity (Reuters)

China will use market solutions to ease its overcapacity woes and will not use investment stimulus to expand demand, Premier Li Keqiang said during a recent visit to northern Shanxi province, according to state media. “We will let the market play a decisive role, we will let businesses compete against each other and let those unable to compete die out,” the state-run Beijing News quoted Li as saying. “At the same time, we need to prioritize new forms of economic development.” Li said the country needed to improve existing production facilities because even during an enormous steel glut last year, China had to import certain high-quality steel products, such as the tips of ballpoint pens.

China needed to set ceilings on steel and coal production volumes and government officials should use remote sensing equipment to check companies, the premier also said, according to the article, which was re-posted on the State Council’s website. During his visit to Chongqing earlier this month, President Xi Jinping said China would focus on reducing overcapacity and lowering corporate costs.

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As I said from the start. ZH did too. Seems such an easy thing to predict, because such a large part of our economies depend on jobs connected with oil.

Fed’s Williams: “We Got It Wrong” On Benefits Of Low Oil Prices (ZH)

In late 2014 and early 2015, we tried to warn anyone who cared to listen time and time and time again that crashing crude prices are unambiguously bad for the economy and the market, contrary to what every Keynesian hack, tenured economist, Larry Kudlow and, naturally, central banker repeated – like a broken – record day after day: that the glorious benefits of the “gas savings tax cut” would unveil themselves any minute now, and unleash a new golden ago economic prosperity and push the US economy into 3%+ growth. Indeed, it was less than a year ago, on January 30 2015, when St. Louis Fed president Jim Bullard told Bloomberg TV that the oil price drop is unambiguously positive for the US. It wasn’t, and the predicted spending surge never happened. However, while that outcome was not surprising at all, what we were shocked by is that on Friday, following a speech to the California Bankers Association in Santa Barbara, during the subsequent Q&A, San Fran Fed president John Williams actually admitted the truth.

The Fed got it wrong when it predicted a drop in oil prices would be a big boon for the economy. It turned out the world had changed; the US has a lot of jobs connected to the oil industry.

And there you have it: these are the people micromanaging not only the S&P500 but the US, and thus, the global economy – by implication they have to be the smartest people not only in the room, but in the world. As it turns out, they are about as clueless as it gets because the single biggest alleged positive driver of the US economy, as defined by the Fed, ended up being the single biggest drag to the economy, as a “doom and gloomish conspiracy blog” repeatedly said, and as the Fed subsequently admitted. At this point we would have been the first to give Williams, and the Fed, props for admitting what in retrospect amounts to an epic mistake, and perhaps cheer a Fed which has changed its mind as the facts changed… and then we listened a little further into the interview only to find that not only has the Fed not learned anything at all, but is now openly lying to justify its mistake. To wit:

I would argue that we are seeing [the benefits of lower oil]. We are seeing them where we would expect to see them: consumer spending has been growing faster than you would otherwise expect.

Actually John, no, you are not seeing consumer spending growing faster at all; you are seeing consumer spending collapse as a cursory 5 second check at your very own St. Louis Fed chart depository will reveal:

But the absolute cherry on top proving once and for all just how clueless the Fed remains despite its alleged epiphany, was Wiliams “conclusion” that consumers will finally change their behavior because having expected the gas drop to be temporary, now that gas prices have been low for “over a year” when responding to surveys, US consumers now expect oil to remain here, and as a result will splurge. So what Williams is saying is… short every energy company and prepare for mass defaults because oil will not rebound contrary to what the equity market is discounting. We can’t wait for Williams to explain in January 2017 how he was wrong – again – that a tsunami of energy defaults would be “unambiguously good” for the US economy.

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Capital controls, protectionism, we’ll see all this and more.

Free Capital Flows Can Put Economies In A Bind (Münchau)

When Margaret Thatcher took power in Britain in 1979, one of her first decisions as prime minister was to scrap capital controls. It was the beginning of a new era and not just for Britain. Free capital movement has since become one of the axioms of modern global capitalism. It is also one of the “four freedoms” of Europe’s single market (along with unencumbered movement of people, goods and services). We might now ask whether the removal of the policy instrument of capital controls may have contributed to a succession of financial crises. To answer that, it is instructive to revisit a debate of three decades ago, when many in Europe invested their hopes in a combination of free trade, free capital mobility, a fixed exchange rate and an independent monetary policy — four policies that the late Italian economist, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, called an “inconsistent quartet”.

What he meant was that the combination is logically impossible. If Britain, say, fixed its exchange rate to the Deutschmark, and if capital and goods could move freely across borders, the Bank of England would have to follow the policies of the Bundesbank. In the early 1990s, Britain put this to the test, joining the single European market and pegging its currency to Germany’s. The music soon stopped; after less than two years in the exchange-rate mechanism, sterling went back to a floating exchange rate. Other European countries took a different course, sacrificing monetary independence and creating a common currency. Both choices were internally consistent. What has changed since then is the rising importance of cross-border finance. Many emerging markets do not have a sufficiently strong financial infrastructure of their own.

Companies and individuals thus take out loans from foreigners denominated in euros or dollars. Latin America is reliant on US finance, just as Hungary relies on Austrian banks. With the end of quantitative easing in the US and rising interest rates, money is draining out of dollar-based emerging markets. Theoretically, it is the job of a central bank to bring the ensuing havoc to an end, which standard economic theory suggests it should be able to do so long as it follows a domestic inflation target. But if large parts of the economy are funded by foreign money, its room for manoeuvre is limited — as the French economist Hélène Rey has explained. In the good times, Prof Rey finds, credit flows into emerging markets where it fuels local asset price bubbles. When, years later, liquidity dries up and the hot money returns to safe havens in North America and Europe, the country is left in a mess.

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Unease.

Pensions, Mutual Funds Turn Back to Cash (WSJ)

U.S. public pension plans and mutual funds are sheltering more of their holdings in cash than they have in years, a sign of growing stress in financial markets. The ultradefensive stance reflects investors’ skittishness about global economic growth and uncertain prospects for further gains in assets. Pension funds have the added need to cut more checks as Americans retire in greater numbers, while mutual funds want cash to cover the risk that investors spooked by volatile markets will pull out more of their money. Large public retirement systems and open-end U.S. mutual funds have yanked nearly $200 billion from the market since mid-2014, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the most recent data available from Wilshire Trust Universe, Morningstar and the federal government.

That leaves pension funds with the highest cash levels as a percentage of assets since 2004. For mutual funds, the percentage of assets held in cash was the highest for the end of any quarter since at least 2007. The data run through Sept. 30, but many money managers say they remain very conservative. Pension consultants say some fund managers are considering socking even more of their assets into cash as they wait for the markets to calm down. “Some clients are asking us, ‘Would we be crazy to put 10% or 15% of our assets into cash?’,” said Michael A. Moran Goldman Sachs. Public pensions and mutual funds collectively manage $16 trillion, close to the value of U.S. gross domestic product, so even small shifts in their holdings can ripple through the trading world.

The movement of longer-term money to the sidelines has left the market increasingly in the hands of investors such as hedge funds, high-speed traders and exchange-traded funds that buy and sell more frequently, potentially leaving it more vulnerable to sharp swings, according to some money managers. [..] Managers of some pension plans and mutual funds said they limited their losses last year by moving more of their holdings into cash. Returns on cash-like securities were basically zero in 2015, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.2% and the S&P 500 declined 0.7%. New York City’s $162 billion retirement system has more than tripled its cash holdings since mid-2014 to cut the plan’s interest-rate exposure. As a result, New York City’s allocations to plain vanilla stocks and fixed-income securities have fallen.

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“In the US following the December rate rise the cost of mortgages has soared by 50pc. ”

UK House Price To Crash As Global Asset Prices Unravel (Tel.)

House prices have broken free from reality and defied gravity for far too long, but they are an asset like anything else, and there are six clear reasons a nasty correction looms in the coming year . Asset prices around the world soared as central bankers embarked on the greatest money printing experiment in history. While much of that money flowed into the stock market, a great deal also found its way into house prices. What we are now witnessing on trading screens around the world is the unwinding of the era of monetary excess, and house prices will not escape the fallout. The end of easy money began when the US stopped its third QE programme in October 2014. That date marks the point the US balance sheet, or amount of money in the system, stopped rising, having soared from $800m in 2008 to more than $4 trillion.

Without an ever-increasing supply of money the world economy is now slowing sharply. The first assets to be impacted by the downturn were commodities. The price of things such as oil are set daily in one of the largest and most highly traded markets across the world and as a result it is highly sensitive to any changes in demand and supply. Admittedly there are also supply-side factors impacting the oil price, but the weak demand from a slump is still a major factor. The next asset to fall was share prices. There was a delay of about 12 months because even though shares are also traded daily, their value depends on the profits of the company, and the impact of the commodity collapse took about a year to feed through. There is a delayed effect on property prices because the market is so inefficient.

Transactions can take up to three months to complete and the property itself may have to languish on the market for even longer. The prices are also dictated by estate agents, who have an interest in inflating them to raise fees. The number of transactions is also still about 40pc below that of 2006 and 2007, which allows prices to stray from the fundamentals for a longer period. It is true that Britain is suffering from a housing shortage, which drove UK house prices to a record high of an average of £208,286 in December, but like all asset prices they are on borrowed time. The fundamentals of demand and supply in UK housing will undergo a huge shift in the year ahead. A large portion of the demand for UK housing will fall away as the benefits of buy-to-let have effectively been killed off in recent budgets.

George Osborne slapped a huge tax increase on buy-to-let in the summer Budget, which will take effect from 2017 onwards. The removal of mortgage interest relief was the first stage and was followed by hiking stamp duty four months later in the November review. This could prove a double whammy on the housing market, turning potential buyers into sellers, and flooding the market with additional supply. A survey of landlords suggested 200,000 plan to exit the sector. The rapid growth of buy-to-let during the past decade looks set to be slammed into reverse.

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Implosion.

The West Is Losing The Battle For The Heart Of Europe (Reuters)

A little over a quarter of a century ago, Europe celebrated the healing of the schism that Communism enforced on it since World War Two, and which produced great tribunes of freedom. Lech Walesa, the Polish shipyard electrician, climbed over his yard wall in Gdansk to join and then lead a strike in 1980 – lighting the fuse to ignite, 10 years and a period of confinement later, a revolution that couldn’t be squashed. He was elected president in 1990. Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer and dissident who served years in prison for his opposition to the Communist government, emerged as the natural leader of the democrats who articulated the frustration of the country. He was elected president of the still-united Czechoslovakia in 1989.

Jozsef Antall, a descendant of the Hungarian nobility who opposed both the Hungarian fascists and communists, was imprisoned for helping lead the 1956 revolt against the Soviet Union. And he was foremost in the negotiations to end Communist rule in the late 1980s. He survived to be elected prime minister in 1990. These men were inspirations to their fellow citizens, heroes to the wider democratic world and were thought to be the advance guard of people who would grow and prosper in a Europe eschewing every kind of authoritarianism. Havel could say, with perfect certainty, that the Communists in power had developed in Czechs “a profound distrust of all generalizations, ideological platitudes, clichés, slogans, intellectual stereotypes… we are now largely immune to all hypnotic enticements, even of the traditionally persuasive national or nationalistic variety.”

It isn’t like that now. Poland, largest and most successful of the Central European states has, in the governing Law and Justice Party, a group of politicians driving hard to remold the institutions of the state so that their power withstands all challenge. The government has sought to pack the constitutional court with a majority of its supporters; extended the powers of the intelligence services and put a supporter at their head; and signed into law a measure which puts broadcasting under direct state control.

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Democracy under scrutiny.

Newly Elected Catalan President Vows Independence From Spain By 2017 (RT)

The Catalan parliament has sworn in Carles Puigdemont as the president of Catalonia. He will lead the region in its push towards independence from Spain by 2017. “We begin an extremely important process, unparalleled in our recent history, to create the Catalonia that we want, to collectively build a new country,” Puigdemont told the Catalan parliament, vowing to continue with his predecessor Artur Mas’ initiative to pull the region into independence. Puigdemont’s candidacy was backed by 70 lawmakers while 63 voted against, with two abstentions. The parliament has been in deadlock since Spain’s ruling party won most of the seats in September elections but failed to obtain a majority.

The Catalan parties had to agree on a new leader before Monday to avoid holding new regional elections. In a “last minute change”, Catalonia’s former president Artus Mas agreed to step down on Saturday and not seek reelection as pro-independence ‘Together for Yes’ coalition representative. The new candidate was backed by the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, whose 10 seats has allowed them to secure a majority in the 135-seat chamber. The Catalan 18-month roadmap to independence suggests the approval of its own constitution and the building of necessary institutions, such as a central bank, judicial system and army.

Meanwhile Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated on Sunday that he would block any Catalan move towards independence to “defend the sovereignty” and “preserve democracy and all over Spain.” Catalonia has a population of 7.5 million people and represents nearly a fifth of Spain’s economic output. The local population has been dissatisfied with their taxes being used by Madrid to support poorer areas of the country.

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Shut up! Show some respect for democracy.

Dutch ‘No’ To Kiev-EU Accord Could Trip Continental Crisis: Juncker (AFP)

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged Dutch voters Saturday not to oppose an EU cooperation deal with Ukraine, saying such a move “could open the doors to a continental crisis”. A citizens’ campaign in the Netherlands spearheaded by three strongly eurosceptic groups garnered more than 300,000 votes needed to trigger a non-binding referendum on the deal, three months from now. Observers said the vote, set for April 6, pointed more towards broader euroscepticism among the Dutch than actual opposition to the trade deal with Kiev, which fosters deeper cooperation with Brussels. A Dutch ‘no’ “could open the doors to a continental crisis,” Juncker told the authoritative NRC daily newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

“Let’s not change the referendum into a vote about Europe,” Juncker urged Dutch voters, adding: “I sincerely hope that (the Dutch) won’t vote no for reasons that have nothing to do with the treaty itself.” Should Dutch voters oppose the deal, Russia “stood to benefit most,” he said. The 2014 association agreement provisionally came into effect on January 1 and nudges the former Soviet bloc nation towards eventual EU membership. On a visit to the Netherlands in November, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the deal as the start of a new era for the Ukraine. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said his government was bound by law to hold the referendum, and would afterwards assess the results to see if any change in policy was merited.

Although the results are not binding on Rutte’s Liberal-Labour coalition, the referendum is likely to be closely watched as eurosceptic parties – including that of far-right politician Geert Wilders – rise in the Dutch polls ahead of elections due in 2017. Russia has been incensed by the EU’s move to bring Ukraine closer to the European fold.

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Ambrose won’t let go of his techno dreams.

Britain Abandons Onshore Wind Just As New Technology Makes It Cheap (AEP)

The world’s biggest producer of wind turbines has accused Britain of obstructing use of new technology that can slash costs, preventing the wind industry from offering one of the cheapest forms of energy without subsidies. Anders Runevad, CEO of Vestas, said his company’s wind turbines can compete onshore against any other source of energy in the UK without need for state support, but only if the Government sweeps away impediments to a free market. While he stopped short of rebuking the Conservatives for kowtowing to ‘Nimbyism’, the wind industry is angry that ministers are changing the rules in an erratic fashion and imposing guidelines that effectively freeze development of onshore wind. “We can compete in a market-based system in onshore wind and we are happy to take on the challenge, so long as we are able to use our latest technology,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“The UK has a tip-height restriction of 125 meters and this is cumbersome. Our new generation is well above that,” he said. Vestas is the UK’s market leader in onshore wind. Its latest models top 140 meters, towering over St Paul’s Cathedral. They capture more of the wind current and have bigger rotors that radically change the economics of wind power. “Over the last twenty years costs have come down by 80pc. They have come down by 50pc in the US since 2009,” said Mr Runevad. Half of all new turbines in Sweden are between 170 and 200 meters, while the latest projects in Germany average 165 meters. “Such limits mean the UK is being left behind in international markets,” said a ‘taskforce report’ by RenewableUK. The new technology has complex electronics, feeding ‘smart data’ from sensors back to a central computer system.

They have better gear boxes and hi-tech blades that raise yield and lower noise. The industry has learned the art of siting turbines, and controlling turbulence and sheer. Economies of scale have done the rest. This is why average purchase prices for wind power in the US have fallen to the once unthinkable level of 2.35 cents per kilowatt/hour (KWh), according to the US energy Department. At this level wind competes toe-to-toe with coal or gas, even without a carbon tax, an increasingly likely prospect in the 2020s following the COP21 climate deal in Paris. American Electric Power in Oklahoma tripled its demand for local wind power last year simply because the bids came in so low. “We estimate that onshore wind is either the cheapest or close to being the cheapest source of energy in most regions globally,” said Bank of America in a report last month.

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This is where EU, Turkey wish to send people back into.

400,000 Syrians Starving In Besieged Areas (AlJazeera)

As aid agencies prepare to deliver food to Madaya, on the outskirts of Damascus, and two other besieged towns in Idlib province, an estimated 400,000 people are living under siege in 15 areas across Syria, according to the UN. A deal struck on Saturday permits the delivery of food to Madaya, currently surrounded by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the villages of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib, both of which are hemmed in by rebel fighters. Due to a siege imposed by the Syrian government and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, an estimated 42,000 people in Madaya have little to no access to food, resulting in the deaths of at least 23 people by starvation so far, according to the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Reports of widespread malnutrition have emerged, some of them suggesting that Madaya residents are resorting to eating grass and insects for survival. In Kefraya and Foua, about 12,500 people are cut off from access to aid supplies by rebel groups, including al-Nusra Front. On December 26, Syrian government forces set up a checkpoint and sealed off the final road to Moadamiyah, a rebel-controlled town on the outskirts of Damascus, demanding that opposition groups lay down their arms and surrender. The Moadamiyah Media Office, run by pro-opposition activists, estimates that 45,000 civilians are stuck in the area for more than two weeks. The organisation said on Saturday that a siege that started in April 2013 and lasted a year, resulted in the deaths of 16 local residents due to a lack of food and medicine. It said the current one has killed one local resident so far this year: an eight-month-old boy who died from malnutrition on January 10.

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As we enter another crisis ourselves, we will need to become more generous. Or face chaos.

World’s Poor Lose Out As Aid Is Diverted To The Refugee Crisis (Guardian)

Sweden is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to international aid. Along with other Scandinavian countries, it has given bounteously to less fortunate nations for many years. With a population of under 10 million, it also takes more than its fair share of asylum seekers – an estimated 190,000 last year, with a further 100,000 to 170,000 expected to arrive in 2016. This is proving to be an expensive business. The Swedish migration agency says the cost of assimilating such a large number of asylum seekers will be €6.4bn (£4.4bn) this year – and a debate is raging about whether the aid budget should be raided to help meet the bill. In 2015, 25% of the aid budget was spent on refugees. One proposal is to raise that figure to 60%.

Other countries are responding in similar fashion. Italy raised its aid spending in 2015, but the extra money was mostly spent domestically on those who successfully made the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean from north Africa. Final figures for development assistance collated by the OECD show that global aid spending rose to a record level of $137.2bn (£94bn) in 2014 – an increase of 1.2% on the previous year. But the money is not going to those countries that are in the greatest need. Spending on the least developed countries (LDCs) fell by almost 5% and as a share of the total fell below 30% for the first time since 2005. Donor countries are increasingly dipping into their aid budgets to deal with the migration crisis or diverting money that would previously have gone to sub-Saharan Africa to countries that are deemed to be fragile, such as Egypt, Pakistan and Syria, but are not classified as LDCs.

What’s more, the trend is likely to have continued and accelerated in 2015, a year that saw far more people arriving in Europe from north Africa and the Middle East. Italy was already spending 61% of its aid budget on refugees in 2014. For Greece, the other country on the front line, the figure was 46%. It is hardly surprising that the governments in Rome and Athens have responded in this way. Both have had austerity measures foisted upon them and are seeking to make ends meet as best they can. The fact is, though, that the entire development assistance system is creaking under the strain at a time when demands for aid are increasing.

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Jan 052016
 
 January 5, 2016  Posted by at 10:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


DPC Broadway at night from Times Square 1911

The $289 Billion Wipeout That Blindsided US Bulls (BBG)
A Stock Market Crash Of 50%+ Would Not Be A Surprise (BI)
Bank of America Thinks The Probability Of A Chinese Crisis Is 100% (ZH)
China Injects $20 Billion Into Markets, Hints At Curbs On Share Sales (Reuters)
China Said to Intervene in Stock Market After $590 Billion Rout (BBG)
China Rail Freight Down 10.5% In 2015, Biggest Ever Annual Fall (Reuters)
China Could ‘Spook’ Global Markets Again in 2016: IMF Chief Economist (BBG)
Supermines Add to Supply Glut of Metals (WSJ)
Debt Payments Set To Balloon For Detroit Public Schools (DN)
New Year Brings Financial Headache For Millions Of British Families (Guardian)
Brazil Heads for Worst Recession Since 1901 (BBG)
Volkswagen Faces Billions In Fines As US Sues In Emissions Scandal (Reuters)
Portugal’s Bank Bail-In Sets a Dangerous Precedent (BBG)
Russia Stands Up To Western Threats, Pivots To East (Xinhua)
Will US Fall For Saudi’s Provocation In Killing Of Shia Cleric? (Reuters)
Pretend to the Bitter End (Jim Kunstler)
Fortress Scandinavia Sinks Into Blame Game Over Refugee Crisis (BBG)
Bodies Of Four Migrants Found In Eastern Aegean (Kath.)
Nine Drowned Refugees Wash Up On Turkish Beach (AP)

“A report in the U.S. showed manufacturing contracted at the fastest pace in more than six years..”

The $289 Billion Wipeout That Blindsided US Bulls (BBG)

As losses snowballed in U.S. stocks around midday, the best thing U.S. bulls had to say about the worst start to a year since 2001 was that there are 248 more trading days to make it up. “My entire screen is blood red – there’s nothing good to talk about,” Phil Orlando at Federated Investors said around noon in New York, as losses in the Dow Jones Industrial Average approached 500 points. “On days like today you need to take a step back, take a deep breath and let the rubble fall.” Taking a break and breathing helped: the Dow added almost 150 points in the last 30 minutes to pare its loss to 276 points.

Still, investors returning to work from holidays were greeted by the sixth-worst start to a year since 1927 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which plunged 1.5% to erase $289 billion in market value as weak Chinese manufacturing data unnerved equity markets. The selloff started in China and persisted thanks to a flareup in tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A report in the U.S. showed manufacturing contracted at the fastest pace in more than six years added to concerns that growth is slowing.

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50% seems mild.

A Stock Market Crash Of 50%+ Would Not Be A Surprise (BI)

By many, many historically predictive valuation meassures, stocks are overvalued to the tune of 75%-100%. In the past, when stocks have been this overvalued, they have often “corrected” by crashing (1929, 1987, 2000, 2007, for example) . They have also sometimes corrected by moving sideways and down for a long, long time (1901-1920, 1966-1982, for example). After long eras of over-valuation, like the period we have been in since the late 1990s (with the notable exceptions of the lows after the 2000 and 2007 crashes), stocks have also often transitioned into an era of undervaluation, often one that lasts for a decade or more. In short, stocks are so expensive on historically predictive measures that the annual returns over the next decade are likely to net out to about 0% per year.

How we get there is anyone’s guess. But… A stock-market crash of ~50% from the peak would not be a surprise. It would also not be the “worst-case scenario,” by any means. The “worst-case scenario,” which has actually been a common scenario over history, is that stocks would drop by, say 75% peak to trough. Those are the facts. Why isn’t anyone talking about those facts? Three reasons: First, as mentioned, no one in the financial community likes to hear bad news or to be the bearer of bad news when it comes to stock prices. It’s bad for business. Second, valuation is nearly useless as a market-timing indicator. Third, yes, there is a (probably small) chance that it’s “different this time,” and all the historically predictive valuation measures are out-dated and no longer predictive. The third reason is the one that everyone who is bullish about stocks these days is implicitly or explicitly relying on: “It’s different this time.”

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At least I’m not alone in my assessment of China.

Bank of America Thinks The Probability Of A Chinese Crisis Is 100% (ZH)

Some sobering words about China’s imminent crisis, not from your friendly neighborhood doom and gloom village drunk, but from BofA’s China strategist David Cui. Excerpted from “2016 Year-Ahead: what may trigger financial instability”, a must-read report for anyone interested in learning how China’s epic stock market experiment ends.

A case for financial instability – It’s widely accepted that the best leading indicator of financial instability is rapid debt to GDP growth over a period of several years as it’s a strong sign of significant malinvestment. Based on Bank of International Settlement’s (BIS) private debt data and the financial instability episodes identified in “This time is different”, a book by Reinhart & Rogoff, we estimate that once a country grows its private debt to GDP ratio by over 40% within a period of four years, there is a 90% chance that it may run into financial system trouble. The disturbance can be in the form of banking sector re-cap (with or without a credit crunch), sharp currency devaluation, high inflation, sovereign debt default or a combination of a few of these. As Chart 1 demonstrates, China’s private debt to GDP ratio rose by 75% between 2009 and 2014 (i.e., since the Rmb4tr stimulus), by far the highest in the world (we suspect a significant portion of the debt growth in HK went to China). At the peak speed, over four years from 2009 to 2012, the ratio in China rose by 49%.

Other than sovereign debt default, China has experienced all the other forms of financial instability since the open-door reform started in late 1970s, including a sharp currency devaluation in the early 1990s (Chart 3) and hyper-inflation in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Chart 4). China also needed to write-off bad debt and recap its banks every decade or so. Banking sector NPL reached some 40% in the late 1990s and early 2000s and the government had to strip off some 20% of GDP equivalent of bad debt from the banking system between 1999 and 2005.

When the debt problem gets too severe, a country can only solve it by devaluation (via the export channel), inflation (to make local currency debt worth less in real terms), writeoff/re-cap or default. We judge that China’s debt situation has probably passed the point of no-return and it will be difficult to grow out of the problem, particularly if the growth continues to be driven by debt-fueled investment in a weak-demand environment. We consider the most likely forms of financial instability that China may experience will be a combination of RMB devaluation, debt write-off and banking sector re-cap and possibly high inflation. Given the sizeable and unstable shadow banking sector in China and the potential of capital flight, we also think the risk of a credit crunch developing in China is high. In our mind, the only uncertainty is timing and potential triggers of such instabilities.

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“The economy is poor, stock valuation is still high, and the yuan keeps sliding. The market drop is overdue.”

China Injects $20 Billion Into Markets, Hints At Curbs On Share Sales (Reuters)

The Chinese authorities were battling to prop up the country’s stock markets on Tuesday after a surprise cash injection from the central bank failed to calm jitters among investors. The unexpected 130 billion yuan ($19.94 billion) injection by the central bank – the largest such move to encourage more borrowing since September – came after a 7% crash on Monday triggered a “circuit-breaker” mechanism to suspend trading for the day. The measures initially helped Chinese mainland indexes recover quickly from a steep initial fall but the selling gained the upper hand in the afternoon to leave the Shanghai Composite index down 2.16% at 5.30am GMT. Elsewhere in Asia Pacific, Japanese stocks fell for a second day in choppy trade to their lowest point since October. In Australia the ASX/S&P200 closed down 1.6% as the outlook for China continued to drag on the country’s resource-heavy market.

However, markets in Europe and the US were expected to open higher on Tuesday, according to futures trading. Beijing’s intervention on Tuesday appeared timed to reassure Chinese retail investors, who are always sensitive to liquidity signals, that the bank would support the market with cash. The People’s Bank of China offered the liquidity in the form of what are known as seven-day reverse repos at an interest rate of 2.25%, according to the statement. China’s securities regulator said it was studying rules to regulate share sales by major shareholders and senior executives in listed companies. This would address concerns that the end of a six-month lockup on share sales by major institutional investors timed for this Friday – and scheduled to free up an estimated 1.2 trillion yuan worth of shares for sale next Monday – would result in a massive institutional evacuation from stocks.

The PBOC also published nine new financial service standards that will come into effect on 1 June, to protect consumers. The China securities regulatory commission also defended the functioning of the new “circuit breaker” policy that caused Chinese stock markets to suspend trade on Monday, triggering the mechanism on the very first day it came into effect. While some analysts criticised the design of the circuit breaker, saying it inadvertently encouraged bearish sentiment, the regulator said the mechanism had helped calm markets and protect investors – although it said the mechanism needed to be further improved. Analysts and investors warned that the success of the interventions was not assured. Repeated and often heavy handed interventions by Beijing have kept stock valuations at what many consider excessively high given the slowing economy and falling corporate profits.

“We’ve been waiting for a market drop like this for a long time,” said Samuel Chien, a partner of Shanghai-based hedge fund manager BoomTrend Investment Management. “The economy is poor, stock valuation is still high, and the yuan keeps sliding. The market drop is overdue.”

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XI didn’t sleep well last night.

China Said to Intervene in Stock Market After $590 Billion Rout (BBG)

China moved to support its sinking stock market as state-controlled funds bought equities and the securities regulator signaled a selling ban on major investors will remain beyond this week’s expiration date, according to people familiar with the matter. Government funds purchased local stocks on Tuesday after a 7% tumble in the CSI 300 Index on Monday triggered a market-wide trading halt, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the buying wasn’t publicly disclosed. The China Securities Regulatory Commission asked bourses verbally to tell listed companies that the six-month sales ban on major stockholders will remain valid beyond Jan. 8, the people said.

The moves suggest that policy makers, who took unprecedented measures to prop up stocks during a mid-year rout, are stepping in once again to end a selloff that erased $590 billion of value in the worst-ever start to a year for the Chinese market. Authorities are trying to prevent volatility in financial markets from eroding confidence in an economy set to grow at its weakest annual pace since 1990. The sales ban on major holders, introduced in July near the height of a $5 trillion crash, will stay in effect until the introduction of a new rule restricting sales, the people said. Listed companies were encouraged to issue statements saying they’re willing to halt such sales, they said.

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Was already down 4.7% in 2014. Also: “The country’s top economic planner said last month that November rail freight volumes fell 15.6% from a year earlier.”

China Rail Freight Down 10.5% In 2015, Biggest Ever Annual Fall (Reuters)

The total volume of goods transported by China’s national railway dropped by a tenth last year, its biggest ever annual decline, business magazine Caixin reported on Tuesday, a figure likely to fan concerns over how sharply the economy is really slowing. Citing sources from railway operator National Railway Administration, Caixin said rail freight volumes declined 10.5% year-on-year to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2015. In comparison, volumes fell 4.7% in 2014. The amount of cargo moved by railways around China is seen as an indicator of domestic economic activity. The country’s top economic planner said last month that November rail freight volumes fell 15.6% from a year earlier.

Weighed down by weak demand at home and abroad, factory overcapacity and cooling investment, China is expected to post its weakest economic growth in 25 years in 2015, with growth seen cooling to around 7% from 7.3% in 2014. But some China watchers believe real economic growth is already much weaker than official data suggest, pointing to falling freight volumes and weak electricity consumption among other measures. Power consumption in November inched up only 0.6% from a year earlier. A private survey published on Monday showed that the factory activity contracted for the 10th straight month in December and at a sharper pace than in November, suggesting a continued gradual loss of momentum in the world’s second-largest economy.

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If this is only halfway true, Obstfeld just labeled himself, and the IMF, grossly incompetent: “Global spillovers from China’s slowdown have been “much larger than we could have anticipated..”

China Could ‘Spook’ Global Markets Again in 2016: IMF Chief Economist (BBG)

China could once again “spook” global financial markets in 2016, the IMF’s chief economist warned. Global spillovers from China’s slowdown have been “much larger than we could have anticipated,” affecting the global economy through reduced imports and weaker demand for commodities, IMF Economic Counselor Maurice Obstfeld said in an interview posted on the fund’s website. After a year in which China’s efforts to contain a stock-market plunge and make its exchange rate more market-based roiled markets, the health of the world’s second-biggest economy will again be a key issue to watch in 2016, Obstfeld said. “Growth below the authorities’ official targets could again spook global financial markets,” he said as global equities on Monday got off to a rough start to the year.

“Serious challenges to restructuring remain in terms of state-owned enterprise balance-sheet weaknesses, the financial markets, and the general flexibility and rationality of resource allocation.” Obstfeld, who took over as chief economist at the International Monetary Fund in September, said emerging markets will also be “center stage” this year. Currency depreciation has “proved so far to be an extremely useful buffer for a range of economic shocks,” he said. “Sharp further falls in commodity prices, including energy, however, would lead to even more problems for exporters, including sharper currency depreciations that potentially trigger still-hidden balance sheet vulnerabilities or spark inflation,” he said. With emerging-market risks rising, it will be critical for the U.S. Federal Reserve to manage interest-rate increases after lifting its benchmark rate in December for the first time since 2006, Obstfeld said.

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Q: who suffers the losses on the investments?

Supermines Add to Supply Glut of Metals (WSJ)

Cerro Verde, Peru – In this volcanic desert, a dusty moonscape patrolled by bats, snakes and guanacos, America’s biggest miner is piling on to the new force in industrial resources: supermines. It’s a strategy that could be driving miners into the ground. Freeport-McMoRan is completing a yearslong $4.6 billion expansion that will triple production at its Cerro Verde copper mine, turning a once-tiny, unprofitable state mine into one of the world’s top five copper producers. As Cerro Verde’s towering concrete concentrators grind out copper to be made into pipes and wires in Asia, it will add to production coming from newly built giant mines around the world, in a wave of supply that is compounding the woes of the depressed mining sector.

Slowing growth in China and other emerging markets has dragged metals prices into a deep downturn, just a few years after mining companies and their investors bet billions on a so-called supercycle, the seemingly never-ending growth in demand for commodities. Back then, miners awash in cheap money set out to build the biggest mines in history, extracting iron ore in Australia, Brazil and West Africa, and copper from Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Arizona, Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They also expanded production of minerals such as zinc, nickel and bauxite, which is mined to make aluminum. Those giant mines are now giving the industry an extra-bad hangover during the bust.

The big mines cost so much to build and extract minerals so efficiently that mothballing them is unthinkable—running them generates cash to pay down debts, and huge mines are expensive to simply maintain while idle. But as a result, their scale means they are helping miners dig themselves even deeper into the price trough by adding to a glut. The prolonged price slump has forced miners to make painful cuts. In December, Anglo American, which recently completed a supermine in Brazil that went over budget by $6 billion, announced 85,000 new job cuts, asset sales and a suspended dividend. On the same day, Rio Tinto, which has built supermines in Western Australia, cut spending plans, while in September, Glencore suspended its dividend and raised $2.5 billion in stock as part of a plan to cut debt.

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Absolutely nuts.

Debt Payments Set To Balloon For Detroit Public Schools (DN)

The debt payments of Detroit Public Schools — already the highest of any school district in Michigan — are set to balloon in February to an amount nearly equal to the school district’s payroll and benefits as the city school system teeters on the edge of insolvency. Detroit Public Schools has to begin making monthly $26 million payments starting in less than a month to chip away at the $121 million borrowed this school year for cash flow purposes and $139.8 million for operating debts incurred in prior years. The city school system’s total debt payments are 74% higher from last school year. The debt costs continue to mount while Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature remain at odds over how to rescue Michigan’s largest school district.

A bankruptcy of the district could leave state taxpayers on the hook for at least $1.5 billion in DPS debt. The school district’s payroll and health care benefits are projected to cost $26.8 million in February — meaning the debt payments will be 97% of payroll. General fund operating debt payments that exceed 10% of payroll are “a major warning flag,” municipal bond analyst Matt Fabian said. “That’s extremely high,” said Fabian, managing director of Municipal Market Advisors in Concord, Massachusetts, who also followed the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy case. “That’s no longer, really, a normal school district. The school district has turned into a debt-servicing entity. It’s making its own mission impossible.” As a result, the Detroit district won’t have enough cash to pay any bills in four months.

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As a result of holiday spending?

New Year Brings Financial Headache For Millions Of British Families (Guardian)

More than 2.5 million families in England are being forced to cut back on essentials such as heating and clothing this winter to pay their rent or mortgage, according to housing charity Shelter. Its research also found that one in 10 parents were worried about whether they would be able to afford to meet their housing payments this month. The charity’s findings coincided with separate research from National Debtline showing that more than 5.5 million Britons said they were likely to fall behind with their finances in January as a result of Christmas spending. The two surveys underline the strain that many individuals and families are under as the new year begins, with some so worried about their situation that they sought online advice on Boxing Day.

As part of the Shelter research, YouGov questioned more than 4,500 adults during November, including around 850 parents with children aged 18 and under. It found that 27% of parents – the equivalent of almost 2.7 million people in England – said they had already cut back on either using energy to heat their home or buying warm clothing to help meet their rent or mortgage payments this winter. Around 10% of parents said they were worried about being able to afford to pay their monthly rent or mortgage, while 15% told the researchers they were already planning to cut back on buying festive food, or had used savings meant for Christmas presents to help meet their housing costs this winter. Shelter said a shortage of affordable homes had left many families struggling with “sky-high” housing costs, and was part of the reason why more than 100,000 people had sought advice on housing debt from its online, phone-based and face-to-face services in the past year.

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When will Brazil blow up? How on earth can the country host the Olympics?

Brazil Heads for Worst Recession Since 1901 (BBG)

Brazil’s economy will contract more than previously forecast and is heading for the deepest recession since at least 1901 as economic activity and confidence sink amid a political crisis, a survey of analysts showed. Latin America’s largest economy will shrink 2.95% this year, according to the weekly central bank poll of about 100 economists, versus a prior estimate of a 2.81% contraction. Analysts lowered their 2016 growth forecast for 13 straight weeks and estimate the economy contracted 3.71% last year. Brazil’s policy makers are struggling to control the fastest inflation in 12 years without further hamstringing a weak economy.

Finance Minister Nelson Barbosa, who took the job in December, has faced renewed pressure to moderate austerity proposals aimed at bolstering public accounts and avoiding further credit downgrades. Impeachment proceedings and an expanding corruption scandal have also been hindering approval of economic policies in Congress. “We’re now taking into account a very depressed scenario,” Flavio Serrano, senior economist at Haitong in Sao Paulo, said by phone. Central bank director Altamir Lopes said on Dec. 23 the institution will adopt necessary policies to bring inflation to its 4.5% target in 2017.

Less than a week later, the head of President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, Rui Falcao, said Brazil should refrain from cutting investments and consider raising its inflation target to avoid higher borrowing costs. Consumer confidence as measured by the Getulio Vargas Foundation in December reached a record low. Business confidence as measured by the National Industry Confederation fell throughout most of last year, rebounding slightly from a record low in October. The last time Brazil had back-to-back years of recession was 1930 and 1931, and has never had one as deep as that forecast for 2015 and 2016 combined, according to data from national economic research institute IPEA that dates back to 1901.

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“..the automaker will seek to negotiate a lower penalty by arguing that the maximum would be “crippling to the company and lead to massive layoffs..”

Volkswagen Faces Billions In Fines As US Sues In Emissions Scandal (Reuters)

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against Volkswagen for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act by installing illegal devices to impair emission control systems in nearly 600,000 vehicles. The allegations against Volkswagen, along with its Audi and Porsche units, carry penalties that could cost the automaker billions of dollars, a senior Justice Department official said. VW could face fines in theory exceeding $90 billion – or as much as $37,500 per vehicle per violation of the law, based on the complaint. In September, government regulators initially said VW could face fines in excess of $18 billion. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, head of the departments environment and natural resources division.

The Justice Department lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, accuses Volkswagen of four counts of violating the U.S. Clean Air Act, including tampering with the emissions control system and failing to report violations. The lawsuit is being filed in the Eastern District of Michigan and then transferred to Northern California, where class-action lawsuits against Volkswagen are pending. “We’re alleging that they knew what they were doing, they intentionally violated the law and that the consequences were significant to health,” the senior Justice Department official said. The Justice Department has also been investigating criminal fraud allegations against Volkswagen for misleading U.S. consumers and regulators. Criminal charges would require a higher burden of proof than the civil lawsuit.

The civil lawsuit reflects the expanding number of allegations against Volkswagen since the company first admitted in September to installing cheat devices in several of its 2.0 liter diesel vehicle models. The U.S. lawsuit also alleges that Volkswagen gamed emissions controls in many of its 3.0 liter diesel models, including the Audi Q7, and the Porsche Cayenne. Volkswagen’s earlier admissions eliminate almost any possibility that the automaker could defend itself in court, Daniel Riesel of Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C, who defends companies accused of environmental crimes, said. To win the civil case, the government does not need to prove the degree of intentional deception at Volkswagen – just that the cheating occurred, Riesel said. “I don’t think there is any defense in a civil suit,” he said. Instead, the automaker will seek to negotiate a lower penalty by arguing that the maximum would be “crippling to the company and lead to massive layoffs,” Riesel said.

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This can -re: will- happen all over the EU.

Portugal’s Bank Bail-In Sets a Dangerous Precedent (BBG)

As Europe belatedly gets around to repairing its weakest banks, investors who have lent to financial institutions by buying bonds face a brave new world. Their money can effectively be confiscated to plug balance-sheet holes. Recent events in Portugal suggest that the authorities should be wary of treating bondholders as piggybanks, or risk destroying a key source of future funds for the finance industry. Let’s begin with the “what” before we get to the “why.” Here’s what happened to the prices of five Portuguese bank bonds in the past few days: Picture the scene. You left the office on Dec. 29 owning Portuguese bank debt that was trading at about 94% of face value. In less than 24 hours, you lost 80% of your money. So what happened? Last year, Portugal divided Banco Espirito Santo, previously the nation’s largest lender, into a “good” bank and a “bad” bank.

If you owned any of those five bonds on Tuesday, you were owed money by Novo Banco, the good bank. On Wednesday, you were told that your bonds had been transferred to BES, the bad bank. The Portuguese central bank selected five of Novo Banco’s 52 senior bonds, worth about €1.95 billion, and reassigned them – thus backfilling a €1.4 billion hole in the “good” bank’s balance sheet that had been revealed in November by the ECB’s stress tests of the institution. At the time of those tests, the value of Novo Banco bonds rose because the capital shortfall was lower than some investors had feared, and the good bank was widely expected to be able to mend the deficit by selling assets. Instead, the Dec. 30 switcheroo means selected bondholders are footing that bill.

Here is where the shoe pinches. The documentation for senior debt typically stipulates that all such debt is what’s called “pari passu”; that is, all securities rank equally, and none should get preferential treatment. But by moving just five bonds off the healthy bank’s balance sheet, Portugal has destroyed the principle of equality between debt securities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “bailing in” bondholders who’ve lent to a failing institution. It’s certainly preferable to the old solution of using taxpayers’ money to shore up failed banks, and it’s enshrined in the EU’s new Bank Resolution and Recovery Directive, which came into effect on Jan. 1. But the principle of equal treatment for ostensibly identical securities is a key feature of the bond market. If investors fear they’re at the mercy of capricious regulatory decisions in a restructuring, they’ll think more than twice before lending to banks.

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China’s take on Russia’s strategy document.

Russia Stands Up To Western Threats, Pivots To East (Xinhua)

Russia has updated a bunch of strategies to fight against threats to its national security, as demonstrated by the document “About the Strategy of National Security of the Russian Federation,” which President Vladimir Putin signed on New Year’s Eve. Amid ongoing clashes with the West over Ukraine and other fronts, leaders of the country have chosen to stand up to Western threats, while attaching growing importance to security cooperation across the Asia-Pacific. On the one hand, the West has shown substantial willingness, following visits to Moscow by leaders or senior representatives of major Western powers, to work with the Kremlin on a global anti-terror campaign and a political settlement of the protracted conflict in Syria.

On the other hand, one can hardly deny new friction and tensions would arise during this engagement, considering the fact that the West remains vigilant about a Russia that aspires to regain its global stature. Taking into account the enormous changes in the geopolitical, military and economic situation, the document, a revised version of the 2009 one, calls for the consolidation of “Russia’s status of a leading world power.” Russia believes it is now confronted with a host of threats, both traditional and new, such as the expansion of NATO, military build-up and deployment in its neighboring countries, a new arms race with the United States, as well as attempts to undermine the Moscow regime and to incite a “color revolution” in the country. Last year has witnessed repeated saber-rattling between Russia and NATO.

The expansion of the alliance, which saw a need to adapt to long-term security challenges with special interests in deploying heavy weapons in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, was blamed for the current military situation in the region and its cooling relationship with Moscow that has warned it would respond to any military build-up near Russian borders. At the same time, sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies over Moscow’s takeover of the Black Sea peninsula Crimea and its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis, together with the ongoing fall in oil prices, have once again drawn attention to Russia’s over-reliance on exports of raw materials and high vulnerability to the fluctuations in foreign markets, which the new document described as “main strategic threats to national security in the economy.”

Moreover, the daunting provocation and infiltration of the Islamic State terrorist group have just made Russia’s security concerns even graver. Domestically, Moscow has tightened security measures since Islamic extremists threatened attacks and bloodshed in the country. Globally, it has long been calling for a unified coalition, including collaboration with the United States, to double down on the anti-terror battle. As antagonism between Russia and the West currently shows little signs of receding, Moscow has begun to turn eastward, a strategic transition that is reflected by the national security blueprint. Mentioning specific relations with foreign countries, the document noted firstly that the strategic partnership of coordination with China is a key force to uphold global and regional stability. It then mentioned the country’s “privileged strategic partnership” with India.

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Can’t really discuss this without involving Russia.

Will US Fall For Saudi’s Provocation In Killing Of Shia Cleric? (Reuters)

There should be little doubt that Saudi Arabia wanted to escalate regional tensions into a crisis by executing Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. On the same day, Riyadh also unilaterally withdrew from the ceasefire agreement in Yemen. By allowing protestors to torch the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response, Iran seems to have walked right into the Saudi trap. If Saudi Arabia succeeds in forcing the US into the conflict by siding with the kingdom, then its objectives will have been met. It is difficult to see that Saudi Arabia did not know that its decision to execute Nimr would cause uproar in the region and put additional strains on its already tense relations with Iran. The inexcusable torching of the Saudi embassy in Iran -Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned it and called it “totally unjustifiable,” though footage shows that Iranian security forces did little to prevent the attack- in turn provided Riyadh with the perfect pretext to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran.

With that, Riyadh significantly undermined U.S.-led regional diplomacy on both Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia has long opposed diplomatic initiatives that Iran participated in– be it in Syria or on the nuclear issue — and that risked normalizing Tehran’s regional role and influence. Earlier, Riyadh had successfully ensured Iran’s exclusion from Syria talks in Geneva by threatening to boycott them if Iran was present, U.S. officials have told me. In fact, according to White House sources, President Barack Obama had to personally call King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to force the Saudis to take part in the Vienna talks on Syria this past fall. Now, by having cut its diplomatic relations with Iran, the Saudis have the perfect excuse to slow down, undermine and possibly completely scuttle these U.S.-led negotiations, if they should choose to do so.

From the Saudi perspective, geopolitical trends in the region have gone against its interests for more than a decade now. The rise of Iran – and Washington’s decision to negotiate and compromise with Tehran over its nuclear program – has only added to the Saudi panic. To follow through on this way of thinking, Riyadh’s calculation with the deliberate provocation of executing Nimr may have been to manufacture a crisis — perhaps even war — that it hopes can change the geopolitical trajectory of the region back to the Saudi’s advantage. The prize would be to force the United States to side with Saudi Arabia and thwart its slow but critical warm-up in relations with Tehran. As a person close to the Saudi government told the Wall Street Journal: “At some point, the U.S. may be forced to take sides [between Saudi Arabia and Iran]… This could potentially threaten the nuclear deal.”

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“The coming crackup will re-set the terms of civilized life to levels largely pre-techno-industrial.”

Pretend to the Bitter End (Jim Kunstler)

Forecast 2016 There’s really one supreme element of this story that you must keep in view at all times: a society (i.e. an economy + a polity = a political economy) based on debt that will never be paid back is certain to crack up. Its institutions will stop functioning. Its business activities will seize up. Its leaders will be demoralized. Its denizens will act up and act out. Its wealth will evaporate. Given where we are in human history — the moment of techno-industrial over-reach — this crackup will not be easy to recover from; not like, say, the rapid recoveries of Japan and Germany after the brutal fiasco of World War Two. Things have gone too far in too many ways. The coming crackup will re-set the terms of civilized life to levels largely pre-techno-industrial. How far backward remains to be seen.

Those terms might be somewhat negotiable if we could accept the reality of this re-set and prepare for it. But, alas, most of the people capable of thought these days prefer wishful techno-narcissistic woolgathering to a reality-based assessment of where things stand — passively awaiting technological rescue remedies (“they” will “come up with something”) that will enable all the current rackets to continue. Thus, electric cars will allow suburban sprawl to function as the preferred everyday environment; molecular medicine will eliminate the role of death in human affairs; as-yet-undiscovered energy modalities will keep all the familiar comforts and conveniences running; and financial legerdemain will marshal the capital to make it all happen.

Oh, by the way, here’s a second element of the story to stay alert to: that most of the activities on-going in the USA today have taken on the qualities of rackets, that is, dishonest schemes for money-grubbing. This is most vividly and nauseatingly on display lately in the fields of medicine and education — two realms of action that formerly embodied in their basic operating systems the most sacred virtues developed in the fairly short history of civilized human endeavor: duty, diligence, etc. I’ve offered predictions for many a year that this consortium of rackets would enter failure mode, and so far that has seemed to not have happened, at least not to the catastrophic degree, yet.

I’ve also maintained that of all the complex systems we depend on for contemporary life, finance is the most abstracted from reality and therefore the one most likely to show the earliest strains of crackup. The outstanding feature of recent times has been the ability of the banking hierarchies to employ accounting fraud to forestall any reckoning over the majestic sums of unpayable debt. The lesson for those who cheerlead the triumph of fraud is that lying works and that it can continue indefinitely — or at least until they are clear of culpability for it, either retired, dead, or safe beyond the statute of limitations for their particular crime.

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The same people who criticized Balkan countries for doing the same.

Fortress Scandinavia Sinks Into Blame Game Over Refugee Crisis (BBG)

Gliding high above the Baltic Sea under pylons that stretch 669-feet into the air, the daily commute across Europe’s longest rail and road link was once a symbol of integration in the region. But for many of the 15,000 people who commute daily across the Oeresund Bridge between Malmoe, Sweden’s third-largest city, and Copenhagen, the trip to work and back just became a lot more difficult. On Monday, Sweden imposed identification checks on people seeking to enter by road, rail or ferry after the country was overwhelmed by a record influx of refugees. The development “doesn’t fit with anyone’s vision for the Oeresund region,” Ole Stavad, a former Social Democrat minister once in charge of Nordic cooperation, said in an interview. “This isn’t just about Oeresund, Copenhagen, Malmoe or Scania. It’s about all of Sweden and Denmark.”

He predicts economic pain for both countries “unless this issue is resolved.” If not even Sweden and Denmark can get along, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of Europe, which is now grappling with the ever-present threat of terrorism, a groundswell in nationalism and sclerotic economic growth. And the ripple effects are already starting. Twelve hours after the Swedish controls came into force, Denmark introduced spot checks on its border with Germany, threatening the passport-free travel zone known as Schengen. The move, which has yet to be approved by Schengen’s guardian, the EU, has not pleased Berlin. And mutual recriminations are flying in Scandinavia. The Danes say they were forced to impose their measures after Sweden enforced its controls.

The Swedes blame the Danes for not sharing the burden of absorbing refugees. Sweden received around 163,000 asylum applications in 2015, compared with Denmark’s 18,500. The controls are placing an unexpected burden on workers who had bought into the idea of an international business area of 3.7 million inhabitants. The Malmoe-based Oeresund Institute, a think-tank, estimates the daily cost of checks on commuters alone are 1.3 million kroner ($190,000). Denmark’s DSB railway says it costs it 1 million kroner in lost ticket sales and expenses for travel across a stretch made famous by the popular Scandinavian crime series “The Bridge.”

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“..in an advanced state of decomposition..” Makes you wonder what the real death toll is, as opposed to the official one.

Bodies Of Four Migrants Found In Eastern Aegean (Kath.)

Greek coast guard officers found the bodies of four people, thought to be migrants, in the sea near the islands of Fournoi in the eastern Aegean. The bodies, of three men and one woman, were found on Sunday in an advanced state of decomposition, according to authorities. The coast guard also rescued 160 migrants and arrested two traffickers off Samos on Sunday.

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And on and on.

Nine Drowned Refugees Wash Up On Turkish Beach (AP)

A Turkish news agency says the bodies of nine drowned migrants, including children, have washed up on a beach on Turkey’s Aegean coast after their boat capsized in rough seas. The Dogan news agency says the bodies were discovered early on Tuesday in the resort town of Ayvalik, from where migrants set off on boats to reach the Greek island of Lesvos. Turkish coasts guards were dispatched to search for possible survivors. Eight migrants were rescued. Dogan video footage showed a body, still wearing a life jacket, being pulled from the sea onto the sandy beach. There was no immediate information on the migrants’ nationalities.

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Aug 282015
 
 August 28, 2015  Posted by at 11:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Dorothea Lange Resettlement project, Bosque Farms, New Mexico Dec 1935

Real Chinese GDP Growth Is -1.1%, According to Evercore ISI (Zero Hedge)
BofA: China Stock Rout To Resume As Intervention Ends (Bloomberg)
Money Pours Out of Emerging Markets at Rate Unseen Since Lehman (Bloomberg)
What China’s Treasury Liquidation Means: $1 Trillion QE In Reverse (ZH)
Global Equity Funds Witness Biggest-Ever Exodus (CNBC)
PBOC Uses Derivatives to Tame Yuan Fall Expectations (WSJ)
China Local Govt Pension Funds To Start Investing $313 Billion ‘Soon’ (Reuters)
Chinese Banking Giants: Zero Profit Growth as Bad Loans Pile Up (Bloomberg)
The Great Wall Of Money (Hindesight)
China Will Respond Too Late to Avoid -Global- Recession: Buiter (Bloomberg)
China’s Ongoing FX Trilemma And Its Possible Consequences (FT)
China Has Exposed The Fatal Flaws In Our Liberal Economic Order (Pettifor)
Albert Edwards: “99.7% Chance We Are Now In A Bear Market” (Zero Hedge)
Who Will Be the Bagholders This Time Around? (CH Smith)
Now’s The Right Time For Yellen To Kill The ‘Greenspan Put’ (MarketWatch)
The Emperor Is Naked; Long Live The Emperor (Fiscal Times)
IMF Could Contribute A Fifth To Greek Bailout, ESM’s Regling Says (Bloomberg)
Yanis Varoufakis: ‘I’m Not Going To Take Part In Sad Elections’ (Reuters)
For Those Trying to Reach Safety in Europe, Land can be as Deadly as Sea (HRW)

That sounds more like it.

Real Chinese GDP Growth Is -1.1%, According to Evercore ISI (Zero Hedge)

With Chinese data now an official farce even among Wall Street economists, tenured academics, and all others whose job obligation it is to accept and never question the lies they are fed, the biggest question over the past year has been just what is China’s real, and rapidly slowing, GDP – which alongside the Fed, is the primary catalyst of the global risk shakeout experienced in recent weeks. One thing that everyone knows and can agree on, is that it is not the official 7% number, or whatever goalseeked fabrication the communist party tries to push to a world that has realized China can’t even manipulate its stock market higher, let alone its economy.

But what is it? Over the past few months we have shown various unpleasant estimates, the lowest of which was 1.6% back in April. Today we got the worst one yet, courtesy of Evercore ISI, which using its own GDP equivalent index – the Synthetic Growth Index (SGI) – gets a vastly different result from the official one, namely Chinese growth of -1.1% annually. Or rather, contraction. To wit, from Evercore:

Our proprietary Synthetic Growth Index (SG!) fell 1.1% mim in July, and was also down 1.1% y/y. No wonder global commodities are so weak. The most recent 18 months have been much weaker than the 2011-13 period. Even if we adjust our SG I upward (for too-little representation of Services — lack of data), we believe actual economic growth in China is far below the official 7.0% yly. And, it is not improving, Most worrisome to us; the ‘equipment’ portion of Plant & Equipment spending is very weak, a bad sign for any company or country. Expect more monetary and fiscal steps to lift growth.

And here is why the world is in big trouble.

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With confidence gone, is there another option left?

BofA: China Stock Rout To Resume As Intervention Ends (Bloomberg)

The rebound in China’s stocks will be short-lived because state intervention is too costly to continue and valuations aren’t justified given the slowing economy, says Bank of America. “As soon as people sense the government is withdrawing from direct intervention, there will be lots of investors starting to dump stocks again,” said David Cui at Bank of America in Singapore. The Shanghai Composite Index needs to fall another 35% before shares become attractive, he said. The Shanghai gauge rallied for a second day on Friday amid speculation authorities were supporting equities before a World War II victory parade next week that will showcase China’s military might. The government resumed intervention in stocks on Thursday to halt the biggest selloff since 1996.

China Securities Finance, the state agency tasked with supporting share prices, will probably end direct market purchases within the next month or two, Cui said. While the benchmark gauge trades 47% above the levels of a year earlier, data from industrial output to exports and retail sales depict a deepening slowdown. China’s first major growth indicator for August showed the manufacturing sector is at the weakest since the global financial crisis. Profits at the nation’s industrial companies fell 2.9% in July, data Friday showed. Equities on mainland bourses are valued at a median 51 times reported earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most among the 10 largest markets and more than twice the 19 multiple for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Even after tumbling 37% from its June 12 peak, the Shanghai gauge is the best-performing equity index worldwide over the past year.

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This is going to be seminal.

Money Pours Out of Emerging Markets at Rate Unseen Since Lehman (Bloomberg)

This week, investors relived a nightmare. As markets from China to South Africa tumbled, they pulled $2.7 billion out of developing economies on Aug. 24. That matches a Sept. 17, 2008 exodus during the week Lehman Brothers went under. The collapse of the U.S. investment bank was a seminal moment in the timeline of the global financial crisis. The retreat from risky assets, triggered by concern over a slowdown in China and higher interest rates in the U.S., has taken money outflows from emerging markets to an estimated $4.5 billion in August, compared with inflows of $6.7 billion in July, data compiled by Institute of International Finance show. It’s lower stock prices that people are most worried about.

Equity outflows from developing nations increased to $8.7 billion this month, the highest level since the taper tantrum of 2013 when the prospect of higher rates in the U.S., making riskier assets less attractive, first shook emerging markets. Debt inflows softened this month while remaining positive at $4.2 billion, the IIF says. “Emerging market investors have been spooked by rising uncertainty about China, and stress has been exacerbated by a combination of fundamental concerns about EM economic prospects and volatility in global financial markets,” Charles Collyns, chief economist at the IIF, said.

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Interconnections.

What China’s Treasury Liquidation Means: $1 Trillion QE In Reverse (ZH)

Earlier today, Bloomberg – citing the ubiquitous “people familiar with the matter” – confirmed what we’ve been pounding the table on for months; namely that China is liquidating its UST holdings. As we outlined in July, from the first of the year through June, China looked to have sold somewhere around $107 billion worth of US paper. While that might have seemed like a breakneck pace back then, it was nothing compared to what would transpire in the last two weeks of August. Following the devaluation of the yuan, the PBoC found itself in the awkward position of having to intervene openly in the FX market, despite the fact that the new currency regime was supposed to represent a shift towards a more market-determined exchange rate.

That intervention has come at a steep cost – around $106 billion according to SocGen. In other words, stabilizing the yuan in the wake of the devaluation has resulted in the sale of more than $100 billion in USTs from China’s FX reserves. That dramatic drawdown has an equal and opposite effect on liquidity. That is, it serves to tighten money markets, thus working at cross purposes with policy rate cuts. The result: each FX intervention (i.e. each round of UST liquidation) must be offset with either an RRR cut, or with emergency liquidity injections via hundreds of billions in reverse repos and short- and medium-term lending ops.

It appears that all of the above is now better understood than it was a month ago, but what’s still not well understand is the impact this will have on the US economy and, by extension, on US monetary policy, and furthermore, there seems to be some confusion as to just how dramatic the Treasury liquidation might end up being. Recall that China’s move to devalue the yuan and this week’s subsequent benchmark lending rate cut have served to blow up one of the world’s most popular carry trades. As one currency trader told Bloomberg on Tuesday, “it’s a terrible time to be long carry, increased volatility – which I think we’ll stay with – will continue to be terrible for carry. The period is over for carry trades.”

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Negative records being set all over.

Global Equity Funds Witness Biggest-Ever Exodus (CNBC)

Investors yanked $29.5 billion out of global equity funds in the week that ended August 26, the biggest single-week outflow on record as markets around the world over went into meltdown mode, according to data from Citi. On a regional basis, U.S. funds suffered the highest level of outflows at $12.3 billion, followed by Asia funds, which saw $4.9 million in redemptions. Citi’s records go back to 2000. European funds, which broke their chain of 14 weeks of inflows, witnessed $3.6 billion in outflows for the week.

Concerns around the outlook for the Chinese economy and jitters around the U.S. Federal Reserve’s impending rate hike have sent global markets into a tailspin over the past week. The MSCI World Index and MSCI Emerging Market Index both slid over 7% between August 19 and August 26. China, the market at the heart of the global selloff, saw losses of a far higher magnitude. The notoriously volatile benchmark Shanghai Composite tumbled 22% over this period, leading to outflows of $1.2 billion from China and Greater China funds during the week.

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Yeah, sure, add more leverage…

PBOC Uses Derivatives to Tame Yuan Fall Expectations (WSJ)

China’s central bank used an unusual and complex financial tool Thursday to tame growing expectations for the yuan to fall, three people familiar with the matter said. The People’s Bank of China intervened in the market for U.S. dollar-yuan foreign-exchange swaps, causing their price to fall sharply, a movement that implies a stronger Chinese currency and lower interest rates in the world’s No. 2 economy in the future, said the people. The move came after waves of sharp selloffs in the Chinese currency in offshore markets, such as Hong Kong’s, where the yuan trades freely, following Beijing’s surprise nearly 2% yuan devaluation on Aug. 11.

Thanks to what each of the three people described as “massive” orders from a few commercial banks acting on the PBOC’s behalf, the so-called one-year dollar-yuan swap spread—in rough terms, a measure of the implied future differential between Chinese and U.S. interest rates—plunged to 1200 points from 1730 points Wednesday. In the offshore market, the spread dropped to 1950 points from 2310 points Tuesday, following the onshore move. A drop in the spread for dollar-yuan swaps, which consist of a spot trade and an offsetting forward transaction, would also imply a weaker spot exchange rate at a predetermined future date.

The currency derivatives are typically used by investors seeking to hedge against exchange-rate and interest-rate fluctuations. “The central bank chose a rarely used tool this time—the FX swaps—to intervene and it did so via a couple of midsize banks, instead of the usual big state lenders that serve as its agent banks,” one of the people said.

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Desperation. Again, remember when pensions were limited to AAA rated assets?

China Local Govt Pension Funds To Start Investing $313 Billion ‘Soon’ (Reuters)

China’s local pension funds will start investing 2 trillion yuan ($313.05 billion) as soon as possible in stocks and other assets, senior government officials said on Friday, in a bid to boost the investment returns of such funds. China said last weekend that it would let pension funds under local government units to invest in the stock market for the first time, a move that might channel hundreds of billions of yuan into the country’s struggling equity market. Up to 30 percent can be invested in stocks, equity funds and balanced funds. The rest can be invested in convertible bonds, money-market instruments, asset-backed securities, index futures and bond futures in China, as well as major infrastructure projects.

“We will actively make early preparations… we will formally start investment operations as soon as possible,” Vice Finance Minister Yu Weiping told a briefing. But the timing of investment will depend on preparations as the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), the manager of local pension funds, will entrust professional investment firms to make actual investments, Yu told reporters after the briefing. “When they (investment firms) will enter the market, the government will not intervene,” Yu said. You Jun, vice minister of human resources and social security, told the same news conference that pension investment will benefit the economy and the country’s capital market, but he downplayed any attempt to support the ailing stock market. “Supporting the stock market or rescuing the stock market is not the function and responsibility of our funds,” You said.

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The crucial point becomes how much of this can be kept hidden.

Chinese Banking Giants: Zero Profit Growth as Bad Loans Pile Up (Bloomberg)

The first two Chinese banking giants to report earnings this week have two things in common: zero profit growth and bad loans piling up at more than twice the pace of a year earlier. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China posted a 31% increase in bad loans in the first half, while Agricultural Bank of China had a 28% jump, their stock-exchange statements showed on Thursday. At a press briefing in Beijing, ICBC President Yi Huiman indicated that the lender may have to abandon a target of keeping its nonperforming loan ratio at 1.45% this year, citing “severe” conditions. The level at the end of June was 1.4%.

The economic weakness and $5 trillion stock-market slump that prompted the central bank to cut interest rates and lenders’ reserve requirements this week may make it harder for China’s banks to revive earnings growth and attract investors. For now, the biggest banks are trading below book value. “We are nowhere near the end of this down cycle, not with the economy wobbling like now,” said Richard Cao at Guotai Junan Securities. ICBC’s profit was little changed at 74.7 billion yuan ($11.7 billion) in the quarter ended June 30, based on an exchange filing, almost matching 74.8 billion yuan a year earlier. That compared with the 75.7 billion yuan median estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Nonperforming loans jumped to 163.5 billion yuan, the company said.

Agricultural Bank reported a profit decline of 0.8% to 50.2 billion yuan and bad loans of 159.5 billion yuan, including debt in the construction and mining industries. For ICBC, the biggest increases in nonperforming credit in the first half were in China’s western region, where coal businesses are struggling, the Yangtze River Delta and the Bohai Rim. ICBC, Agricultural Bank and another of China’s large lenders to report on Thursday, Bank of Communications, all reported declines in net interest margins, a measure of lending profitability. The rural lender had the biggest fall, a slide of 15 basis points from a year earlier to 2.78%.

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Bretton Woods.

The Great Wall Of Money (Hindesight)

China is in severe trouble and that trouble has already been reverberating around EM exporters for a number of years. It is just one of many dollar currency peg countries that have experienced tightening conditions because of higher US interest rate guidance and dollar strength. An unwelcome addition to their own domestic issues, but always a circular outcome, as they are inextricably linked to the US by their Bretton Woods II relationship. By devaluing and thus de-stabilising the ‘nominal’ anchor for Asian exchange rates, they will crush the growth engine of the developed countries on whose consumption they so rely on.

Since 2009, we have forecast and documented the unwinding of the Bretton Woods II currency system. Financialisation of our economies and markets, which escalated post-2008 at the instigation of governments and central bankers, is going to go into full reverse for all asset classes. Economies and markets are so entwined that a drop in asset classes will lead the world back into recession. In 2013, we believed the odds had tilted firmly towards increasing debt deflation at the hands of China. Large current account deficits had led to unsustainable debt creation, and as a consequence the trade deficit countries were the first to experience a severe financial crisis. However, on the other side of the equation, the surplus countries were now experiencing their reaction to the crisis.

In November 2013, we wrote: “The deleveraging process which began in 2008 has been a slow burner but is likely now in full swing. The deflationary risks are very high. China is the driver. All eyes on China.” We conceive that this slow-burner of deleveraging, which has occurred since the 2008 crisis, is potentially about to engulf all asset prices. We are beginning to think the unthinkable – that just maybe asset prices will back up 20 to 30% and fast and that through the autumn we could experience even greater price depreciation. Almost 8 years on from the GFC, the Dow Jones Industrials are perched on the edge of a sharp drop.

Will the Ghost of 1937 revisit us eight years on from the Great Crash of 1929, when U.S. stocks and the world economy got roiled all over again? This is already unfolding as we speak. The Yuan movement may well send more Chinese capital floating across the globe into financial assets and real estate, but it will be short-lived. The debt deleveraging which has been engulfing Emerging Markets has just begun to turn into a ranging inferno, which will eventually burn down all, especially overpriced, global assets. Since the GFC, ‘The Great Wall of Money’ that Bretton Woods II has furnished via its vendor-financing relationship, has masked the deleveraging of our world economy. The Great Wall is about to collapse and fall.

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Not too late, but too little. Because too little is all that is left.

China Will Respond Too Late to Avoid -Global- Recession: Buiter (Bloomberg)

China is sliding into recession and the leadership will not act quickly enough to avoid a major slowdown by implementing large-scale fiscal policies to stimulate demand, Citigroup’s top economist Willem Buiter said. The only thing to stop a Chinese recession, which the former external member of the Bank of England defines as 4% growth on “the mendacious official data” for a year, is a consumption-oriented fiscal stimulus program funded by the central government and monetized by the People’s Bank of China, Buiter said. “Despite the economy crying out for it, the Chinese leadership is not ready for this,” Buiter said in a media call hosted Thursday by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “It’s an economy that’s sliding into recession.”

Premier Li Keqiang is seeking to defend a 7% economic growth goal at a time when concern over slowing demand in China is fueling volatility in global markets. The true rate of expansion “is probably something closer to 4.5% or less,” Buiter said. Li has repeatedly pledged to avoid stimulus similar to the one following the global financial crisis in 2008 that led to a surge in debt for local governments and corporations. Some economists and investors have long questioned the accuracy of China’s official growth data. When Li was party secretary of Liaoning province in 2007, he said that figures for gross domestic product were “man-made” and therefore unreliable, according to a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks in 2010.

“They will respond but they will respond too late to avoid a recession, which is likely to drag the global economy with it down to a global growth rate below 2% – which is in my definition a global recession,” said Buiter.

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“..open capital account, independent monetary policy, and stable tightly managed exchange rate”

China’s Ongoing FX Trilemma And Its Possible Consequences (FT)

From UBS’s Tao Wang on what, post China’s surprise revaluation, is now an oft used phrase, the impossible trinity — AKA the corner China finds itself in:

“The impossible trinity says that a country cannot simultaneously have an open capital account, independent monetary policy, and stable tightly managed exchange rate. Some academics argue that since capital controls are no longer as effective in the current day world, complete monetary policy independence is still not possible without some degree of exchange rate flexibility, even without a fully open capital account – or impossibly duality. Regardless of whether it is an impossible trinity or duality, the fact is that in recent years, as a result of substantial capital controls relaxation, China has found it increasingly difficult to manage independent monetary policy while simultaneously maintaining a fixed exchange rate.

Since last year, the PBOC has had to repeatedly inject liquidity and use the RRR to offset capital outflows – its efforts to ease monetary policy have been less effective because of FX leakages, while at the same time rate cuts are reducing arbitrage opportunities to add further downward pressures on the currency. As China’s government has announced and seems to be committed to fully opening the capital account soon, these challenges will only become greater. Therefore, it is the right thing to do to break the RMB’s dollar peg and move to materially increase its flexibility. At the moment, China’s weak domestic demand and deflationary pressures necessitate further interest rate cuts, which may further fan capital outflows and depreciation pressures.

Meanwhile, not only is the RMB’s recent effective appreciation still hurting China’s tradable goods sector, but the central bank’s defence of the exchange rate is also draining substantial domestic liquidity that necessitates constant replenishing, both of which is undermining the effectiveness of overall monetary policy easing. With a more flexible exchange rate, the RMB can be weakened by outflows and depreciation pressures without draining domestic liquidity, and domestic assets will become relatively cheaper and thus more attractive than foreign assets – which may ultimately alter market expectations to reduce capital outflows.

In addition, a weaker RMB should improve China’s current account balance to also alleviate depreciation pressures. Conversely, if China’s exchange rate is allowed to appreciate along with capital inflows and appreciation pressures, it will make domestic assets more expensive and less attractive, to ultimately worsen China’s current account balance.”

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“The Chinese should have been warned, for they won accolades from Western economists for their “Goldilocks” economy.”

China Has Exposed The Fatal Flaws In Our Liberal Economic Order (Pettifor)

How can we make sense of volatile global stock markets? Economists explained this week’s dramatic falls by pinning responsibility on China. They are at pains to assure us this is not 2008 all over again. I beg to disagree. Even though data is not reliable, it appears that China is slowing down. By 2009, the Chinese authorities were embracing the Western economic model that had just brought down much of Western capitalism. Undeterred, they launched a massive credit-fuelled investment programme. Growth soared at 10% per annum. Investment recently peaked at an extraordinary 49% of GDP. Total debt (private and public) rocketed to 250% of GDP – up 100 points since 2008, according to the IMF. Property and other asset markets boomed, as did consumption.

The Chinese should have been warned, for they won accolades from Western economists for their “Goldilocks” economy. China’s stimulus helped keep the global economy afloat in the years following. But there are economic, ecological, social and political limits to a developing country like China continuing to support richer economies. And there are limits to Beijing’s willingness to abandon control and adopt in full the Western neoliberal economic model; the Communist Party has begun intervening. It is this intervention, we are led to believe, that spooked global markets. Yet the real reason for global weakness lies elsewhere – in the Western neoliberal economic model itself, which lay behind the global financial crisis of 2007-9.

Financial and trade liberalisation, privatisation of taxpayer-financed assets, excessive private indebtedness and wage repression constituted an explosive economic formula and blew up the Western banking system. That model has not undergone even superficial change since 2009. On the contrary: economists and financiers used the “shock and awe” generated by the crisis to buttress the model. The crisis had its origins in banks suffering severe bouts of debt intoxication. Like alcohol addicts, they could not be treated effectively until admitting to the problem: the flawed liberal, financial and economic order. Yet neither the private finance sector nor central bankers and their political friends were willing to admit to the cause of the disease. Instead, central bankers rushed to offer life support in the form of QE to private banking systems in the UK, Japan and the US.

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“Although I am a bear of very little brain one thing I have learned is that most investors only realise the economy is in a recession well after it has begun. ”

Albert Edwards: “99.7% Chance We Are Now In A Bear Market” (Zero Hedge)

Over the years, SocGen’s Albert Edwards has repeatedly expressed his skepticism of both the economy and the market (the longest US equity “bull market” since 1945) both propped up by generous central banks injecting liquidity by the tens of trillions (at this point nobody really knows the number now that the ‘black box’ that is China has entered the global “plunge protection” game) and yet never did he have as “conclusive” a call as he does today. As the following note reveals, when looking at one particular indicator, Edwards is now convinced: ‘we are now in a bear market.” First, Edwards looks east, where he finds nothing short of China’s central bank succumbing to the “wealth effect” preservation pressures of its western peers:

After holding firm last weekend and resisting pressure to give the market what it wanted namely a cut in interest rates and the reserve requirement ratio – the PBoC caved in, unable to endure the riot in the equity markets. In giving the markets what they want China is indeed acting like a fully paid up member of the international financial community. I am not thinking here about freeing up their capital account and allowing the renminbi to be more market determined. I?m thinking instead of China?s replicating the failed US policies of ramping up the equity market to boost economic growth, only to then open the monetary flood gates as equity investors turn nasty.

We disagree modestly with this assessment because as we described first on Tuesday, the RRR-cut had much more to do with unlocking $100 billion in much needed funding so that China could continue to intervene in the FX market by dumping a comparable amount of US Treasurys since its August 11 devaluation, something which as we reported earlier today, China itself has also now admitted. But the reason why we do agree, is that while the RRR-cut may have had other “uses of funds”, today’s dramatic intervention by the PBOC in both the stock market, leading to a 5.5% surge in the last hour of trading, as well as a dramatic intervention in the FX market, it is quite clear that the PBOC will do everything in its power once again to prevent any market drops. Edwards, then goes on to observe something which is sure to anger the Keynesians and monetarists out there: no matter how many trillions central banks inject, they will never replace, or override, the most fundamental thing about the economy: the business cycle.

Despite deflation fears washing westward and US implied inflation expectations diving to levels not seen since the 2008 Great Recession, there remains a touching faith that the US is resilient enough to withstand further renminbi devaluation. And if it isn’t, why worry anyway, because QE4 will be around the corner. But let me be as clear as I can: the US authorities CANNOT eliminate the business cycle, however many QE helicopters they send up. The idea that developed economies will decouple from emerging market turmoil is as ridiculous as was the reverse in the first half of 2008. Remember EM and commodities had then de-coupled from the west’s woes until they too also crashed.

Which brings us to the key point – the state of the market, and why for Edwards the signal is already very clear – the bear market has arrived:

Although I am a bear of very little brain one thing I have learned is that most investors only realise the economy is in a recession well after it has begun. The same is true of an equity bear market. We need help before it is too late to react. Hence when Andrew Lapthorne shows that one of his key predictors of a bear market registers a 99.7% probability that we are already in a bear market, there might still be time to act!

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Just about everyone will.

Who Will Be the Bagholders This Time Around? (CH Smith)

Once global assets roll over for good, it’s important to recall that somebody owns these assets all the way down. These owners are called bagholders, as in “left holding the bag.” Those running the rigged casino have to select the bagholders in advance, lest some fat-cat cronies inadvertently get stuck with losses. In China, authorities picked who would be holding the bag when Chinese stocks cratered 40%: yup, the poor banana vendors, retirees, housewives and other newly minted punters who borrowed on margin to play the rigged casino. Corrupt Chinese officials, oil oligarchs and everyone else who overpaid for flats in London, Manhattan, Vancouver, Sydney, etc. will be left holding the bag when to-the-moon prices fall to Earth.

Anyone buying Neil Young’s 2-acre estate in Hawaii for $24 million will be a bagholder. (If nobody buys it at this inflated price, Neil may end up being the bagholder.) Bond funds that bought dicey emerging market debt (Mongolian bonds, anyone?) and didn’t sell at the top are bagholders. Everyone with bonds and stocks in the oil patch who didn’t sell last summer is a bagholder. Everyone holding yuan is a bagholder. Everyone who bought euro-denominated assets when the euro was 1.40 is a bagholder at euro 1.12. Everyone with 401K emerging market equities mutual funds who didn’t sell last summer is a bagholder. Everyone who reckons “buy and hold” will be the winning strategy going forward will be a bagholder.

Anyone buying anything with borrowed money is a bagholder. Leveraging up to buy risk-on assets like Mongolian bonds and homes in vancouver is brilliant in bubbles, but not so brilliant when risk-on turns to risk-off. As the asset’s value drops below the amount borrowed to buy it, the owner becomes a bagholder. Anyone betting China’s GDP is really expanding at 7% and the U.S. economy will grow by 3.7% next quarter is angling to be a bagholder.

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One of many views. My own notion is that too many people believe the Fed is looking out for the US economy, whereas they really look out for banks.

Now’s The Right Time For Yellen To Kill The ‘Greenspan Put’ (MarketWatch)

The Federal Reserve says the timing of its first interest rate hike in nine years depends on the data, but that doesn’t mean the Fed will be digging through the jobs, growth and inflation reports for the all-clear signal. Instead, the Fed will be doing what millions of people have been doing for the past couple of weeks: Watching the stock market. Many investors have assumed that the recent selloffs in markets from Shanghai to New York meant that the Fed definitely won’t pull the trigger on a rate hike at its Sept. 16-17 meeting. Many prominent talking heads – from Suze Orman to Jim Cramer – are explicitly begging the Fed to hold off on higher interest rates as a way to protect stock prices.

It seems they still fervently believe in the “Greenspan put.” They assume that the Fed will always come riding to the rescue of the markets, as Fed Chair Alan Greenspan did so many times. You can’t blame them for believing that, because from 1987 to today, the Fed has reacted to nearly every market hiccough and tantrum by flooding markets with liquidity and reassurances. They’ve given the markets rate cuts, quantitative easing and promises that easy-money policies will continue for a long time, if not forever. This “Greenspan put” means investing in the stock market is a one-way bet. On Wednesday, New York Fed President Bill Dudley seemed to close the door on a September rate hike when he said that, “at this moment,” a rate hike next month no longer seemed as “compelling” as it once did.

Traders in federal funds futures lowered the odds of an increase in September to about 24%, down from about 50% just before the global market selloff intensified last week. But Dudley didn’t take September off the table, as many people have assumed. Indeed, he explicitly said that a September rate hike “could become more compelling by the time of the meeting as we get additional information.” And what sort of additional information would make a rate hike more compelling? Dudley said the Fed is looking at more than the economic data, widening its scope to examine everything that might impact the economic outlook. They are looking at the value of the dollar, the price of commodities, the risk of contagion from Europe, from China, and from emerging markets. And, above all, the U.S. stock market.

I believe the market selloff has made a September rate hike even more compelling than it was before, because it gives Fed Chair Janet Yellen the opportunity she needs to kill the “Greenspan put” once and for all.

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Great pic.

The Emperor Is Naked; Long Live The Emperor (Fiscal Times)

Over at Barclays, economists Michael Gapen and Rob Martin pushed back their rate hike forecast to March 2016. They admit Fed policymakers are “market dependent” and won’t tighten policy in the maw of a stock correction, even as they see “economic activity in the U.S. as solid and justifying modest rate hikes.” Should the market turmoil continue, the rate hike could be pushed past March. Alberto Gallo, head of credit research at RBS, is more direct: “Policymakers responded to the financial crisis with easy monetary policy and low interest rates. The critics — including us — argued against ‘solving a debt crisis with more debt.’ Put differently, we said that QE was necessary, but not sufficient for a recovery. We are now coming to the moment of reckoning: central bankers look naked, and markets have nothing else to believe in.”

Gallo believes an overreliance on excess liquidity has actually hindered capital investment — as companies have focused on debt-funded share buybacks and dividend hikes instead — limiting the global economy’s potential growth rate. Now, contagion from China — lower commodity prices, lower demand, currency volatility — has revealed the structural vulnerabilities. More stimulus, in his words, “could be self-defeating without fiscal and reform support.” As for Fed hike timing, Gallo sees the odds of a September liftoff at just 30%, down from 36% last week, based on futures market pricing. December odds are at 60%. The open question is: Should the Fed delay its rate hike and the People’s Bank of China ease, will stocks actually rebound? Or has the Pavlovian reaction function been broken by a loss of confidence? We’re about to find out.

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The IMF would have to do a 180 on its own sustainability assessment.

IMF Could Contribute A Fifth To Greek Bailout, ESM’s Regling Says (Bloomberg)

The IMF will probably join Greece’s third bailout and might contribute almost a fifth to the €86 billion program, the head of Europe’s financial backstop said. Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Thursday, European Stability Mechanism Managing Director Klaus Regling said “it would make sense” for the fund to use the 16 billion euros it didn’t pay out to Greece during the second bailout, which expired at the end of June. “Up to 16 billion is something I could imagine,” Regling said. “I assume with a large probability that the IMF will contribute,” though less than the third it contributed to Greece’s bailout five years ago, he said.

Regling is expressing optimism on the IMF’s participation even after Managing Director Christine Lagarde said debt relief for cash-strapped Greece must go “well beyond what has been considered so far.” The IMF has accepted the euro-region view that Greece’s debt load as a percentage of its economy isn’t a proper debt sustainability gauge as long as bond redemptions and interest payments are largely suspended thanks to the financial support, Regling said. Greece’s gross financing need will be below 15% of GDP for a decade, he said. Maturities on outstanding Greek debt can be extended and interest rates lowered to a “certain” degree to achieve the debt easing demanded by the IMF, while a nominal haircut for public creditors is not on the agenda, Regling said. One “needn’t do a whole lot” to help Greece meet the revised debt sustainability requirement, he said.

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Europe-wide will not get you anywhere.

Yanis Varoufakis: ‘I’m Not Going To Take Part In Sad Elections’ (Reuters)

Yanis Varoufakis will not take part in “sad” elections expected next month in Greece and will instead focus on setting up a new movement to “restore democracy” across Europe, the former Greek finance minister told Reuters on Thursday. The combative, motorbike-riding academic was sacked as finance minister last month after alienating euro zone counterparts with his lecturing style and divisive words, hampering Greece’s efforts to secure a bailout from partners. The one-time political rock star has since steadily attacked the bailout programme that prime minister Alexis Tsipras subsequently signed up to and the austerity policies that go with it, rebelling against his former boss in parliament.

“I’m not going to take part in these sad elections,” Mr Varoufakis told Reuters by telephone when asked about the vote likely to be held on September 20th. Mr Tsipras’s Syriza party, which hopes to return to power with a strengthened mandate, says it will not allow Mr Varoufakis and others who voted against the bailout to run for parliament under the Syriza ticket anyway. “Not only him but other lawmakers who did not back the bailout will not be part of the ticket,” a party official said. Mr Tsipras has poured scorn on Mr Varoufakis, telling Alpha TV on Wednesday that he had realised in June that “Varoufakis was talking but nobody paid any attention to him” at the height of Greece’s negotiations with IMF and EU lenders.

“They had switched off, they didn’t listen to what he was saying,” Mr Tsipras said. “He didn’t say anything bad but he had lost his credibility among his interlocutors.” Mr Varoufakis, in turn, likened Mr Tsipras to the mythical Sisyphus condemned to push a rock uphill only to have it roll back down, telling Australia’s ABC Radio the prime minister had embarked on “pushing the same rock of austerity up the hill” against the laws of economics and ethical principles. The 54-year-old Mr Varoufakis has already dismissed speculation that he would join the far-left Popular Unity party that broke away from Syriza last week, telling ABC that he had “great sympathy” but fundamental differences with them and considered their stance “isolationist”.

Instead, he told Reuters he wanted to set up a European network aimed at restoring democracy that could eventually become a party, but at the moment was just an idea that he had seen a lot of support for. “Instead of having national parties that run on a national level it will be a European network which is active on a national level,” he said. “It’s not something immediate. It’s something slow-burning … something that gradually grows roots across Europe.”

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Hunderds die every day now. Blame Brussels.

For Those Trying to Reach Safety in Europe, Land can be as Deadly as Sea (HRW)

More gruesome details will undoubtedly emerge, but we already know enough to be horrified: Up to 50 people died in what were surely agonizing deaths, locked in a truck parked on an Austrian highway, leading to Vienna. That so many should die in a single episode, so close to a European capital where ministers are meeting to discuss migration in the Western Balkans, has made this international news. But the land route into the European Union trekked by migrants and asylum seekers has claimed thousands of victims over the years. In March, two Iraqi men died of hypothermia at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. In April, 14 Somalis and Afghans were killed by a high-speed train in Macedonia as they walked along the tracks. Last November, a 45-day-old baby died with his father on those same tracks.

While deaths in the Mediterranean capture much of the attention, the list of those who have died of suffocation, dehydration, and exposure to the elements at land borders is unconscionably long. One count puts the overall death toll at EU borders at more than 30,000 since 2000. The smugglers directly responsible for deaths and abuse should be brought to justice. Ill-treatment by border guards and police in Macedonia and Serbia adds to the perils of the journey. But there’s lots of blame to spread around. Failed EU policies, which place an unfair burden on countries at its frontiers, and Greece’s inability to handle the numbers of migrants, have contributed to the crisis at EU borders.

Instead of erecting fences, as Hungary is, the EU should expand safe and legal alternatives for people seeking entry, especially those fleeing persecution and conflict. This means increasing refugee resettlement, facilitating access to family reunification, and developing programs for providing humanitarian visas. It also requires EU governments to meet their legal obligations to provide access to asylum and humane conditions for those already present. EU countries should step up to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in debt-stricken Greece, where 160,000 migrants have arrived since the start of the year. The umbrella group European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) has called for EU countries to relocate 70,000 asylum seekers from Greece within a year, double the insufficient relocation numbers agreed by governments for both Greece and Italy in July.

Many of those traveling along the Western Balkans route and into Austria are from Syria, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan – countries experiencing war or generalized violence. Others are hoping to improve their economic prospects and the lives of their children. None of them deserve to be exploited, abused, or to die.

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Aug 262015
 
 August 26, 2015  Posted by at 11:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Russell Lee Sharecropper mother teaching children in home, Transylvania, LA. Jan 1939

China Stocks Slump as Rate Cut Fails to Stop $5 Trillion Rout (Bloomberg)
US Stock Rally Fails; Day Ends With Vicious Selloff (MarketWatch)
Bubbles Don’t Correct, They BURST! (Harry Dent)
Why China Had To Crash Part 1 (Steve Keen)
Why Worries About China Make Sense (Martin Wolf)
China Cuts Rates To Stem Crisis, But Doubts Grow On Foreign Reserve Buffer (AEP)
The Most Surprising Thing About China’s RRR Cut (Zero Hedge)
China’s Journey from New Normal to Stock Market Crisis Epicenter (Bloomberg)
A Warning on China Seems Prescient: Ken Rogoff (Andrew Ross Sorkin)
China Meltdown Leaves Global Carmakers Burned (Bloomberg)
Chinese Central Banker Blames Fed For Market Rout (Xinhua)
Chinese Authorities Escalate Blame Game as Stock Slide Worsens (Bloomberg)
The Undocumented Italian Government (M5S Senate)
Europe’s Religious War on Debt Must Be Overcome, French EconMin Says (Bloomberg)
What Germany Can Learn From LBJ (Denis Macshane)
Our Athens Spring (Yanis Varoufakis)
Saudi Arabia Seeks Advice on Budget Cuts in Wake of Oil Crash (Bloomberg)
Balkan States Snub Greece In Talks On Immigration (Kath.)
Merkel Tells Germans Refugee Crisis Is Unworthy of Europe (Bloomberg)

It doesn’t matter what they do anymore.

China Stocks Slump as Rate Cut Fails to Stop $5 Trillion Rout (Bloomberg)

China’s stocks extended the steepest five-day drop since 1996 in volatile trading as lower interest rates failed to halt a $5 trillion rout. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.3% to 2,927.29 at the close, after rising as much as 4.3% and declining 3.9%. The cuts in borrowing costs and lenders’ reserve ratios were announced hours after the benchmark measure closed with a 7.6% drop on Tuesday. Chinese equities have lost half their value since mid-June, as margin traders closed out bullish bets and concern deepened that valuations are unjustified by the weak economic outlook. The government has halted intervention in the equity market this week as policy makers debate the merits of an unprecedented rescue, according to people familiar with the situation.

“The prevailing sentiment is still that investors want to cash out, whatever the government does,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital International in Hong Kong. “Confidence is already damaged. Doubts over the effectiveness of policies are getting bigger. The market will remain under selling pressure for a while.” The People’s Bank of China said it will cut the one-year lending rate by 25 basis points to 4.6% and lower the required reserve ratio by 50 basis points for all banks. The move, which follows the biggest devaluation of the yuan in two decades earlier this month, comes amid signs of decelerating growth for the world’s second-biggest economy.

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Weird moves both in the US and China the morning after.

US Stock Rally Fails; Day Ends With Vicious Selloff (MarketWatch)

In a dramatic reversal to a morning rally, U.S. stocks relinquished all of their opening gains, and then some, to finish with sharp losses. The main indexes began trimming gains in afternoon trade, falling into negative territory ahead of the closing bell as selling accelerated in the final hour. “We would have preferred stocks open flat and rally into the close. Today’s action is not a good news for those who were expecting a V-shaped recovery,” said Michael Antonelli, equity sales trader at R.W Baird & Co. “Unlike the pullback last October, this correction has a serious tone to it — there are serious global growth issues that are not going to be resolved any time soon. We expect the correction to last longer,” Antonelli added.

Trading on Wall Street remained volatile, with the CBOE Volatility index VIX, otherwise known as the Wall Street’s fear gauge, trading at 36, the highest level since 2011. The S&P 500 turned big gains into losses and closed down 25.59 points, or 1.4%, at 1,867.61. Utilities and telecoms saw the biggest losses. The benchmark index is firmly in correction territory, having fallen 12% from its peak reached on May 21. On a%age basis, Tuesday’s move marked the largest swing in the index, before closing negative, since October 2008 during the financial crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average which at session highs was up more than 400 points, ended with a loss of 204.91 points, or 1.3%, at 15,666.44. The Nasdaq Composite ended the day down 19.76 points, or 0.4% at 4,506.49.

“The kind of volatility we saw over the past week is normal historically. This is what risk premium means,” said Colleen Supran, a principal at San Francisco-based Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough. “We don’t know whether the correction is over or not, but usually when volatility picks up, it gains momentum,” Supran said.

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And don’t you forget it.

Bubbles Don’t Correct, They BURST! (Harry Dent)

We’re not the least bit unclear about why this unprecedented stimulus has only created mediocre 2% growth and little to no inflation. It’s turned into one big game of “Whack-a-Mole” with the economy. They take one bubble burst, whack it with massive money creation, and then create the next bubble, wait for it to burst, and whack that one too. What they can’t seem to get through their heads is – you can’t keep a bubble going forever! We had the stock bubble in 1987, the tech bubble of early 2000, the real estate bubble in early 2006, another stock bubble into 2007, oil in mid-2008, gold in mid-2011 – and now, a final stock bubble into 2015. They’ve all burst, or are still bursting!

Oil’s down more than 65% from its secondary peak in 2011 and was down 80% from its all-time high in 2008. Gold’s down 40% from its 2011 high. Bubbles typically crash 70% to 80% before they fully deleverage. But when they burst, they usually kick off with a 20% to 50% slide right out the gate – most often within a matter of months. Oil will keep falling – likely to $32 in the next month or so, crushing the fracking industry, and obliterating economies in the Middle East, Russia, and even Canada. At the rate it’s been falling –$38 now – $32 is probably a conservative estimate! We’ll see what John Kilduff, the oil guru for CNBC, says at our Irrational Economic Summit in two weeks. I’ve been predicting for many years that oil will eventually hit $10 to $20. How will the frackers survive that? Simple: They won’t!

China’s stock market will also keep crashing – it’s already down 42%. When it does, its real estate will follow – with devastating consequences to real estate in the U.S. and the globe. And over the next several years, we’ll see the greatest global crash in real estate in modern history. Even if stocks manage one more rally, there’s no avoiding the economic landmines all over. Over the last few trading days, we’ve seen how investors react to poor economic news. The truth is that the markets are finally getting what we’ve been saying about the vicious cycle of China slowing. It hurts commodity prices and crushes emerging countries. No kidding!

When this bubble economy fueled through zero interest rates and endless QE finally does burst, it will only be worse. This whole ordeal has taken longer than we would have initially expected from history. But it was unprecedented that central banks would come together on a global scale to fight a natural bubble-burst cycle with such massive money printing.

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Private debt.

Why China Had To Crash Part 1 (Steve Keen)

In this post I consider the economy in general: I’ll cover asset markets in particular in the next column, but you’ll need to understand today’s post to comprehend the stock and property market dynamics at play. Having said that, the Shanghai Index fell another 7.5% on Tuesday, after losing 8.5% on Monday, and is now down over 45% from its peak—so I’ll try to write the stock-market-specific post by tomorrow. In this post I’ll show, very simply, why a slowdown in the rate of growth of private debt will cause a crisis, if both the level and the rate of change of debt are high at the time of the slowdown. Engineers should find this argument easy to understand and informative, but tedious to read because the logic is so obvious. Economists are probably going to find it almost impossible to comprehend, clearly wrong, and they will probably be enraged by it.

So who should you trust if you’re neither? Firstly, think of how often you successfully trust engineers every time you operate a domestic appliance, hop in your car, drive over a bridge, or fly between continents. Then think how often you have unsuccessfully trusted economists (when I’m asked socially what I do for a living, I describe myself as an “anti-economist”—before I elaborate that I am a Professor of Economics but regard the dominant school of thought in economics as dangerously deluded). Finally, work out which profession you’d rather trust if the two groups disagree—even when we’re talking just economics. OK, preliminaries over. Now for the logic.

Demand is strictly monetary: there is some barter, but in the vast majority of cases, purchases of both goods and assets requires money. And there are two main private sources of money: you can either spend money you already have, or you can borrow from a bank. When you borrow from a bank, you increase your spending power without reducing anybody else’s: the bank records a new asset on one side of its ledger (the debt you now owe to the bank) and a new liability (the additional amount of money in your deposit account). When you spend that borrowed money, it becomes income for someone else. So total expenditure and income in our economy is the sum of the turnover of existing money, plus the change in private debt (I’m leaving the government and external sectors out of the argument for now).

Mainstream economists will already be screaming at this point, because they believe in a fallacious model of money called “Loanable Funds” in which banks are just intermediaries and lending is a transfer of money between savers and lenders. They continue to believe this model even though the Bank of England has said very loudly that it is wrong. Engineers should be waiting for stage two of the argument (the full mathematical argument will be published in the Review of Keynesian Economics in October).

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“If they are worried enough to bet on such a forlorn hope, the rest of us should worry, too.”

Why Worries About China Make Sense (Martin Wolf)

I am neither intelligent enough to understand the behaviour of “Mr Market” — the manic-depressive dreamt up by investment guru, Benjamin Graham — nor foolish enough to believe I do. But he has surely been in a depressive phase. Behind this seem to be concerns about China. Is Mr Market right to be anxious? In brief, yes. One must distinguish between what is worth worrying about and what is not. The decline of the Chinese stock market is in the second category. What is worth worrying about is the scale of the task confronting the Chinese authorities against their apparent inability to deal well with the bursting of a mere stock market bubble. Stock markets have indeed been correcting, with the Chinese market in the lead. Between its peak in June and Tuesday, the Shanghai index fell by 43%.

Yet the Chinese stock market remains 50% higher than in early 2014. The implosion of the second Chinese stock market bubble within a decade still seems unfinished. The Chinese market is not a normal one. Even more than most markets, this is a casino in which each player hopes to find a “greater fool” on whom to offload overpriced chips before it is too late. Such a market is bound to be extremely volatile. But its vagaries should tell one little about the wider Chinese economy. Nevertheless, events in the Chinese market are of wider significance in two related ways. One is that the Chinese authorities decided to stake substantial resources and even their political authority on their (unsurprisingly unsuccessful) effort to stop the bubble’s collapse. The other is that they must have been driven to do so by concern over the economy.

If they are worried enough to bet on such a forlorn hope, the rest of us should worry, too. Nor is this the only way in which the behaviour of the Chinese authorities gives reason for concern. The other was the decision to devalue the renminbi on August 11. In itself this, too, is an unimportant event, with a cumulative devaluation against the US dollar of just 2.8% so far. But it has significant implications. The Chinese authorities want room to slash interest rates, as happened this Tuesday. Again, that underlines their concerns about the health of the economy. Another possible implication is that Beijing might seek a revival of export-led growth. I find this hard to believe, since the global consequences would be devastating.

But it is reasonable at least to worry about this destabilising possibility. A last possible implication is that the Chinese authorities are preparing to tolerate capital flight. If so, the US would be hoist by its own petard. Washington has sought capital account liberalisation by China. It might then have to tolerate a destabilising short-term consequence: a weakening renminbi.

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After the foreign reserves, la deluge!

China Cuts Rates To Stem Crisis, But Doubts Grow On Foreign Reserve Buffer (AEP)

China has injected $100bn of liquidity into the country’s financial system and cut interest rates to records lows in a “shock-and-awe” bid to restore confidence, but worries persist that even this may not be enough to avert a crunch as capital flight surges. The move came as the authorities abandoned their futile efforts to shore up the stock market, allowing the Shanghai Composite index of equities to plummet by a further 7.6pc on Tuesday. It has tumbled by 22pc in the past four trading days. Mark Williams from Capital Economics said Beijing has made a strategic decision to let the stock market find its own level after the fiasco of recent weeks, switching stimulus instead to the broader economy. The central bank (PBOC) cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for lenders by 50 basis points to 18pc, freeing up roughly $100bn of fresh funds.

It also cut the one-year lending rate by 25 points to 4.6pc. Mr Williams said the combined cuts are rare and amount to a dose of “shock and awe” in Chinese policy language. “It is a statement that policymakers mean business,” he said. Wei Yao from Societe Generale said the RRR cut was “absolutely necessary” to stop liquidity drying up and to reverse the passive tightening over recent weeks caused by capital outflows. It may not be enough to add any net stimulus to the economy. “Liquidity conditions are still under immense pressure,” she said. The PBOC has intervened heavily on the exchange markets to defend the yuan, drawing down reserves at a blistering pace. The unwanted side-effect is to tighten monetary policy. It is a textbook case of why it can be so difficult for a country to deploy foreign reserves – however large on paper – in a recessionary downturn.

The great unknown is exactly how much money has been leaving the country since the PBOC stunned markets by ditching its dollar exchange peg on August 11, and in doing so set off a global crash. Some reports suggest that the PBOC has already burned through $200bn in reserves since then. If so, this would require a much bigger cut in the RRR just to maintain a neutral setting. Wei Yao said the strategy of the Chinese authorities is unworkable in the long run. If they keep trying to defend the exchange rate, they will continue to bleed reserves and will have to keep cutting the RRR in lockstep just to prevent further tightening. They may let the currency go, but that too is potentially dangerous. She said China can use up another $900bn before hitting safe limits under the IMF’s standard metric for developing states.

“The PBOC’s war chest is sizeable, but not unlimited. It is not a good idea to keep at this battle of currency stabilisation for too long,” she said. Citigroup has also warned that China’s reserves – still the world’s largest at $3.65 trillion but falling fast – are not as overwhelming as they appear, given the levels of short-term external debt. The border line would be $2.6 trillion. “There are reasons to question the robustness of China’s reserves adequacy. By emerging market standards China’s reserves adequacy is low: only South Africa, Czech Republic and Turkey have lower scores in the group of countries we examined,” it said.

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Epitomizing ‘pushing on a string’.

The Most Surprising Thing About China’s RRR Cut (Zero Hedge)

[..] how does one reconcile China’s reported detachment from manipulating the stock market having failed to prop it up with the interest rate cut announcement this morning. The missing piece to the puzzle came from a report by SocGen’s Wai Yao, who first summarized the total liquidity addition impact from today’s rate hike as follows “the total amount of liquidity injected will be close to CNY700bn, or $106bn based on today’s onshore exchange rate.” And then she explained just why the PBOC was desperate to unlock this amount of liquidity: it had nothing to do with either the stock market, nor the economy, and everything to do with the PBOC’s decision from two weeks ago to devalue the Yuan. To wit:

In perspective, the PBoC may have sold more official FX reserves than this amount since the currency regime change on 11 August.

Said otherwise, SocGen is suggesting that China has sold $106 billion in Treasurys in the past 2 weeks! And there is the punchline. It explains why the PBOC did not cut rates over the weekend as everyone expected, which resulted in a combined 16% market rout on Monday and Tuesday – after all, the PBOC understands very well what the trade off to waiting was, and it still delayed until today by which point the carnage in local stocks was too much. Great enough in fact for China to not have eased if stabilizing the market was not a key consideration.

In other words, today’s RRR cut has little to do with net easing considerations, with the market, or the economy, and everything to do with a China which is suddenly dumping a record amount of reserves as it scrambles to stabilize the Yuan, only this time in the open market!

The battle to stabilise the currency has had a significant tightening effect on domestic liquidity conditions. If the PBoC wants to stabilise currency expectations for good, there are only two ways to achieve this: complete FX flexibility or zero FX flexibility. At present, the latter is also increasingly unviable, since the capital account is much more open. Therefore, the PBoC has merely to keep selling FX reserves until it lets go.

And since it can’t let go now that it has started off on this path, or rather it can but only if it pulls a Swiss National Bank and admit FX intervention defeat, the one place where the PBOC can find the required funding to continue the FX war is via such moves as RRR cuts.

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I don’t see how Bloomberg can provide a viable assessment of China while continuing to quote a 7% GDP growth rate for Q1 2015.

China’s Journey from New Normal to Stock Market Crisis Epicenter (Bloomberg)

“When the wind of change blows, some build walls while others build windmills.” In late January, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shared that proverb with global leaders in a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. China was in windmill mode, committed to structural reform “no matter how difficult.” The “new normal” called for more moderate, consumer-led growth. The financial system would be modernized and the country aimed to shift away from its excessive reliance on debt-fueled, infrastructure-powered growth that had led to industrial overcapacity and an epic credit bubble. Better still, the makeover would be pulled off smoothly: “What I want to emphasize is that regional or systemic financial crisis will not happen in China, and the Chinese economy will not head for a hard landing,” Li said.

Roughly seven months later, China finds itself at the epicenter of a global stock market rout that has vaporized $8 trillion in wealth. Nobody is quite sure whether the world’s No. 2 economy is really growing at 7%, as official figures suggest, or 6% — or actually careening toward a hard landing. Authorities are now quietly rolling out China’s biggest stimulus effort since the 2008 global financial crisis in an effort to put a floor under a weakening economy. Interest rates have been cut to record lows, banks are being encouraged to lend and new infrastructure spending is being rolled out. The confidence Li exuded in January has given way to policy zig-zags and mixed messages about the commitment of President Xi Jinping’s government to reform.

The tale of how Chinese leaders have dealt with decelerating growth, debt pressures, a stock market crash and its sudden currency shift is instructive for investors, executives and policy makers puzzled by the trajectory of this all-important, $10 trillion economy. It didn’t take long for economic trouble to surface. In April, Li met a group of local government officials in Changchun, the capital city of Jilin province that shares a border with North Korea. Li, 60, wanted to take the pulse of the region’s economy – and the news wasn’t encouraging. Known as China’s rust belt due to its state-dominated heavy industry and manufacturing sector, Jilin was among the worst performing economies in the country. It grew at 5.8% during the year’s first three months compared with 7% for the national economy. Neighboring Heilongjiang province grew by 4.8% and Liaoning by 1.9%.

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The ‘real’ media recognize only the ‘real’ experts when it comes to these things. It makes no difference what I’ve said about China through the years. But that does say something about everyone involved.

A Warning on China Seems Prescient: Ken Rogoff (Andrew Ross Sorkin)

[..] Mr. Rogoff is not the first person to identify China as a potential risk. Earlier this year, this column highlighted the views of Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Treasury secretary and a Sinophile, who said, “Frankly, it’s not a question of if, but when, China’s financial system will face a reckoning and have to contend with a wave of credit losses and debt restructurings.” And the hedge fund manager James Chanos has been sounding the alarm on China for years, recently declaring, “Whatever you might think, it’s worse.” There are, of course, significant political reasons China needs to convince the world and its own citizens that it can manage its convulsing financial markets and slowing economy.

“Financial meltdown leads to a social meltdown, which leads to a political meltdown,” Mr. Rogoff said. “That’s the real fear.” Mr. Rogoff pointed to another factor that has contributed to China’s financial woes. “The crisis in Tianjin fed into the mix,” he said, referring to the deadly explosion on Aug. 12 in the port city, which killed more than 100 people. Mr. Rogoff said the explosion had undermined the credibility of the Chinese government because so many questions remained unanswered, and the response had been inadequate. So does Mr. Rogoff believe that China is headed for a terrible “hard landing” that will lead to a global recession?

Well, despite the market tumult and his persistent warnings, Mr. Rogoff says he believes that the last several weeks have raised the prospects of a meaningful crisis. But with China’s trillions of dollars in reserves, he thinks the country may have sufficient tools to prevent a calamity that spreads across the globe — at least for now. “If you had to bet,” Mr. Rogoff said, “you’d still bet they’d pull it out.”

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All together to the bottom of the pond.

China Meltdown Leaves Global Carmakers Burned (Bloomberg)

When a chemical warehouse in Tianjin, China, exploded this month, destroying some 10,000 parked vehicles, cynics suggested that the disaster might actually be for the best, given the massive glut of unsold cars sitting on Chinese lots. Yet with the turmoil in China’s stock markets continuing to pummel the troubled auto sector, it seems that any true industry correction will require a considerably larger explosion. The situation leaves the world’s biggest automakers torn between their desire for short-term dominance in China and the need for a painful correction to stabilize the world’s largest car market for them. There is no understating the importance of China to the big car producers: With only 106 cars per 1,000 Chinese right now, analysts say demand still has the potential to exceed 35 million units by 2020.

Yet rising inventories have been putting pressure on new-car dealers, resulting in severe price-cutting and open rebellion between the China Automobile Dealers Association and manufacturers late last year. By last month, when China’s stock market began melting down, import car dealers were facing as much as 143 days of supply. With new car sales falling nearly 7% in July and headed toward their first net-negative year in recent memory, it seems likely that oversupply will haunt China’s auto market for the foreseeable future. Global automakers have begun responding by cutting production at existing plants, and Toyota has extended production stoppages at its Tianjin joint venture.

An index of 23 major Chinese automotive joint ventures shows they are operating plants at less than full capacity for the first time ever. (The Chinese government mandates that all foreign investors have domestic joint partners.) The two biggest foreign players, GM and Volkswagen, have also slashed prices in hopes of turbocharging demand. But the effectiveness of these moves will depend on how large of a hole the automakers have dug for themselves. It seems pretty clear that Volkswagen has been overstating its Chinese sales numbers by booking 60,000 to 100,000 vehicles per year as “unsold deliveries.” In the race to dominate Chinese and global sales rankings, automakers seem to have been delivering cars without buyers, potentially creating an oversupply time-bomb.

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And every other party too. Everyone but Xi and Li.

Chinese Central Banker Blames Fed For Market Rout (Xinhua)

A researcher with China’s central bank on Tuesday blamed wide expectation of a Fed rate rise in September for the global market rout. Yao Yudong, head of the People’s Bank of China’s Research Institute of Finance, said the expected Fed rate hike next month had been the “trigger” for the wild market swings. Analysts worried that the Fed rate hike could accelerate the plunge of U.S. stocks and trigger a sell-off of assets worldwide and even a new global credit crisis. Yao said the Fed should remain patient before the U.S. inflation reaches 2%. Earlier, analysts said the devaluation of Chinese currency the Renminbi triggered the plunge and the weakening of bulk commodities and currencies in other countries.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank 7.63% to close at 2,964.97 points on Tuesday. It has lost 26% in the past six trading days. Overnight, the Dow tumbled 588 points, or 3.58%, to 15,871, after sliding more than 1,000 points, or 6% at the opening. Li Qilin, analyst with Minsheng Securities, said the small devaluation of Renminbi could have slightly weighed on stock markets, but it could not explain the huge sell-off in the United States and other countries. Li said the liquidity crunch is a bigger culprit. The global rout has little to do with economic fundamentals and the Asian financial crisis would not be repeated, Capital Economics said in a research note. But it said if the market plunge continues worldwide, the Fed might postpone its rate hike.

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“In fact, they have to be responsible for the market crisis. It’s the authorities trying to act like a referee and a player at the same time.”

Chinese Authorities Escalate Blame Game as Stock Slide Worsens (Bloomberg)

Faced with a renewed stock market slide that has wiped out $5 trillion in trading value, China is again on the prowl for scapegoats. Authorities announced a probe of allegations of market malpractice involving the stocks regulator on Tuesday, while the official Xinhua News Agency called for efforts to “purify” the capital markets. The news service also carried remarks by a central bank researcher attributing the global rout to an expected Federal Reserve rate increase. The Shanghai Composite Index has plunged more than 40% from its peak, after concerns over the Chinese economy helped snap a months-long rally encouraged by state-run media. Authorities have repeatedly blamed market manipulators and foreign forces since the sell off began in June and led officials to launch an unprecedented stocks-support program.

Now, after suspending that program, the administration has embarked on a new round of allegations and fault-finding. “The authorities have been too involved in the stock market and now they’re trying to pass the responsibilities to others,” said Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “In fact, they have to be responsible for the market crisis. It’s the authorities trying to act like a referee and a player at the same time.” Police are investigating people connected to the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Citic Securities and Caijing magazine on suspicion of offenses including illegal securities trading and spreading false information, Xinhua reported. They’re probing suspects linked to the CSRC, including a former employee, over insider trading and forging official document stamps, Xinhua said.

Eight people at Citic Securities are suspected of illegal securities trading and the Caijing employees are under investigation for allegedly fabricating and spreading fake stock and futures trading information. Citic Securities said Wednesday in a statement posted to the Shanghai stock exchange that it hasn’t received notice related to the report and said the company’s operating as normal. Caijing in a statement Wednesday confirmed a reporter had been summoned by police. The magazine said it didn’t know the reason and would cooperate with authorities. Meanwhile, Xinhua published a commentary urging stricter enforcement to cleanse the markets. “We have reason to believe that more criminals and their hidden crimes will be exposed,” it said. “We also believe judicial departments will investigate thoroughly and impose punishments no matter who is involved in crimes.”

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Who rules Italy?

Undocumented Italian Government (M5S Senate)

Yesterday, those in command in Europe gave our President of the Council a resounding slap in the face to remind him of his duties: The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the French President Francoise Hollande, spoke out at the end of a bilateral meeting discussing immigration and they asked the Italian government to apply “the EU law in relation to asylum.” Thus they were pointing out that the current government is just not doing that. In fact the premier has shown himself to be completely incapable of managing the immigration phenomenon. Merkel and Hollande are asking Italy to “open up new registration centres for immigrants so that it will then be possible to take precise decisions” as regards requests for political asylum.

Whereas, right now, a great number of people arriving in Italy are not being registered and identified, and this is creating an unmanageable situation as well as a really serious danger for internal security. A reprimand that sounds like the Italian government is getting its knuckles rapped, a humiliating gesture that reminds us of those famous little smiles from Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy in 2011 in relation to the permier at that time, Silvio Berlusconi, and for an Italy that, because of him, was not considered to be a credible interlocutor.
Now, as then, Italy is not considered to be up to the challenge and the premier, just like Berlusconi before him, is being humiliated by France and Germany in press conferences.

On the other hand, the failure of the Italian government is visible to everyone: the management of immigrants has been shown to be a rich business opportunity for the Mafias, as heard in the telephone intercepts of conversations with Salvatore Buzzi and the investigation into “Cara di Mineo”, the biggest immigrant reception centre in the whole of Europe, and even though the M5S has made many requests on this issue, the government has still not given any responses. Thanks to the premier, we find we have another immigration emergency that is uncontrolled to such an extent that it brings shame on the country, and just as at the time of the Berlusconi government, it is berated by the good and the great in Europe.

How long does Italy have to go on being subjected to this sort of humiliation? And when will it finally get the Dublin Regulation re-discussed? Because it’s clear that anyone arriving in Italy needs to be identified, but it’s equally clear that there should then be a quota system to allocate people to different countries in Europe – and this has been forcefully requested by the M5S.

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Division in the ranks.

Europe’s Religious War on Debt Must Be Overcome, French EconMin Says (Bloomberg)

Europe must end its “religious war” over debt, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said. Macron outlined his approach to the euro area’s financial woes at a conference of German diplomats Tuesday, pitting what he termed debt-scolding Calvinists against over-indulgent Catholics. The two factions mirror the perceived rough divide between German-led budget disciplinarians in the north and Europe’s more indebted Mediterranean south. Speaking in Berlin, Macron at first needled the Calvinists with an articulation of a rigid view of debt. “Some people, some member states, failed,” Macron said in English. “They didn’t respect their commitments. They have to pay it till the end of their life.”

On the opposite end are the Catholics, “definitely France is on this side,” with an arguably more sanguine perspective on profligacy, Macron said. “We failed, but we go to church, we explain the situation and we can start another week the day after,” he said. The 21st-century version of the religious schism comes a month after German-backed austerity in the latest Greek crisis prevailed over calls by France and like-minded euro-area member states to ease off on the policy. “Probably, we have to find the balance between these two approaches,” Macron said in the speech, which was punctuated by calls for Franco-German unity, at times in German.

Five centuries after the Protestant Reformation plunged Europe into religious conflict and seven decades after the end of World War II, Macron said the entrenched positions on economic and fiscal policy pose the biggest barrier to genuine unity today. The result is discord at the conference table in Brussels, with Calvinists predestined to favor tighter budgets and Catholics offering forgiveness for rule-breaking — “with this kind of step-by-step approach, finding a solution, but at the last moment,” Macron said. Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Lutheran pastor’s daughter, has consistently advocated a “step-by-step” approach to solving the euro area’s debt crisis focused on austerity and economic overhauls.

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Be nice. Every leader’s first requirement.

What Germany Can Learn From LBJ (Denis Macshane)

The point is not whether this or that particular charge raised against Germany is on target — or justified. What matters is that it is being leveled at all. U.S. Democrats, at the time of their pursuit of the American war in Vietnam, had some reason to feel unjustifiably targeted. After all, it took some chutzpah on the part of France’s de Gaulle to advance all those charges against Washington. It was an act of astounding arrogance on the part of the president in Paris! Vietnam had landed like a hot potato in the lap of the Americans, who — if anything — had stumbled into this French post-colonial minefield far too naïvely. Still, LBJ held the line. He resisted the temptation to give back in kind, an example that Wolfgang Schäuble should take to heart.

LBJ would not have patronized or sneered at Yanis Varoufakis, Schäuble’s former Greek counterpart. That Schäuble did just serves to show that the German finance minister, despite his long experience in politics, still has some lessons to learn. True leaders just don’t retort in kind. For all their obsessing about Greece, Germans need to properly consider larger issues as well. This may still be somewhat unfamiliar territory for them, given that their leadership role in Europe is still a new-ish thing. In that context, consider this latest development: The eurozone’s disastrous handling of the Greek crisis plays right into the hands of Brexit proponents in the U.K.. The heavily anti-EU Chancellor in the early 1990s, Norman Lamont, is now Varoufakis’ new best friend. He regales anybody and everybody in the U.K. with arguments for why the eurozone cannot work.

For more effect, Lamont also reminds everybody of his conviction that the German bullies are back in business (just as they were in 1992, when the U.K. was expelled from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism). Not one to be left behind, Britain’s Labour party may be poised to elect a leader who is very anti-eurozone in discipline. For the first time since 1950, being anti-German is fashionable in British political discourse again. This is not all poor Wolfgang Schäuble’s fault — far from it. All I can say, as a friend of Germany (and of the Greek people), as well as someone who does not want the U.K. to quit Europe, is that I am very worried. I find no language emanating from Berlin that is reassuring. And yet, reassuring others in moments of crisis, and showing at least a modicum of magnanimity toward those in serious trouble, is precisely what a leading nation must do.

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“If it is true that elections cannot change anything, we should be honest to our citizens and tell them that. ”

Our Athens Spring (Yanis Varoufakis)

When in my first Eurogroup meeting, back in February, I suggested to finance ministers a compromise between the existing Troika Austerity Program and our newly elected government’s reform agenda, Michel Sapin took the floor to agree with me – to argue eloquently in favour of common ground between the past and the future, between the Troika program and our new government’s election manifesto which the Greek people had just endorsed. Germany’s finance minister immediately intervened: “Elections cannot change anything!”, he said. “If every time there is an election the rules change, the Eurozone cannot function.”

Taking the floor again, I replied that, given the way our Union was designed (very, very badly!), maybe Dr Schauble had a point. But I added: “If it is true that elections cannot change anything, we should be honest to our citizens and tell them that. Maybe we should amend Europe’s Treaties and insert into them a clause that suspends the democratic process in countries forced to borrow from the Troika. That suspends elections till the Troika decides they can be held again. Why should we put our people through the rituals of costly elections if elections cannot change anything? But”, I asked my fellow ministers, “is this what Europe has come to colleagues? Is this what our people have signed up to?” Come to think of it, this admission would be the best gift ever to the Communist Party of China which also believes elections are a dangerous complication getting in the way of efficient government.

Of course they are wrong. As Churchill said, democracy is a terrible system. But it is the best of all alternatives, in terms of its long-term economic efficiency too. A frozen silence followed for a few seconds in the Eurogroup. No one, not even the usually abrasive Mr Djisselbloem, could find something to say until some Eastern European colleague broke the silence with another incantation from the Troika’s Austerity Book of Psalms. From the corner of my eye I could see Michel Sapin looking desolate. I was reminded of something he had said to me in Paris, when we first met at his office: “France is not what it used to be.”

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Here’s some advice: Run for your lives, House of Saud.

Saudi Arabia Seeks Advice on Budget Cuts in Wake of Oil Crash (Bloomberg)

Saudi Arabia is seeking advice on how to cut billions of dollars from next year’s budget because of the slump in crude prices, according to two people familiar with the matter. The government is working with advisers on a review of capital spending plans and may delay or shrink some infrastructure projects to save money, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The government is in the early stages of the review and could look at cutting investment spending, estimated to be about 382 billion riyals ($102 billion) this year, by about 10% or more, the people said. Current spending on areas such as public sector salaries wouldn’t be affected, the people said.

The Arab world’s largest economy is expected to post a budget deficit of almost 20% of gross domestic product this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. With income from oil accounting for about 90% of revenue, a more than 50% drop in prices in the past 12 months has put pressure on the nation’s finances. The country has raised at least 35 billion riyals from local bond markets this year, the first time it has issued securities with a maturity of over 12 months since 2007. “This is a response to the lower oil prices but also to the fact that capital spending has been growing strongly over the past few years,” Fahad Alturki, chief economist and head of research at Jadwa Investment said.

“Although a cut in capital spending will impact economic growth, the non-oil sector is not as reliant on government spending as it was 20 or 30 years ago.” Capital investment accounts for less than half the government’s outgoings, with current spending estimated at 854 billion riyals, according to a report issued by Samba Financial. Saudi Arabia needs “comprehensive energy price reforms, firm control of the public sector wage bill, greater efficiency in public sector investment,” the IMF said this month. “The sharp drop in oil revenues and continued expenditure growth would result in a very large fiscal deficit this year and over the medium term, eroding the fiscal buffers built up over the past decade.”

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Blame games.

Balkan States Snub Greece In Talks On Immigration (Kath.)

Greece has been left out of an unfolding campaign by Balkan countries to forge a coordinated response to a torrent of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, Kathimerini understands. Meanwhile, although officials in Brussels admit that debt-wracked Greece, on the European Union’s external frontier, has had to shoulder an unprecedented burden, sources note overall frustration over the government’s failure to implement an action plan to deal with the problem. Greece may have to face an EU fine over the failure, the same source said. During a visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called for “coordinated action across Europe” while urging Greece to control its borders more effectively.

“It’s also the fault of Greece if there is no support for the refugees there,” the Austrian said. Also speaking from Skopje, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov pledged his country’s support for FYROM in dealing with mounting pressure while calling for cooperation between the states of the region – but he did not name Greece. Thinly disguised criticism of Athens came from FYROM Foreign Minister Mitko Cavkov, too, who noted it was “absurd that the problem is caused by an EU member-state.” Cavkov said that interior ministers from FYROM, Austria, Hungary and Serbia will soon meet in Skopje to decide further action. In an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Greek authorities “are unwilling to record asylum seekers because in that way Greece goes down as their EU entry point.”

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It’s unworthy of Merkel more than anything else. No leadership in sight.

Merkel Tells Germans Refugee Crisis Is Unworthy of Europe (Bloomberg)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the region’s refugee crisis is unworthy of European values and will require a bigger effort to aid those seeking safe haven. At a town-hall meeting in the western city of Duisburg, Merkel said Tuesday that Germany must ease the process for setting up asylum centers and pledged more financial backing to tackle the crisis. Earlier, her spokesman said Merkel will visit a refugee shelter in Heidenau, the eastern German town near Dresden where anti-immigrant riots erupted last week. “Europe is facing a situation that’s unworthy of Europe,” Merkel said. “The federal government will need to strengthen its support for states and municipalities. We can’t just keep going in normal mode.”

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, the leaders of Europe’s two biggest economies, pledged on Monday a united response to the influx, saying the refugees need to be distributed more equally among the 28 European Union countries. Hollande said Europe is facing “exceptional circumstances.” Merkel didn’t cite an amount for extra spending needed for Germany to deal with an expected 800,000 fleeing war and poverty who are expected to arrive this year. The cost may be €10 billion, compared to €2 billion in 2014, the Die Zeit newspaper has estimated.

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