Nov 292018
 
 November 29, 2018  Posted by at 8:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street, Rainy Day 1884

 

Trump Adviser Sought WikiLeaks Emails Via Farage Ally – Mueller Document (G.)
Assange Never Met Manafort. Guardian Publishes More MI6 Lies (Murray)
Trump Threatens To Declassify ‘Devastating’ Docs About Democrats (NYP)
Fed Warns A ‘Particularly Large’ Plunge In Market Prices Is Possible (CNBC)
Fed’s Powell Sends Markets Soaring With Suggestion Rate Hikes May Slow (WaPo)
Obama Administration Used Tear Gas, Pepper Spray At Border Dozens Of Times (NW)
Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Worse Options Than President Trump (Week)
The Day Brexit Went Bust: BoE Says No Deal Will Cause Worst Slump Since WWII
Dublin: 30,000 Empty Homes And Nowhere To Live (G.)
Pressure Mounts To Bury Carbon Emissions, But Who Will Pay? (R.)
The Insect Apocalypse Is Here (NYTM)

 

 

Let me start by saying that is you are surprised that the Guardian publishes hit pieces like the ‘Manafort met Assange’ one, you haven’t been paying attention. Reading the Automatic Earth would have been enough for your first reaction to be: that is BS. But granted, it all spreads deep and wide. For example, picked this up on Twitter just now: Kudos to @ErinBurnett tonight for identifying Wikileaks as “an intelligence arm of the Russian government.” Yeah, Burnett is CNN.

On the other hand, there’s for instance Glenn Greenwald, also on Twitter, who says: Even 2 hours after I read it, I still can’t believe that Politico actually published an article by an ex-CIA agent under a fake name saying that if the Guardian’s blockbuster Assange/Manafort story is false, it’s Russia’s fault. Parodying the US media at this point is futile. Forgive me for not giving that Politico piece any space here.

WikiLeaks has announced they want to sue the Guardian, and Manafort is looking into it. Let’s hope that has some effect. The paper has already been busily redacting its ‘article’ away from liability, but the damage has definitely been done. As a matter of fact, it appears the paper is actively working with the Ecuador government to create a situation where extraditing Assange would be more easily accepted by the world.

To that end, as I’ve often said, it is seen as essential to connect Assange to Russia, even if no such connection exists. But since neither can defend themselves, Assange is cut off and Russia is not believed, it’s easy to just make stuff up. You really should get out of that Matrix, it won’t do anyone any good.

I still remain with a question though, now that the Guardian opens today with another smear piece. That is, Muller has been very secretive. So how did a draft legal doc of his end up at the Guardian? Was it leaked? Did he leak it? Why were there no earlier leaks?

Trump Adviser Sought WikiLeaks Emails Via Farage Ally – Mueller Document (G.)

An ally of Nigel Farage was asked to obtain secret information from WikiLeaks for Donald Trump’s team during the 2016 election campaign, according to US investigators. Ted Malloch, a London-based academic close to Farage, was allegedly passed a request from a longtime Trump adviser to get advance copies of emails stolen from Trump’s opponents by Russian hackers and later published by WikiLeaks. The allegation emerged in a draft legal document drawn up by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any collusion with Trump’s campaign team. In response to a series of questions from the Guardian, including whether he had acted on the request to make contact with WikiLeaks, Malloch said in an email: “No and no comment.”

Trump appeared increasingly anxious on Wednesday following the latest burst of activity from the investigation that has clouded his presidency. He claimed, without evidence, in a tweet that Mueller’s team was “viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts” in return for favourable treatment. The latest revelations come as the role of the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has come under greater scrutiny amid reports in the US that Mueller is looking into his meeting with the Ecuadorian president in 2017. On Tuesday sources also told the Guardian that Manafort met with Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, a claim denied by both men.

Read more …

Craig Murray recognizes BS when he sees it.

Assange Never Met Manafort. Guardian Publishes More MI6 Lies (Murray)

I would love to believe that the fact Julian has never met Manafort is bound to be established. But I fear that state control of propaganda may be such that this massive “Big Lie” will come to enter public consciousness in the same way as the non-existent Russian hack of the DNC servers. Assange never met Manafort. The DNC emails were downloaded by an insider. Assange never even considered fleeing to Russia. Those are the facts, and I am in a position to give you a personal assurance of them. I can also assure you that Luke Harding, the Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times have been publishing a stream of deliberate lies, in collusion with the security services.

I am not a fan of Donald Trump. But to see the partisans of the defeated candidate (and a particularly obnoxious defeated candidate) manipulate the security services and the media to create an entirely false public perception, in order to attempt to overturn the result of the US Presidential election, is the most astonishing thing I have witnessed in my lifetime. Plainly the government of Ecuador is releasing lies about Assange to curry favour with the security establishment of the USA and UK, and to damage Assange’s support prior to expelling him from the Embassy. He will then be extradited from London to the USA on charges of espionage.

Assange is not a whistleblower or a spy – he is the greatest publisher of his age, and has done more to bring the crimes of governments to light than the mainstream media will ever be motivated to achieve. That supposedly great newspaper titles like the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post are involved in the spreading of lies to damage Assange, and are seeking his imprisonment for publishing state secrets, is clear evidence that the idea of the “liberal media” no longer exists in the new plutocratic age. The press are not on the side of the people, they are an instrument of elite control.

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“Maybe it’s better that the public not see what’s been going on with this country.”

Trump Threatens To Declassify ‘Devastating’ Docs About Democrats (NYP)

In September, a group of Trump allies in the House – led by Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York – called on Trump to declassify scores of Justice Department documents they believe undercut the start of the Russia investigation and show bias against Trump. The documents include Justice officials’ request to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and memos on DOJ official Bruce Ohr’s interactions with Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier that alleged Trump ties with Russia. Trump initially agreed to declassify the documents, including text messages sent by former FBI officials James Comey, Andrew G. McCabe as well as Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Ohr.

Trump allies believe the revelations will show favoritism toward Hillary Clinton and a plot to take down Trump. Trump then reversed course, citing the need for further review and concern of US allies. Trump added Wednesday that his lawyer Emmet Flood thought it would be better politically to wait. “He didn’t want me to do it yet, because I can save it,” Trump said. The president also pushed back on the notion that all the Justice Department documents should eventually be released for the sake of transparency. “Some things maybe the public shouldn’t see because they are so bad,” Trump said, making clear it wasn’t damaging to him, but to others. “Maybe it’s better that the public not see what’s been going on with this country.”

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The Fed should really try and revive what was once a market. It can only do that by stepping aside.

Fed Warns A ‘Particularly Large’ Plunge In Market Prices Is Possible (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve issued a cautionary note Wednesday about risks to financial stability, saying trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainty and a buildup in corporate debt among firms with weak balance sheets pose strong threats. In a lengthy first-time report on the banking system and corporate and business debt, the Fed warned of “generally elevated” asset prices that “appear high relative to their historical ranges.” In addition, the central bank said ongoing trade tensions, which are running high between the U.S. and China, coupled with an uncertain geopolitical environment could combine with the high asset prices to provide a notable shock.

“An escalation in trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainty, or other adverse shocks could lead to a decline in investor appetite for risks in general,” the report said. “The resulting drop in asset prices might be particularly large, given that valuations appear elevated relative to historical levels.” The drop in asset prices would make it more difficult for companies to get funding, “putting pressure on a sector where leverage is already high,” the report said. The report further noted that the Fed’s own rate hikes could pose a threat. A market and economy used to low rates could face issues as the Fed continues to normalize policy through rate hikes and a reduction in its balance sheet, or portfolio of bonds it purchased to stimulate the economy.

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Powell as a puppet master. He says JUMP and they all jump.

Fed’s Powell Sends Markets Soaring With Suggestion Rate Hikes May Slow (WaPo)

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell on Wednesday suggested that the central bank could slow the pace of its interest rate increases, a statement welcomed by investors worried about the strength of the global economy and swooning markets. His comments appeared to mark a change from his position last month, when he said that the Fed still had a “long way” to go before it reached what economists consider an appropriate level. Powell’s description of the central bank’s approach sent the stock market soaring, with investors eager for any sign that the Fed might be preparing to pause its slow but steady effort to raise interest rates.

Powell’s scheduled remarks at the Economic Club of New York came a day after President Trump pilloried Powell — whom he appointed last year — for his stewardship of the central bank. Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post that the Fed is a “much bigger problem than China,” complaining it is taking steps to withdraw stimulus from the economy — the latest in a wave of strong criticism that Trump has leveled at the Fed chair. Fed officials say they operate independently of politics, and there is no evidence that Powell made his comments in response to Trump’s attacks. But the remarks nevertheless could ease concerns among Fed critics, such as Trump, who have accused the central bank of moving too aggressively to slow the economy’s expansion.

The Fed had lowered rates to zero after the 2008 financial crisis, and it kept them there and took other steps to strengthen the economy after the deepest recession since the 1930s. Since December 2015, it has been reversing those efforts to avoid inflation and other risks associated with a hot economy.

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Long standing policies. You are right to oppose them, but not to single out Trump when doing so.

Obama Administration Used Tear Gas, Pepper Spray At Border Dozens Of Times (NW)

As the Trump administration continues to face widespread backlash over its use of tear gas against Central American asylum seekers at the southern border on Sunday, data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has shone a light on just how common the use of tear gas and pepper spray at the border really is. In a statement sent to Newsweek on Tuesday, the CBP said its personnel have been using tear gas, or 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), since 2010, deploying the substance a total of 126 times since fiscal year 2012. Under President Donald Trump, CBP’s use of the substance has hit a seven-year record high, with the agency deploying the substance a total of 29 times in fiscal year 2018, which ended on September 30, 2018, according to the agency’s data.

However, the data also showed that the substance was deployed nearly the same number of times in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 under former President Barack Obama, with CBP using the substance 26 times in fiscal year 2012 and 27 times in fiscal year 2013. CBP’s use of tear gas appeared to decline in the following years, with 15 uses in fiscal year 2014, eight in fiscal year 2015 and even fewer in fiscal year 2016, with three recorded instances. As Trump took office, the numbers began to rise again in fiscal year 2017, climbing to 18 deployments of tear gas, before reaching fiscal year 2018’s record high of 29 uses. CBP also noted in its statement that in addition to using tear gas, the agency also “regularly uses” Pava Capsaicin, or pepper spray.

[..] CBP spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said that more than 1,000 individuals who were part of the “so-called caravan” “attempted to cross illegally into the U.S. by breaching section of the fence and using vehicle lanes in and near the San Ysidro Port of Entry” on Sunday. “The group ignored law enforcement agencies in Mexico and assaulted U.S. Federal Officers and Agents assigned to respond to the situation in San Diego,” Malin said. The CBP spokesperson said that “in response to the assaults and to defuse this dangerous situation, trained CBP personnel employed less-lethal devices to stop the actions of assaultive individuals attempting to break into the U.S.”

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Neocons.

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Worse Options Than President Trump (Week)

17 years after the United States overthrew the government of Afghanistan, 15 years after we toppled the government of Iraq, and 7 years after we deposed the government of Libya, neoconservative pundit William Kristol announced the goal of American foreign policy over the coming decades should be “regime change” in China, a nuclear power that also happens to have a population more than four times the size of the United States. This is important — for several reasons. It’s important because it shows that Kristol, despite burnishing his mainstream reputation over the past few years by unwaveringly opposing Donald Trump, remains an unrepentant neocon. It’s important because, along with a tweet storm Kristol produced to explain and defend his endorsement of Chinese regime change, it helps to clarify exactly what’s distinctive about neoconservative foreign policy thinking.

And it’s important, finally, because it so clearly illustrates just how dangerous and deluded that way of thinking really is. Yes, Virginia, there really are worse options than President Trump. In recent years, the term “neoconservative” has been emptied of meaning — used either by anti-Semites to mean “Jewish conservative” or by journalists as a synonym for “foreign policy hawk.” Neither is true to the history of the movement or what’s distinctive about the evolution of its ideas. The word was originally coined as an epithet to describe a group of liberal intellectuals who migrated rightward during the 1970s, eventually coming to support the presidency of Ronald Reagan. (Kristol’s father Irving was among them.)

At the time, these writers endorsed a range of domestic and foreign policy positions: They were tough on crime, defended the conservative side in the culture war, favored work requirements for welfare recipients, and endorsed a revival of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

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Brexit is unraveling, but there’s no time left to change it.

The Day Brexit Went Bust: BoE Says No Deal Will Cause Worst Slump Since WWII

Britain is set to be poorer under every kind of Brexit according to two major official studies, released as Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally said a fresh referendum now looks “inevitable”. Pressure to give the British public a Final Say on leaving the EU mounted after Treasury estimates suggested Theresa May’s Brexit deal will leave GDP 3.9 per cent lower than if the UK remain in the bloc. A separate Bank of England study warned of an economic catastrophe in the case of a no-deal departure, including an immediate, savage recession, soaring interest rates and collapsing house prices. Amid the grim data, shadow chancellor John McDonnell gave the strongest signal yet that Labour would swing behind a people’s vote if Ms May’s plans are now blocked by the Commons as expected.

The drive for a new referendum will pick up pace on Thursday as Conservative former minister Jo Johnson delivers a speech warning his party faces electoral armageddon if it forces Ms May’s deal through. The prime minister again tried to defend the deal in parliament as it came under fire from all sides, and she will face a further intense grilling from a committee of the most senior MPs on Thursday morning. [..] The gloomy forecasts were echoed later in the day by the Bank of England, which indicated that under a disorderly no-deal Brexit, the economy could shrink by 8 per cent within a single year, property prices might plunge almost a third, the pound would crash and interest rates soar under a worst-case scenario. Brexiteers attacked the data and the bank itself, with Jacob Rees-Mogg saying: “It is unusual for the Bank of England to talk down the pound and shows the governor’s failure to understand his role. He is not there to create panic.”

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The benefits of Airbnb. It creates elites and poor sods.

Dublin: 30,000 Empty Homes And Nowhere To Live (G.)

About 10,000 people in Ireland are reckoned to be homeless. The number of families who have nowhere to live has increased by more than 20% since 2017. These are national problems, but they are inevitably concentrated in Ireland’s capital, home to more than 10% of the country’s population. In the four months between June and September, 415 Dublin families – including 893 children – became newly homeless, adding to a total across the city of about 1,400. Increasing numbers are being forced to live in hotels. Meanwhile, residential neighbourhoods echo to the clack-clack-clack of suitcase wheels. The city is smattered with key boxes for Airbnb apartments.

A stock line among activists demanding action from the government gets to the heart of all this: in 21st-century Dublin, they say, homeless families stay in hotels, and tourists stay in houses. [..] The Greater Dublin area is reckoned to have more than 30,000 properties that are completely empty, many of which are owned by the local council. Thanks chiefly to Ireland’s corporate tax rate of 12.5%, Dublin is home to the European HQs of Facebook, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, eBay and, poetically enough, Airbnb. The number of high-paid employees who work for such companies is one of the reasons advertised rents in the city now average around €1,900 a month. As Brexit grinds on, there are fears that if companies relocate from the UK to Ireland, it will only add to Dublin’s housing problems.

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Why stop producing it if you can make yourself believe there’s a carpet you can sweep it under?

Pressure Mounts To Bury Carbon Emissions, But Who Will Pay? (R.)

Environmentalists worry the costly technology, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), will perpetuate the fossil fuel status quo when rapid and deep cuts energy use are needed to limit global warming. But proponents of CCS will be lobbying hard at the two-week climate conference in Katowice, Poland, for the extensive investment and regulatory change required to employ it at scale, citing U.N. assessments that it could play a role. “The expectation is that Katowice will be important,” said Stephen Bull, a senior vice president at Norwegian state-controlled oil company Equinor, which is involved in developing a CCS project called Northern Lights.

“CCS is the only way to go,” he said, arguing that countries need the technology to help fulfil the pledges they made around the time of the breakthrough Paris climate change agreement in 2015. A United Nations report warned on Tuesday that nations would have to triple their current efforts to keep global temperature rises within boundaries scientists say are needed to avoid devastating floods, storms and drought. Along with the United States, Norway is one of the countries at the forefront of drive for CCS, building on 20 years of diverting carbon dioxide from its vast gas output and using some to push out hard-to-reach oil from aging fields.

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“We notice the losses,” [..] “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.”

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here (NYTM)

In the United States, scientists recently found the population of monarch butterflies fell by 90 percent in the last 20 years, a loss of 900 million individuals; the rusty-patched bumblebee, which once lived in 28 states, dropped by 87 percent over the same period. With other, less-studied insect species, one butterfly researcher told me, “all we can do is wave our arms and say, ‘It’s not here anymore!'” Still, the most disquieting thing wasn’t the disappearance of certain species of insects; it was the deeper worry, shared by Riis and many others, that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. “We notice the losses,” says David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.”

Because insects are legion, inconspicuous and hard to meaningfully track, the fear that there might be far fewer than before was more felt than documented. People noticed it by canals or in backyards or under streetlights at night – familiar places that had become unfamiliarly empty. The feeling was so common that entomologists developed a shorthand for it, named for the way many people first began to notice that they weren’t seeing as many bugs. They called it the windshield phenomenon. To test what had been primarily a loose suspicion of wrongness, Riis and 200 other Danes were spending the month of June roaming their country’s back roads in their outfitted cars.

They were part of a study conducted by the Natural History Museum of Denmark, a joint effort of the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and North Carolina State University. The nets would stand in for windshields as Riis and the other volunteers drove through various habitats — urban areas, forests, agricultural tracts, uncultivated open land and wetlands — hoping to quantify the disorienting sense that, as one of the study’s designers put it, “something from the past is missing from the present.” [..] A 1995 study, by Peter H. Kahn and Batya Friedman, of the way some children in Houston experienced pollution summed up our blindness this way: “With each generation, the amount of environmental degradation increases, but each generation takes that amount as the norm.”

[..] Ornithologists kept finding that birds that rely on insects for food were in trouble: eight in 10 partridges gone from French farmlands; 50 and 80 percent drops, respectively, for nightingales and turtledoves. Half of all farmland birds in Europe disappeared in just three decades. At first, many scientists assumed the familiar culprit of habitat destruction was at work, but then they began to wonder if the birds might simply be starving. [..] What we’re losing is not just the diversity part of biodiversity, but the bio part: life in sheer quantity. While I was writing this article, scientists learned that the world’s largest king penguin colony shrank by 88 percent in 35 years, that more than 97 percent of the bluefin tuna that once lived in the ocean are gone.

[..] We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.

Read more …

Mar 012016
 
 March 1, 2016  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


NPC “.. the hearty cereal beverage with flavor and tang, Altemus-Hibble truck” 1920

China Faces $15 Trillion Bombshell As Shadow Banking Sector Collapses (ZH)
China’s Big Lending Push Comes Up Short (WSJ)
China Factory Activity Shrinks More Than Expected (Reuters)
China Attempts To Boost Economy With Cash Injection (Guardian)
Global Companies Face a $9.5 Trillion Debt Wall (BBG)
The Worst Market of All: One Without a Story (WSJ)
Barclays Shares Fall 7.5% In London After Profit Drops 56% (BBG)
UK Credit Card Bills a Problem Waiting to Bite (BBG)
Alchemy Should Be Squeezed Out Of The World’s Banking System (Mervyn King)
We Are Being Led By Imbeciles (Bill Mitchell)
EU’s Tower of Babel May Fall While Leaders Distracted (Reuters)
Canada Meets Target To Resettle 25,000 Syrian Refugees (AP)
Clashes As Authorities Demolish Homes In Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp (Guardian)
As Europe Bickers, Macedonia Police Fire Tear Gas On Migrants (Kath.)
Europe’s Crisis Worsens: Refugees Face Razor Wire, Tear Gas (AP)
Most Of The Refugees Stuck In Greece Are Now Women And Children (WaPo)

As I said a hundred times: it’s no use talking about China’s economy without including the shadow banks.

China Faces $15 Trillion Bombshell As Shadow Banking Sector Collapses (ZH)

We’ve spent more time than most documenting China’s wealth management product problem. WMPs are part and parcel of Beijing’s sprawling shadow banking complex which, until 2014 that is, helped pump trillions of yuan into China’s economy and shouldered the burden when it came to propping up the most important economy on the planet. But WMPs are dangerous. In fact, we flagged them as an 8 trillion black swan back in August on the way to asking what would happen if China’s shadow banking sector were to collapse altogether. This is space that’s running what amounts to an enormous maturity mismatched fraud. Of course this describes the entire fractional reserve banking system, but in the case of China’s WMPs, it’s all on the verge of implosion.

Don’t believe us? Just ask anyone who bought into products sold by Fanya Metals’ Shan Jiuliang. This is a very real threat to the Chinese banking sector. The multifarious nature of the space’s liabilities makes it virtually impossible for anyone to assess what the embedded risks are. As we first documented last summer, some 40% of credit risk is carried off balance sheet and that figure might well have grown recently, especially considering mid-tier bank’s propensity to extend new credit through new cateogries of channel loans that are classified as “investments” and “receivables” In any event, China is desperate to revive the credit impulse and that means keeping the shadow banking space alive. Here’s BofA with more on China’s ticking WMP time bomb:

• Growth rate accelerated. By the end of 2015, WMP balance reached Rmb23.5tr, up 56.46% YoY. Astonishingly, growth rate accelerated last year compared to the year before despite a high base – in 2014, the balance grew from Rmb10.2tr to Rmb15.0tr, up 47.25% YoY. The key drivers of this accelerated growth are joint stock banks whose WMP balance rose from Rmb5.67tr to Rmb9.91tr, up 74.8% YoY; city commercial banks, Rmb1.7tr to Rmb3.07tr, up 80.6% YoY. On the other hand, the big four state-owned enterprise (SOE) banks’ balance rose by a more moderate 53.2% YoY (from Rmb6.47tr to Rmb8.67tr) while foreign banks’ balance declined by 25.6% (from Rmb0.39tr to Rmb0.29tr).

• Liquidity risk is rising. The outstanding balance of open WMPs, of which buyers can subscribe or redeem largely at will, reached Rmb10.32tr, up 96.95% YoY. They accounted for 44% of bank-run WMPs balance as of Dec 2015, up from 35% a year earlier. The increased share of open WMPs adds to the duration mismatch in the shadow banking sector and makes the system more prone to liquidity shock in our view. In 2015, banks issued Rmb158.41tr worth of WMPs, i.e., Rmb13.2tr a month on average. If WMP buyers decide to ‘go on strike’ for whatever reason, a liquidity crunch in the shadow banking sector could quickly develop in our view.

• Implicit guarantee still largely in place. Only Rmb1.37tr worth of open WMPs, representing 13% of the total, are priced based on NAV. Also, the portion of closed WMPs that are priced similarly is tiny. This means that the vast majority of WMPs are still sold with the so-called “expected return”, which is largely viewed as promised return by WMP buyers by our assessment. In 2015, only 44 WMP products, or 0.03% of matured products during the year, caused investors to lose money. This loss ratio appears unusually low in our view. It is interesting to note that most of the 44 products were sold by foreign banks.

• Individual buyers still dominant. As of Dec 2015, individual investors, including high net-worth individual investors, accounted for Rmb13.34tr WMP balance, or 56.6% of the total (institutional investors, 30.6%; inter-banks, 12.8%). They subscribed to Rmb101.49tr of the newly issued WMPs during the year, representing 64.1% of the total. Mood of individual investors are more volatile than institutions in general.

The bottom line is this: if this implodes, it will not only tank the entire Chinese banking system but the global economy as well, as the amount of liabilities here is quite frankly enormous.

Read more …

Paying off old debt with new.

China’s Big Lending Push Comes Up Short (WSJ)

China still has room to cut, but it may not be having much effect other than hiding the economy’s pain. The People’s Bank of China waited until the Group of 20 financial bigwigs were safely out of Shanghai to resume its easing campaign Monday, cutting the reserves banks are required to hold with the central bank by half a percentage point. As moves go, it is pretty standard and expected given China’s sluggish economy. The cut follows up on what has looked like a strong start to lending this year, something that has provided a palpable sense of relief in some markets. In reality, more credit in China isn’t all that stimulative. A concerted lending boom in theory could jump-start growth as it did in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Iron ore prices, for instance, have rallied sharply on expectations of renewed Chinese demand.

The problem is that China has reached an inflection point. A substantial chunk of new debt is increasingly going to pay old debt, creating less activity in the real economy aside from bankers’ fees and commissions. Like a patient with a headache who has already taken aspirin, more medicine won’t dull the pain much, but it may lead to complications. A measurable effect is the so-called evergreening of credit, where lenders essentially roll loan maturities or provide credit simply to pay off old debt. Deutsche Bank measures this by estimating what’s owed each year by companies in terms of principal payments and interest expenses. It then assesses the resources to make those payments, namely operating cash flow, freshly raised equity and excess cash not earmarked for general expenses like salaries.

The result is a massive shortfall in the debt service compared with the sources of cash, to the tune of about 10% of corporate debt last year. That gap is filled with more borrowing. Five years ago, Chinese companies were generating excess cash to pay off debts, so new debt could be used to invest. The most egregious evergreeners are state-owned companies in industries with massive overcapacity issues. Coal mining and metals, for instance, account for 30% of evergreening, according to Deutsche. What could alleviate the evergreening problem? A positive step would be to allow companies in those problem sectors to enter painful restructuring. This would at least remove a source of demand for evergreening loans.

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Expected by economists, that is.

China Factory Activity Shrinks More Than Expected (Reuters)

Activity in China’s manufacturing sector shrank more sharply than expected in February, surveys showed on Tuesday, prompting smaller companies to shed workers at the fastest pace in seven years and suggesting Beijing will have to ramp up stimulus to avoid a deeper economic slowdown. Some investors had been bracing for weak readings after the central bank unexpectedly eased policy late on Monday, injecting an estimated $100 billion worth of cash into the banking system to cushion the pain of upcoming reforms such as restructuring bloated state enterprises. The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.0 in February from January’s reading of 49.4 and below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction. Economists polled by Reuters had expected only a slight dip to 49.3.

It was the lowest reading since November 2011. “The PMI came in much weaker than markets expected, hinting that recent easing measures have had limited impact in turning around the weakening manufacturing sector,” wrote senior emerging markets economist Zhou Hao at Commerzbank in Singapore. “We think PBoC will cut policy rates by 25 basis points in the first quarter and lower RRR (banks’ reserve requirement ratio) by another 100-150 basis points this year.” The private Caixin/Markit China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which focuses more on small to medium- sized, private firms, showed activity contracted for a 12th straight month. It fell to 48.0, below market expectations of 48.3 and January’s reading of 48.4. [..] The official PMI survey, which tends to focus on larger, state firms, has shown persistent declines in employment for the last 3-1/2 years.

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In a system packed with bad loans, you lower the reserve requirement. Sure.

China Attempts To Boost Economy With Cash Injection (Guardian)

China’s central bank has stepped up action to bolster its cooling economy by loosening the rules on banks’ cash reserves in the hope that they will offer cheaper loans. By cutting the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) – the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves – the People’s Bank of China has in effect injected $100bn (£72bn) of long-term cash into the economy, experts said. The central bank hopes its cut, effective from 1 March, will boost liquidity in the financial sector, following signs that the world’s second-biggest economy is continuing to slow. The move, which came as a surprise to many investors, would stabilise the Chinese financial system, said Duncan Innes-Ker of the Economist Intelligence Unit. But it would not be enough on its own.

“The latest cut in the RRR shows the central bank straining to maintain loose monetary conditions in a difficult economic climate,” he said. “The move will partly offset the effects of capital outflows from China and the provisioning requirements that are forcing banks to lock up more funds as non-performing loans climb. “However, the surge in loans in January highlighted concerns that bank lending may be spiralling out of control. Ultimately, China’s economy cannot grow on credit alone. It needs further reforms to unlock productivity growth.”

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This gets ever harder to roll over.

Global Companies Face a $9.5 Trillion Debt Wall (BBG)

Companies still have a little time before they must pay down the bulk of $9.5 trillion of debt maturing in the next five years. That’s the good news. But it’s not getting any easier for these corporations to borrow, at least not in the U.S. In fact, many of these obligations are becoming harder and more expensive to repay at a time when companies face a historic pile of bonds and loans coming due. This wave of debt coming due through 2020 is bigger than previous five-year schedules of debt maturities in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to Standard & Poor’s data. It includes about $2.3 trillion of junk-rated debt, with about $418 billion of that rated B- or lower. And it peaks in 2020, with $2.1 trillion of debt coming due, which is greater than the peaks of the most recent previous maturity walls.

U.S. companies account for $4.1 trillion of the debt coming due through 2020, while European issuers are responsible for $3.7 trillion, S&P data show. More than half of all the debt coming due belongs to nonfinancial corporations.

All this is potentially bad news for a global economy that already appears to be losing momentum, especially because central bankers seem to be running out of ways to push investors into riskier securities. The default rate has already started ticking up as the bust in commodity prices forces companies to restructure or file for bankruptcy.And it’s not just oil drillers and miners that are struggling. Solera Holdings, the subject of one of last year’s largest leveraged buyouts, is struggling to raise money in credit markets and has been forced to cut the amount of debt it plans to sell. Corus Entertainment pulled a C$300 million ($221.9 million) junk-bond offering backing a takeover because of difficult market conditions.

While the majority of debt that needs to be repaid is investment grade, it’s unclear whether it’ll remain so by the time it matures. In just eight weeks, credit investors have witnessed more fallen angels, or investment-grade companies getting downgraded to junk, than in any calendar year since 2009, Barclays analysts Jeffrey Meli and Bradley Rogoff wrote in a report on Friday.It’s not terribly surprising that companies have a bigger debt load to pay down. They borrowed trillions of dollars on the heels of unprecedented stimulus efforts started by the Federal Reserve at the end of 2008 during the worst financial crisis since the Depression. They kept piling on the leverage as central banks around the world doubled down on low-rate policies and kept purchasing assets to encourage investors to buy riskier securities.

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We’re all out of feel-good stories.

The Worst Market of All: One Without a Story (WSJ)

Markets don’t just love a good tale, they need a good tale. There are happy stories for bulls, sad endings to cheer bears or sci-fi horrors about algorithms running wild. Investors devour them all. This year has provided too many interlocking story lines, though. Yarns have been spun about China, negative rates, tightening dollar liquidity, tumbling U.S. profits, impending recession, oil, sovereign-wealth funds, geopolitics and the rise of populist politicians. The problem is that all these plots and subplots left investors without a clear narrative to follow. No one can say what’s going on, and investors have responded by reducing the risk they take. One response: The most popular trades went into sharp reverse, with some apparently perverse outcomes.

Perhaps the best measure of the reverse is the impact on stocks popular with hedge funds. A Goldman Sachs index of the 50 U.S. shares most widely held by hedge funds just had its worst six-month underperformance since the financial crisis of 2008-09. It figures: The stocks least liked by hedge funds, as measured by another Goldman index, just recorded their best six-month relative return. Hedge funds borrow to invest, and have been reducing their debts as their managers worry about the uncertainties ahead. That means selling some of their favorite positions and closing short trades by buying back those stocks they had bet against. Selling by mutual funds and oil-fueled sovereign-wealth funds added to the pressures.

The result was a violent shift: The big winners of 2015 became losers, and the most-hated stocks and sectors are now outperformers. Few stocks back up the story of lower leverage as much as the FANGs. The four stocks which led the U.S. market and were loved by hedge funds last year were Facebook, Amazon.com, Netflix and Google. This year only Facebook has beaten the broader market, with Amazon and Netflix both down more than 17% as of Friday. Biotechnology deserves a chapter to itself: After an extraordinary run-up in prices, U.S. biotech has just had its worst six-month performance since 2002 both in absolute and relative terms. The most-hated sector in 2015 was mining. MSCI data show that by mid-January of this year, the sector’s market value had declined to a smaller percentage of global stocks since the dot-com bubble, when old-economy miners were out of fashion.

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Every bank that publishes numbers loses big.

Barclays Shares Fall 7.5% In London After Profit Drops 56% (BBG)

Barclays Plc said it will sell down the stake in its Africa business and reorganize the company into two divisions, as fourth-quarter profit fell by more than half. The bank will sell down its 62% stake in Barclays Africa Group Ltd. over the next two to three years to a level that allows it to deconsolidate the business, according to a statement Tuesday. Adjusted pretax profit, including restructuring costs, fell 56% to £247 million ($344 million) in the quarter from £563 million in the year-earlier period, according to the filing. The moves are meant “to accelerate our strategy and simplify the group, as we prepare for regulatory ring-fencing requirements,” Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley, 59, said in the statement.

Staley is counting on his first results announcement and a revised strategy to reassure investors, who have been demanding bold moves to boost capital and returns as the bank languishes at its lowest valuation in more than three years. In addition to selling down the African stake, the CEO has moved to address the underperforming investment bank. He previously announced 1,200 job cuts, the exit from seven countries in Asia, a hiring freeze and cutting the bonus pool to trim costs. Barclays Africa Group Ltd. “is a well-diversified business and a high quality franchise,” Staley said in the statement. “However the stake in BAGL presents specific challenges to Barclays as owners, such as the level of capital held in respect of BAGL, the international reach of the U.K. bank levy” and other reasons.

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Splurging on debt.

UK Credit Card Bills a Problem Waiting to Bite (BBG)

The pace of consumer borrowing may raise a few eyebrows at the Bank of England if it keeps rising unchecked. Unsecured lending — such as on credit cards — jumped an annual 9.1% in January, the fastest in a decade, according to data on Monday. In total, consumers took out 1.6 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) more than they repaid, the second-highest since mid-2005. Back then, the country was in its 14th year of uninterrupted growth, and we’re nowhere near that now. While Mark Carney has said U.K. spending is being largely fueled by incomes, he and his fellow policy makers are still a little wary of where the borrowing numbers are going. Here’s the BOE governor earlier this month: “ They are still relatively indebted, and we want to make sure that, the collective, we do not repeat the mistakes of the past of getting too indebted and then getting shocked – shocked – by movements on rates.”

With record employment and cheap money encouraging borrowing — the average rate on a new unsecured loan is at a three-year low — that’s good for Britain’s economy at a time of deepening troubles in the world economy and questions over business investment in the run-up to the European Union referendum. But it means the foundations of the expansion are not as solid as they could be. “While the rapid growth in unsecured lending will support growth in the near term by propping up consumer spending, it could pose a risk to financial stability further down the line,” said Niraj Shah, an economist at Bloomberg Intelligence in London.

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Where was Lord King when it mattered?

Alchemy Should Be Squeezed Out Of The World’s Banking System (Mervyn King)

For centuries, alchemy has been the basis of our system of money and banking. Governments pretended that paper money could be turned into gold even when there was more of the former than the latter. Banks pretended that short-term riskless deposits could be used to finance long-term risky investments. In both cases, the alchemy is the apparent transformation of risk into safety. For much of the time the alchemy seemed to work. From time to time, however, people realised that the Emperor had far fewer clothes than the Masters of the Universe wanted us to believe. The pretence that the illiquid real assets of an economy – the factories, capital equipment, houses and offices – can suddenly be converted into money or liquidity is the essence of the alchemy of the present system.

Banks and other financial intermediaries will always try to finance illiquid assets by issuing liquid liabilities because they make profits by paying less on the latter than they earn on the former. The problem is that the liquidity promised to investors or depositors can be supplied only if at each moment a small number of people wish to convert their claim on the bank into cash. Liquidity simply disappears if everyone wishes to convert their claim into money at the same time. What may be possible for a small number of people is self-evidently impossible for the community as a whole. And the problem is made worse by the fact that if a depositor believes that others are likely to try to take their money out, it is rational for him or her to do the same and get to the front of the queue as soon as possible – a bank run.

Liquidity is, however, only one aspect of the alchemy of our present system. Risk, and its impact on the solvency of banks, is the other. And in the recent crisis, concern about solvency was the main driver of the liquidity problems facing banks. When creditors started to worry that bank equity was insufficient to absorb potential losses, they decided that it was better to get out while the going was good. Concerns about solvency, especially in a world of radical uncertainty, generate bank runs. To reduce or eliminate alchemy, we need a joint set of measures to deal with both solvency and liquidity problems.

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“The European Commission is, after all, a branch of corporate power.”

We Are Being Led By Imbeciles (Bill Mitchell)

I was reading John Maynard Keynes recently – circa 1928 – that is, 8 years before the publication of the General Theory with his Treatise on Money intervening. He was railing against the principles and practice of ‘sound finance’, which he noted had deliberately caused billions of pounds in lost income for the British economy. He urged the Treasury and the Bank of England to abandon their conservative (austerity) approach to the economy and, instead, embark on wide-scale fiscal stimulus to create jobs and prosperity. He concluded that with thousands of workers idling away in mass unemployment that it was “utterly imbecile to say that we cannot afford” to stimulate employment via large-scale public works – building infrastructure etc. He considered the policy makers who opposed such options were caught up in “the delirium of mental confusion”. The stark reality is that 88 years later, he could have written exactly the same article and would have been ‘right on the money’. We are being led (euphemism) by imbeciles.

Earlier this month (February 12, 2016), Eurostat told us that – Industrial production down by 1.0% in both euro area and EU28. The report said that: “…In December 2015 compared with November 2015, seasonally adjusted industrial production fell by 1.0% in both the euro area (EA19) and the EU28 … In November 2015 industrial production fell by 0.5% in both zones … Among Member States for which data are available, the largest decreases in industrial production were registered in the Netherlands (-9.4%), Estonia (-8.8%) and Germany (-2.3%) …” Which means that the overall monetary union is back in recession if industrial production is considered.

The other point to note is that the dominant neo-liberal narrative in Europe (and elsewhere) in relation to the ongoing consequences of the GFC focuses on individual nation failings – such as, lack of competitiveness, excessive wage rates, excessive regulation, etc – and the need for so-called ‘internal devaluation’ as a way of restoring ‘competitiveness’ and structural reform aimed at boosting productivity. The problem with this narrative is that it is hard to maintain when industrial production is falling across a number of nations including Germany and the Netherlands, which are meant to be competitive leaders in the Eurozone. The structural ‘reform’ agenda seems very transparent when confronted with this type of reality. Its aim is to redistribute national income in favour of capital and force workers to labour longer and harder for less reward. The European Commission is, after all, a branch of corporate power.

On July 31, 1928, John Maynard Keynes wrote a short article in the Evening Standard entitled – How to Organize a Wave of Prosperity. I have created a PDF version of the article because it is not easily assessable to those without expensive library subscriptions. The context was the slowdown in British industry in that year and the subsequent rise in mass unemployment. Keynes wrote: “…Moreover, the more successful the efforts which are being made to restore the margin of profits by ‘rationalisation’, the greater the likelihood – at first anyhow – of increasing unemployment. And the more successful the efforts of the Treasury, in the pursuit of so-called `Economy’, to damp down the forms of capital expansion which they control – telephones, roads, housing, etc., again the greater the certainty of increasing unemployment….” The resonance with contemporary events some 88 years later is frightening.

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They will never speak the same language. They just pretend to when it seems profitable.

EU’s Tower of Babel May Fall While Leaders Distracted (Reuters)

It’s little wonder the European Union can’t find common solutions to Europe’s urgent problems when its main members are having such different national conversations. Like the biblical Tower of Babel, Europe’s ambitious construction is in danger of toppling because its peoples are not speaking the same political language. Tune in to Germany and the fierce debate is all about how to cope with an influx of a million migrants, whether to limit the numbers and, in some quarters, how to stop them coming. Switch to France and you’re listening to a nation that thinks it is at war, still living under a state of emergency and in shock after last November’s attacks by Islamist militants that killed 130 people in Paris. Flip to Britain and the talk is all of national sovereignty and a possible Brexit in the build-up to a June referendum that might end the country’s schizophrenic membership of the EU.

Look east to Poland and people are arguing over the new government’s moves to curb the media and the constitutional court, over who may have been a Communist informer 40 years ago, and over the perceived Russian threat to eastern Europe today. Around central Europe the discussion is about how to resist German pressure to take in a share of refugees. Turn south and the Italians and Portuguese are engrossed in domestically focused debates about how to revive economic growth despite the EU’s budgetary corset while cleaning up legacy bank problems. Spain meanwhile is preoccupied by Catalan separatism, political paralysis and the risk of a breakup of the country. When those countries’ leaders come to Brussels, they often cannot even agree what they should be discussing.

For the last two EU summits, Britain wanted the focus to be on its demands for a renegotiation of its membership terms to give Prime Minister David Cameron a “new settlement” he can sell in a June 23 referendum on whether to stay in the bloc. He secured a deal on Feb. 19, but many fellow leaders were frustrated at having to spend time on what they see as side issues and rhetorical formulations when their house is on fire. “Everyone in the room and corridors was rather irritated that here we are dealing with some rather obscure issues of child benefits indexation, while we have real problems in Syria, member states closing borders, major issues we should really be on instead of this,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fighting for her political life against domestic critics of her open door for refugees, wanted the EU to concentrate on urgent measures to secure Europe’s external borders, register migrants, send home rejected asylum seekers and share out refugees among EU states. Desperate to find a common “European solution” to the migration crisis, she has forced yet another European summit on March 7 with Turkey, days before three German regional elections in which anti-immigration rightists could make big gains.

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Lone voice.

Canada Meets Target To Resettle 25,000 Syrian Refugees (AP)

Canada’s immigration minister said on Monday the country has reached a significant milestone with the arrival of 25,000 Syrian refugees. Immigration minister John McCallum said work continues to integrate the Syrians into the community. McCallum was at Toronto’s Pearson airport as the last two government-arranged refugee flights were arriving as part of the Liberals’ $678m (US$501m) settlement plan. The refugee resettlement program was launched in November, after prime minister Justin Trudeau came to power and promised to bring in 25,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end of 2015 amid an intense debate in the West over what to do with people fleeing violence in the Middle East. Trudeau later pushed back the date by two months.

In the United States, the Obama administration plans to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. But several Republican governors have tried to stop the arrival of Syrian refugees in their states in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris and California. Canada’s commitment reflects the change in government after October’s election. The previous Conservative government declined to resettle more Syrian refugees, despite the haunting image of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy had relatives in Canada, and the refugee crisis became a major campaign issue. McCallum previously said he hopes to bring in between 35,000 and 50,000 Syrian refuges by the end of the year.

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Insane.

Clashes As Authorities Demolish Homes In Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp (Guardian)

Clashes between police and migrants continued into Monday evening after authorities moved in earlier in the day to dismantle parts of the refugee camp known as the Jungle. The homes of up to 200 people of the approximately 3,500 people living in the camp had been demolished by the middle of the day, according to a British refugee aid group, as smoke went up from blazes engulfing makeshift shelters. Some homes appeared to have been set alight by the heat of teargas canisters fired at crowds by riot police, said a spokeswoman for the British volunteer group Help Refugees, while some residents seem to have set others on fire in protest. Video footage from a volunteer inside the camp showed residents running away from clouds of teargas.

Reuters said police fired teargas at about 150 people and activists who threw stones, and at least three shelters were on fire. The clashes continued into the evening near a motorway heading to the port of Calais, where vehicles were blocked by migrants on the stretch of road overlooking a piece of ground which had previously been part of the camp. Strewn with debris, the port road was eventually taken back by police, who arrested one person and three members of the No Borders activist group.The work began in the early morning, with orange-vested work crews dismantling several dozen makeshift wood-and-tarpaulin shacks by hand before two diggers loaded the debris into large trucks.

Police in riot gear shielded the work, and initially there were no reports of unrest beyond a report of one British activist being arrested. Volunteer groups said the work began with officials telling residents they had an hour to leave before their home was demolished. Reacting to the demolitions, Amnesty International said that both the French and UK governments had to live up to responsibilities in relation to those who were evicted, including facilitating access to asylum proceedings in France and visas to the UK for those with family members there. “Although it’s taking place across the Channel, this is not an issue that the UK can wash its hand of,” said Amnesty International’s Europe and central Asia director, John Dalhuisen.

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More insane.

As Europe Bickers, Macedonia Police Fire Tear Gas On Migrants (Kath.)

Police in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of migrants who stormed the border from Greece on Monday as a deeply divided Europe traded barbs over the biggest humanitarian crisis in decades. As frustrations boiled over at restrictions imposed on people moving through the Balkans, migrants trapped on the Greece-FYROM border tore down a metal gate in the barbed wire fence. A Reuters witness said FYROM police fired several rounds of tear gas into the crowd and onto a railway line where other migrants sat refusing to move, demanding to cross into the country. Greece raced to set up temporary accommodation for a build-up of thousands of migrants stranded in the country after Austria and countries along the Balkans migration route imposed restrictions on their borders, limiting the number of migrants able to cross.

Many of the migrants, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa, hope to reach Germany, which last year took in 1.1 million asylum seekers. There were an estimated 22,000 migrants and refugees trapped in Greece on Monday, some sleeping rough in central Athens, some in an abandoned airport and at the 2004 Olympic Games venues. Greece’s migration minister said without any outlet, that figure could rise as high as 70,000 in coming days. More than one million migrants passed through Greece last year, prompting criticism from other European nations that Athens simply waved people through. “These people do not want to stay here,” said Thodoris Dritsas, Greece’s shipping minister. “Even if we had a system in place for them to stay here permanently it wouldn’t work.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing the biggest test of her decade in power, on Sunday defended her open-door policy for migrants, rejecting any limit on the number of refugees allowed into her country despite divisions within her government over the issue. “There are many conflicting interests in Europe,” she told state broadcaster ARD. “But it is my damn duty to do everything I can so that Europe finds a collective way.” That was lacking on Monday, a week before European Union leaders were due to meet with Turkey on how it could help quell the flow of migrants from its shores. In an increasingly shrill debate, Austria’s defence minister suggested Merkel take in all those who were stranded in Greece. “The German chancellor … said that formally there is no upper limit in Germany. Then, I would invite her to take the people, who arrive in Greece now and whom she wants to take care of, directly to Germany,” Hans Peter Doskozil told Austrian’s Oe1 radio.

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Spraying tear gas on children.

Europe’s Crisis Worsens: Refugees Face Razor Wire, Tear Gas (AP)

Pressed against coils of razor wire and shouting “Help us!,” refugees and migrants at Greece’s northern border were pushed back by Macedonian police using tear gas and stun grenades, as authorities here raced to build more camps to shield the escalating number of stranded people from winter. A top European Union official prepared to visit the region Tuesday to try and ease the crisis that produced more scenes of chaos: Syrian and Iraqi refugees and others forced their way through part of a Macedonian border fence, some clutching infants or struggling to free duffel bags caught in the razor-wire. They were met by Macedonian riot police.

Volunteer doctors said at least 22 migrants, including 12 children, were treated for breathing difficulties and cuts. Authorities in Macedonia said one policeman was injured and that dozens of special forces officers were flown in by helicopter to help quell a refugee protest. “Tragically, there seems to be more willingness among European countries to coordinate blocking borders than to provide refugees and asylum-seekers with protection and basic services,” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece. Some 7,000 migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are crammed into a tiny camp at the Greek border village of Idomeni, and hundreds more are arriving daily.

The Greek army completed more temporary shelters in northern Greece over the weekend, and at the government’s request, local authorities in central Greece, opened indoor stadiums, conference centers, and hotels that have gone out of business to house migrants, while the Education Ministry called on school children to join the effort with donation drives. “Of course Greece over the next one or two months will do what it can to help these people. But it must be made clear that the burden of this crisis must be distributed in Europe,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with private Star television. [..] Wolf Piccoli of advisory firm Teneo Intelligence, said the EU was making a “risky bet” with its strategy on migration. “The EU is betting on incremental steps, hoping that the backlog will deter potential migrants before tensions in Greece raise concerns over the country’s institutions,” he said.

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“..You don’t understand. I don’t have any money left. I have four children. I don’t have any other plan.”

Most Of The Refugees Stuck In Greece Are Now Women And Children (WaPo)

In a cold drizzle, Aziza Hussein, a 30-year-old Syrian widow traveling with her four children, stood amid a surge of migrants trapped at the northern Greek border. Her way forward blocked by armed Macedonian troops, police dogs and a razor-wire fence, she stood in the middle of the chaotic scrum of refugees, clutching her 5-year-old son. “What are we going to do?” she said, shielding her eyes with a trembling hand as she cried. In recent days, European nations have moved more aggressively than ever to shut down the route used by more than a million migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond. Yet even as they do, the region is confronting a new kind of migrant flow — waves of women and children.

Last year, most of the asylum seekers fleeing to Europe were men, many of them young and single. But in the past several weeks, the balance has shifted, with women and their children, as well as unaccompanied minors, now accounting for roughly 57% of asylum seekers. The surge of the vulnerable comes at the worst possible time — just as European nations are barring their doors and 25,000 refugees are suddenly trapped in near-bankrupt Greece, a country that was once merely an entry point. Refugees say the sudden exodus of women and children was sparked by a rising fear that the path to sanctuary will soon close completely. “My cousins, my neighbors, everyone told us, ‘Go now. There isn’t much time, because they will shut the door,’ ” said Hussein, who left the Syrian city of Hasakah three weeks ago in a desperate bid to make it to Germany.

“We crossed the sea,” she said, pausing to wipe away tears. “But they won’t let us through. You don’t understand. I don’t have any money left. I have four children. I don’t have any other plan.” Now, the EU’s most troubled member – Greece – is scrambling to cope with a mounting humanitarian crisis the rest of the continent has left on its doorstep. With 2,000 migrants a day still arriving in rickety boats in the Greek islands via Turkey, Greek officials are warning that the number of stranded migrants could surge to 70,000 within 30 days, turning pockets of this troubled country into sprawling refugee camps.

[..] In recent days, Macedonian authorities have begun sharply limiting the number and type of migrants allowed through — a response to the same action by Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and other Balkan nations. Macedonian authorities on Monday resorted to tear gas, firing canisters at migrants as they tried to force their way through a section of border fence with a battering ram. Hours later, children could still be seen rubbing at irritated eyes. “We treated women and children today because of tear gas,” said Vicky Markolefa, a visibly frustrated official with Doctors Without Borders, which is running an overburdened clinic here. “Yes, that’s right. Women and children. They were choking. They had stinging eyes. They inhaled that smoke. Some of them were infants.”

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Aug 212015
 
 August 21, 2015  Posted by at 8:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Lewis Wickes Hine Newsies in St. Louis, N. Broadway and De Soto 1910

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras Steps Down To Trigger New Elections (Guardian)
Syriza Rebels Break Away To Form New Party ‘Leiki Anotita’ -Popular Unity- (BBC)
The Colony Of Italy (M5S Lower House)
Asia Stocks Tumble as China PMI Hits Six-Year Low; Shanghai -4.27% (Bloomberg)
Global Stocks In ‘Panic Mode’ As China Factory Slump Drags On Markets (Guardian)
Commodity Rout Erases $2 Trillion From Stock Values (Bloomberg)
Stock Market Correction: Is This A New Global Financial Crisis? (Guardian)
The Asian Century Hits a Speed Bump (Bloomberg)
China Wants Great Power, Not Great Responsibility (Pesek)
Can Kickers United – Why It’s Getting Downright Hazardous Out There (Stockman)
The Baby Boom Will Never Retire (MyBudget360)
Draghi’s Post-Holiday Inbox Stuffed With Trouble (Bloomberg)
How Long Can Saudi Arabia Hold Out Against Cheap Oil? (Bloomberg)
UK New Home Builds Fall 14% In Three Months Despite Election Pledge (PA)
Brazil’s Unemployment Rate Hits Five-Year High in July (WSJ)
World Breaks New Heat Records In July (AFP)
The Unique Ecology Of Human Predators (Phys Org)
Macedonia Police Use Tear Gas Against Migrants (BBC)

Democracy in progress.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras Steps Down To Trigger New Elections (Guardian)

Seven months after he was elected on a promise to overturn austerity, the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has announced that he is stepping down to pave the way for snap elections next month. As the debt-crippled country received the first tranche of a punishing new €86bn bailout, Tsipras said on Thursday he felt “a moral obligation to place this deal in front of the people, to allow them to judge … both what I have achieved, and my mistakes”. The 41-year-old Greek leader is still popular with voters for having at least tried to stand up to the country’s creditors, and his leftwing Syriza party is likely to be returned to power in the imminent general election, which government officials told Greek media was most likely to take place on 20 September.

The prime minister insisted in an address on public television that he was proud of his time in office and had got “a good deal for the country”, despite bringing it “close to the edge”. He added that he was “shortly going to submit my resignation, and the resignation of my government, to the president”. The prime minister will be replaced for the duration of the short campaign by the president of Greece’s supreme court, Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou – a vocal bailout opponent – as head of a caretaker government. Tsipras won parliamentary backing for the tough bailout programme last week by a comfortable margin, but suffered a major rebellion among members of his ruling Syriza party, nearly one-third of whose 149 MPs either voted against the deal or abstained.

The revolt by hardliners, angry at what they view as a betrayal of the party’s anti-austerity pledges, left Tsipras short of the 120 votes he would need – two-fifths of the 300-seat assembly – to survive a censure motion, leading to speculation that he would call an early confidence vote. He has now decided to skip that step, opting instead to go straight to the country in an attempt to silence the rebels and shore up public support for the three-year bailout programme, which entails a radical overhaul of the Greek economy and major reforms of health, welfare, pensions and taxation.

Government sources had long suggested that an announcement on early elections was on the cards as soon as Athens had got the first instalment of the new package – Greece’s third in five years – and completed a critical €3.4bn debt repayment to the European Central Bank, due on Thursday. Some analysts had speculated that the prime minister might wait until early October, by which time Greece’s creditors would have carried out their first review of the country’s reform progress and perhaps come to a decision about debt relief – a potential vote-winner for the prime minister.

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Is Tsipras wise enough to use this to his full advantage?

Syriza Rebels Break Away To Form New Party ‘Leiki Anotita’ -Popular Unity- (BBC)

Rebels from Greece’s main party, left-wing Syriza, are to break away and form a new party, Greek media reports say. Prime minister and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras stood down on Thursday, paving the way for new elections. The move came after he lost the support of many of his own MPs in a vote on the country’s new bailout with European creditors earlier this month. Greek media reports say 25 rebel Syriza MPs will join the new party, called Leiki Anotita (Popular Unity). The party will be led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was strongly opposed to the bailout deal, reports say. A list of MPs joining the party published by the Ta Nea newspaper showed that the parliamentary speaker Zoe Konstantopulou and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis were not among its members. Both had opposed a new bailout deal, with Ms Konstantopulou highly critical of her former ally Mr Tsipras.

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From Beppe Grillo’s parliamentarians. Dead on. “The 5 Star MoVement wants to show Europe what it means to have people in government who are free to make decisions.”

The Colony Of Italy (M5S Lower House)

“From Crete to Santorini, from Mykonos to Thessaloniki – it’s official: 14 of the Greek airports making the most money, will be handed over to Germany until 2055. Before now, things were conquered with wars. Now it’s done with the Euro. In Italy, companies called Lamborghini, Ducati, Italcementi and other giants have been in German hands for more than a year. Parmalat, Galbani, Eridania, Bulgari, Gucci, Buitoni, Sanpellegrino, Perugina, and Motta have landed up in French hands. Between 2008 and 2013, 437 of the most famous Italian brands have ended up in foreign hands. They’ve converted us into an outlet, where they come “shopping” from all over the world and the government doesn’t even notice. Recently, English and South Africans have bought Peroni beer and Gancia sparkling wine.

And that’s not considering Ansaldo that’s gone to the Japanese, Terna and Pirelli to the Chinese, and the Valentino brand to the Arabs. And how much longer before the Colosseum gets purchased? Greece was first strangled by the conditions to get their budget balanced for the Euro, those same constraints that Germany and France allowed themselves not to respect on so many occasions. Now that the country is totally dependent on the transfer of funds from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, they are being obliged to give up the family jewels in exchange for a bit of small change. In these new wars of conquest, Germany and France are acting like their masters.

In Greece, they are buying up the services that make the most money: last year Greece had a record number of 23 million tourists and it’s obvious that the airports are a gold-mine. This is why they want them. And in exchange the banks can open their doors. In Italy, on the other hand, they have bought up the “Made in Italy” companies, with a quasi-military strategy. First, the governments led by the PD, Forza Italia and Lega, strangled them by increasing taxes, because “it’s what Europe asked us to do”. Then, that same “Europe” (in actual fact the Franco-German alliance) bought them up from owners who found their backs to the wall. A bit like what happens in war-time when cities are razed to the ground and then the reconstruction business starts.

Europe needs to experience once more the joy of having sovereign states, states that don’t accept being bought out while saying “thank you”. If you want to give us the possibility of governing, our idea of Italy is clear: we want to bring back home many of the excellent companies that are Made in Italy. We could do this by using the Italian Strategic Fund of the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti that will be able to buy them. By buying back these “family jewels” we are creating an opportunity to relaunch top quality employment in Italy. Profits from “Made in Italy” will stay in Italy and will make Italy rich. We must also have discussions about thie “Euro” that cannot be a weapon used to colonise other States. The 5 Star MoVement wants to show Europe what it means to have people in government who are free to make decisions.”

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Getting serious.

Asia Stocks Tumble as China PMI Hits Six-Year Low; Shanghai -4.27% (Bloomberg)

Asian stocks tumbled with U.S. index futures, oil and emerging currencies as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing plunged to the lowest since 2009, underscoring the weakness in global demand. Gold and the yen extended gains. Benchmark gauges in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia headed for bear markets, dragging down the MSCI Asia Pacific Index by 2.4% at 2:34 p.m. in Tokyo. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures dropped 0.5% after the gauge fell the most in 18 months. Gold is set for its biggest weekly advance since January as the selloff in emerging markets spreads. U.S. oil headed for an eighth straight weekly slide, its longest streak since 1986. “We’ve been expecting a correction and it looks like we’re getting one,” said Mark Lister at Craigs Investment Partners.

“The S&P had held up, now it’s back in negative territory. The whole world’s looking a little bit sad. China still looks really worrying on a number of fronts.” China’s decision to devalue its currency amid slowing growth and the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates has spurred a wave of selling across emerging markets and commodities. The first read on Chinese economic activity in August added to concern that the slowdown in global growth is deepening, boosting the appeal of haven assets such as gold, the yen and sovereign bonds. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index is heading for its biggest weekly loss since 2011. Japan’s Topix index slid the most since July 8 on Friday and the Kospi gauge in Seoul set for its worst week since May 2012. The MSCI All-Country World Index has lost 3.1% this week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 2.3%, taking declines since an April high beyond 20%. Taiwan’s benchmark gauge dropped 2.7% to finish in a bear market and the Jakarta Composite Index slid 2.1%. The Shanghai Composite Index slumped 3%, taking the week’s loss beyond 10%. The gauge briefly erased all its gains since the government began efforts to prop up the market in July. About $2.2 trillion was wiped from the value of global stocks in the first four days of the week. The S&P 500 slipped out of the 70-point trading range it has been stuck in since March, falling below 2,040 to as low as 2,035.73 on Thursday. It closed below its 200-day moving average for the first time since July 9.

The Federal Reserve will decide whether to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 on Sept. 18. Bets on liftoff taking place next month have been wound back since the last meeting as oil slumped, China cut the value of its currency and the Fed’s own minutes showed concern among policymakers about the pace of inflation. The decision is “only four weeks away and the world’s looking pretty vulnerable,” said Stephen Halmarick at Colonial First State Investment. “If they delay you might see some support coming through to U.S. markets because then the dollar probably comes down a bit from where it is now and some of those pressure points may be relieved, at least in the short term.”

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Everyone’s sinking now.

Global Stocks In ‘Panic Mode’ As China Factory Slump Drags On Markets (Guardian)

Stock markets across Asia-Pacific went into “panic mode” on Friday after more signs of a weakening Chinese economy compounded overnight losses on Wall Street and European bourses. China’s factory sector shrank at its fastest pace in more than six years in August as domestic and export demand dwindled, a private survey showed, adding to worries that the world’s second-largest economy may be slowing sharply and sending financial markets into a tailspin. China’s surprise devaluation of the yuan and heavy selling in its stock markets in recent weeks have sparked fears that it could be at risk of a hard landing which would hammer world growth. Markets in countries whose economic fortunes are closely linked to China’s growth tumbled.

Japan’s Nikkei average dropped more than 2% to six-week lows on Friday while the Kopsi index in South Korea fell 2.25%. Shares in Australia are having their worst month since the global financial crisis hit in October 2008. On Friday afternoon the benchmark ASX200 was down 2.2% at 5,173 points and is down 8.8% so far in August, according to broker Commsec. The Australian dollar was also hammered, falling 0.5% to as low as US72.85c. The Aussie, which is seen as a proxy for the Chinese economy, has fallen about 1% in the past week. The Hang Seng stock index in Hong Kong was down 2.32% while the Shanghai Composite index was 3% lower.

Commodities also suffered. US crude hit fresh six and a half year lows near $40 a barrel as it headed for its eighth straight weekly decline, the longest weekly losing streak since 1986. Brent crude for October delivery was down 29c at $46.33. “Global markets are in panic mode as the full scale of China’s slowdown becomes clearer,” said Angus Nicholson at IG Markets in Sydney. The long-awaited interest rate rise by the US federal reserve, pencilled in for as early as September by many analysts, was now looking much less likely, Nicholson added. “The potential for further devaluations in the Chinese yuan not only make a US rate hike in September unlikely, but increasingly even put a December rate hike at risk.”

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Deflation in action.

Commodity Rout Erases $2 Trillion From Stock Values (Bloomberg)

The value that commodity producers have lost in the past year almost equals India’s entire economy. Slumping prices for raw materials have wiped out $2.05 trillion from the shares of mining and oil companies since the middle of last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That compares with India’s $2.07 trillion gross domestic product. Prices plunged after years of overinvestment led to a supply glut at the same time that economic growth is slowing in China, the biggest consumer of commodities. The Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 raw materials dropped Wednesday to its lowest since 2002, paced this year by declines in nickel, sugar, and crude oil.

Oil companies have reduced spending by $180 billion this year while maintaining dividends, according to Rystad Energy, an Oslo-based energy consultant. As a prolonged decline lowers revenue, it may be harder for the industry to avoid slashing payments. “The energy is the worst, the materials, industrials have been a disaster,” says Donald Selkin at National Securities Corp. in New York. “The problem is their ability to pay dividends. That’s the question, as far as the valuation is concerned.” Another blow has come from a stronger dollar. Currencies of commodity producers in such countries as Canada and Russia are slumping, lowering production costs. That’s helped boost Russian oil supply to a post-Soviet high this year, adding to the global glut.

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Is this a question?

Stock Market Correction: Is This A New Global Financial Crisis? (Guardian)

The jitters in the City have nothing to do with the state of the UK economy and nothing to do with the speculation that Greece might eventually be forced out of the single currency. They have everything to do with concerns that the next global financial crisis has begun in emerging markets. As ever, the riposte to this suggestion is “it’s different this time”, with good reason considered the four most dangerous words in financial markets. Panglossian investors can always think up a hundred reasons why it’s different this time, up to the moment when reality smacks them in the face.

The optimists argue that China is adroitly easing its way to slower but more sustainable growth, that the fall in commodity prices has been caused by over-supply rather than a shortage of demand, and that the rest of the world has had plenty of opportunity to prepare itself for an increase in interest rates from the Federal Reserve later this year. The pessimists would say that China’s hard landing is being disguised by dodgy official figures, that oil and metals prices are falling because demand is faltering and that the $1tn of capital that has flowed out of emerging markets in the past year is evidence of a sharp drop in investor confidence.

As Russell Jones and Bimal Dharmasena of Llewellyn Consulting note: “The export-led model has run its course. In many ways, it sowed the seeds of its own destruction, the emphasis on exchange rate competitiveness and foreign exchange reserve accumulation morphing into undue monetary laxity, excessive credit growth, asset price inflation, income inequalities, and malign financial imbalances similar to those built up in the advanced economies pre-2007.” Many emerging market countries assumed that high commodity prices would last for ever. They spent up to their income, and then some. They now have a twin deficit problem: they are running budget and current account deficits. Capital flowed into emerging markets when zero interest rates in the west set off a search for higher yield in markets that were seen as a bit riskier but still safe. Now those markets are seen as not nearly so safe as they were and a lot riskier than the west.

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“Beijing will have to choose between propping up the equity market and defending the currency from further downside pressure: “They will not be able to do both.”

The Asian Century Hits a Speed Bump (Bloomberg)

Trade slowing, currencies weakening, stocks falling, economic growth waning and political wobbles emerging. 2015 is proving a bumpy year in what’s meant to be the Asian century. The confluence of stresses – from China’s slowdown, the fallout from the yuan’s devaluation, doubts over Abenomics, disappointment with Modi and Jokowi, and deepening vulnerabilities among smaller economies – comes as the Federal Reserve contemplates raising interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. Weakening currencies can help boost export competitiveness, but also raise the cost of servicing U.S. dollar debt. And when devaluations start spreading, there are fears of a new currency war.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists say they’re concerned about the competitive impact on the rest of Asia from a weaker yuan, as China’s market share of exports to the U.S. and the EU was growing even before the devaluation. Demand for Asian-made goods was already stumbling amid uneven recoveries in the U.S. and Europe before the yuan devaluation. Now, “northeast Asia will likely face greater competitive pressures from China’s devaluation given stronger trade linkages and overlapping exports,” BofA economists say. Asian stocks have reflected the worsening outlook. China has seen the wildest ride, with a first-half surge reversing course since June. While China’s FX hoard is the envy of the world, even it isn’t bottomless. Analysts at BMI Research say Beijing will have to choose between propping up the equity market and defending the currency from further downside pressure: “They will not be able to do both.”

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Re: Nicole’s eroding Trust Horizon: “China is facing an “erosion in trust in government (stock bubble, Tianjin blast, etc.)” both at home and abroad.”

By the way, Brussels wants the same as Beijing: no responsibility.

China Wants Great Power, Not Great Responsibility (Pesek)

Forty-three years after Richard Nixon made his famous visit to China, that country has seemingly decided to take a page from the former U.S. president’s Treasury Department. As China lowers the value of the yuan, the country’s economic policy makers are mimicking the blasé attitude of Nixon-era Treasury chief John Connally, who dismissed international complaints about U.S. monetary policy with a curt remark: “It’s our currency, but it’s your problem.” To be fair, Japan has acted with similar self-interest since late 2012, when its 35% devaluation began. But that raises a prickly question: What options do Asia’s smaller economies have when the region’s two biggest seem intent on passing their own vulnerabilities onto everyone else?

China will be watching closely for the region’s response, for economic as well as political reasons. Beijing’s designs for regional leadership have always depended on winning the loyalty of its neighbors in order to reduce America’s financial, diplomatic and military role in Asia. Vietnam has already initiated a devaluation of its own, lowering the value of the dong by 1% on Wednesday in order to keep pace with China. Less clear are the potential responses of South Korea, Indonesia or the Philippines. China claims it’s just doing what the IMF asked in moving to a more market-determined exchange rate. But markets have taken so badly to China’s 3% devaluation because no one really believes President Xi Jinping’s government when it says bigger drops aren’t coming.

Take yesterday’s Bloomberg News report that China’s wealthiest investors have been the quickest to bail out of plunging stocks. China would surely deny Communist Party cronies are getting tipoffs on when it’s best to sell, but investors would be forgiven if they felt skeptical. The government’s obsessive efforts to censor deadly explosions at a toxic-material warehouse in Tianjin have only fed suspicions that Xi’s team is obfuscating on economic matters, too. As Patrick Chovanec of Silvercrest Asset Management told me in a Twitter exchange, China is facing an “erosion in trust in government (stock bubble, Tianjin blast, etc.)” both at home and abroad.

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Another strong outing by Stockman

Can Kickers United – Why It’s Getting Downright Hazardous Out There (Stockman)

It’s getting downright hazardous out there, and not just because the robo-machines were slamming the “sell” key today. The real danger comes from the loose assemblage of official institutions which claim to be running the world. They might better be referred to as “can kickers united.” It is now blindingly obvious that they have lapsed into empty ritualism, contrivance and double-talk in the face of a global economy and financial system that is becoming more unstable and incendiary by the day. Who in their right mind would pile $95 billion of new debt on the busted remnants of Greece? Likewise, how can Japan possibly consider enacting still another round of fiscal stimulus, as did Prime Minister Abe’s chief advisor recently, when it already has one quadrillion yen of debt?

And what geniuses are trying to fix the bankrupt finances of China’s local governments by swapping trillions of crushing bank loans for equivalent mountains of new municipal bonds? But it is on the home front where kicking the can has been taken to an egregious extreme. By what rational calculus can it be said, as the Fed did in its meeting minutes today, that 80 months of free money has not quite yet done the job? And that is exactly what these mountebanks had to say:

“The Committee concluded that, although it had seen further progress, the economic conditions warranting an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate had not yet been met. Members generally agreed that additional information on the outlook would be necessary before deciding to implement an increase in the target range.”

Say again! We are now 74 months into a so-called “recovery” cycle that is well longer than the post-war average, yet the Fed is still manning the emergency fire hoses.

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Full liquidation.

The Baby Boom Will Never Retire (MyBudget360)

Some of you might remember the glossy highly produced advertisements back in the early 1980s when Wall Street decided it was time to turn American retirement plans into casinos. The slow and agonizing death of the pension plan was supposed to be replaced by the beautiful and wonderful world of the 401(k) plan. Save for 30 years and in the end, you will be a millionaire just like your friends on Wall Street that sincerely care about your financial future. Of course since then, we have found out about junk bond scandals, mutual fund fees that make loan sharks look conservative, and of course the financial shenanigans of giving people toxic mortgages that were essentially ticking time bombs of destruction. This was the industry that was put in charge of helping you plan for your future. We are now a generation out from those slick ads and the results have been disastrous for most Americans.

A recent analysis found that half of US households 55 and older have no money stashed away for retirement. Planning for retirement takes time. Saving money is a slow process. There was a time when simply stashing money into CDs and savings bonds was enough to have a nice nest egg if you were diligent enough. Yet for the last decade, most banks are paying close to 0% on their savings accounts thanks to the Fed’s low rate policy to juice the markets. Since the true inflation rate is much higher, you are essentially letting your money rot away. So the only other option is for people to invest in the stock market or try to leverage into real estate. The stock market is largely an arena for the wealthy. Half of Americans own no stocks at all. Now after a generation, we are finding out that most people did not follow in the footsteps of those glossy over produced retirement ads.

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Much of it is of his own making.

Draghi’s Post-Holiday Inbox Stuffed With Trouble (Bloomberg)

The euro area’s monetary-policy makers aren’t getting to slumber through the dog days of August. Even with talks over Greece’s third bailout wrapped up, European Central Bank officials are having their repose disturbed by developments that could jolt their plan to revive the region’s economy. In coming weeks, they’ll have to deal with a world in which China has devalued its currency, oil has slumped to almost $40 a barrel, and investors in emerging markets are walking wounded. The ECB’s Governing Council meets in Frankfurt on Sept. 3, sandwiched between the U.S. Federal Reserve’s annual policy pow-wow in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a gathering of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers in Ankara.

As the Fed considers raising its interest rates as soon as next month, ECB President Mario Draghi and his colleagues could find themselves discussing policy action of a very different kind. “The pressure for the ECB to bring forward the discussion about an extension or expansion of its quantitative-easing program beyond summer 2016 has increased significantly,” said Ruben Segura-Cayuela at BofAML. “Deflationary pressures coming from China, emerging markets and the decline of commodities’ prices are making it harder for the ECB to hit its inflation target.” In assessing whether they’ll reach that goal – inflation of just under 2%, compared with 0.2% in July – the ECB is watchful of how investors hedge against prices in the future. Since the end of July, the outlook has worsened.

So-called five-year, five-year forward inflation swaps show that market-based consumer-price expectations slid to about 1.6% this month, almost as low as when QE started in March. The drop in the price of oil, down by a third since June, and cheaper imports into Europe as Asian currencies follow the yuan lower, may compound the problem. Adding to the uncertainty, the Greek government plans to hold an election on Sept. 20, just before the first review of its new bailout program. Stubbornly low inflation in the euro area – as in the U.S. and the U.K. – increases the risk that broad-based price decreases, or deflation, could creep in. It also drags on economic growth, which slowed to a sluggish 0.3% in the 19-nation bloc last quarter. This month’s inflation figures will be published on Aug. 31.

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When will internal trouble start?

How Long Can Saudi Arabia Hold Out Against Cheap Oil? (Bloomberg)

The oil price was near its lowest in more than a decade, cash reserves were being depleted, emerging markets were in turmoil and Saudi Arabia was beginning to panic. “It was a very scary moment,” said Khalid Alsweilem, former head of investment at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the country’s central bank. “And luckily at that point, oil prices started going up. Not by design, by good luck.” That was 1998, and now Saudi Arabia’s fortunes threaten to turn again. This time, luck might not be enough as the government tries to protect the wealth of a nation whose economy has swelled by five times since then. The bastion of conservative Sunni Islam also is paying for an expanding role in regional conflicts in the face of a resurgent Iran and Islamic State extremists who have bombed Saudi mosques.

Economists are predicting a budget deficit of as much as 20% of GDP and the IMF forecasts a first Saudi current-account deficit in more than a decade. Reserves at the central bank tumbled 10% from a year ago, or by more than $70 billion. As a result, bets on the devaluation of the riyal are surging. The Tadawul All Share Index lost 18% in the past three months and dragged stocks down across the Gulf region. The benchmark’s moving averages made a so-called death cross on Aug. 18, a sign to some investors that more losses are ahead. The Saudis have “played a waiting game,” Robert Burgess at Deutsche Bank said. “The budget for next year is going to be a very important milestone that the markets are going to be focusing on quite intently.”

With oil prices down by more than half over the past 12 months to below $50, Saudi Arabia faces many of the same financial problems it did in 1998. The difference is the sheer cost of maintaining the state as an employment machine and guarantor of the riches that Saudis have become accustomed to since the last squeeze. Subsidized gasoline costs 16 cents per liter and while there’s the religious levy called zakat, there is no personal income tax in the nation of 30 million people. “The Saudi government can’t continue to be the employer of first resort, it can’t continue to drive economic growth through the big infrastructure projects and it can’t keep lavishing on subsidies and social spending,” said Farouk Soussa at Citigroup.

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Can’t keep the Ponzi going without new ‘candidates’.

UK New Home Builds Fall 14% In Three Months Despite Election Pledge (PA)

The number of new homes being started in England fell at its steepest rate for three years in the last quarter, official figures show. The 14% drop in housing starts to 33,280 in the period from April to June is the biggest decline since the first three months of 2012, according to seasonally adjusted government data. Starts are 6% lower year on year. It means the pace of new housebuilding is 32% below the peak level in 2007, but remains nearly double the trough it reached during the financial crisis in 2009. The fall comes after a 29% rise in the first quarter of this year, the biggest increase on records going back to 2006. For the year to June 2015, there was a total of 136,320 starts, down 1% on the year before, according to the figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Housing completions for the quarter were 4% up on the previous period at 35,640, and 22% up year on year. But they remain 26% below their 2007 peak. In the year to June, completions totalled 131,060, a 15% increase on the previous 12-month period. The housing charity Shelter said this was only half the 250,000 needed to deal with the country’s housing shortage. Its chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “Once again, these figures show that we’re not building anywhere near the number of homes needed each year, leaving millions of ordinary, hardworking people priced out. “And worryingly, despite claims by the government that progress is being made to solve our chronic housing shortage, the number of new homes started has actually decreased.”

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This will get much, much worse.

Brazil’s Unemployment Rate Hits Five-Year High in July (WSJ)

Brazil’s unemployment rate surged to a five-year high last month and came in far above forecasts as the country’s troubled economy likely took a turn for the worse. The jobless rate in six major metropolitan areas jumped to 7.5% in July from 6.9% in June, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, or IBGE, said Thursday. Economists polled by the local Agência Estado newswire had forecast a median unemployment rate of 7%. The swift deterioration in Brazil’s job market comes as the nation’s economy is expected to suffer its deepest recession in more than two decades this year, with economists calling for a contraction of more than 2%. Most now expect the decline to continue, albeit at a more moderate pace, through 2016.

Rising unemployment could ramp up the pressure on Brazil’s embattled president, Dilma Rousseff, whose approval ratings have plunged to a record-low 8% just 10 months after she was elected to a second term. Ms. Rousseff’s popularity has been weighed down by the bad economy, rising inflation, and a massive corruption scandal surrounding state-run energy firm Petróleo Brasileiro SA, where she served as chairwoman from 2003 to 2010.

Ms. Rousseff’s administration is struggling to push fiscal austerity measures through an unruly Congress in hopes of clamping down on the government’s swelling budget deficit. At stake is Brazil’s investment-grade credit rating which, if lost, would trigger higher borrowing costs and huge outflows of foreign money from foreign investment funds. Antigovernment lawmakers—and thousands of protesters who took to the streets on Sunday—are even calling for Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment, though legal experts say there appears to be little justification for such a move.

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Past point of no return.

World Breaks New Heat Records In July (AFP)

The world broke new heat records in July, marking the hottest month in history and the warmest first seven months of the year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, US authorities said Thursday. The findings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed a troubling trend, as the planet continues to warm due to the burning of fossil fuels, and scientists expect the scorching temperatures to get worse. “The world is warming. It is continuing to warm. That is being shown time and time again in our data,” said Jake Crouch, physical scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “Now that we are fairly certain that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, it is time to start looking at what are the impacts of that? What does that mean for people on the ground?” he told reporters.

The month’s average temperature across land and sea surfaces worldwide was 61.86 Fahrenheit (16.61 Celsius), marking the hottest July ever. The previous record for July was set in 1998. “This was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880-2015 record,” said NOAA in its monthly climate report. “The first seven months of the year (January-July) were also all-time record warm for the globe,” NOAA said. When scientists looked at temperatures for the year-to-date, they found land and ocean surfaces were 1.53 F (0.85 C) above the 20th century average. “This was the highest for January-July in the 1880-2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.16 F (0.09 C).”

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The most deadly and most tragic species.

The Unique Ecology Of Human Predators (Phys Org)

Want to see what science now calls the world’s “super predator”? Look in the mirror. Research published today in the journal Science by a team led by Dr. Chris Darimont, the Hakai-Raincoast professor of geography at the University of Victoria, reveals new insight behind widespread wildlife extinctions, shrinking fish sizes and disruptions to global food chains. “These are extreme outcomes that non-human predators seldom impose,” Darimont’s team writes in the article titled “The Unique Ecology of Human Predators.” “Our wickedly efficient killing technology, global economic systems and resource management that prioritize short-term benefits to humanity have given rise to the human super predator,” says Darimont, also science director for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

“Our impacts are as extreme as our behaviour and the planet bears the burden of our predatory dominance.” The team’s global analysis indicates that humans typically exploit adult fish populations at 14 times the rate of marine predators. Humans hunt and kill large land carnivores such as bears, wolves and lions at nine times the rate that these predatory animals kill each other in the wild. Humanity also departs fundamentally from predation in nature by targeting adult quarry. “Whereas predators primarily target the juveniles or ‘reproductive interest’ of populations, humans draw down the ‘reproductive capital’ by exploiting adult prey,” says co-author Dr. Tom Reimchen, biology professor at UVic. Reimchen originally formulated these ideas during long-term research on freshwater fish and their predators at a remote lake on Haida Gwaii, an archipelago on the northern coast of British Columbia.

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This is going to break Brussels.

Macedonia Police Use Tear Gas Against Migrants (BBC)

Macedonia is a key route for migrants trying to reach prosperous northern EU countries (archive picture) Macedonian police have fired tear gas to disperse thousands of migrants trying to enter from Greece. It comes a day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency in two border regions to cope with an influx of migrants, many from the Middle East. Large numbers spent the night stuck on Macedonia’s southern frontier, and tried to charge police in the morning. The Balkan nation has become a major transit point for migrants trying to reach northern EU members. Some 44,000 people have reportedly travelled through Macedonia in the past two months, many of whom are escaping the conflict in Syria.

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