Sep 172017
 
 September 17, 2017  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Edward Hopper House tops 1921

 

Trade War With China Will End US Global Finance Monopoly – Jim Rogers (RT)
Pension Storm Warning (Mauldin)
S&P On The Verge Of History (ZH)
How Austerity Works (Steve Keen)
Why Bitcoin May Be Worth Only A Third Of Its Value (MW)
How Common is the Seneca Curve? (Ugo Bardi)
Greek Debt Write-Offs To Be Based On Properties (K.)
The Eurozone May Be Back On Its Feet. But Is Greece? (G.)
Chinese Capital Bans Winter Construction To Improve Air Quality (R.)
White House Denies EU Claim That It’s Shifting on Climate Deal (BBG)

 

 

“It will force the rest of the world to find an alternative to the US financial system.” They haven’t found one yet.

Trade War With China Will End US Global Finance Monopoly – Jim Rogers (RT)

RT : What is the likelihood that the US will go through with and actually impose economic sanctions on China if it does not implement the new sanctions regime against North Korea? Jim Rogers : Sanctions are sanctions. They could do sanctions which are not very important or don’t do much damage. And then they will have good public relations which says they have sanctions, but it is meaningless. I would suspect if anything, that is what they will start with. If they put sanctions on China in a big way, it brings the whole world economy down. And in the end, it hurts America more than it hurts China because it just forces China and Russia and other countries closer together. Russia and China and other countries are already trying to come up with a new financial system. If America puts sanctions on them, they would have to do it that much faster and in the end America will lose its monopoly on the financial system, which will hurt America more than anybody.

RT : What do you think, is it an empty rhetoric and saber-rattling from Donald Trump because he said “those [UN] sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen” without specifying what he meant by that. Do you think this is just mere bluff on the part of the US, or would it really use the ‘nuclear option’? JR : If it uses a nuclear option for sanctions, it will hurt America much more than will hurt North Korea, it will hurt America much more than it will hurt China, Russia and everybody else. It will force the rest of the world to find an alternative to the US financial system. If he does that, it is going to cause a lot of turmoil in the world financial economy and in the end it is going to hurt America more than it is going to hurt anybody else. I would give you an example, if you look at Russian agriculture right now – America put sanctions on Russian agriculture trying to hurt Russia, but it has helped Russian agriculture. Russian agriculture is booming now. In the end, America has hurt itself more than it has hurt anybody else.

RT : If that happens, what would the consequences be for the global economy? Could this end up becoming a global economic crisis? JR : We are probably going to have a global economic problem, maybe even crisis, in the next couple of years. This may be one of the things that start it. There is always something which starts a crisis. If America does something like this, this could be the thing that did it. In 1929, it started when America started a huge trade war with the rest of the world and the economists said, “please, this is a mistake,” but America did that anyway. And then we had a great collapse and The Great Depression of the 1930s.

Read more …

Pensions and hurricanes: lies and bad preparation.

Pension Storm Warning (Mauldin)

Total unfunded liabilities in state and local pensions have roughly quintupled in the last decade. You read that right – not doubled, tripled or quadrupled: quintupled. That’s nice when it happens on a slot machine, not so nice when it’s money you owe. The graph [shows] that unfunded pension liabilities for state and local governments was $2 trillion. But that assumes an average 7% compound return. What if we assume 4% compound returns? Now the admitted unfunded pension liability is $4 trillion. But what if we have a recession and the stock market goes down by the past average of more than 40%? Now you have an unfunded liability in the range of $7–8 trillion.We throw the words a trillion dollars around, not realizing how much that actually is. Combined state and local revenues for the US total around $2.6 trillion.

Following the next recession (whenever that is), the unfunded pension liabilities for state and local governments will be roughly three times the revenue they are collecting today, and that’s before a recession reduces their revenues. Can you see the taxpayer stuck between a rock and a hard place? Two immovable objects meeting? The math just doesn’t work. Pension trustees don’t face personal liability. They’re literally playing with someone else’s money. Some try very hard to be realistic and cautious. Others don’t. But even the most diligent can’t control when the next recession comes, or when the stock market will crash, leaving a gaping hole in their assets while liabilities keep right on rising. I have had meetings with trustees of various government pensions.

Many of them want to assume a more realistic discount rate, but the politicians in their state literally refuse to allow them to assume a reasonable discount rate, because owning up to reality would require them to increase their current pension funding dramatically. So they kick the can down the road. Intentionally or not, state and local officials all over the US made pension promises that future officials can’t possibly keep. Many will be out of office when the bill comes due, protected from liability by sovereign immunity. We are starting to see cities filing for bankruptcy. That small ripple will be a tsunami within 7–10 years.

Read more …

“..a market rally that goes deep into 2019..”

S&P On The Verge Of History (ZH)

U.S. stocks have risen more in the past eight years than in almost any other post-World War II time of economic growth, as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The logic here is that economic expansions fuel bull markets and so it’s reasonable to measure market recoveries after a period of macro contraction ends. Using that definition, let’s review how the S&P 500 has performed during the last ten economic recoveries. To be precise, the birth of the stock market’s bull market is dated as the first day after an NBER-defined recession has ended. The market run continues through the peak. The S&P 500 Index jumped 172% from July 2009, when the current expansion started, through Wednesday. The biggest advance was about 300% and occurred from April 1991 to March 2001, when Internet-related stocks soared.

As Capital Speculator blog’s James Picerno notes, the question before the house: Will the momentum of late endure long enough to overtake the 1991-2001 record in duration and/or magnitude? If so, the bull market in the here and now has to last another 463 trading days, which translates into a market rally that goes deep into 2019. There’s just one thing wrong… Remember – the ‘market’ is not the ‘economy’… or maybe it is in the new normal?

Read more …

It really is this simple.

How Austerity Works (Steve Keen)

I provide a simple numerical explanation of how austerity works at the micro (individual person, industrial sector, or country) and the macro level (country, or group of countries in a currency union).

Read more …

A thousand different views. At least this one took some homework.

Why Bitcoin May Be Worth Only A Third Of Its Value (MW)

Dan Davies, senior research adviser at Frontline Analysts, argued there’s no point in attempting to value bitcoin as if it were just another type of security. “It’s not a security with some intrinsic value, rather it’s a currency that in the long term is governed by an exchange rate driven by trade or volume of transactions,” Davies said. The fact that a significant proportion of bitcoins is hoarded or held for investment doesn’t disqualify it from being a currency, according to Davies. But the BTC/USD BTCUSD, -3.37% exchange rate is entirely determined by speculative portfolio capital flows right now, he said, leaving it difficult to assign fair value. Viewing bitcoin as a currency makes it possible, at least in theory, to come up with a long-term exchange rate by using the quantity theory of money.

The formula is: MV = PT, where money supply multiplied by its velocity equals the price level multiplied by the transaction volume. Since both price and transaction volume is expressed in U.S. dollars, the price of bitcoin would be 1/BTCUSD, Davies said. In this case, bitcoin’s supply is fixed at 21 million and money velocity for normal currencies is usually at around 10, according to Davies. So, the long-term fundamental value of bitcoin equals the long-term value of transactions that will be carried out in bitcoin divided by 210 million (21 million bitcoins multiplied by velocity). The hardest value to plug into this formula is the transaction volume. If, for example, bitcoin was used primarily for global trade in illicit drugs, the figure would be around $120 billion, which is an estimate the U.N. used in 2014.

“I used that number a few years ago, but we would have to come up with a different estimate, as bitcoin is clearly used for things other than illicit drugs now,” Davies said. Davies declined to offer an updated number, saying he needed to do more research. But doubling that transaction volume number to $240 billion, for example, and dividing by 210 million produces a value of $1,142, around a third of the current exchange rate of $3,569. That isn’t far from an estimate that Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz Global Investors, recently suggested as a fair value for bitcoin. In an interview with CNBC, El-Erian said the fair price should be about half or a third of what it is now. El-Erian argued the currency will only survive as a peer-to-peer means of payment and governments won’t allow mass adoption.

Read more …

It’s universal.

How Common is the Seneca Curve? (Ugo Bardi)

My talk at the Summer Academy of the Club of Rome was mainly a presentation of my latest book, “The Seneca Effect” (Springer 2017). In practice, of course, a book contains many more things than you can say in a 40 minute speech. So, I tried to concentrate on the idea that the behavior I call “the Seneca Curve” is very common, even universal. Below, you can see the Seneca Curve: things go up slowly but collapse rapidly, as the Roman philosopher Seneca said first some two thousand years ago. You may have heard the old Latin motto, “Natura non facit saltus” (Nature doesn’t make jumps) meaning that things change gradually, not abruptly. It may be true in many circumstances but, in practice, it is wholly normal that Nature accumulates energy potentials (as when you inflate a balloon) and then releases them all of a sudden (as when you puncture a balloon).

There are reasons why Nature behaves in this way, but the point I made at the school was not so much about why the curve is so common but how human beings are not normally aware of it. In fact, our thought is often shaped by the idea that things will continue evolving the way they have been evolving up to a certain point. Just think about economic growth, and you’ll notice how economists expect it to continue forever. It goes without saying that the economy is one of those complex systems which are most vulnerable to the Seneca collapse. So, I tried to stress that the understanding that the Seneca Curve exists and it is common is a recent discovery. Even though Seneca had understood it by intuition already almost 2000 years ago, in its modern form it is less than a century old. It was proposed for the first time by Jay Forrester in the 1960s and it was enshrined in “The Limits to Growth” study of 1972, even though the term “Seneca Effect” was not used.

During my talk, I showed this image to evidence how our ideas on the path that complex systems follow evolved over time. You see how modern the idea of “overshoot” (and the subsequent collapse) is. Malthus just didn’t have it. Despite being often accused of catastrophism, he couldn’t envisage societal collapse; he lacked the necessary intellectual tools. He was an optimist! Today, we have this concept. We know that complex systems tend not just to decline, they tend to collapse. But this perception is totally missing in the general debate. When you mention societal collapse, there are two possible reactions. The most common one is that such a thing will never happen.

Then, if you manage to convince people that it is possible, they endeavor to do everything they can to keep the system going; whatever it takes. They don’t realize that when you exceed the carrying capacity of the system, you have to come back, one way or another. And the more you try to stay above the limit, the faster and the harsher the return will be. What you have to do is to ease the collapse, follow it, not try to stop it. Otherwise, it will be worse.

Read more …

Is that corruption I smell?

Greek Debt Write-Offs To Be Based On Properties (K.)

Only business owners with no real estate properties will qualify for a partial write-off of corporate debts in the context of the extrajudicial settlement mechanism. This criterion excludes the owner’s main residence and the production properties, i.e. the professional properties used for the entrepreneurial activity. That was the decision that the technical experts of the country’s creditors are said to have reached with representatives of Greek banks and the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, while there was also convergence on setting the criteria for debt settlement for companies owing between €20,000 and €50,000. In this latter category of debtors, which mostly comprise small enterprises, a standardized procedure will be adopted for assessing repayment capacity and the determination of the amount that the debtor will have to pay on a regular basis.

Read more …

The Greece firesale will never come anywhere near the €60 billion, but everyone keeps mentioning the number. Their entire railway system went for €45 million. Selling off an entire country is a very bad idea. Europe will find out, but too late.

The Eurozone May Be Back On Its Feet. But Is Greece? (G.)

“It is obvious. Our policies have changed radically, ” says Stergios Pitsiorlas, the deputy economy and development minister, whose airy office is visited daily by bankers, hedge-fund managers and industrialists jockeying for bargains. “Being leftwing doesn’t mean you are also a fool. It doesn’t mean, in the words of Lenin, that we are useful idiots. Let’s speak seriously. Those who complain that Greece is being sold off, that Greece will lose out, don’t know what they are talking about.” Tall, bearded and bespectacled, Pitsiorlas is the point man in Athens’s attempt to raise €60bn (£53bn) through privatisations – sales that, increasingly, have become the focus of international creditors keeping the debt-stricken country afloat. In what has been called the most ambitious sell-off in modern European history, assets ranging from public utilities and transport companies to marinas and hotels are up for grabs.

[..] Privatisations are central to completion of a new round of bailout negotiations with the EU and IMF. Greece’s third, €86bn, rescue programme is due to end next summer and Tsipras has made a clean exit from it, which would herald Athens’s return to the markets, an overarching goal. But hurdles lie ahead. On Friday, eurozone finance ministers warned that continued persecution of the country’s former statistics chief, Andreas Georgiou, could dent international confidence and derail chances of recovery. Officials also raised the prospect of fresh austerity should Greece fail to hit the primary surplus target of 3.5% – a prospect made likely by a huge shortfall in tax revenues. But in a week when the Italians finally took control of Greece’s state-owned train network (acquired by Italy’s own state operator for a paltry €45m) Pitsiorlas is optimistic.

He cites the takeover of Piraeus port by the Chinese shipping conglomerate Cosco as an example of what privatisations can bring: “They will make it the biggest port in Europe and that will boost other professions, create thousands of jobs, revitalise shipyards, which they are also looking at, pave the way to better trains, roads and logistic centres, and trigger development and growth.” In five years, he enthuses, Greece will be a very different place, cosmopolitan and vibrant. “There are rules which need to be observed but ultimately everything will be solved,” he insisted, referring to the obstacles Eldorado and others have encountered. “A miracle will happen. There will be huge change … but the state can’t do it alone, the private sector has to be involved.”

Read more …

What happens to the bricklayers et al?

Chinese Capital Bans Winter Construction To Improve Air Quality (R.)

Beijing will suspend construction of major public projects in the city this winter in an effort to improve the capital’s notorious air quality, official media said on Sunday, citing the municipal commission of housing and urban-rural development. All construction of road and water projects, as well as demolition of housing, will be banned from Nov. 15 to March 15 within the city’s six major districts and surrounding suburbs, said the Xinhua report. The period spans the four months when heating is supplied to the city’s housing and other buildings. China is in the fourth year of a “war on pollution” designed to reverse the damage done by decades of untrammelled economic growth and allay concerns that hazardous smog and widespread water and soil contamination are causing hundreds of thousands of early deaths every year.

Beijing has promised to impose tough industrial and traffic curbs across the north of the country this winter in a bid to meet key smog targets. In the capital, it is aiming to reduce airborne particles known as PM2.5 by more than a quarter from their 2012 levels and bring average concentrations down to 60 micrograms per cubic metre. Last year the city experienced near record-high smog in January and February, which the government blamed on “unfavourable weather conditions” Some ‘major livelihood projects’ such as railways, airports and affordable housing may be continued however, providing they are approved by the commission, said the report.

Read more …

Paris is an empty deal.

White House Denies EU Claim That It’s Shifting on Climate Deal (BBG)

The European Union said President Donald Trump’s administration is shifting its approach to a landmark global agreement on climate change, an assertion which was quickly denied by the White House. The U.S. signaled that it’s no longer seeking to withdraw from the pact and then renegotiate it, but rather wants to re-engage with the Paris Agreement from within, said EU’s climate chief Miguel Arias Canete. He spoke in an interview from Montreal, where the U.S., China, Canada and almost 30 other countries gathered to discuss the most-sweeping accord to date to protect the environment. “Our position on the Paris agreement has not changed. @POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.

Announcing plans to quit the pact, Trump said in June that the agreement favored other countries at the expense of U.S. workers and amounted to a “massive redistribution” of U.S. wealth. Trump’s administration last month began the formal process of exiting from the climate accord, drawing fire from allies and foes alike. EU climate commissioner Canete made the comments about a change of stance after meeting with Everett Eissenstat, deputy director of the National Economic Council and deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs. “Now we don’t see the messages that they are withdrawing from the Paris agreement radically,” Canete said, adding that the countries at Saturday’s meeting agreed not to seek a re-negotiation of the Paris deal.

Read more …

Aug 132017
 
 August 13, 2017  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Vincent van Gogh Still life with bible 1885

 

China Takes On State-Owned Firms (Balding)
Trump Warns Xi: Trade War With China Begins Monday (ZH)
The Actual Terrorists (PCR)
How Money Launderers Used Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CNBC)
The Euro Area Is Due for a Reboot. Here’s What Is Being Proposed
Italy’s Midsummer Dream: Shaking Off Sick Man of Europe Label (BBG)
Greece Seen Needing Credit Line To Exit Program (K.)
Stop Targeting the Greeks, says Merkel in First Pre-Election Rally (GR)
Canada Orders Ships To Reduce Speed To Prevent Whale Deaths
Scientists Discover 91 Volcanoes Below Antarctic Ice Sheet (G.)

 

 

A very communist style economy still.

China Takes On State-Owned Firms (Balding)

A little-noticed statement last week could portend the next big battle in China’s effort to control its debt. On Aug. 2, the finance ministry issued directives that state-owned companies improve returns, control risks and make sure that “projects are financially viable before decisions are made.” That the government feels the need to spell out such obvious goals tells you the depth of the problem. China’s sprawling array of state-owned enterprises — with millions of employees across all sectors of the economy — may be the biggest obstacle to its broader effort at financial reform. Previous attempts to rein them in have largely failed. But if the government has any hope of real deleveraging, this time will have to be different. SOEs are huge, and so are their liabilities. They’re responsible for non-financial corporate debt equal to 90% of GDP.

Facing limited competitive pressure, they’ve driven the worst of China’s debt-led excess: Return on assets for these firms in 2016 was a paltry 2.9%, compared to 10.2% in the private sector. One reason is that China’s banking industry, which is itself almost exclusively state-owned, channels loans to SOEs in the expectation that they’ll have an implicit government guarantee. SOEs provide only 16% of China’s jobs and less than a third of its output, but they receive an astonishing 30% of all loans. With credit so easily available, they have little incentive to economize. They’re also burdened with conflicts of interest. Despite the new directive to focus on profitability, SOEs are still subject to orders from Party committees that sit above their corporate boards. Some firms have chafed at this arrangement, but in general political objectives – such as maximizing local employment – take priority over profits. Party leaders even refer to privatization as “wrongheaded thinking.”

China’s “Belt and Road” initiative offers a case in point. Even amid a broad crackdown on overseas investment, firms are being prodded to plow hundreds of billions of dollars into the initiative — mostly for unprofitable infrastructure projects — while simultaneously being told to prioritize return on investment. They can be forgiven for being a little confused. Given all these challenges, complying with the new directives will be difficult. Regulators have tried numerous reform strategies in the past. One has been to merge multiple inefficient SOEs, in the unlikely hope that combined they will create one efficient SOE. Another has been to draw distinctions between “commercial” and “public service” SOEs, hoping to give the former some private-sector-like flexibility. But as long as these companies can fall back on favorable bank loans, the impetus to improve efficiency will be limited.

Read more …

Xi understands. But the risk is he will use it as a rallying cry at the Communist Party Congress in the fall.

BTW, I don’t want to comment on Charlottesville. Other than: there’s so much underlying hatred in America, built up over so many years, and something other than blame seems necessary.

Trump Warns Xi: Trade War With China Begins Monday (ZH)

As if there weren’t enough geopolitical stress points in the world to fill a lifetime of “sleepy, vacationy” Augusts, late on Friday night President Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and told him that he’s preparing to order an investigation into Chinese trade practices next week, according to NBC. Politico confirms that Trump is ready to launch a new trade crackdown on China next week, citing an administration official, a step that Trump delayed two weeks ago under the guidance of his new Chief of Staff Gen. Kelly, but now appears imminent. It is also an escalation which most analysts agree will launch a trade war between Washington and Beijing. As Politico details, Trump on Monday will call for an investigation into China over allegations that the nation violated U.S. intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers, the official said.

While it’s unclear how much detail Trump will get into in the announcement, administration officials expect U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open an investigation against China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The ordering of the investigation will not immediately impose sanctions but could lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump has expressed frustration in recent months over what he sees as China’s unfair trade policies. As we discussed two weeks ago, Trump had planned to launch the trade investigation more than a week ago, but he delayed the move in favor of securing China’s support for expanded U.N. sanctions against North Korea, the senior administration official said.

The pending announcement also comes amid heightened tension between the United States and China, even after the Trump administration scored a victory in persuading Beijing to sign onto new United Nations sanctions on North Korea. Still, Trump has delayed trade action before, amid pressure from business groups and major trading partners: Two Commerce Department reports examining whether to restrict steel and aluminum imports on national security grounds were expected by the end of June but have been bottled up in an internal review. Trading partners raised threats of retaliation and domestic steel users complained of being hurt by price increases and restricted supply.

The trade investigation will immediately strain relations between the U.S. and China as the two countries wrestle with the unpredictable situation over North Korea. Should Trump follow through, the move will lay the groundwork for Trump to impose tariffs against Chinese imports, which will mark a significant escalation in his efforts to reshape the trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies. In other words, even if there is now conventional war announced with either North Korea or Venezuela, Trump’s next step is to launch a trade war against China.

Read more …

Bit confusing at times with reagrds to who said what, but the gist is clear.

The Actual Terrorists (PCR)

This is an article written by an Austrian, Klaus Madersbacher, who, somehow, was able to see through the heavy blanket of Amerian propaganda that suffocates the ability to think and to pereive throughout the entirety of Europe. He correctly undersands the Western destruction of Libya as a war crime. Germans were executed by the Nuremberg Tribunal for less. Madersbacher is correct that Libya was a monstrous war crime committed by the Obama regime and Washington’s NATO puppets. However, Libya is a worse crime than the Nazis committed, as is Afghanistan, Iraq, Yeman, Somalia, and parts of Syria. The Germans never destroyed entire countries and murdered the leaderships. Life in Nazi-occupied France was not as pleasant as in unoccupied France, but it was far more pleasant than life today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalis, Yemem, and part of Syria after America “brought democracy” to the countries.

Under the Nuremberg standard, the country (or countries) that originates war is the country that is responsible for the war crimes. The irony is that World War 2 was the responsibility of the British and French who started the war by declaring war on Germany. So under the Nuremberg standard it is Britian and France who are responsible for the war crimes. Madersbacher believes, as I did prior to reading David Irving’s book, Nuremberg, that Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor, succeeded in establishing the legal principle that it is a war crime to launch a war of aggression. In actual fact, the principle was not established. Irving points out that no other Tribunal was ever formed until the Clinton regime sent the Serbian president, Milosevic, to a tribunal that cleared Milosevic of the orchestrated charges.

Of course, as Madersbacher understands, for now Washington’s “might makes right” prevails, and no one is going to send the criminal regines of Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump if he follows their path, to a War Crimes Tribunal. But if Washington one day is militarily defeated or suffers economic collapse that makes the US dependent on foreign support, Washington’s war criminals, who exceed in number Nazi war criminals, could be finally held accountable. As Madersbacher writes, we await a Stalingrad 2.0 that paves the way to a Nuremberg 2.0.

The actual terrorists – Klaus Madersbacher, www.antikrieg.com

”Sometimes I ask myself about the value of a ‘culture’ which isn´t able to provide people with sufficient mental capacity to enable them to recognize if they are lied to as impudently as it is presently done by the media. It doesn´t need to be said that these are targeting the interests of the overwhelming majority of mankind.” I wrote this in July 2011, when three big European nations of culture and civilization together with some smaller ones under the leadership of the cultural superpower bombed peaceful Libya into ruins and systematically devastated the whole country. This is exactly the kind of crime the Nazi leaders have been hanged for. The crime against peace, which apparently only very few seem to know that it does exist at all. The crime against peace – “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” – the International Court at Nuremberg declared.

Simply said that means, that the party which initiates a war is responsible for all crimes committed in the context of this war. In the next two paragraphs, Madersbacher is saying, I think, that countries called democracies are excluded as war criminals because a parliament or congress acting for the people fund the war. He disagrees, correctly in my opinion, from this excuse for criminality. It’s not like that, that killing or hurting people in war is no crime, that the destruction of houses etc. is no crime, when carried out by means of high tech war machinery by armies financed by a budget decided by a parliament. Even if such outstanding democratic institutions as the Congress of the United States of America, her Majesties´ Parliament or the German Bundestag authorize such activities, this wouldn´t change a fart of the fact that these are crimes.

Read more …

Slap on the wrist. Want to bet?

How Money Launderers Used Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CNBC)

In a run-down mall in one of Sydney’s biggest Chinese neighborhoods in 2015, 29-year-old Jizhang Lu showed up at the top-floor offices of a meat export company carrying a carrier bag stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. According to police documents filed in court and reviewed by Reuters, Lu said he made the trip to the shopfront of CC&B International eight times over three weeks. Each time a CC&B employee would hand him a receipt showing a different company had bought tens of thousands of kilograms of meat. The cash — as much as A$530,200 ($416,840) at a time — was then deposited at a Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) branch, according to the police statement of facts agreed by Lu.

But the apparent purchases were fake, and last year Lu was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to helping launder A$3.2 million of what police allege were proceeds from an unidentified international drug syndicate. The court records reviewed by Reuters did not name Lu’s lawyer. Lu could not immediately be contacted directly because he was in custody. The police case against Lu is now one of several being cited by financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC in its statement of claim against CBA, the largest civil court action of its kind in Australian corporate history.

AUSTRAC has accused CBA of “serious and systemic” breaches of money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing rules, alleging the country’s second biggest mortgage lender failed to detect suspicious transactions nearly 54,000 times. It faces fines potentially amounting to billions of dollars. CBA has said it will fight the AUSTRAC lawsuit, saying it would never deliberately undertake action that enables any form of crime. CBA said a coding error with new automated teller machines was behind most of the breaches but that it recognized there were “other serious allegations” in AUSTRAC’s claim were unrelated to that software problem.

Read more …

Europe needs to step back from these ever more Europe plans.

The Euro Area Is Due for a Reboot. Here’s What Is Being Proposed

When France elected Emmanuel Macron in May, the prospects of mending the euro’s inherent flaws suddenly brightened. Adopted in 1999, the common European currency was intended as a political project to foster unity, but the crisis in Greece a decade later exposed the euro’s inability to enforce shared rules, principally on government debt and spending. The French president is pushing for greater fiscal integration among the 19 nations that now use the euro as a way to address at least some of those shortcomings. With Germany indicating an openness to Macron’s calls, the political stars may be aligning to overhaul the euro, and so reboot the European Union.

A common budget Macron has proposed the creation of a euro-area budget, aiming to help fund investments to boost growth, provide emergency financial assistance and streamline the bloc’s response to economic crises. While nations would still have discretion over their own budgets, this common pool of resources could be a boon during periods of financial turmoil and would reduce reliance on the European Central Bank to stimulate the euro-zone economy. Access to this budget would be contingent on states sticking to the bloc’s rules. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she’s open to the idea. “I’ve personally always said: it depends on how,” Merkel said during a July 13 press conference in Paris. “I have nothing against a euro-area budget. I have proposed in 2012 a smaller euro-area budget and failed miserably.” “I’m very glad that this idea is being introduced again,” she said.

A single finance minister Macron has also proposed creating the role of a finance chief for the euro area, an idea long supported by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. This person would be responsible for a budget and could operate under the supervision of the European Parliament. Schaeuble has said that such a change would require adjusting EU treaties, which isn’t realistic at the moment.

Debt sharing Perhaps the most controversial proposal is the issuance of debt that would be guaranteed by the euro states, an idea that has been rejected by Schaeuble as putting too much risk on taxpayers. In an effort to quell objections, the commission floated the creation of so-called European Safe Assets, a financial instrument that would bundle sovereign debt from across the currency bloc so it can be sold to investors as one product.

A European Monetary Fund One idea supported by large euro-area members including Germany is to turn the Luxembourg-based European Stability Mechanism – the euro-area bailout fund – into a European Monetary Fund by giving it greater power on fiscal monitoring and more say over future rescue programs. This would allow the fund to monitor the finances of countries that are in trouble and oversee future bailouts, a move that could take some powers away from the European Commission, which is in charge of fiscal surveillance. Giving the ESM a broader remit would also hand more powers to the fund’s board of governors — euro-area finance ministers themselves. Germany is in favor, pushing to strengthen the role of the fund, while the commission would most likely prefer to keep as many of its powers concentrated in Brussels.

Completing the banking union Many officials argue that the most crucial reforms are in the field of financial regulation. This primarily means concluding the so-called third leg of the banking union: a common deposit guarantee framework. Germany has so far resisted, concerned that its taxpayers might end up responsible for problems lurking on bank balance sheets in other countries. Instead, Berlin is seeking risk reduction among member states through limiting lenders’ exposure to government debt. But this idea has few supporters (beyond Germany, only Finland and the Netherlands have been in favor) and has been vehemently opposed by other countries such as Italy. States are also trying to complete the establishment of a common financial backstop to the single resolution fund, an entity designed to foot the bill for winding down failed banks. While the commission and countries including France and Italy have been pushing for the ESM to offer a credit line for that backstop, Germany has been strongly opposed.

Read more …

Something tells me it’s much worse than this.

Italy’s Midsummer Dream: Shaking Off Sick Man of Europe Label (BBG)

Italy is working hard to shake off the sick man tag. Through government tensions, bank rescues and a migrant crisis, business sentiment has improved and the economy managed to maintain consistent growth after multiple false dawns. A report on second-quarter economic expansion this week is expected to top off a streak of encouraging numbers ranging from the labor market to exports. Yet, the country still has challenges from a drought that hit farming and – longer term – a less favorable monetary policy and elections next year that may produce a hung parliament. GDP probably rose 0.4% in the three months through June, economists forecast, matching the pace of the previous quarter. That gain would boost expectations that full-year growth could top 1% for first time since 2010, helping the economy regain ground lost in the financial crisis of a decade ago.

Italy’s recovery from a record-long recession is still lagging behind growth in euro-area peers Germany, France and Spain, while the economy faces more uncertainty in the coming months. Elections are due in the first half of next year and about the same time the ECB is expected to start rolling back its stimulus, progressively reducing its purchase of Italy’s government bonds. Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan has downplayed the effect of less expansionary monetary conditions, telling SkyTg24 television on Aug. 3 that the economy is strong enough to withstand higher interest rates and bond yields. According to UniCredit economist Loredana Federico, a 0.4% quarterly growth pace would help Italy reduce its debt ratio, which at more than 130% of GDP is the second highest in the euro area. “It would certainly allow it to weather the possible difficulties of higher debt-financing costs” as quantitative easing ends, she said.

Read more …

Keep walking in chains.

Greece Seen Needing Credit Line To Exit Program (K.)

Not everyone in the government shares the optimism that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed recently that Greece will be able to achieve a “clean exit” from the bailout program in August 2018, in other words without the support of a credit line. Finance Ministry officials are preparing for the start of the third review, which involves pushing through a number of prior actions that have to be completed. They are also preparing new legislation and planning for the possibility of Greece needing a credit line after the bailout program ends. This would come with conditions, although they would be less strict than the terms Athens currently has to meet. In its strictest form, the European Stability Mechanism’s credit line, or ECCL, foresees a quarterly review. It is said that finance ministers are always more conservative than their prime ministers and it appears that Euclid Tsakalotos is no exception.

For Greece to make a clean exit from its program, it needs the full confidence of the markets so that it can borrow at a reasonable rate. Sources on the institutions’ side do not believe this will be possible. The credit line would provide some security, helping secure better borrowing terms from the market. Exactly what will happen, though, is still under discussion. The third review is expected to begin after the German elections, which are scheduled for September 24. According to sources, though, the Greek negotiating team will hold preliminary talks with the lenders toward the end of August or beginning of September either via teleconference or in Brussels. The aim of the meeting will be to set a timetable for the negotiations.

[..] The Finance Ministry does not foresee the IMF asking for additional measures in 2018, even though the IMF does not expect Greece to reach its 3.5% of GDP primary surplus target. Athens does not rule out the possibility that the IMF will ask for the reduction to the tax-free threshold to be brought forward by a year and implemented in 2019, along with the planned pension cuts.

Read more …

No one has more responsibility for what happened to Greece than Merkel, but: “We should not generalize and say that Greeks cannot work, or that the Germans have a fetish with austerity. Every person has its own dignity..”

Stop Targeting the Greeks, says Merkel in First Pre-Election Rally (GR)

Chancellor Angela Merkel kicked off her re-election campaign on Saturday with a plea to European solidarity and the values that govern the European Union. Speaking in Dortmund, she focused mainly on the economy, but she also highlighted the importance of the EU for Germany. “It should be clear that, despite the difficulties, it is in our own interest, in the interests of peace and prosperity that we remain engaged in Europe,” she said. In this context and referring to the values that govern the EU – “freedom, solidarity, justice, social market economy, protection of human dignity” – the Chancellor asked everyone to refrain from targeting other nations and stop categorizing them.

“We should not generalize and say that Greeks cannot work, or that the Germans have a fetish with austerity. Every person has its own dignity…In Germany, as in any other nation, there are both lazy and hardworking people,” she said. Merkel is far ahead of her rivals in opinion polls but, wary of complacency setting in among her supporters, she plans 50 rallies in towns and cities across Germany in the run-up to the September 24 election, when she will seek a fourth term in office.

Read more …

Horses and barns.

Canada Orders Ships To Reduce Speed To Prevent Whale Deaths

Certain ships are being ordered to reduce speed because of the deaths of at least 10 North Atlantic right whales in Canada’s Gulf of St Lawrence during the past two months, the government said on Friday. The deaths have made 2017 the deadliest year for the endangered marine mammal since scientists began tracking their numbers in the 1980s, researchers said. The ministries of transport and fisheries issued a temporary order for vessels 20 meters or longer to slow to a maximum of 10 knots in the western portion of the Gulf, which stretches from Quebec to north of Prince Edward Island. There have been an increase in right whales in the area over the last three to four years, said Tonya Wimmer, director of the Marine Animal Response Society.

Human activity has caused at least some of the deaths. Three whales died from blunt force trauma consistent with being struck by a large vessel and one was entangled in fishing nets. Wimmer said reducing ship speeds can improve the chance of survival for the whales. The whales can weigh up to 96,000 kilograms (105.8 tons). The order will be enforced by Transport Canada inspectors and the Canadian Coast Guard. It is effective immediately and will be lifted once the whales have migrated from the area, usually by the time of the northern winter. Ships violating the order could be fined up to C$25,000 ($19,706.76). There are only 300 to 500 North Atlantic right whales left, and despite conservation efforts since the 1930s, there is no evidence of population growth, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Read more …

“..the densest region of volcanoes in the world..”

Scientists Discover 91 Volcanoes Below Antarctic Ice Sheet (G.)

Scientists have uncovered the largest volcanic region on Earth – two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica. The project, by Edinburgh University researchers, has revealed almost 100 volcanoes – with the highest as tall as the Eiger, which stands at almost 4,000 metres in Switzerland. Geologists say this huge region is likely to dwarf that of east Africa’s volcanic ridge, currently rated the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world. And the activity of this range could have worrying consequences, they have warned. “If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets,” said glacier expert Robert Bingham, one of the paper’s authors. “Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea. “The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible.”

The Edinburgh volcano survey, reported in the Geological Society’s special publications series, involved studying the underside of the west Antarctica ice sheet for hidden peaks of basalt rock similar to those produced by the region’s other volcanoes. Their tips actually lie above the ice and have been spotted by polar explorers over the past century. But how many lie below the ice? This question was originally asked by the team’s youngest member, Max Van Wyk de Vries, an undergraduate at the university’s school of geosciences and a self-confessed volcano fanatic. He set up the project with the help of Bingham. Their study involved analysing measurements made by previous surveys, which involved the use of ice-penetrating radar, carried either by planes or land vehicles, to survey strips of the west Antarctic ice.

[..] These newly discovered volcanoes range in height from 100 to 3,850 metres. All are covered in ice, which sometimes lies in layers that are more than 4km thick in the region. These active peaks are concentrated in a region known as the west Antarctic rift system, which stretches 3,500km from Antarctica’s Ross ice shelf to the Antarctic peninsula. “We were amazed,” Bingham said. “We had not expected to find anything like that number. We have almost trebled the number of volcanoes known to exist in west Antarctica. We also suspect there are even more on the bed of the sea that lies under the Ross ice shelf, so that I think it is very likely this region will turn out to be the densest region of volcanoes in the world, greater even than east Africa, where mounts Nyiragongo, Kilimanjaro, Longonot and all the other active volcanoes are concentrated.”

Read more …

Jan 052017
 
 January 5, 2017  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Pablo Picasso The Dream 1932

Chinese Media Say ‘Big Sticks’ Await Trump If He Seeks Trade War (BBG)
Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top US Spy Agency and CIA (WSJ)
Schumer Calls Eight Trump Cabinet Picks ‘Troublesome’ (BBG)
Ford’s Truck Trumps Mexico and Tesla (BBG)
So What’s The Big Idea, European Union? (G.)
Italy’s 5 Star Movement Part Of Growing Club Of Putin Sympathisers In West (G.)
Beppe Grillo Accuses Journalists Of ‘Manufacturing False News’ (DM)
Ukraine Moves To Blacklist Le Pen Over Crimea Comments (R.)
UK Credit Binge Approaching Levels Not Seen Since 2008 Crash (G.)
China Can’t Quit the Dollar (Balding)
India’s Cash Woes Are Just Beginning (BBG)
Head of Russian Central Bank Named European Banker of the Year (RT)
Steve Keen: Rebel Economist With A Cause (AFR)

 

 

Xi has all the state media, and all Trump has is Twitter. Isn’t it fun? Then again, for Xi to let the Global Times come with this sort of childish language is below him.

Chinese Media Say ‘Big Sticks’ Await Trump If He Seeks Trade War (BBG)

Chinese state media warned U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that he’ll be met with “big sticks” if he tries to ignite a trade war or further strain ties. “There are flowers around the gate of China’s Ministry of Commerce, but there are also big sticks hidden inside the door – they both await Americans,” the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial Thursday in response to Trump’s plans to nominate lawyer Robert Lighthizer, who has criticized Beijing’s trade practices, as U.S. trade representative.

The latest salvo from state-run outlets followed others last month aimed at Peter Navarro, a University of California at Irvine economics professor and critic of China’s trade practices whom Trump last month named to head a newly formed White House National Trade Council. Those picks plus billionaire Wilbur Ross, the nominee for commerce secretary, will form an “iron curtain” of protectionism in Trump’s economic and trade team, the paper wrote. The three share Trump’s strong anti-globalization beliefs and seem unlikely to keep building the current trade order, it said, adding that they will be more interested in disrupting the world trade order.

Read more …

Don’t think they saw this coming. And that’s perhaps not so intelligent. The CIA leaked a lot of wild anti-Trump stuff during the election campaign, and now claims he MUST trust them. But if he leaves the same people in place, when will they turn on him again?

Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top US Spy Agency and CIA (WSJ)

President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said, prompted by a belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized. The planning comes as Mr. Trump has leveled a series of social media attacks in recent months and the past few days against U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing and mocking their assessment that the Russian government hacked emails of Democratic groups and individuals and then leaked them last year to WikiLeaks and others in an effort to help Mr. Trump win the White House.

One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the CIA, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment on the plan. “The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world [is] becoming completely politicized,” said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition operation. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”

In one of his latest Twitter posts on Wednesday, Mr. Trump referenced an interview that WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange gave to Fox News in which he denied Russia had been his source for the thousands of emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton advisers, including campaign manager John Podesta, that Mr. Assange published. Mr. Trump tweeted: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’—why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”

Read more …

This will dominate the news going forward. Main question: what crazy stories will the WaPo come up with to discredit the nominees? Should be interesting. Meanwhile: YOU LOST, Schumer. Big time. Stop digging.

Schumer Calls Eight Trump Cabinet Picks ‘Troublesome’ (BBG)

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said his party views eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet choices as being “the most troublesome” and wants at least two days of hearings for each of them. “We have asked for fair hearings on all of those nominees,” Schumer of New York told reporters Wednesday in Washington. “There are a lot of questions about these nominees.” Confirmation hearings begin next week for a number of the president-elect’s Cabinet picks, and several already overlap on a single day, Jan. 11. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said minutes earlier that he hopes the Senate would be ready to confirm some of the nominees shortly after Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20, just as it did when President Barack Obama first took office.

Under current Senate rules, Democrats can delay Senate confirmation of nominees but can’t block them on their own. Schumer’s office said the eight nominees targeted by Democrats for extra scrutiny are Rex Tillerson for secretary of State, Betsy DeVos for Education, Steven Mnuchin for Treasury, Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency, Mick Mulvaney for budget director, Tom Price for Health and Human Services, Andy Puzder for Labor and Wilbur Ross for Commerce. Schumer said he wants their full paperwork before hearings are scheduled, adding that only a few have turned it in while most haven’t. Schumer said he also wants their tax returns, particularly because some are billionaires and given the potential for conflicts of interest.

The hearing for DeVos is scheduled for Jan. 11, “and we don’t have any information on her, and she in addition has a $5 million fine outstanding that she’s refused to pay,” Schumer said. Democrats have called on a political action committee led by DeVos to pay a $5.2 million fine imposed by Ohio officials over campaign finance violations in 2008. “There are so many issues about so many of them that to rush them through would be a disservice to the American people,” the Democratic leader said. While many of Obama’s nominees were confirmed quickly, his team had its paperwork in early, Schumer said.

Read more …

Our God is the car.

Ford’s Truck Trumps Mexico and Tesla (BBG)

On its first day back from the holidays, America’s auto industry began with a Mexican standoff and ended with Tesla just being off. Ford announced early on Tuesday it was scrapping plans to build a new plant in Mexico, apparently under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump. The PEOTUS then turned his signature industrial-policy-by-tweet on General Motors, threatening them over shipping Mexican-made Chevy Cruze cars back home .Meanwhile, after the market closed on Tuesday, Tesla Motors Inc. reported it missed its (reduced) guidance for vehicle deliveries in 2016. The stock fell in after-hours trading, as some were clearly caught by surprise – a reaction that, let’s face it, is itself a bit surprising at this point. In any case, a timely tour of the Gigafactory scheduled for Wednesday will no doubt snap the market’s attention back away from those pesky number thingies.

What links these stories is Ford’s other announcement on Tuesday morning, which got a bit lost in the shuffle; namely, its plans to electrify some of its marquee models – including the F-150 pickup truck.Rather than a battery-only version or even a plug-in hybrid model, Ford is committing merely to a basic hybrid version of the F-150 by 2020 – more Priusizing than Teslarizing it. So we aren’t about to see Ford’s trucks vanish from gasoline stations anytime soon. But this is still a big deal. The F-Series is America’s biggest-selling vehicle and represents one of every three full-size pickups sold. Also, pickups are archetypal gas guzzlers, and gas guzzlers are doing really well right now because of cheap gasoline. And even as Trump lobs Twitter-bombs at the car-makers’ foreign factories, his administration also looks likely to ease up on fuel-efficiency standards.

Read more …

So What’s The Big Idea, Guardian? How can you have your own Jennifer Rankin in Brussels, Thomas Kirchner and Alexander Mühlauer of Suddeutsche Zeitung and Cécile Ducourtieux of Le Monde, all contribute to a long article, and still not touch on a single one prime issue with the EU? How do you do it?

So What’s The Big Idea, European Union? (G.)

A few weeks ago, a significant anniversary in Maastricht slipped by almost unnoticed: 25 years ago, the historic treaty that ushered in the euro was drafted. But there was no fanfare, no commemoration in the European parliament, no mention at all by the commission. There was just a rather lacklustre speech by the EU president, Jean-Claude Juncker, in which he lamented that people were not sufficiently proud of what had been achieved on 9 December 1991. This air of resignation perfectly epitomises an EU in retreat. Battered, bothered and bewildered on all sides by a succession of crises – Brexit, the euro, refugees – the union is short of ideas, perhaps shorter than it has ever been. In his state of the union speech last autumn, the very best that Juncker could come up with was free Wi-Fi for every EU town and village by 2020, though even this sounded more like an aspiration than a concrete policy.

Read more …

Oh, wait, that hollow ‘article’ on the EU was just a lead in to this Guardian smear piece in the honored tradition of the WaPo. Up to and including “Russian interference in Italian elections”.

Italy’s 5 Star Movement Part Of Growing Club Of Putin Sympathisers In West (G.)

Ten years ago, in the wake of the murder of the leading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a popular comedian-turned-blogger in Italy named Beppe Grillo urged tens of thousands of his readers to go out and buy Putin’s Russia, her searing exposé of corruption under the leadership of Vladimir Putin. “Russia is a democracy based on the export of gas and oil. If they didn’t export that, they would go back to being the good old dictatorship of once upon a time,” Grillo wrote in a mournful 2006 post about the journalist’s murder. But today, Grillo’s position on Russia has radically changed. He is now part of a growing club of Kremlin sympathisers in the west – an important shift given that the comedian has become one of the most powerful political leaders in Italy and his Five Star Movement (M5S), the anti-establishment party he created in 2009, is a top contender to win the next Italian election.

[..] As the M5S’s rhetoric has become pro-Russian, it is simultaneously becoming more critical of the EU, including a vow to hold a referendum on the euro. Such a vote would be likely to have a destabilising effect on European unity, even if in practice it would be difficult to execute a departure from the single currency. Grillo has also called for a “review” of the EU’s open borders under the Schengen agreement, in response to the shooting in Milan of Anis Amri, the suspected terrorist behind last month’s attack on a Berlin Christmas market.

[..] Foreign diplomats in Rome said it was easy to overestimate the M5S’s chances of winning the next Italian election and that expected changes to Italy’s electoral rules would make an M5S victory difficult. That calculation is based on the fact that the M5S has always opposed forging governing alliances with other parties, which has made it impossible so far for the party to achieve a majority coalition in parliament. But a handful of diplomats have also suggested that the ruling Democratic party, which is still led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, may not be fully alert to the potential threat of Russian interference in Italian elections, and is not as concerned about the issue as it should be.

Read more …

This is Italy, so what does the other side say? Fascism. To propose a public jury on what news is false is fascism. As Italy is no. 77 in the World Press Freedom Index. This will get very ugly.

Beppe Grillo Accuses Journalists Of ‘Manufacturing False News’ (DM)

The leader of Italy’s populist Five Star movement has caused a stir by accusing the country’s journalists of ‘manufacturing false news’. Comic Beppe Grillo, founder of the anti-euro movement, lashed out at print and TV journalists, accusing them of fabricating news to keep his party, the Five Stars, down. ‘Newspapers and television news programmes are the biggest manufacturers of false news in the country, with the aim of ensuring those who have power keep it,’ he said on his blog on Tuesday. He called for ‘a popular jury to determine the veracity of the news published,’ and said in cases of fake news ‘the editor must, head bowed, make a public apology and publish the correct version at the start of the programme or on the paper’s front page’.

Grillo said members of the general public ‘picked at random’ would be shown newspaper articles and programmes and asked ‘to determine their accuracy.’ The blog was accompanied by a montage of the banners and logos of Italy’s main newspapers and television news programmes. The media world was enraged by comments, as were politicians from Italy’s traditional parties. The news director of the private TG La7 channel, Enrico Mentana, said he would sue the comedian, while journalists’ union FNSI slammed the ‘lynching of all journalists’. The opposition Five Stars was running neck-and-neck with the ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) before Matteo Renzi’s downfall last month and Grillo is campaigning hard for the next general election, which could be held in coming months.

What Grillo is proposing ‘is called Fascism, and those who play it down are accomplices,’ PD senator Stefano Esposito said. The centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, founded by ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, said Grillo wanted a ‘minculpop 2.0’, a reference to the propaganda and censorship ministry under dictator Benito Mussolini. Grillo has had a difficult relationship with the media since launching the Five Stars (M5S) in 2009, banning members from appearing on talk shows and giving international media priority over their Italian counterparts at his rallies. His claim that journalists were to blame for the country’s poor standing on the World Press Freedom Index – where it ranks 77th – was dismissed by the editor in chief of the Repubblica daily.

Read more …

The Crimeans voted in huge numbers to join -stay with- Russia, but you can’t say that. Not even if it’s true and you live 2000 miles away. I doubt Le Pen was planning any trips to Kyiv anytime soon to begin with, but so who’s next? She can’t go to Poland anymore either soon? But still get elected president of France? Bring it on.

Ukraine Moves To Blacklist Le Pen Over Crimea Comments (R.)

Ukraine indicated on Wednesday it would bar French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen from entering the country after comments she made that appeared to legitimize Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Le Pen’s office dismissed the threat, saying she had no intention of visiting Ukraine. Kiev is nervous about the shifting political landscape in 2017. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has adopted a friendlier tone toward Russia while another French presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, favours lifting sanctions against Moscow. Relations between Ukraine and Russia soured after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent outbreak of pro-Russian separatist fighting in eastern Ukraine that has killed around 10,000 people, despite a ceasefire being notionally in place.

Alluding to Le Pen, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement: “Making statements that repeat Kremlin propaganda, the French politician shows disrespect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and completely ignores the fundamental principles of international law. “…Such statements and actions in violation of the Ukrainian legislation will necessarily have consequences, as it was in the case of certain French politicians, who are denied entry to Ukraine,” it said. The far right leader was quoted by French television as saying Russia’s annexation of Crimea was not illegal because the Crimean people had chosen to join Russia in a referendum, a position Kiev vehemently disputes. The referendum was also declared illegal by the United Nations General Assembly.

Read more …

What keeps Britain together. Credit and whining. And fog. Boy, what a sorrowful place it’s becoming.

UK Credit Binge Approaching Levels Not Seen Since 2008 Crash (G.)

A credit boom that is close to levels not seen since the 2008 financial crash should set alarm bells ringing in Theresa May’s government, debt charities have warned. The latest figures from the Bank of England show unsecured consumer credit, which includes credit cards, car loans and second mortgages, grew by 10.8% in the year to November to £192.2bn, picking up pace on the previous month to grow at its fastest rate in more than 11 years. In September 2008, the month that Lehman Brothers collapsed and the banking crash triggered a worldwide recession, the level of UK consumer credit debt hit a peak of £208bn. Credit card debts, which accounted for £66.7bn of the total, hit a record high last month as Britons used the plastic to fund shopping as never before in the run-up to Christmas.

The debt charity StepChange said the rise in debt levels would leave thousands of families vulnerable to higher levels of inflation and changes in income from wage cuts, divorce or redundancy. Its head of policy, Peter Tutton, said: “Levels of outstanding borrowing are approaching the 2008 peak, and the growth rate of net lending is at its highest since 2005. Alarm bells should be ringing. “Previous experience shows how such increases in the levels of borrowing can leave households over-indebted and vulnerable to sudden changes in circumstances and drops in income that can pitch them into hardship. “Lenders, regulators and the government need to ensure that the mistakes made in the lead-up to the financial crisis are not repeated and that there are better policies in place to protect those who fall into financial difficulty.”

Read more …

All you need, as if it wasn’t obvious: “..the link between the yuan and the dollar remains as tight as ever. In November 2016, 98% of turnover in China’s foreign-exchange market took place between those two currencies.”

China Can’t Quit the Dollar (Balding)

China’s leaders are hardly disguising their fears about money leaving the country. They’ve just imposed new disclosure rules limiting how Chinese – who are allowed to convert up to $50,000 worth of yuan into foreign currency each year – can spend that money overseas. Simultaneously, they’re striving to tamp down worries about the tumbling yuan, which has fallen to an eight-year low against the U.S. dollar. At the end of December, the government added 11 currencies to the basket against which it now values the yuan. While the Chinese currency fell 6.5% against the dollar in 2016, its value measured against the broader basket has remained largely stable since July. The idea, at least in part, is to persuade ordinary Chinese that their nest eggs are safe in renminbi. Unfortunately, this latest effort isn’t likely to work any better than earlier ones.

The yuan remains inextricably bound to the U.S. dollar – and everyone knows it. The People’s Bank of China created the exchange-rate basket roughly a year ago. The goal was twofold – to shift attention away from the yuan’s precipitous decline against the dollar and to reduce China’s dependence on the U.S. currency. The latter was widely seen as humiliating – an affront to a rising superpower and the world’s second-largest economy. That resentment helped drive China’s effort – since stalled – to internationalize its currency. Yet any cursory review makes clear that the link between the yuan and the dollar remains as tight as ever. In November 2016, 98% of turnover in China’s foreign-exchange market took place between those two currencies. Flows of capital into and out of China show an only slightly less lopsided pattern.

Between them, the U.S. and Hong Kong dollars (the latter is hard-pegged to the U.S. currency) account for 91% of China’s non-yuan international bank transactions. The smaller currencies that make up nearly half of the basket comprise only 1.7% of international bank payments and receipts. Even the BIS estimates that 80% of China’s local loans in foreign currency are denominated in dollars. That’s the number that really matters: If the yuan continues to fall against the dollar, companies are going to have a harder time paying back those loans regardless of what the renminbi is or isn’t worth against the government’s official basket. All this is clear to ordinary investors. During my nearly eight years in China, I’ve never heard any Chinese citizen worry about the value of the yuan against the Emirati dirham.

So as long as the yuan continues to depreciate in dollar terms, Chinese are going to look for ways to get their money out of the country, despite any barriers the government might throw in their way. China’s options for preventing further outflows are limited. The PBOC could continue to deplete the country’s $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in an effort to prop up the yuan. That’s a risky game, though, as it reduces the stockpiles of hard currency needed to repay foreign-denominated debt and provide liquidity for international trade. As others have argued, reserves should be deployed strategically, not squandered defending bad policy.

Read more …

I see helicopter money. Digital basic income will come too late. At the every least half the people don’t even have plastic. And Modi can’t afford to wait for that.

India’s Cash Woes Are Just Beginning (BBG)

“Give me 50 days, friends,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens after he canceled 86% of the country’s currency notes. After Dec. 30, if Indians saw his decision as flawed, he promised to “suffer any punishment.” But, he said confidently, if they could bear 50 days of disruption, they would have the “India of their dreams.” It is now January. While Modi’s deadline has passed, the pain hasn’t. Indeed, it may just be beginning: Measured by the purchasing managers’ index, or PMI, Indian manufacturing actually began to contract last month for the first time in all of 2016. This can’t be blamed on sluggish global demand; the equivalent measure from China suggested that manufacturing there is expanding quicker than expected. Indian companies are suffering from supply-chain disruptions and customers with no cash in their wallets.

True, in some ways things aren’t as bad, at least in metropolitan India, as they were a few weeks ago. The lines at ATMs are shorter and the government even felt comfortable enough to raise the limits for ATM withdrawals from 2,500 rupees a pop to 4,500 rupees (from $37 to $66). But overall cash limits haven’t been eased; most Indians can still only withdraw 24,000 of their own hard-earned rupees – a little over $350 – a week, or 50,000 rupees if one has a business account. That’s simply not enough cash to keep supply chains going. Lines at ATMs thus aren’t the most useful indicator. Even if more cash is getting into the economy, the question is whether Indians are still artificially constrained in how much cash they can access. If so, things haven’t returned to “normal.” And the longer there’s a cash constraint, the larger the ripple effect on the economy.

Here’s a thought experiment, based on how informal, cash-based economies work. For the first or second month that you’re short of cash, your creditors and your debtors, the people you buy from and the people you sell to, are all short of cash as well. Plus, everyone knows the cash crunch isn’t your fault; it doesn’t reveal any adverse information about how healthy your business is or isn’t. So you extend and receive credit relatively easily. Things can run on such relationships for awhile in the informal economy. But when the outside world – the formal economy – intrudes, the system breaks down. When it comes time to pay your electricity bill, or a loan installment to the banks, you’re forced to call in your debts. You may not face enough formal demands in the first month or two to pose a problem. But as time passes, they add up.

Read more …

Way ahead of you! I wrote this in April 2015: Russia’s Central Bank Governor Is Way Smarter Than Ours.

Head of Russian Central Bank Named European Banker of the Year (RT)

Elvira Nabiullina, the head of Russia’s central bank, has been named the best Central Bank Governor in Europe in 2016 by the international financial magazine, The Banker. The influential publication praised her for having “helped steer the country through the difficulties,” with Russia “set to return to economic growth in 2017.” “Having started 2016 with consumer price inflation of 12.9% – highs not seen since 2008 – Ms Nabiullina highlighted the need to lower inflation to improve economic growth in Russia,” the outlet writes in an article dedicated to the award. Established in 1926, The Banker is considered one of the leading international finance magazines, read in almost 180 countries.

“Ms Nabiullina’s efforts saw the rate drop below 6% by the end of 2016,” the magazine writes. This, as inflation in Russia “had never fallen under 6,1%”, according to the publication, citing figures by the International Monetary Fund going back to 1992. Nabiullina said she viewed the past year as a kind of turning point with regard to inflation. “Importantly, in 2016 there was a turning point in the sentiment of the population and professionals regarding inflation expectations,” she is quoted as saying by the outlet. “At the beginning of 2016, inflation expectations of market participants were well above our target, but now they have reduced to close to our [end-2017] 4% inflation target, at between 4.5% and 4.7%.”

In December last year, the chief of the IMF, Christine Lagarde lauded Nabiullina for doing “a fantastic job” while tackling the financial problems in Russia, and inflation in particular. Nabiullina served as economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin between 2012 and 2013, when she was appointed to head Russia’s Central Bank. She was Minister of Economic Development and Trade for 5 years from September 2007 to May 2012. Forbes rates Nabiullina 56th among the world’s 100 most powerful women. In 2015, Nabiullina was named central bank governor of the year by Euromoney magazine.

Read more …

Even on vacation he still finds a way to get his face in the media.

Steve Keen: Rebel Economist With A Cause (AFR)

Keen’s views and policy prescriptions remain firmly and proudly unconventional – unworkable even. But as somebody who saw the GFC coming when most did not, and as a long-time disciple of the now in-vogue Austrian economist Hyman Minsky, it may be that Keen’s economic views are finally entering mainstream thought. In a sign of the times, none other than the new chief economist of the World Bank, Paul Romer, has admitted that “for more than three decades, macroeconomic theory has gone backwards”. In a piece titled The trouble with macroeconomics, Romer in September wrote that “theorists dismiss mere facts by feigning an obtuse ignorance about such simple assertions as ‘tight monetary policy can cause a recession’.”


Australian private and government debt as a percentage of GDP. Steve Keen

And there is a strong need for fresh remedies. There is more debt in the world now than before the GFC – a crisis precipitated by excess borrowing. Low and zero interest rates and unconventional monetary policies such as QE have pumped up asset prices but done little to spark productivity gains or business investment in advanced economies. Private debt in Australia is now equivalent to around 210% of GDP, from 180% in 2007. Australian households are more indebted than ever, the RBA says. Keen is perhaps most critical of central bankers’ unwillingness to incorporate the link between credit growth and financial stability into their decision making. “Conventional economic thinking completely ignores where money comes from,” Keen says. “All this theory is effectively based on the idea that money is like nuts that chipmunks drop from trees and you can run out of it and if you don’t have enough of it you are going to starve over winter, and it’s a completely naive view of a monetary economy.”

While he acknowledges that RBA governor Philip Lowe has signalled a greater emphasis on “financial stability”, household indebtedness still continues to climb. “The Reserve Bank were so backward in their thinking. Their argument was, ‘oh well, the level of debt doesn’t matter because the households that have the debt are wealthy and they can continue servicing it’. But the real problem is demand for the economy comes out of turnover of the existing money plus credit. “Now, if you are relying on credit growth being equivalent to 15% of GDP, which is where it was in Australia just over six months ago, you’ve got to continue borrowing that 15% of GDP every year to maintain that trajectory. “If you simply stabilise, then, bang!, 15% of demand disappears. And that’s what we face and what I think will happen [in 2017].”

Read more …

Nov 162016
 
 November 16, 2016  Posted by at 10:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Unknown Wharf, Federal artillery, and schooners, City Point, Virginia 1865

Trump Won’t Start A Trade War; He’ll Finish It (MW)
Trump Digs In For Major US Trade Reset With The World (CNBC)
Panic In Housing Market As Trump Effect Pushes Mortgage Rates To 4% (CNBC)
The Bond Vigilantes Are Back, And Trump Better Be Careful (CNBC)
Elizabeth Warren Criticizes Trump Transition Team’s Wall Street Ties (WSJ)
What Now? (Jim Kunstler)
GOP Rushes To Embrace Trump (Hill)
Rickards: Financial Crisis Coming Soon, Will Be Different (BBG)
Another Financial Warning Sign Is Flashing in China (BBG)
India’s Great Rupee Fail (BBG)
Lack Of New Building Not To Blame For Soaring House Prices (Ind.)
Fate Of Controversial US Oil Pipeline Heads Back To Court (AFP)
Assange Optimistic Sweden Will End Probe Into Rape Claim (SMH)
The Technosphere Hiccups (Dmitry Orlov)
One Quarter Of Children in Toronto, Montreal Live In Poverty (CP)

 

 

Don’t know about you, but I find it refreshing to see actual discussion going on, based on something else than pre-conceived notions.

Trump Won’t Start A Trade War; He’ll Finish It (MW)

[..] In deriding Trump for everything that comes out of his mouth, mainstream media have been quick to dismiss his repeated claims about his prowess in negotiating. These same media acknowledged early in Obama’s tenure that this former community organizer could not negotiate his way out of a paper bag, starting talks where he wanted to end them and giving up more than he intended. Now, however, anti-Trump voices want to take his threat of 45% tariffs against China as a fait accompli and paint a doomsday scenario of what that will mean for American consumers and the global economy. These critics claim Trump will start a trade war. Newsflash: We are already in a trade war started by the Chinese and others who have traditionally kept their currency devalued to flood our market with their goods while protecting their own.

And we are losing. This was precisely the point made last summer by Dan DiMicco, the former steel executive Trump has charged with managing trade issues during his transition. “Hillary Clinton has claimed Trump’s trade policies will start a ‘Trade War,’ but what she fails to recognize is we are already in one,” he wrote in his blog. “Trump clearly sees it and he will work to put an end to China’s ‘Mercantilist Trade War’! A war it has been waging against us for nearly two decades!” And hard-nosed bargaining will be the way Trump ends this war, DiMicco added. “He will do this by negotiating from a position of strength, not condescending weakness. China respects strength but takes full advantage of weakness. In the end it will be in China’s best interest to stop cheating on trade.”

China needs trade with the U.S. at least as much as we do. The idea, for instance, that China would retaliate against U.S. tariffs on some manufactured goods by blocking agricultural imports from the U.S. ignores the fact that China’s massive population has to eat. China is the focus for unfair trade practices, but let’s not forget there are many others. Germany, for instance, manipulates its currency in a much more subtle fashion. By tying it to lower performing economies to keep the value of the euro low, Germany prospers while driving other euro countries to ruin. Trade pacts with insufficient protections exacerbate this situation, as does a World Trade Organization with unenforceable restrictions. Trump is exposing this charade for what it is. Solutions may not come easy, but you can’t solve the problem if you don’t first figure out what it is.

Read more …

“When we negotiate free trade agreements, we are lousy at it [..] They are dominated by folks that have a predominant benefit from getting more exports into the world as opposed to having balanced trade, which is good for all Americans.”

Trump Digs In For Major US Trade Reset With The World (CNBC)

Donald Trump got some of his loudest campaign cheers with a simple pledge to “get tough on trade.” Now the president-elect and his supporters will find out how complex that goal will be. [..] One early indication of where a Trump administration would steer U.S. trade policy came this summer with the appointment of Dan DiMicco, former CEO of Nucor Corporation, as his trade advisor. Nucor, the largest U.S. steel producer, is a scrappy survivor of the massive consolidation of the American steel industry that shed millions of jobs in the 1970s and 1980s as the nation’s backbone supplier of postwar manufacturing fell into decline. That industry was born in the geographic intersection of rich deposits of steel’s two main ingredients: Pennsylvania coal and Michigan iron ore.

Those two states sent Trump to the White House on Election Day. Today, the fiery forges that once melted raw iron to build U.S. skyscrapers, consumer appliances and family station wagons have largely gone cold. Under CEO DiMicco, Nucor, now North America’s largest recycler, survived the decline of Big Steel by building a business melting down scrap steel produced by others — some 17 million tons last year. Last month, Trump promised to restore the Midwest as the “manufacturing hub of the world again” and “fight for steel businesses that have been taken away.” “We’re going to bring back steel,” he told a cheering crowd. “Your steel has been stolen from you.”

In DiMicco, the president-elect has chosen an outspoken advisor – and potential appointee – who shares his belief that restoring industries like steel manufacturing means getting “tough” with global competitors. “When we negotiate free trade agreements, we are lousy at it,” DiMicco told CNBC a year ago. “They are dominated by folks that have a predominant benefit from getting more exports into the world as opposed to having balanced trade, which is good for all Americans.” With DiMicco as one of the architects, the Trump campaign has sketched out initial plans for reforming U.S. trade relations with the rest of the world. In a heavily footnoted position paper in June, Trump laid out a seven-step plan to “change our failed trade policy – quickly” and “bring back our jobs.”

Read more …

The sooner credit card rates go back to ‘normal’, the better.

Panic In Housing Market As Trump Effect Pushes Mortgage Rates To 4% (CNBC)

More selling in U.S. bond markets Monday pushed mortgage rates to a psychological breaking point. The average contract rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage hit 4%, according to Mortgage News Daily, a level most didn’t expect to see until the middle of next year. Rates have now moved nearly a half a%age point higher since Donald Trump was elected president. “The situation on the ground is panicked. Damage control,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. “People were trying to lock loans quickly last week and are now facing a tough choice to lock today or hope for a bounce. Many hoped for a bounce last week heading into the long weekend and we obviously didn’t get it.”

Mortgage rates follow loosely the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond. That yield on Monday hit the highest level since December, as investors flooded the stock market and pulled out of the bond markets. The runup on stocks is backed by a belief that the Trump administration will be a boon to the economy overall and the banking sector specifically. Higher mortgage rates, however, will throw a wrench into an already shaky housing recovery. Home prices have been rising dramatically in the past few months, largely due to a lack of homes for sale. During housing’s recovery from the worst crash in history, historically low mortgage rates allowed prices to gain quickly and, more recently, to rise far faster than both income and employment growth.

Read more …

“The chances are elevated that Trump starts his presidency off with a recession.”

The Bond Vigilantes Are Back, And Trump Better Be Careful (CNBC)

[..] the Federal Reserve has kept its short-term rate target anchored for the past eight years, raising just once – a quarter-point increase in December 2015 – and perhaps once more next month. The Fed had been an aggressive buyer in the Treasury market, ballooning its balance sheet to $4.5 trillion in three rounds of quantitative easing. In the meantime, investors continue to fret over a bond bull market that has been ongoing for more than three decades. Each predicted end of the fixed income rally has been wrong. But Trump’s plans for aggressive fiscal policy, the likes of which hasn’t been since before the Great Recession, have renewed fears.

“When you have inflation and growth, or the prospect for more growth, that slams smack into a bond bubble, it’s a very dangerous cocktail,” said Michael Pento, head of Pento Portfolio Strategies. Pento worries that the combination of market factors could stop the president-elect before he gets started. “There’s a lot of bad stuff that’s already occurred,” he said. “If you put them on a ledger, on the good side there’s hoped-for growth policies in 2017. On the bad side, you already have a spiking dollar, spiking interest rates. The chances are elevated that Trump starts his presidency off with a recession.”

However, if the bond vigilantes do swoop in, they could find themselves with a formidable opponent, namely the Fed and other central banks, which could adopt a whatever-it-takes approach to keeping yields in check and thwarting an economic downturn. The Fed has been at the global forefront for ambitious and unconventional monetary policies, but the Bank of Japan’s recent move to target its 10-year note yield at zero took the game to a new level. Should troubles erupt in the bond market, more action would be likely by the Fed. “Consider a scenario where a large fiscal stimulus (or the expectation of such stimulus) pushes up bond yields so sharply that risk assets and the economy suffer,” Joachim Fels, global economic adviser at bond giant Pimco, said in a note Tuesday.

“To prevent a bond tantrum, the central bank may want to limit the rise in yields by intervening in the bond market directly. The cleanest way to do this is to announce a cap on yields and stand ready to buy unlimited amounts to preserve the cap if needed.” That would be over the long term, though. In a shorter time frame, Kroll’s Whalen said he thinks a recent prediction by Jeff Gundlach at DoubleLine that the U.S. 10-year yield could hit 6% in five years is “conservative.”

Read more …

Even Warren gets back to making some sense. What she doesn’t get is that this is exactly what Trump wants her to do. If she would want to irk him, she’d stay silent and let the selection process create its own swamp. By speaking out, she helps The Donald select his crew. Because the transition team is not in disarray, as I see 1000 voices claim; it’s simply a different process. They put a name out there with the express goal of seeing what the reactions are. And in typical Trump style, the first ones are extreme (Bannon), so he has room to climb down.

Elizabeth Warren Criticizes Trump Transition Team’s Wall Street Ties (WSJ)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned President-elect Donald Trump against choosing “Wall Street insiders” for top financial posts, likely previewing the confirmation battles to come in the Senate. In a letter to the president-elect dated Tuesday, the Massachusetts Democrat specifically noted three members of the Trump transition team with ties to Wall Street and “demonstrated records of failure during the 2008 financial crisis” whom she would find unacceptable for top positions: David Malpass,Paul Atkins and Steve Mnuchin. Mr. Malpass, a former Bear Stearns chief economist, is working on shaping Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department, which Mr. Mnuchin is a leading candidate to lead. Mr. Atkins, a former SEC commissioner during the George W. Bush administration, is working to fill the ranks of financial regulatory agencies in the Trump administration.

Read more …

“In case you were wondering, I was not jumping up and down cheering the Trump victory, amazing as it was. I figured the good news was that Hillary lost and the bad news was that Trump won. Now, we just have to roll with it.”

What Now? (Jim Kunstler)

The USA is squandering its vitality trying to maintain a half-assed global empire of supposed interests, economic, ideological, and existential. Lately, this hapless project has only resulted in wars with no end in places we don’t belong. It includes reckless experiments such as the promotion of regime change (Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Egypt, Syria), and senseless, provocative exercises such as the use of NATO forces to run war games near Russia’s border. The monetary cost of all this is off the hook, of course, redounding to the financial mess. Reigning in these imperial impulses could be on the Trump agenda, but his own gold-plated imperial pretensions suggest that he might actually make the situation worse by conflating a reduction of our empire with a loss of the very “greatness” he wants to reclaim.

[..] The great project awaiting this country is how we might redistribute our people into re-scaled walkable communities with re-localized economies, including re-scaled agriculture. It’s going to happen whether we like it or not. It’s only a matter of how disorderly the process may be. Obviously all the suburban crapola out there also represents a tremendous load of presumed wealth. The vested “value” in suburban houses alone is the underlayment of structured finance. There is almost no conscious political awareness in any party — including the Greens – as to how we might attempt to work this out. But, for example, and for a start, Mr. Trump might consider the effect that national chain “Big Box” shopping has had on Main Street America. It literally destroyed local commercial economies all over the land, and with it numberless vocational niches and social roles in communities.

[..] The chatter this week has been all about the upcoming “infrastructure” orgy that Trump will undertake. That depends first of all on how badly the financial sector cracks up. I hope we do not squander more of our dwindling capital on the accessories of car dependence, because that addiction is on the way out. One thing Mr. Trump might get behind is restoring the passenger railroads of America so that we can at least get around the continental nation when the Happy Motoring fiesta grinds to a halt. It would put an awful lot of people to work on something with real long-term benefit – it ties into the restoration of Main Street towns and their economies – and it is a do-able project that might give us the needed encouragement to get on with the many other necessary projects awaiting our attention.

Read more …

Imagine having to lick up to Trump.

GOP Rushes To Embrace Trump (Hill)

Republican lawmakers spent the past year keeping Donald Trump at arm’s length. Now they’re tripping over themselves to embrace him. Returning to Washington for the first time since Trump’s presidential victory, GOP leaders handed out “Make America Great Again” hats at their weekly conference meeting on Tuesday. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) named a top Trump ally, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), as the congressional liaison to the presidential transition team. At one point Tuesday, Ryan referred to the president-elect by his first name, “Donald.” In past months, Ryan wouldn’t even dare mention his name, often calling him only “the nominee.” This all would have been unimaginable even a month ago. Some Republicans acknowledged there had been a sea change since Trump surprised Democrats and some in his own party by defeating Hillary Clinton.

Republicans on Capitol Hill “are so excited. People are coming up to me, telling me they’ve been with Trump since day one,” Collins explained to reporters. “And I kind of look and say, ‘Well, OK, if you say so.’ “Donald Trump has accomplished for us something no one thought possible. … Everything is red, and we’ve got four solid years to get this right.” After winning the GOP nomination to be Speaker for the next two years, Ryan gave yet another shout-out to Trump – the second of the day. “This leadership team is unified. This entire House Republican Conference is unified,” said Ryan, flanked by his leadership team. “And we are so eager to get to work with our new president-elect to fix America’s pressing problems.” Never mind when Trump called Ryan a “very weak and ineffective leader” last month, after the Speaker announced he’d no longer try to defend or campaign with him.

Read more …

“They’re going to lock down the system.”

Rickards: Financial Crisis Coming Soon, Will Be Different (BBG)

Jim Rickards, West Shore Group’s chief global strategist and author of “The Road to Ruin,” discusses the possibility of another financial crisis with Bloomberg’s Vonnie Quinn and David Gura on “Bloomberg Markets.”

Read more …

It’s troubling that the Chinese have started borrowing to buy everything, holding up a mirror to us westerners. It’s more troubling that it turns banks into outlets for the shadow banking system.

Another Financial Warning Sign Is Flashing in China (BBG)

Add another credit indicator to the financial warning signs flashing in China. The adjusted loan-to-deposit ratio, which includes a range of off-balance sheet items and is an indicator of the banking system’s ability to weather stress, climbed to 80% as of June 30, according to S&P Global Ratings. For some smaller lenders, the ratio has already topped 100%, S&P estimates. S&P’s adjusted measure is rising much faster than the official loan-to-deposit ratio as banks pile into off-balance sheet lending, sidestepping government efforts to rein in credit. At the current pace, overall credit could surpass deposits on an adjusted basis within a few years – a level that would give China little leeway to stave off financial turmoil, S&P says.

“The next two to three years is a crucial window for China to rein in the ratio, or we will be in serious trouble,” said S&P’s Beijing-based director Liao Qiang. “Reaching 100% doesn’t mean a crisis will ensue immediately, but it shows China’s entire deposit base is used up and any loss of confidence from savers will severely destabilize the banking system.” Even after S&P’s adjustments, the ratio in China remains lower than in many other countries. Yet the country’s rapid loan growth, diminishing return on credit and rising bad debts combine to make deposits a particularly important buffer against future financial distress, according to Liao. Deposit-taking has formed a cornerstone of China’s banking system as it expanded in tandem with the economy, providing lenders with a stable, low-cost funding base to fuel credit growth.

Chinese households and companies hold $22 trillion of bank deposits, more than anywhere else in the world. That cushion has made lenders less dependent on short-term wholesale funding than banks elsewhere. For two decades, China imposed a cap that limited loans to a maximum 75% of deposits as part of measures to contain risks. That ceiling was abolished in October 2015, in part because it was seen as a blunt tool that encouraged illicit deposit-hoarding and moving loans off balance sheets. The official loan-to-deposit ratio among Chinese lenders stood at 67% at the end of September, up only slightly from 66% when the cap was lifted. But that measure has become less relevant as Chinese banks – especially small and mid-sized ones – have stepped up shadow lending and sales of savings-like offerings called wealth management products, which don’t get carried on their balance sheets.

Read more …

This could yet get out of control in sinister ways. Fishing industries collapse, farmers can’t buy seeds.

India’s Great Rupee Fail (BBG)

One week after India’s sudden declaration that 500- and 1,000-rupee notes were no longer legal tender, the economy is in chaos. And that’s perhaps because the policy was designed as much to shock and awe observers with the government’s command of the Indian economy as to control India’s “black money” problem. What seemed at first to be a masterstroke by Prime Minister Narendra Modi now looks like a grave miscalculation. Modi is beginning to sound like he may agree. His recent speeches on the subject have been frankly bizarre. In one, he seemed to laugh at those inconvenienced by the ban; in another, he broke down while speaking of the “sacrifices” he’d made for India, and warned that he might be assassinated by “forces” desperate to protect their “loot.”

What’s changed in a week? Well, for one, it’s become clear that the government was simply too cavalier in its planning. Now that 86% of India’s currency is no longer valid, the central bank has struggled to print replacement denominations – and the new notes are the wrong size for existing ATMs. Modi’s asked people to be patient for 50 days, but the process could take as long as four months. You have to wonder if Modi truly sought expert advice, or relied once again on a small and trusted set of politicians to determine policy. India’s simply too big and complex for shock and awe. Large parts of the rural economy use cash for 80% of transactions and have been hard-hit. In seafood-mad West Bengal, for example, the fishing industry is in a state of near-collapse; in the wheat-growing states of the northwest, farmers halfway through the sowing season have run out of cash to buy seeds.

Few villagers have access to an ATM. Most have to trek to a bank branch to change their cash, which means losing out on crucial days of labor. Many Indians, particularly women, still don’t have an active bank account. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley wondered aloud how many poor people would even have 1,000-rupee notes – probably a rhetorical question, but surely it shouldn’t have been. Someone should’ve sought the answer before shutting down India’s financial system. Among India’s middle class, Modi’s “surgical strike on black money” still appears to be popular. It’s the old “vegan fallacy” – if something tastes terrible, it must be good for you. Enough Indians are suffering that they believe it must be in a greater cause. It’s a moral project, not an economic one. Stand in line, we’re told, and you honor our brave soldiers at the border.

But will that support last? The government’s plan is likely to be ineffective in the long term. Economists agree it will have no effect on the generation of black money through corruption. Meanwhile, estimates of the amount of black money that will eventually be recovered vary widely. The optimists (wrongly) think enough cash will be destroyed by hoarders that the central bank will be able to pay a hefty dividend to the government. Others point out that a very small fraction of black money tends to be held as cash and that there are a dozen ways still available to launder that fraction.

Read more …

And anyone who ever thought otherwise was a fool to do so.

Lack Of New Building Not To Blame For Soaring House Prices (Ind.)

Soaring house prices and plummeting home ownership rates in the UK have not been driven by a lack of new housing construction, a Labour party-commissioned review has found, contradicting conventional wisdom on the nature of the housing crisis. The Redfern Review, published today, states, instead, that the biggest drivers of the large increase in house prices over the past two decades have been rising incomes, falling interest rates and, more recently, a lack of mortgage finance availability for first-time buyers and the weakness of this group’s income growth. It also warns that even substantially increasing the supply of new homes will not directly improve the home ownership rate in the near term.

“New household formation and supply have been broadly in balance over the last 20 years and therefore the significant increases in house prices over that period have not been driven primarily by supply constraints,” it concludes. It finds that tougher rules on how much first time buyers can borrow for a mortgage has been the biggest downward force on the home ownership rate since 2008, followed by rapid increase in house prices. It said that the third biggest driver was a 10 per cent fall in the incomes of young people aged 28-30 relative to those aged over 40 since the financial crisis.

Read more …

It’s high time to put the issue to rest, and show native Americans that treaties will be respected.

Fate Of Controversial US Oil Pipeline Heads Back To Court (AFP)

The operators of a North Dakota oil pipeline struck back at the US government Tuesday, asking a court to stop regulators from further delaying the contentious project opposed by Native Americans. The move by Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners came after the US Army Corps of Engineers on Monday effectively put the brakes on the four-state long Dakota Access Pipeline by calling for more analysis and discussion. The companies responded by asking a federal district court in Washington, the US capital, to declare that they had the right to complete their project without the need for more approvals from regulators.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline has waited long enough,” Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, said in a statement. “It is time for the Courts to end this political interference and remove whatever legal cloud that may exist.” The decision by the Corps, whose permission is required for the pipeline to be built under the Missouri River and the man-made Lake Oahe in North Dakota, was a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The waterways are the tribe’s drinking water source, and it has objected to building the 1,172-mile pipeline underneath the river and lake, for fear that it might leak. “The Army continues to welcome any input that the Tribe believes is relevant to the proposed pipeline crossing,” the Corps said.

The tribe, which now believes it has the momentum in its battle against the companies, wants the pipeline’s route altered away from lands near its reservation. It also claims those lands contain sacred historic artifacts. “They are wrong and the lawsuit will not succeed,” the tribe’s chairman Dave Archambault said Tuesday in a statement responding to the companies’ action. He claimed that the pipeline’s operators are in a rush to complete the project before the end of the year, or risk losing shipping contracts that would jeopardize its viability. “They made bad decisions and are now facing the consequences. The tide is turning against this project. We thank all of our water protectors who have raised their voices against it. You are being heard,” Archambault said.

Read more …

He may ask Trump to end US investigation. That would be a bold move.

Assange Optimistic Sweden Will End Probe Into Rape Claim (SMH)

Julian Assange is optimistic that Swedish prosecutors will drop their investigation into rape allegations after he spent a day and a half being questioned in London, his lawyer says. And his team will write to the new Trump administration asking that the US end its investigation of Assange over Wikileaks’ publication of leaked classified material. Swedish assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren was present at the interview, which was conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor. After Assange gave a day-long statement on Monday, Tuesday was a question-and-answer session lasting about four hours. The results of the interview will be reported from Ecuador to the Swedish prosecutors in a written statement. The prosecutors will then decide whether to continue or end their investigation.

In a brief statement, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said the investigation and the interview at the embassy were “subject to confidentiality”. Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said on Tuesday evening she was unable to give details of the day’s questioning, including whether her client was asked for a DNA sample – as the Swedish prosecutors had said they intended. [..] Wikileaks played a crucial role during the presidential election, releasing emails hacked from Democratic Party servers which linked Hillary Clinton to big business and pulled the curtain from the political machinations behind her campaign. Asked if Donald Trump would return the favour by ending the investigation into Assange, Ms Robinson said “we would always be open to a conversation about closing it down”. “We’ll have to discuss that with our US counsel but we’ve written to the Obama administration and no doubt we will write to future US administrations until this is resolved.”

Read more …

Color revolution passes from Ukraine to America.

The Technosphere Hiccups (Dmitry Orlov)

[..] it would appear that the technosphere has suffered a setback. But it will not give up so easily, and the next step for it is to deploy political technologies to, if at all possible, invalidate and nullify the results of its electoral defeat. Indeed, this has already started: Bill and Hillary Clinton have recently shown up for a meeting with another ectoplasmic emanation of the technosphere, the predatory billionaire George Soros, clad in accents of Roman imperial purple. The rationale they gave for displaying the colors of the emperor’s toga is that it is a mixture of red and blue, and thus represents compromise. However, compromise, in their case, would be to exit from public life, for both of them are too old to ever run for any office again.

No, this display of imperial colors is just that: a signal that the empire is getting ready to strike back: we should look forward to another attempt at a Color Revolution—the Purple Revolution—this time in the United States, financed by the very same George Soros. This mixed-up signaling is typical: after the Russian election, in which Putin was again elected president, the same Color Revolution syndicate organized and financed protests there, featuring little white ribbons—which, as it happens, were worn by Nazi collaborators during World War II. This nuance was not lost on the Russians, and the protests came to naught. The technosphere is powerful, but is not all-powerful or infallible, and the world is developing effective antibodies against it generally, and against its political technologies, and the technology of the Color Revolution Syndicate in particular.

Here’s an example: the US spent some $5 billion on destabilizing the Ukraine politically and turning it into an enemy of Russia. For a while people in Kiev could earn more in a day by protesting than in a month by working a job. End result: in a recent opinion survey, 84% (34,900) Ukrainians said that the person they want to be the president of the Ukraine is… Vladimir Putin, with the current president, hand-picked by the US State Department, lost somewhere in the margin of error. [..] there now exists an anti-technology for dealing with the technology of Color Revolution, and all it takes to put it into action is a few groups of patriots. To remind: patriots are not nationalists; nationalists are people who hate other nations; patriots are people who love their land, and their people, more than any other, and are willing to lay down their lives in defense of it.

Read more …

One of the world’s richest nations. Shame on you, Justin.

One Quarter Of Children in Toronto, Montreal Live In Poverty (CP)

A new report says Toronto has the highest percentage of children living in poverty of any large city in Canada – 27% – and that the closest runner-up is Montreal. In Montreal, 25% of children were living in poverty in 2014. At 24%, Winnipeg was third on a list of Canadian cities with a population higher than 500,000. The report, titled Divided City: Life in Canada’s Child Poverty Capital, says 133,000 children in Toronto were living in low-income families in 2014, the year the data were collected.

A coalition of groups including the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto issued the report as that city weighs up to $600 million in cuts to such programs and services as community housing, transit and student nutrition. It says racialized families, new immigrant families, single-parent families and families with disabilities are up to three times more likely to live in poverty. Only half of children in families with an annual income of less than $30,000 were found to participate in out-of-school art or sports programs, compared with 93% of students in families with an income of $100,000 or more.

Read more …

Nov 152016
 
 November 15, 2016  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


George N. Barnard Atlanta, Georgia. View on Marietta Street 1864

UK Government Has No Plan For Brexit, Leaked Memo Says (BBC)
Why India Wiped Out 86% Of Its Cash Overnight (BBC)
Asian Currencies Drop to 7-Year Low Against US Dollar (BBG)
The Euro-Dollar Parity Bet Is Back (BBG)
‘Trump Thump’ Whacks Bond Market For $1 Trillion Loss (R.)
China: Trump’s First Crisis? (JP Smith)
China’s Central Bank Faces Trump Headache (BBG)
The World’s Biggest Real Estate Binge Is Coming To A City Near You (BBG)
America Has Abdicated Its Leadership of the West (Spiegel)
Memo to Trump: Defense Spending Must Be For Actual Defense (Ron Paul)
The Democratic Party Had a Good if Not Great Candidate in Bernie Sanders (CP)
Russian Economy Minister Detained Over Alleged $2 Million Bribe (R.)
EU Threatens Turkey With Economic Sanctions (TT)
Julian Assange Faces Second Day Of Questioning (ITV)
Highly Contagious Strain Of Bird Flu Sweeps Through Europe ( DW)
100,000 Landslides and Hundreds of Tremors After New Zealand Quake (G._

 

 

It’s only been 5 months, after all….: “Whitehall is working on 500 Brexit-related projects and could need 30,000 extra staff..”

UK Government Has No Plan For Brexit, Leaked Memo Says (BBC)

The government has no overall Brexit plan and a negotiating strategy may not be agreed by the cabinet for six months, a leaked memo has suggested. The memo – obtained by The Times and seen by the BBC – warns Whitehall is working on 500 Brexit-related projects and could need 30,000 extra staff. However, there is still no common exit strategy “because of divisions within the cabinet”, the leaked document adds. A government spokesman said it “didn’t recognise” the claims made in the memo. Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to invoke Article 50 – beginning the formal two-year process for leaving the EU – by the end of March next year. However, BBC political correspondent Chris Mason – who has seen the memo – says the document shows how “complex, fraught and challenging delivering Brexit will be”.

The leaked Cabinet Office memo – written by an un-named consultant and entitled “Brexit Update” of 7 November – suggests it will take another six months before the government decides precisely what it wants to achieve from Brexit or agrees on its priorities. The report criticises Mrs May, who it says is “acquiring a reputation of drawing in decisions and details to settle matters herself” – an approach it describes as being “unlikely to be sustainable”. The Times says the document also identifies cabinet splits between Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on one side, and Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark on the other.

According to the newspaper, the memo said: “Every department has developed a ‘bottom-up’ plan of what the impact of Brexit could be – and its plan to cope with the ‘worst case’. “Although necessary, this falls considerably short of having a ‘government plan for Brexit’ because it has no prioritisation and no link to the overall negotiation strategy.” The memo also suggests the government does not have enough officials to implement Brexit quickly, while departments are developing individual plans resulting in “well over 500 projects”. It estimates an additional 30,000 extra civil servants could be required to meet the workload. The document also says big businesses could soon “point a gun at the government’s head” to secure what they need to maintain jobs and investment.

Read more …

Tax evasion.

Why India Wiped Out 86% Of Its Cash Overnight (BBC)

India is in the middle of an extraordinary economic experiment. On 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave only four hours’ notice that virtually all the cash in the world’s seventh-largest economy would be effectively worthless. The Indian government likes to use the technical term “demonetisation” to describe the move, which makes it sound rather dull. It isn’t. This is the economic equivalent of “shock and awe”. Do not believe reports that this is primarily about bribery or terror financing, the real target is tax evasion and the policy is very daring indeed. Mr Modi’s “shock and awe” declaration meant that 1,000 and 500 rupee notes would no longer be valid. These may be the largest denomination Indian notes but they are not high value by international standards – 1,000 rupees is only £12. But together the two notes represent 86% of the currency in circulation.

Think of that, at a stroke 86% of the cash in India now cannot be used. What is more, India is overwhelmingly a cash economy, with 90% of all transactions taking place that way. And that is the target of Mr Modi’s dramatic move. Because so much business is done in cash, very few people pay tax on the money they earn. According to figures published by the government earlier this year, in 2013 only 1% of the population paid any income tax at all. As a result huge numbers of Indians have stashes of tax-free cash hidden away – known here as “black money”. Even the very poorest Indians have some cash savings – maybe just a few thousand rupees stored away for a daughter’s wedding, the kids’ school fees or – heaven forbid – an illness in the family.

But lots of Indians have much more than that. It is not unusual for half the value of a property transaction to be paid in cash, with buyers turning up with suitcases full of 1,000 rupee notes. The size of this shadow economy is reckoned to be as much as 20% of India’s entire GDP. Mr Modi’s demonetisation is designed to drive black money out of the shadows. At the moment you can exchange up to 4,000 (£48) of the old rupees every day in cash for new 500 (£6) and 2,000 (£24) rupee notes. There is no limit to the amount that can be deposited in bank accounts until the end of December, but the government has warned that the tax authorities will be investigating any deposits above 250,000 rupees (£2,962).

Read more …

This may continue for a while. Energy in the crosshairs.

Asian Currencies Drop to 7-Year Low Against US Dollar (BBG)

A gauge of emerging Asian currencies is heading for the lowest close since March 2009 as the dollar surged after Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory. The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index, which tracks 10 regional currencies, is down 2% this year. As recently as August it was up 1.7%. Emerging assets have tumbled in the past week as the president-elect is seen unleashing a spending surge, pushing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

Read more …

The euro is way overvalued anyway, of course. Parity would sake the south to its core, though, much more than the north.

The Euro-Dollar Parity Bet Is Back (BBG)

Donald Trump’s electoral upset has breathed new life into the bet that diverging economic paths will drive the euro toward parity with the dollar for the first time since 2002. Traders see about a 45% chance the European currency will sink to $1 in the next year, about double the probability assigned a week ago. The president-elect’s pledges to boost spending and cut taxes are fueling speculation that economic growth will accelerate, pushing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly. That sentiment sent a gauge of the dollar to the strongest since February on Monday, while the euro fell to about $1.07, touching its lowest since 2015.

For Deutsche Bank, the world’s fourth-biggest currency trader, the election results are enough to jolt the euro out of a range it’s been stuck in for months and push it below $1 in 2017. Calls for parity crumbled this year as the Fed cut back on the number of expected rate hikes, even as the ECB continued to add unprecedented amounts of stimulus. Now Trump’s win is rekindling the wager that drove the dollar to back-to-back annual gains in 2014-2015, for its biggest two-year rally since the euro’s 1999 debut. “Divergence is back,” George Saravelos, a strategist at Deutsche Bank in London, wrote in a report dated Nov. 13. “The Trump victory has changed things.”

Read more …

The Trump fairytale lacks all sense of reality. He’s going to stumble upon a zillion roadblocks on his way to get the best of what he can get, and that means volatility.

‘Trump Thump’ Whacks Bond Market For $1 Trillion Loss (R.)

Donald Trump’s stunning victory for the White House may mark the long-awaited end to the more than 30-year-old bull run in bonds, as bets on faster U.S. growth and inflation lead investors to favor stocks over bonds. A two-day thumping wiped out more than $1 trillion across global bond markets worldwide, the worst rout in nearly 1-1/2 years, on bets that plans under a Trump administration would boost business investments and spending while firing up inflation. “We’ve had a sentiment shift in the bond market. We’ve seen it, too. People have already started reallocating out of bonds and into stocks,” said Jeff Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital. “The cracks have been forming for five years – we’re in this slow-grinding higher phase in yields,” he said.

The stampede from bonds propelled longer-dated U.S. yields to their highest levels since January with the 30-year yield posting its biggest weekly increase since January 2009. In the stock market, the blue chip Dow Jones industrial average finished out its best week in five years on Friday as it marked a record high close. The 10-year German Bund yield rose to its highest level in eight months, while the 10-year British gilt yield climbed to its highest level prior to Brexit. [..] While investors dumped most types of bonds after Trump’s victory, they piled into Treasury inflation-protected securities as a hedge against a pick-up in inflation. “You are seeing interest in TIPS right now from a widening investors base,” said Brian Smith, portfolio manager at TCW in Los Angeles, which has $197 billion in assets. Investors poured $1 billion into TIPS in the week ended Nov. 9, the second-biggest inflows since records began in October 2002.

Read more …

Trump may hand China exactly what it needs but is afraid to face.

China: Trump’s First Crisis? (JP Smith)

There is a growing possibility that China will be at the epicentre of President-elect Trump’s first crisis, triggered by concerns over the potential impact of protectionist measures on China’s trade surplus, which currently supports the increasingly fragile financing chains supporting corporate debt that the IMF estimates at around 155% of GDP. Trump’s pledges to impose tariffs of up to 45% on Chinese manufactured goods threatens to drive a significant uptick in the amount of capital flight from the renminbi, while the prospect of measures to change the US tax system to encourage companies to repatriate cash to the are already pulling the dollar higher.

At this point the likelihood of Trump actually delivering on his protectionist rhetoric is secondary to the psychological impact on resident corporate and household savers of any potential threat to the current uneasy equilibrium within the Chinese economy. The situation could quickly become much more acute than the one faced by the FOMC earlier this year, when the Fed appears to have backed off raising rates primarily due to concerns about China, so that President Trump will have to make a decision whether to clarify his intentions towards China and possibly repudiate his key campaign pledge at a relatively early stage of his presidency.

The consequences of his not doing so could be to precipitate an economic and financial crisis within China, that would obviously have major adverse consequences for the regional and global economies and also some potentially very serious implications for geopolitical stability. In brief, our longstanding bearish view on China has rested on the governance factors at both a central and local government level that have led to massive cost factor subsidies driving overcapacity across a broad range of industries. This has resulted in very high levels of debt which are being financed from an increasing range of institutions and instruments, most recently the city and county banks and shadow financing instruments, all of which are lack transparency even by Chinese standards.

No-one disputes any more that an increasing amount of financing is being used to service and roll over existing loans and that higher write-offs are not keeping pace with the flow of doubtful loans. The financing structures that surround the overcapacity industries are increasingly fragile especially on a regional level; Chinese enterprises are simply too interconnected to fail. Over the course of 2016, there have been some indications of a visible improvement in both the macro-economic and corporate numbers, as well as some of the more physical and therefore reliable indications of activity such as power production and freight journeys. This has, however, been a function of the massive monetary and fiscal stimulus beginning in the second half of 2015, to head off a potential crisis in response to the plunge in the onshore equity market.

Read more …

“As if defusing the world’s biggest debt bomb while keeping economic growth humming wasn’t tough enough..”

China’s Central Bank Faces Trump Headache (BBG)

As if defusing the world’s biggest debt bomb while keeping economic growth humming wasn’t tough enough, Donald Trump’s shock election victory has just made the policy outlook even more complex for People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan. The president-elect’s threats to slap tariffs of up to 45% on Chinese imports cast a shadow over the economy’s stabilization and the world’s most crucial trade relationship. Protectionism may fuel more international use of the yuan, according to Standard Chartered, while UBS says tariffs may push the PBOC to let the yuan fall further. Longer-term ambitions like capital account opening and yuan internationalization are also clouded, hinging on whether President Trump delivers on candidate Trump’s promises.

The PBOC’s monetary policy becomes trickier, and harder to keep neutral, amid “huge uncertainty” about Trump’s impact on China, according to Larry Hu at Macquarie in Hong Kong. “It’s hard to tell what would be actual policies instead of just campaign rhetoric,” Hu wrote in a note. Even before Trump takes office Jan. 20, there’s reason to think his campaign threats to impose tariffs and label China a currency manipulator may be tempered by the reality of governing. He’s already signaled there may be some watering down of other contentious issues such as building a wall on the Mexican border and scrapping President Barack Obama’s health care program. There’s a low probability that the PBOC will cut its benchmark interest rates or the required reserve ratio for banks this year, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. The central bank has held its main rates at record lows for more than a year to support growth.

Read more …

Whatever happened to people’s right to shelter?

The World’s Biggest Real Estate Binge Is Coming To A City Near You (BBG)

If they were anywhere else in Beijing, the five young women in cowboy hats and matching red, white, and blue costumes would look wildly out of place. But here at the city’s biggest international property fair – a frenetic gathering of brokers, developers and other real estate professionals all jockeying for the attention of Chinese buyers – the quintet of wannabe Texans fits right in. As they promote Houston townhouses (“Yours for as little as $350,000!”), a Portugal contingent touts its Golden Visa program and the Australian delegation lures passersby with stuffed kangaroos. Welcome to ground zero for the world’s largest cross-border residential property boom. Motivated by a weakening yuan, surging domestic housing costs and the desire to secure offshore footholds, Chinese citizens are snapping up overseas homes at an accelerating pace.

They’re also venturing further afield than ever before, spreading beyond the likes of Sydney and Vancouver to lower-priced markets including Houston, Thailand’s Pattaya Beach and Malaysia’s Johor Bahru. The buying spree has defied Chinese government efforts to restrict capital outflows and shows little sign of slowing after an estimated $15 billion of overseas real estate purchases in the first half. For cities in the cross-hairs, the challenge is to balance the economic benefits of Chinese demand against the risk that rising home prices spur a public backlash. “The Chinese have managed to accumulate very large amounts of wealth, and the opportunities to deploy that capital in their own market are somewhat restricted,” said Richard Barkham at CBRE, the world’s largest commercial property brokerage. “China has more than a billion people. Personally, I think we have just seen a trickle.”

Read more …

I have too much to say on this to say it here.

America Has Abdicated Its Leadership of the West (Spiegel)

Even history sometimes leans toward pathos. In January 2017, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, the American Age will celebrate its 100th birthday – and its funeral. The West was constituted in its modern form in January 1917. World War I was raging in Europe at the time and in Washington, D.C., President Woodrow Wilson told his country that it was time for Americans to take responsibility for “peace and justice.” In April he said: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” He declared war on Germany and sent soldiers to Europe to secure victory for the Western democracies – and the United States assumed the leadership of the Western world. It was an early phase of political globalization. One hundred years later: Trump.

Trump, who wants nothing to do with globalization; Trump, who preaches American nationalism, isolation, partial withdrawal from world trade and zero responsibility for a global problem like climate change. And all of this after a perverse election campaign marked by resentment, racism and incitement. Human dignity is the centerpiece of the Western project. Following the revolutions in France and the US in the late 18th century, states began guaranteeing human rights for the first time. Human rights have a normative character, as Heinrich August Winkler argued in his monumental work “History of the West.” And a racist cannot embody this normative project. Trump has no sense of dignity – neither for himself nor others. He does not qualify as the leader of the Western world, because he is both unwilling and incapable of assuming that role.

We now face emptiness – the fear of the void. What will happen to the West, to Europe, to Germany without the United States as its leading power? Germany is a child of the West, particularly of the United States, brought to life with American generosity, long spoon-fed and now in a deep state of shock. The American president was always simultaneously our president, at least a little, and Barack Obama was a worthy president of the West. Now, though, we must come to terms with a lack of Western leadership. What were those 100 years like? The history of the modern West can be told in many ways: as a heroic tale, as a story of greed, as a mission or as a tale of fear. This article is about 100 years of fear, in particular the fear for our freedom, a quintessentially American paranoia that spread to the rest of the West. The word is not being used negatively here; we are talking about fear as a bulwark protecting us against danger. There are good fears and bad fears.

Read more …

“If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then I am afraid we should prepare for economic collapse in very short order.”

Memo to Trump: Defense Spending Must Be For Actual Defense (Ron Paul)

[..] The military budget is something very different from the defense budget. The military budget is the money spent each year not to defend the United States, but to enrich the military-industrial complex, benefit special interests, regime-change countries overseas, maintain a global US military empire, and provide defense to favored allies. The military budget for the United States is larger than the combined military spending budget of the next seven or so countries down the line. To get the military budget in line with our real defense needs would require a focus on our actual interests and a dramatic decrease in spending. The spending follows the policy, and the policy right now reflects the neocon and media propaganda that we must run the rest of the world or there will be total chaos. This is sometimes called “American exceptionalism,” but it is far from a “pro-American” approach.

Do we really need to continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars manipulating elections overseas? Destabilizing governments that do not do as Washington tells them? Rewarding those who follow Washington’s orders with massive aid and weapons sales? Do we need to continue the endless war in Afghanistan even as we discover that Saudi Arabia had far more to do with 9/11 than the Taliban we have been fighting for a decade and a half? Do we really need 800 US military bases in more than 70 countries overseas? Do we need to continue to serve as the military protection force for our wealthy NATO partners even though they are more than capable of defending themselves? Do we need our CIA to continue to provoke revolutions like in Ukraine or armed insurgencies like in Syria?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then I am afraid we should prepare for economic collapse in very short order. Then, with our economy in ruins, we will face the wrath of those countries overseas which have been in the crosshairs of our interventionist foreign policy. If the answer is no, then we must work to convince our countrymen to reject the idea of Empire and embrace the United States as a constitutional republic that no longer goes abroad seeking monsters to slay. The choice is ours.

Read more …

“Their corrupt Democratic Party had a good if not great candidate in Bernie Sanders and their DNC deliberately fought to keep him from winning the primaries..”

The Democratic Party Had a Good if Not Great Candidate in Bernie Sanders (CP)

It’s hard to empathize with the corporate liberals who streamed from the Javits Center in tears [last] Tuesday night. Their corrupt Democratic Party had a good if not great candidate in Bernie Sanders and their DNC deliberately fought to keep him from winning the primaries. In every poll taken during his campaign, Sanders beat Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election. Oh, they’ll start pouring out their bile now, blaming everyone but themselves and their candidate. It was the media’s fault for popularizing Trump (a Clinton strategy). It was the FBI’s fault for re-opening the email case (thanks to Huma Abedin’s ex). It was stupid Middle America’s fault for being racist and sexist (was that why they voted for Trump?). It was third-party supporters who screwed us in Florida again (Paul Krugman and Rachel Maddow are furious that leftists didn’t vote for their heroine). It was Russia’s fault for hacking the DNC (no evidence) and plotting to invade Europe (no evidence).

In Hillary’s farewell speech, she kept to form and quoted scripture–the very last guide she has used to shape her political life. In other words, she remained a hypocrite. She talked to little girls who think she is a great flagbearer for womankind, even though she precipitated the brutal destruction of infrastructure, the breakdown of law and order, and the eventual collapse of the Libyan state, throwing thousands of brown women, boys and girls into extreme danger and exile. She exported the same plan to Syria. And she supported a coup d’état in Honduras that has now led to predictably vicious repression and regular homicide. The truth is, Hillary was a terrible candidate. Like Al Gore. She was charmless and toneless. In an election atmosphere typified by personality politics, Hillary lacked one.

She had a rich track record of foreign policy meltdowns at the State Department and a feckless tenure in the Senate. She alienated Congress in 1993 when she failed to get health care reform passed. And she evidently used high office to peddle access and influence to Clinton Foundation donors. Her positions had changed repeatedly, suggesting she couldn’t be trusted. This, compounded by the scandal surrounding her lazy use of email in the trafficking of confidential information, and ham-fisted attempts to cover it up, cast her in the dimmest of lights with many Americans. An albatross husband still despised by conservatives and who loomed hungrily behind the floodlights of her campaign–didn’t help either.

Read more …

Russia’s energy and banking sectors remain murky fields.

Russian Economy Minister Detained Over Alleged $2 Million Bribe (R.)

Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has been detained over a $2-million bribe allegedly received for a “positive” assessment, which led to oil producer Rosneft acquiring a 50% stake in Bashneft, the country’s Investigative Committee said on Tuesday. He is the highest-ranked statesman in Russia arrested since the failed coup in 1991. The Investigative Committee, which directly reports to President Vladimir Putin, said the investigation would put forward charges soon. “Ulyukayev was detained at night, immediately after interrogation,” an Investigative Committee official told Reuters. It was not immediately clear, what exactly Ulyukayev, who has overseen massive government privatization, has been accused of, but Russian news outlet RT reported that the minister had been detained in the act of taking the bribe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS news agency that “this is a serious accusation”. “In any case, only a court is able to decide anything,” he was quoted as saying. RT reported that Peskov said he did not know if Putin was aware of the minister’s detention. According to RT, if found guilty, Ulyukayev could face a fine up to 100 times the size of the bribe plus the loss of the right to serve in some state positions and undertake certain activities for up to 15 years. A prison sentence of as long as 15 years and a fine that was 70 times the size of the bribe were other potential outcomes following a guilty verdict, RT said.

Read more …

I’ve said it 1000 times: Turkey will never be a member of the EU. Countries will leave as soon as that propect gets real.

EU Threatens Turkey With Economic Sanctions (TT)

Turkey-EU relations braced for a major showdown after the Turkish government renewed its push for bringing the death penalty back, leading to mutual recriminations, trading barbs over recent days. To reveal the gravity of the situation and its meaning for the EU, European Parliament (EP) President Martin Schulz even spoke about possible economic sanctions against Turkey over draconian emergency practices that destroyed central pillars of democracy and the rule of law. As Turkey’s record on human rights hits lows, its ramifications for the EU accession process becomes evidently palpable with dying prospects for membership in the foreseeable future. The unrelenting political crackdown inside Turkey has left the EU with few options seen deterrent to force Ankara to change its policies at home.

Speaking to German’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Schulz said about the political climate in Brussels where EU leaders discuss imposing economic sanctions against Turkey in response to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s actions to curb the opposition. The consideration of such an option is preferred to terminating entire talks between Turkey and the EU, he argued. “We as the EU will have to consider which economic measures we can take,” Schulz said. One of the arguments he brought forward is that the breakdown in relations would leave the EU with no leverage and option that it could wield influence Turkey to help the opposition and those who are held in pre-trial detention

But his warnings and comment fell on deaf ears in Ankara, prompting a swift rebuke from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who called on Schulz to do whatever possible to back up his threats. Speaking at a press conference in Ankara along with his Chinese counterpart, Cavusoglu called on Schulz to remove banners and booths of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey and the EU consider as a terrorist group, from EP building in Brussels. His criticism refers to periodic protests of pro-PKK groups near EP headquarters in Brussels as European Kurds demonstrate there against the Turkish state, set up tents and booths filled with PKK flags and images of imprisoned PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan.

Read more …

If Sweden had a case, they would have made it eons ago. What a disgrace as a country.

Julian Assange Faces Second Day Of Questioning (ITV)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be questioned for a second day inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London over a sex allegation. Swedish prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and Swedish police inspector Cecilia Redell will once again interview Assange through a representative of the Ecuadorian government. They said a DNA sample will be taken if he gives consent. It is believed Assange was “fully cooperative” during their initial meeting on Monday. The process could take three days, before Swedish authorities decide on their next move.

However Ms Isgren will not be giving interviews during her stay in London. A statement said: “As the investigation is ongoing, it is subject to confidentiality. “This confidentiality also applies according to Ecuadorian legislation for the investigative measures conducted at the embassy. “Therefore, the prosecutors cannot provide information concerning details of the investigation after the interview.”

Read more …

Still waiting for the big one.

Highly Contagious Strain Of Bird Flu Sweeps Through Europe (DW)

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein widened protection measures on Monday to protect against an outbreak of the H5N8 influenza virus among wild birds, which has spread to poultry. All farms – including smallholdings – will be required to tighten biosecurity, with the use of protective clothing and footwear, and the widespread disinfection of all farm buildings and vehicles used to transport poultry. Over the weekend, 30,000 chickens were culled as a precaution at a farm close to the northern city of Grumby, which saw an outbreak of the virus. The affected breeder farm is currently being disinfected and cleaned, Schleswig-Holstein’s environment ministry said on Monday.

Two smaller poultry farms in the same state and the neighboring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were also affected over the weekend, but neither states registered new H5N8 cases on Monday, local officials said. So far, five German states have seen bird flu outbreaks, including the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, which reported cases around Lake Constance, which is bordered by Switzerland and Austria. The state of Saxony also confirmed the H5N8 virus was detected in a dead heron at a lake near the city of Leipzig. On Monday, Denmark sought to contain its own outbreak among wild birds by ordering a farm to destroy hundreds of thousands of eggs imported from Germany, as a precaution. Some 300,000 eggs from the farm in Grumby were supplied to a hatchery in the Danish town of Baekke, near Kolding. They are all expected to be destroyed by Tuesday.

Read more …

Still waiting for the big one here as well. Jitters all around.

100,000 Landslides and Hundreds of Tremors After New Zealand Quake (G._

Up to 100,000 landslides were caused by New Zealand’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake, officials said, as aftershocks continued to shake parts of both islands of New Zealand and emergency crews worked to help people in the main affected areas. A major relief effort continued on Tuesday, with thousands of people stranded by the quake, which blocked roads and damaged many buildings across parts of the North and South islands. Emergency services and defence personnel were evacuating hundreds of tourists and residents from Kaikoura, the heavily hit South Island town, amid more strong aftershocks on Tuesday.

The powerful earthquake killed two people. It struck just after midnight on Sunday, destroying farm homesteads, sending glass and masonry toppling from buildings in the capital, Wellington, on the North Island and cutting road and rail links throughout the north-east of the South Island. As aftershocks continued to rattle the region on Wednesday, emergency services cordoned off streets in Wellington and evacuated several buildings due to fears one of them might collapse. Gale-force winds and rain were hampering recovery efforts as wild weather brought floods to the Greater Wellington region. Hundreds of aftershocks continued to rock the region. A 5.4 tremor was among the bigger aftershocks and was felt strongly in Wellington.

Read more …

Jun 032016
 
 June 3, 2016  Posted by at 8:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Harris&Ewing Happy News Cafe, “restaurant for the unemployed”, Washington, DC 1937

Bill Gross: Capitalism Doesn’t Work At 0% (CNBC)
Negative-Yielding Sovereign Debt Tops $10 Trillion (WSJ)
Japan’s Sovereign Debt Burden Is Quietly Falling the Most in the World (BBG)
Explosion in Quasi-Sovereign Bond Issuance Is Making Analysts Queasy (BBG)
US-China Trade Troubles Grow (WSJ)
One Third Of Americans Are ‘Just Getting By’ (NY Times)
OECD Sees ‘Dramatic And Destabilising’ End To Australia Property Boom (AFR)
Fed Likely To Avoid Rate Hike Before Britain Votes On Leaving EU (R.)
Draghi Insists ECB Stimulus Only Half Done (BBG)
Bank of France Cuts Inflation Outlook, 2017 GDP Forecast (WSJ)
Bundesbank Cuts German GDP Forecasts On Weaker Export Demand (R.)
President Obama, Pardon Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (G.)
Facial Recognition Will Soon End Your Anonymity (MW)
The Fat Lady Always Sings Twice (Jim Kunstler)
Fewer Than 500 of 163,000 Migrants Find Jobs In Sweden (BB)
Corruption Gripes Help Five Star Movement Top Italy Local Election Polls (G.)
US Announces Near-Total Ban On Trade Of African Elephant Ivory (AFP)

Central bankers seem to think it does, though.

Bill Gross: Capitalism Doesn’t Work At 0% (CNBC)

Bill Gross has some bad news for investors. In his June investment outlook released Thursday, the widely followed bond fund manager contended that bond and stock returns realized in the last 40 years are “a grey if not black swan event that cannot be repeated.” Investors should not expect 7% returns on bonds or returns in the high single digits or double digits on stocks, Gross told CNBC on Thursday. “The markets are entirely different and it would pay to travel to Mars as opposed to stay on Earth, because the returns here are very, very low,” the manager of the Janus Capital Unconstrained Bond Fund, said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch”. Gross said easy central bank policy could hold down bond returns. Central banks in Europe and Japan have adopted negative interest rates, while the Federal Reserve’s target rate is at 0.25 to 0.50%.

German and Japanese 10-year bonds currently have negative yields, while their 30-year bonds yield less than 1%. The U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield sat around 1.8% Thursday. Gross contended those rate trends can hurt not only savers but also the broader economy. He said Fed policymakers, who have signaled they could hike rates at least once this year, realize they need to normalize policy. “Ultimately, they have to move back up and I think a certain number of Fed governors realize that the normalization process is necessary in order to save business models and to save capitalism basically because capitalism doesn’t work at 0% and it doesn’t work at negative interest rates,” he said.

Read more …

Negative bonanza.

Negative-Yielding Sovereign Debt Tops $10 Trillion (WSJ)

The amount of global sovereign debt with negative yields surpassed $10 trillion for the first time in May, according to Fitch Ratings. The measure stood at $10.4 trillion on May 31, up 5% from $9.9 trillion on April 25, when the rating agency last measured the amount, according to a Thursday report. It is spread across 14 countries, with Japan by far the largest source of negative-yielding bonds. Of the total, $7.3 trillion was long-term debt and $3.1 trillion was short-term debt.

The amount of debt with yields below zero has increased sharply this year as global central banks have instituted unconventional policy measures, such as negative interest rates. The Bank of Japan in January surprised markets by driving its rates below zero, pushing Japanese government-bond yields sharply lower. Banks in the euro currency bloc have also increased demand for government debt to meet regulatory requirements, another factor weighing on yields, Fitch said. “Higher amounts of Japanese and Italian sovereign securities with sub-zero yields were the biggest contributors to the monthly changes,” said Fitch analysts, led by Robert Grossman.

Read more …

Because it’s shifting into private hands. The BOJ buys it all. Which allows the government to keep on borrowing with abandon.

Japan’s Sovereign Debt Burden Is Quietly Falling the Most in the World (BBG)

Japan for years has been renowned for having the world’s largest government debt load. No longer. That’s if you consider how the effective public borrowing burden is plunging – by one estimate as much as the equivalent of 15 percentage points of GDP a year, putting it on track toward a more manageable level. Accounting for the Bank of Japan’s unprecedented government bond buying from private investors, which some economists call “monetization” of the debt, alters the picture. Though the bond liabilities remain on the government’s balance sheet, because they aren’t held by the private sector any more they’re effectively irrelevant, according to a number of analysts looking at the shift. “Japan is the country where public debt in private hands is falling the fastest anywhere,” said Martin Schulz at Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo.

While Japan’s estimated gross government debt is now over twice the size of the economy, according to Schulz’s calculations using BOJ data, the shuffle of holdings from private actors like banks and households to the central bank is having a big impact. It means debt in private hands will fall to about 100% of GDP in two to three years, from 177% just before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in late 2012, he estimates. It’s not like Japan is slowing down on borrowing. Abe’s administration is now laying the groundwork for another burst of fiscal stimulus, which could be funded by selling bonds. He also announced Wednesday a delay to a sales tax hike planned for April 2017, rebuffing fiscal hawks who argued it was vital to raise revenue.

Finance Minister Taro Aso explained Tuesday that “the biggest problem is that private consumption hasn’t risen,” making now not a good time to raise the levy. Helping improve household sentiment could be one reason for making it explicit that at least some of the government bonds in the BOJ’s holdings will be written off. If Japanese consumers understand they’re not on the hook for all the gross debt outstanding, their mood could potentially perk up.

Read more …

What can we say but: Anything Goes!

Explosion in Quasi-Sovereign Bond Issuance Is Making Analysts Queasy (BBG)

Which fixed-income asset class is growing fast, outperforms similar debt issues, and rarely defaults? Emerging market ‘quasi-sovereign’ bonds, of course! At some $600 billion, debt sold by state-supported companies in emerging markets ranging from China to Oman has surpassed the amount of emerging market government debt outstanding, according to a new note from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Such quasi-sovereign debt issuance has helped propel the stunning growth of the overall bond market, with EM issuance accounting for 47% of the growth in global debt between 2007-14, compared to 22% in the previous seven years, according to S&P Global Ratings.

But the surge in ‘quasi’ bonds is making some feel, well, queasy. “Quasi-sovereigns are effectively a ‘contingent liability’ for a country,” write the BofAML analysts, led by Kay Hope. They note that quasi-sovereign issuance now makes up half of the $1.6 – 1.8 trillion euro- and dollar-denominated corporate bond market for emerging markets, which could put added pressure on strained emerging market coffers.

China, with its lumbering state-owned enterprises, accounts for a full quarter of this kind of debt — despite the Chinese sovereign itself lacking virtually any foreign-denominated bonds. Meanwhile, the amount of debt from Brazilian quasi-sovereigns has nearly quadrupled, according to BofAML, while that sold by Mexico’s state-owned companies has just about doubled. Much of the growth has been driven by companies in the energy and commodities sectors, with giants of industry including Pemex, Petrobras, China National Offshore Oil and Gazprom all tapping the market in recent years.

Read more …

There’s going to be trouble.

US-China Trade Troubles Grow (WSJ)

The U.S. and China, facing mounting political pressures at home, are seeing economic tensions flare to their worst point in years over currency and trade practices. China has pushed the yuan to a five-year low against the dollar, reviving charges from American firms of currency manipulation to gain a competitive advantage for Chinese goods. The Obama administration has fired off a series of trade complaints and levied duties on several Chinese industries, from chicken feet to cold-rolled steel used in appliances and auto parts. The friction between the world’s two largest economies could worsen as domestic politics collide with already weak growth.

The U.S., seeing heightened anti-China rhetoric in the presidential election, wants China to press ahead with promised policies to open up its markets and allow greater international investment. Chinese leaders, worried about a deeper economic slowdown, are trying to keep factories humming and prevent the kind of market unrest that gripped global investors over the past year. [..] Some analysts think President Xi Jinping, wanting to consolidate power in the Communist Party ahead of a leadership transition next year, has paused reform efforts and instead is revving up the old playbook of credit-fueled growth and infrastructure spending. His aim: Ensure economic stability and mollify rivals, they say.

An attempt last year by Beijing to allow markets to play a role in setting its exchange rate was mismanaged, adding to a summertime of woe for China’s financial markets and sparking global jitters. The reaction surprised Chinese officials and created a headache for reformers. The Chinese government is keeping steel mills, coal plants and a host of manufacturing industries afloat despite dwindling demand and a tumble in commodity prices that should have closed many. [..] By supporting excess production capacity, the Chinese government is “engaged in economic warfare against the U.S.,” said John Ferriola, chief executive of North Carolina steel giant Nucor Corp. “Thousands of hardworking Americans have lost their jobs because of these illegal, unfair trade practices.”

Read more …

“..nearly half of all respondents said they could not cover an unexpected expense of $400..”

One Third Of Americans Are ‘Just Getting By’ (NY Times)

In the United States, nearly one-third of adults, about 76 million people, are either “struggling to get by” or “just getting by,” according to the third annual survey of households by the Federal Reserve Board. That finding, dismal though it is, represents a mild improvement in general well-being last year, compared with the two years before. The improvement, however, was clearly too little to raise Americans’ spirits: The new survey, which was conducted in late 2015 and released last week, also shows that optimism about the future has tempered. The Fed policy committee should take the survey to heart when it meets this month to decide whether to raise interest rates.

Higher rates are a way to slow an economy that is at risk of overheating – a far-fetched proposition when tens of millions of Americans are barely hanging in there. Congress and other economic policy makers, as well as the presidential candidates, could also use the survey to get some insight into Americans’ real economic problems. Among them is deep insecurity. Nearly 70% of adults said they were “living comfortably” or “doing O.K.” — up a bit from previous years — but nearly half of all respondents said they could not cover an unexpected expense of $400, or could do so only by selling something or borrowing money. Americans seeking a path upward through education are staggering under a load of debt. The median debt load for someone with a bachelor’s degree was $19,162.

For a master’s, it was $36,000, and for a professional degree, $100,000. Many students with debt use deferments or other plans to delay or extend repayments, but in most cases that increases the balance they owe. For those making payments, the average monthly bill was $533. By all indications, however, they are the relatively lucky ones. Americans who had attended college accounted for most of the improvement reported in the survey. Financial stress was more prevalent among less-educated people who responded to the survey, as well as racial and ethnic minorities and adults making less than $40,000 a year.

Read more …

Please remember and compare to yesterday’s (also OECD): “We’re a little concerned about housing prices in the greater Vancouver area and Toronto..”

OECD Sees ‘Dramatic And Destabilising’ End To Australia Property Boom (AFR)

Australia may be on the cusp of a “dramatic and destabilising” end to the housing boom rather than a hoped-for soft landing because of the apartments building boom, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said. In its latest assessment of the threats to the economy, the Paris-based think tank said jitters over the federal election are adding to risks, and called for an increase in the goods and services tax. Somewhat paradoxically, the OECD appears particularly worried about how to interpret changes in the housing market – even as it notes simultaneously that risks of a boom appear to be receding which, it argues, provides leeway for even more official interest rate cuts.

“Domestically, the unwinding of housing market tensions to date may presage dramatic and destabilising developments, rather than herald a soft landing,” it said. Parts of the real estate industry have already warned about failed settlements as record numbers of new apartments come due for completion in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane this year and next. The warning, which is accompanied by graphs showing dwelling approvals retreating from a peak and house prices levelling out, appears to have been prepared ahead of more recent evidence of a rebound in both measures.

Read more …

First things first.

Fed Likely To Avoid Rate Hike Before Britain Votes On Leaving EU (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve may be forced to delay a rate hike at its June meeting because of mounting concern over the economic fallout from Britain’s vote on whether to leave the European Union. The geopolitical risk likely will push any rate increase until at least July, despite apparent consensus among Fed officials that a hike is warranted by stronger U.S. growth and tight labor markets. The Fed’s June 14-15 rate-setting meeting comes just a week before the British vote on June 23. A “leave” vote is expected to roil financial markets, cause credit spreads to widen, trigger a rush into safe assets and bolster the dollar. The dollar’s recent stability is one reason the Fed has become more comfortable with raising rates, and officials may want to let the threat of Brexit pass before moving to tighten financial conditions.

Fed Board Governor Daniel Tarullo on Thursday joined the chorus of those warning of his concerns over the British vote, telling Bloomberg that Brexit would be a “factor” he would consider at the Fed’s June policy meeting and said that the British vote’s impact on markets would be key. [..] If the Fed does indeed take a pass at its June meeting, officials have signaled they’ll be ready to move in July. Minutes of the Fed’s March policy meeting showed officials preparing the ground for higher rates sometime in the summer months. After July, the next option would be September, in the middle of a U.S. election campaign, in which the Fed and Yellen could well become targets of debate.

Read more …

The illusion gets expensive, as returns diminish.

Draghi Insists ECB Stimulus Only Half Done (BBG)

Mario Draghi’s insistence that his stimulus program is only half done brings with it a worrying thought. What if its best effects are already spent anyway? At least four times at Thursday’s press conference in Vienna, the European Central Bank president emphasized how policy makers need to see the “full impact” and must “focus on implementation” of their measures. That augurs a busy month ahead as officials keep hoovering up government debt, start buying corporate bonds and enact the first of four long-term loan offerings to banks. While Draghi’s remarks suggest the next major calendar point for the ECB’s assessment of its stimulus will be September – after the release of economic-growth data and coinciding with its fresh forecasts – the omens so far are weak.

Yet another report of negative consumer prices this week underscored the challenge of revitalizing an economy fatigued by years of debt crises and delayed reforms, and battered by global forces beyond the ECB’s control. “We’re getting to the point of radically diminishing effectiveness of these interventions,” Andrew Balls, Pimco’s global fixed income chief investment officer, said on Bloomberg Television. “If we get a recession, which is perfectly plausible over the next three to five years, there’s a real question in terms of how policy makers can respond.”

Read more …

France blames emerging economies.

Bank of France Cuts Inflation Outlook, 2017 GDP Forecast (WSJ)

The Bank of France cut its inflation forecasts and trimmed its 2017 economic growth forecast in a semi-annual economic outlook Friday. The Bank of France pared back its GDP forecast for 2017 to 1.5% from 1.6% in December as it expects weaker trade to drag on the French economy. Despite a stronger-than-expected first quarter, it kept its GDP forecast for the whole of 2016 at 1.4%. The softer forecasts indicate how weak oil prices and uncertainty over the outlook for the global economy are cooling eurozone economies just as they emerge from a long period of weak growth. “While global demand is dynamic, it will accelerate only slightly in 2016, due to a less favorable growth outlook than previously forecast in emerging economies,” the Bank of France said.

Read more …

Germany blames exports in general. Stingy Greeks?!

Bundesbank Cuts German GDP Forecasts On Weaker Export Demand (R.)

The Bundesbank cut its German inflation and growth forecasts on Friday citing weaker demand for exports, even as it predicted that robust consumer demand and a tightening labor market would keep the domestic economy buoyant. The euro zone’s biggest economy has been an outperformer in recent years, posting healthy growth and driving the currency bloc’s best run since the start of the global financial crisis almost a decade ago. Exporters have been forced to “surrender” some of their market share gained in recent years, however, and this trend may continue this year and offset strong domestic factors, the central bank said in a biannual economic outlook.

“This should probably be interpreted mainly as a correction of previous market share gains not explained by price competitiveness,” the Bundesbank said. “This process could continue further into 2016 according to Ifo and DIHK surveys, in which industrial firms reported subdued export expectations and only a comparatively moderate increase in exports this year,” it said. The bank now sees GDP growing at 1.7% this year, below a December projection for 1.8%, and 1.4% in 2017, down from 1.7% seen earlier. The growth rate would then rebound to 1.6% in 2018.

Read more …

Not going to happen.

President Obama, Pardon Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (G.)

As he wraps up his presidency, it’s time for Barack Obama to seriously consider pardoning whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Last week, Manning marked her six-year anniversary of being behind bars. She’s now served more time than anyone who has leaked information to a reporter in history – and still has almost three decades to go on her sentence. It should be beyond question at this point that the archive that Manning gave to WikiLeaks – and that was later published in part by the Guardian and New York Times – is one of the richest and most comprehensive databases on world affairs that has ever existed; its contribution to the public record at this point is almost incalculable. To give you an idea: in just the past month, the New York Times has cited Manning’s state department cables in at least five different stories.

And that’s almost six years after they first started making headlines. We know now that, despite being embarrassing for the United States, the leaks caused none of the great harm that US government officials said would come to pass. Even the government admitted during Manning’s trial that no one died because of her revelations, despite the hyperbolic government comments at the time, including that WikiLeaks had “blood on its hands”. (By the way, the US officials knew they were exaggerating in the media at the time.) Even if you think that she deserves some punishment for breaking the law, six years behind bars (and being tortured during her pretrial confinement) should be more than enough.

Read more …

Creepy.

Facial Recognition Will Soon End Your Anonymity (MW)

Nearly 250 million video surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the world, and chances are you’ve been seen by several of them today. Most people barely notice their presence anymore – on the streets, inside stores, and even within our homes. We accept the fact that we are constantly being recorded because we expect this to have virtually no impact on our lives. But this balance may soon be upended by advancements in facial recognition technology. Soon anybody with a high-resolution camera and the right software will be able to determine your identity. That’s because several technologies are converging to make this accessible. Recognition algorithms have become far more accurate, the devices we carry can process huge amounts of data, and there’s massive databases of faces now available on social media that are tied to our real names.

As facial recognition enters the mainstream, it will have serious implications for your privacy. A new app called FindFace, recently released in Russia, gives us a glimpse into what this future might look like. Made by two 20-something entrepreneurs, FindFace allows anybody to snap a photo of a passerby and discover their real name — already with 70% reliability. The app allows people to upload photos and compare faces to user profiles from the popular social network Vkontakte, returning a result in a matter of seconds. According to an interview in the Guardian, the founders claim to already have 500,000 users and have processed over 3 million searches in the two months since they’ve launched.

What’s particularly unsettling are the use cases they advocate: identifying strangers to send them dating requests, helping government security agencies to determine the identities of dissenters, and allowing retailers to bombard you with advertisements based on what you look at in stores. While there are reasons to be skeptical of their claims, FindFace is already being deployed in questionable ways. Some users have tried to identify fellow riders on the subway, while others are using the app to reveal the real names of porn actresses against their will. Powerful facial recognition technology is now in the hands of consumers to use how they please.

Read more …

American history 101.

The Fat Lady Always Sings Twice (Jim Kunstler)

That was the week Hillary began to look like the candidate who fell off a truck wearing a Nixon mask. Email-gate is taking on the odor of Watergate — the main ingredient of which was not the dopey crime itself but the stonewalling around it. The State Department Inspector General’s report saying definitively, no, she was not “allowed” to use a private, unsecured email server validated Donald Trump’s juvenile name-calling of “Crooked Hillary.” We may never hear the end of that now (if Trump is actually nominated). And, of course, there lurks the Godzilla-sized skeleton in her closet of the still-unreleased Goldman Sachs speech transcripts, the clamor over which is sure to grow. Meanwhile the specter of the California primary looms, a not inconceivable loss to Bernie Sanders.

And onto the convention in Philly which I contend will be even more fractious and violent than the 1968 fiasco in Chicago. I’ll say it again: Hillary is a horse that ain’t gonna finish. The Democrats better be prepared to haul Uncle Joe out of the closet, fluff up his transplanted hair, wax his dentures, give him a few Vitamin B-12 shots, and stick a harpoon in his fist for the autumn run against the White Whale (if Trump is actually nominated). The Republican convention in Cleveland is apt to be as bloody and violent a spectacle too (if Trump is actually nominated), with Black Lives Matters cadres having already promised to put on a show for global television and their Latino counterparts marching with Mexican Flags and cute signs saying: Trump: Chingate tu madre, perhaps garnished with the sobriquet pendejo.

In such a situation, Trump has enormous potential to make things worse with his childish snap-backs. Hubert Humphrey in 1968 at least had the good sense to keep his mouth shut about the moiling multitudes out on Michigan Avenue inveighing against him. The Vietnam War was a grave debacle, and it especially pissed off the young men subject to being drafted to fight in it, but the woof and warp of American life was otherwise intact. Blue collar workers still pulled in high wages in the Big Three auto plants, and women had not yet declared war on men, and the airwaves weren’t pornified, and there were still people in government with moral authority who loudly opposed official policy. The sobering martyrdoms of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy sanctified the opposition to the status quo.

Even Hubert Humphrey himself, a thoughtful man underneath his Rotarian clown mask, began to turn away from Lyndon Johnson’s war hawks. Nixon won. He surely benefited most not so much from the war issue and the riots in the streets as from the mass defection of Southern states from the long-entrenched domination of the Democratic Party — directly due to Johnson’s dismantling of the old Jim Crow laws. As a personality, Nixon was as much a pendejo as Donald Trump, but no one doubted his ability to run the machinery of government, if not the way they wanted to run it.

Read more …

” The figures of migrant unemployment follow a trend in Sweden of high unemployment for foreigners.”

Fewer Than 500 of 163,000 Migrants Find Jobs In Sweden (BB)

Sweden’s state-funded broadcaster has revealed that of 163,000 migrants who came to Sweden, less than 500 have found jobs. Sweden saw a record 163,000 applications for asylum last year as a result of the migrant crisis and many Swedes were assured that the new arrivals would contribute to the economy; but new research from Sweden’s state-owned SVT reveals that fewer than 500 migrants have found work. Using data from the Swedish employment agency and the Swedish migration authority, Migrationsverket, the network claims that only 494 asylum seekers are contributing to the economy, The Local reports. While in many countries asylum seekers are banned from formally working while their application is being processed, in Sweden there are exceptions.

The “at-und” is an exemption granted by Migrationsverket which allows asylums seekers access to the labour market. In an effort to explain the incredibly low number of migrants working, Lisa Bergstrand of Migrationsverket told SVT: “There was an incredible number of people applying for asylum in Sweden and so that we should be able to register them, we had to de-prioritise certain tasks, and that was the matter of jobs”. Of the migrants who claimed asylum in 2015 approximately one third of the men and women aged 20-64 were given the exemption to allow them to work, which is around 53,790 migrants. The figures of migrant unemployment follow a trend in Sweden of high unemployment for foreigners. The unemployment for those born in Sweden is at the lowest point since the 2008 financial crisis at around 4.8%, while foreign born unemployment is at 14.9%.

Read more …

Question to Italian readers: what effect has the death of Casaleggio had on Beppe?

Corruption Gripes Help Five Star Movement Top Italy Local Election Polls (G.)

Alessandro Aquilini had her by the hand. And he wasn’t letting go. Virginia Raggi, the woman tipped to be the next mayor of Rome, was hunting for votes in the street market in Boccea, a lower middle-class district of the Italian capital. Raggi’s trademark is exquisite courtesy – she proffers a slender hand even to reporters who approach her with hostile questions. At the butcher’s stall, though, she got more of a handshake than she bargained for. “We need help,” the 50-year-old Aquilini began. “Left. Right. Centre. We can’t take any more [of party politicians]. This country needs a bit more honesty.” Still gripping Raggi’s hand as he stretched across the slabs of veal, the burly butcher added: “We’re up to here with taxes and corruption.”

His monologue captured many of the reasons why Raggi, the candidate of the Five Star Movement (M5S), is leading the polls ahead of local elections in Rome and other Italian cities on Sunday. Unlike other non-traditional movements that have prospered in Europe, such as Syriza in Greece, the M5S’s protest is not so much against austerity as the corruption and cronyism of Italy’s mainstream parties. Nowhere has this been highlighted more vividly than Rome, where establishment politicians and officials are on trial alongside alleged mobsters, charged with conspiring to pocket millions of euros from rigged public contracts. All three of the final polls released before a ban took effect on 21 May put Raggi ahead by 3-6%age points in the mayoral race.

Run-offs between the two leading candidates in each town are slated for 19 June. Only then will it be known if the 37-year-old lawyer – almost unknown to the public until a few months ago – has won. A victory for Raggi would be a stinging reverse for Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, who leads the centre-left Democratic party, and a dramatic breakthrough for the internet-based M5S. Founded less than seven years ago by the comedian Beppe Grillo and his digital guru, the late Gianroberto Casaleggio, the M5S is today Italy’s leading opposition party. Grillo has said he will set fire to himself in public if Raggi fails to win. But he may yet regret that pledge.

Read more …

Is there hope?

US Announces Near-Total Ban On Trade Of African Elephant Ivory (AFP)

US authorities announced a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory Thursday, finalizing a years-long push to protect the endangered animals. “Today’s bold action underscores the United States’ leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it’s having on wild populations,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said. The new rule “substantially limits” imports, exports and sales of such ivory across state lines, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said. However, it does make exceptions for some “pre-existing manufactured” items, such as musical instruments, furniture and firearms that contain less than 200 grams of ivory and meet other specific criteria, according to the FWS.

Antiques, as defined under the Endangered Species Act, are also exempt. The new measures fulfill restrictions in an executive order on combating wildlife trafficking issued by President Barack Obama in 2013, the FWS said in its statement announcing the ban. It said that once illegal ivory enters the market it becomes virtually impossible to tell apart from legal ivory, adding that demand for elephant ivory, particularly in Asia, “is so great that it grossly outstrips the legal supply and creates a void in the marketplace that ivory traffickers are eager to fill.”

“We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations, which are crucial to ensuring our grandchildren and their children know these iconic species,” Jewell said. The Wildlife Conservation Society welcomed the ban, calling it historic and groundbreaking. “The USA is shutting down the bloody ivory market that is wiping out Africa’s elephants,” WCS president and chief executive Cristian Samper said in a statement. “The USA is boldly saying to ivory poachers: You are officially out of business.” Some 450,000 elephants can be found on the African continent and it is estimated that more than 35,000 of these animals are killed each year.

Read more …

Apr 022016
 
 April 2, 2016  Posted by at 9:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrFlattr the authorDigg thisShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone


Gottscho-Schleisner Fishing boat at Fulton Market Pier, NY 1933

2016: The End Of The Global Debt Super Cycle (PR)
Saudi Arabia Plans $2 Trillion Megafund for Post-Oil Era (BBG)
Defiant China Slaps Steel Tariffs On Britain, EU As Trade War Looms (AEP)
Tata’s Pain Intensifies As China Imposes Hefty Tariffs On Hi-Tech Steel (Tel.)
Anbang’s Starwood Retreat Is Setback For China’s M&A Campaign (Reuters)
How People In China Afford Their Outrageously Expensive Homes (Forbes)
Even Bankrupt US Shale Drillers Keep Pumping Oil (Reuters)
Native American Tribes Mobilize Against Proposed North Dakota Oil Pipeline (G.)
Solar-Energy Company SunEdison Preparing to File for Bankruptcy (WSJ)
Greece Reacts To Wikileaks Claims About IMF Conversation On Bailout (Kath.)
EU-Turkey Refugee Deal: Staff Shortages, Rights Concerns Pose Twin Threat (G.)
Afghan Refugee Shot Dead Trying To Enter Bulgaria (AJ)
Turkey Is No ‘Safe Haven’ For Refugees – It Shoots Them At The Border (G.)

Deflation. “Deflation destroys financial asset values like stocks and corporate bonds and hard assets like real estate. It also lowers incomes while making debt more expensive to service as debt to income ratios rise.”

2016: The End Of The Global Debt Super Cycle (PR)

[..] The credit markets are signaling that the debt fueled expansion that began in 2010 is turning to bust. This is the most precarious moment in financial market history because as the world slides into recession global central banks have no ability to soften the oncoming recession with debt creation. Globally interest rates are close to zero and even negative in Europe and Japan. Long term government bond yields are also extremely low. This is sending a very clear and ominous signal that the world cannot service more debt and in fact needs to deleverage and get on more solid financial footing. The last time the world deleveraged was during The Great Depression. The defining quality of The Great Depression was the destructive deflation that gripped the economy.

Deflation destroys financial asset values like stocks and corporate bonds and hard assets like real estate. It also lowers incomes while making debt more expensive to service as debt to income ratios rise. The world economy is on the precipice of another Great Depression. This state of affairs demands a dramatic repositioning of investment portfolios. Investors who choose to remain passive but want to preserve their wealth need to liquidate their investments in stocks and corporate bonds and hold cash only. Investors who are more opportunistic can hold a combination of cash and U.S. government bonds. U.S. government bonds have already begun to rally so buying at current levels is not quite as attractive as it was a month ago but we expect negative interest rates to eventually visit America so there is still considerable upside.

The more aggressive investor can find opportunities to earn high returns employing strategies that will benefit from a financial collapse and a severe, deflationary recession. These strategies include shorting stock index futures, getting long VIX futures, etfs, and options, getting long stock index option volatility via index etfs, and on a limited basis shorting individual company stocks whose business plans will be acutely affected by economic developments. We would not simply be short financial assets every day because we recognize that the markets will initially be quite volatile which means sharp bear market rallies in between dramatic declines in financial assets. We would initially be positioned to benefit from this two-way volatility and as the declines become more severe and investors begin to throw in the towel the fund will be more short oriented.

Read more …

Selling off Aramco.

Saudi Arabia Plans $2 Trillion Megafund for Post-Oil Era (BBG)

Saudi Arabia is getting ready for the twilight of the oil age by creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund for the kingdom’s most prized assets. Over a five-hour conversation, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman laid out his vision for the Public Investment Fund, which will eventually control more than $2 trillion and help wean the kingdom off oil. As part of that strategy, the prince said Saudi will sell shares in Aramco’s parent company and transform the oil giant into an industrial conglomerate. The initial public offering could happen as soon as next year, with the country currently planning to sell less than 5%. “IPOing Aramco and transferring its shares to PIF will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil,” the prince said in an interview. “What is left now is to diversify investments. So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil.”

Almost eight decades since the first Saudi oil was discovered, King Salman’s 30-year-old son is aiming to transform the world’s biggest crude exporter into an economy fit for the next era. As his strategy takes shape, the speed of change may shock a conservative society accustomed to decades of government handouts. The sale of Aramco is planned for 2018 or even a year earlier, according to the prince. The fund will then play a major role in the economy, investing at home and abroad. It would be big enough to buy Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway – the world’s four largest publicly traded companies. PIF ultimately plans to increase the proportion of foreign investments to 50% of the fund by 2020 from 5% now, said Yasir Alrumayyan, secretary-general of the fund’s board.

Read more …

The trade war is much further advanced than ‘looming’.

Defiant China Slaps Steel Tariffs On Britain, EU As Trade War Looms (AEP)

China has thrown down the gauntlet in an escalating trade war over the global steel glut, imposing punitive tariffs of 46pc on hi-tech steel produced in Britain and the rest of the EU. The astonishing move came as the Prime Minister, David Cameron, confronted the Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a meeting in Washington, pleading for action to slow the flood of Chinese steel exports reaching Europe. The imminent demise of the Port Talbot steelworks and Tata’s wider steel operations in Britain has mushroomed within days into a full-blown national drama, calling into question the Government’s whole approach to China. The Chinese ministry of commerce said in a terse statement that it was slapping anti-dumping tariffs of 14.4pc to 46.3pc on companies from the EU, South Korea, and Japan, claiming that China had suffered “substantial damage” from trade abuses.

In a macabre twist, the measures target the Tata plant in Port Talbot, which produces the specialist flat-rolled electrical steel used in transformers. A tiny amount is exported to China. “If this is not a trade war, I don’t know what is,” said Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel. “We’re literally drowning in a flood of Chinese imports globally. We’re certainly not seeing a flood of European steel into China.” China’s share of global steel output has risen from 10pc to 50pc over the last twelve years, with the single province of Hebei now producing twenty times as much as Britain. China’s excess capacity 400m tonnes, double the size of the entire EU steel industry. The country can no longer absorb its own supply as the construction boom fades and the catch-up phase of breakneck industrial growth hits the limit.

A record 112m tonnes was exported last year but Chinese producers are also suffering huge losses. Anshan Iron and Steel announced today that it had lost $7bn over the last year and warned that the steel industry faces an “Ice Age that will force a brutal consolidation”. The US Trade Representative accused China of systematic trade abuse and illicit subsidies for its steel industry in a blistering report released today. “China’s trade policies and practices in several specific areas cause particular concern for the United States. Chinese government actions and financial support in manufacturing industries like steel and aluminium have contributed to massive excess capacity in China,” it said.

The US trade report said China’s steel capacity has continued to grow “exponentially” to 1.4bn tonnes – even higher than previously feared – despite weakening global demand. This now dwarfs the rest of the world’s combined output and is profoundly distorting the global steel market. It said China has no natural advantages in raw materials or energy costs to justify this, and claimed that it is the result of export subsidies, cheap credit, and an opaque regime of state support. “These practices have caused tremendous disruption, uncertainty, and unfairness in the global markets. To date, however, China has not made any movement toward the adoption of international best practices,” it said. It cited a long list of alleged violations, especially in “strategic emerging industries”, technology, intellectual property, and services, accusing Beijing of obstructing access its own markets.

Read more …

Maybe China will buy Tata? There are no other buyers.

Tata’s Pain Intensifies As China Imposes Hefty Tariffs On Hi-Tech Steel (Tel.)

China has levied huge new tarrifs on a type of steel produced by Britain despite David Cameron personally challenging the country’s president to help save UK steelmakers, it emerged yesterday. The Prime Minister used a dinner at the White House to confront President Xi Jinping over the possible extinction of the UK steel industry due to Chinese dumping. However it later emerged that China will levy a 46% duty on a type of high tech steel made by just 16 producers worldwide including Tata Steel’s Cogent subsidiary in Newport. China’s decision comes after the European Union imposed tariffs of up to 13% on steel from the country used to reinforce concrete earlier this year.

The development raised the pressure on Britain to better protect the country’s steel manufacturing amid fears 40,000 jobs could be lost as Tata Steel looks to sell off its UK business. It came amid reports Tata is pulling out of Britain in order to smooth a merger with German engineering conglomerate Thyssenkrupp. Credit Suisse analysts said Tata’s planned exit from the UK was a prerequisite to any potential deal with Thyssenkrupp. Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, yesterday travelled to Port Talbot in South Wales to meet managers and face the anger of hundreds of workers over the government’s handling of the crisis. He appeared to indicate a deal is possible by saying there were “viable buyers” to take over Tata’s operations but said he could not go into details for commercial reasons. Mr Javid said steel remains “absolutely vital” to the British economy and addressed fears work could dry up within days by indicating he had secured more time for negotiations.

Read more …

Credibility shot.

Anbang’s Starwood Retreat Is Setback For China’s M&A Campaign (Reuters)

Anbang Insurance’s unexpected withdrawal this week of its $14 billion offer to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is a wider blow to the unprecedented drive by Chinese companies to acquire North American and European assets. From semiconductors and industrial equipment, to financial services and real estate, China’s insatiable appetite for Western companies has pushed the country’s outbound cross-border M&A to $101.1 billion year-to-date, nearly surpassing the full-year record of $109.5 billion set last year. Yet Anbang’s abrupt move, which came after Starwood said on Monday that the Chinese insurer’s latest offer was “reasonably likely” to be superior to a cash-and-stock deal with Marriott International, added fuel to concerns that many Chinese companies may not be able to deliver on their acquisition expectations.

“To succeed in the U.S., Chinese companies will have to adapt to American styles of governance and transparency. It will be difficult to close mega deals without a more open style, so we may see more modest deals until China changes,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. To be sure, the largest M&A deal of this year thus far globally is by a Chinese company: China National Chemical’s agreement to acquire Swiss seeds and pesticides group Syngenta for $43 billion. Several Chinese companies, however, are having trouble convincing Western peers that they are a credible M&A counterparty. Earlier this week, for example, U.S. gene-sequencing products maker Affymetrix rejected an offer by some of its former executives that was financed by a Chinese investment firm, even though they offered more money than an existing deal with Thermo Fisher Scientific, on the basis of financing and regulatory risks.

[..] Anbang said on Thursday that it withdrew its offer due to “market considerations”, without elaborating. One of Anbang’s private equity partners, Primavera Capital Ltd chairman Fred Hu, said Anbang walked away to avoid a protracted bidding war, even though Marriott had not disclosed a higher offer. “We have little independent insight into what happened, but based on what Starwood has told us, Anbang did not deliver the same kinds of undertakings or arrangements that would have allowed the Starwood board to conclude that they were credible at $82.75,” Marriott Chief Executive Arne Sorenson told investors and analysts on a conference call. Anbang became concerned that Starwood had no intention of declaring its latest offer superior and was stalling for time for Marriott to come in with a new offer, according a source close to Anbang’s consortium.

Sources close to Starwood, however, said Anbang did not deliver the assurances on financing its latest offer it had said it would on Monday, and had since had no communication with Starwood until its withdrawal on Thursday. Chinese financial magazine Caixin reported last month that China’s insurance regulator would likely reject a bid by Anbang to buy Starwood, since it would put the insurer’s offshore assets above a 15% threshold for overseas investments. “(Anbang) told us what they told the market, (that their withdrawal was due to) the market considerations,” Starwood Chief Executive Thomas Mangas told the same conference call.

Read more …

Debt by another name.

How People In China Afford Their Outrageously Expensive Homes (Forbes)

Before we can understand how people in China can afford to frolic in their country’s over-inflated housing market, we must look at where this market came from. Hardly 20 years ago China’s real estate market didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that a series of reforms allowed urban residents to own and sell real estate. People were then given the option to purchase their previously government-owned homes at extremely favorable rates, and most of them made the transition to being property owners. Now with a population provisioned with houses that they could sell at their discretion and the ability to buy homes of their choice, China’s real estate market was set to boom. By 2010, a little over a decade later, it would be the largest such market in the world.

When we talk about how people afford houses in China today, more often than not we’re not talking about individuals going out and buying property on their own — as is the general modus operandi in the West. No, we’re talking about entire familial and friend networks who financially assist each other in the pursuit of housing. At the inner-circle of this social network is often the home buyer’s parents. When a young individual strikes out on their own, lands a decent job, and begins looking to pursue marriage, getting a house is often an essential part of the conversation. Owning a home is virtually a social necessity for an adult in China, and is often a major part of the criteria for evaluating a potential spouse. As parents tend to move into their children’s homes in old age, this truly is a multi-generational affair.

So parents will often fork over a large portion of their savings to provision their children with an adequate house – oftentimes buying it years in advance. If parents are not financially able to buy their kids a house outright, they will generally help with the down payment, or at the very least provide access to their social network to borrow the required funds. Take for example the case of Ye Qiuqin, a resident of Ordos Kangbashi who owns two houses across the country in Guangdong province, where she is originally from. Together with her fiancé, she makes roughly US$3,200 per month from running a cram school. For her first home she made a down payment of roughly US$20,000; of which $3,300 came from her parents, $10,000 came in the form of loans from her sister and friends, and the rest came from her savings.

To decrease the amount of volatility in China’s often hot property market, there are very strict rules as to how much money people can borrow from the bank for purchasing real estate. Although this slightly varies by city and wavers in response to current economic conditions, for their first home a buyer must lay down a 30% down payment, for the second it’s 60%, and for any property beyond this financing isn’t available. So for people to buy homes in this country they need to step up to the table with a large amount of cash in hand. Why there is so much liquid cash available for these relatively large down payments is straight forward: the Chinese are some of the best savers in the world. In fact, with a savings rate that equates to 50% of its GDP, China has the third highest such rate in the world. As almost a cultural mandate, the Chinese stash away roughly 30% of their income, which is often called into use for such things as making a down payment on a home — which is the most important financial transaction that many Chinese will ever make.

Read more …

Drilling zombies.

Even Bankrupt US Shale Drillers Keep Pumping Oil (Reuters)

As oil prices nosedived by two-thirds since 2014, a belief took hold in global energy markets that for prices to recover, many U.S. shale producers would first have to falter to allow markets to rebalance. With U.S. oil prices now trading below $40 a barrel, the corporate casualties are already mounting. More than 50 North American oil and gas producers have entered bankruptcy since early 2015, according to a Reuters review of regulatory filings and other data. While those firms account for only about 1% of U.S. output, based on the analysis, that count is expected to rise. Consultant Deloitte says a third of shale producers face bankruptcy risks this year.

But a Reuters analysis has found that bankruptcies are so far having little effect on U.S. oil production, and a tendency among distressed drillers to keep their oil wells gushing belies the notion that deepening financial distress will prompt a sudden output decline or oil price rebound. Texas-based Magnum Hunter Resources, the second-largest producer among publicly-traded companies that have filed for bankruptcy, is a case in point. It filed for creditor protection last December, but even as the debt-laden driller scrambled to avoid that outcome, its oil and gas production rose by nearly a third between mid-2014 and late 2015, filings show.

Once in Chapter 11, its CEO Gary Evans said the bankruptcy, which injected new funds to ensure it would stay operational, could help to “position Magnum Hunter as a market leader.” The company did not respond to a request for comment for this story. However, John Castellano, a restructuring specialist at Alix Partners, said that all of the nearly 3,000 wells in which Magnum Hunter owns stakes have continued operations during its bankruptcy. Production figures can be hard to track post-bankruptcy, but restructuring specialists say that many bankrupt drillers keep pumping oil at full tilt. Their creditors see that as the best way to recover some of what they are owed. And as many bankrupt firms seek to sell assets, operating wells are valued more than idled ones.

“Oil companies in bankruptcy do not seem to automatically curtail production,” said restructuring expert Jason Cohen at the Bracewell firm in Houston. “Lenders are willing to let them continue to produce as long as economically viable.” For most companies in bankruptcy or considering it, maximizing near-term production does make economic sense. Day-to-day well operating costs in most U.S. shale fields remain well below $40 a barrel. Bankrupt firms are also eligible for new financing that can allow them to keep pumping for some time.

Read more …

What need is there for a pipeline at this point int ime?

Native American Tribes Mobilize Against Proposed North Dakota Oil Pipeline (G.)

Dozens of tribal members from several Native American nations took to horseback on Friday to protest the proposed construction of an oil pipeline which would cross the Missouri river just yards from tribal lands in North Dakota. The group of tribal members, which numbered around 200, according to a tribal spokesman, said they were worried that the Dakota Access Pipeline, proposed by a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, would lead to contamination of the river. The proposed route also passes through lands of historical significance to the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux Nation, including burial grounds.“They’re going under the river 500 yards from my son’s grave, my father’s grave, my aunt who I buried last week,” said Ladonna Allard, a member of the Standing Rock nation and the closest landowner to the proposed pipeline.

“I really love my land, and if that pipeline breaks everything is gone.” “We must fight every inch of our lives to protect the water,” Allard said. A “spiritual camp” will be set up starting Saturday at the point where the proposed pipeline would cross the river, and the tribal members plan to stay and protest indefinitely. The group is composed of members of the Standing Rock nation as well as others from North and South Dakota nations, including the Cheyenne River Lakota and the Rosebud Sioux. They joined together to ride, run and walk from the Tribal Administration Building north to Cannonball, North Dakota, on the reservation’s northern edge.

The Missouri river is the primary source of drinking water for the tribal reservation, according to Doug Crow Ghost, a spokesperson for the Standing Rock Sioux and the director of the tribe’s water office, who joined the protest on Friday. Tribal members also fish in the river, he said. “Because we are going to be fighting this giant, all the rest of the nations came on horseback to say ‘we support you’,” said Allard. “That is why this horse ride is so important to us. Because we’re not alone in this fight. All of our nations are coming to stand with us, and all our allies and partners. This pipeline is illegal.”

Read more …

Renewable bubble?!

Solar-Energy Company SunEdison Preparing to File for Bankruptcy (WSJ)

Solar-energy company SunEdison plans to file for bankruptcy protection in coming weeks, a dramatic about-face for a company whose market value stood at nearly $10 billion in July. The company is preparing a chapter 11 filing and is in talks with two creditor groups to obtain a loan to fund its operations during the process, according to people familiar with the matter. Creditors are likely to take control of the company and its portfolio of power projects, the people said. SunEdison, whose stock has plunged in recent months, would rank among the largest financial collapses in recent years. The company, based about 20 miles outside St. Louis, used a combination of financial engineering and cheap debt to grow to be one of the country’s biggest developers of renewable-power plants.

But a proposed $1.9 billion takeover of residential-rooftop installer Vivint Solar, which was terminated last month, was unpopular with investors. Meanwhile, falling oil prices caused a broad selloff for energy stocks, and capital-market turbulence stoked concerns about SunEdison’s ability to continue financing acquisitions. SunEdison’s stock fell to fresh lows this past week on bankruptcy fears and news that the company is facing Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department investigations. Its market capitalization is now about $150 million, and it had long-term debt of about $7.9 billion as of Sept. 30, according to a regulatory filing.

Read more …

Where Wikileaks meets the real world. Gov’t spokeswoman: “Greece demands to know whether the creation of bankruptcy conditions in Greece is official position of the IMF”

Greece Reacts To Wikileaks Claims About IMF Conversation On Bailout (Kath.)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was reportedly to chair an emergency meeting with key ministers on Saturday after the publication of a leaked transcript of a conversation that is alleged to have taken place between Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF’s European department, and Delia Velculescu, the IMF mission chief for Greece. WikiLeaks, which made the revelation, said it obtained the details of the conversation, which took place last month, and in which the two leading IMF officials apparently discuss putting pressure on Germany over the eurozone’s position regarding Greece’s bailout review by threatening that the IMF will leave the program.

According to the WikiLeaks transcript, the two IMF officials discuss an “event” that would force the Europeans to accept the IMF’s position so the bailout review can be concluded. “What is going to bring it all to a decision point? In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when they were about to run out of money seriously and to default. Right?” Thomsen is claimed to have told Velculescu. “I agree that we need an event, but I don’t know what that will be,” Velculescu allegedly added a little later in the conversation. The transcript quotes Velculescu as saying: “What is interesting though is that [Greece] did give in … they did give a little bit on both the income tax reform and on the … both on the tax credit and the supplementary pensions”.

Thomsen’s view was that the Greeks “are not even getting close [to coming] around to accept our views”. Velculescu argued that “if [the Greek government] get pressured enough, they would … But they don’t have any incentive and they know that the commission is willing to compromise, so that is the problem.” A Greek official told the ANA-MPA news agency that the government “is not willing to allow games to be played to the detriment of the country.”

Read more …

A tragedy in the making.

EU-Turkey Refugee Deal: Staff Shortages, Rights Concerns Pose Twin Threat (G.)

Serious concerns have been raised about the viability and legality of the EU-Turkey refugee deal just three days before its implementation, after rights campaigners alleged that Ankara had been deporting hundreds of refugees back to Syria on a daily basis in recent weeks, and the Greek asylum service said it needed more staff to make the deal work. In a double blow to the deal, the most senior Greek asylum official, Maria Stavropoulou, called for a 20-fold increase in personnel – while Amnesty International alleged that unaccompanied children were among scores of Syrians illegally expelled from Turkey since January. Hours later, the UN refugee agency again called for a halt to the deal unless Turkey could guarantee refugees’ basic rights.

The news came as hundreds of people detained on a Greek island fled their camp en masse, and other refugees began to sail from mainland Greece to Italy for the first time since eastern European governments began to block their onward route through the Balkans last month. Seeking to block off a migration route that brought more than 800,000 refugees to Greece from Turkey last year, European and Turkish leaders are set to implement a deal on Monday that will see almost all asylum seekers deported back to Turkey. The success of the deal rests on both Greece’s ability to process thousands of people in a short space of time, and Turkey’s ability to prove itself a safe country for refugees.

Both factors were called into question on Friday, as the Greek parliament voted to begin deportations on Monday. Stavropoulou said her department did not have enough people to process the claims of the many people who, prior to the deal, would simply have passed through Greece on their way to Germany and other wealthier European countries. “I’m worried about very many things, but the main worry now is about having the capacity to process all these claims,” she said in an interview with the Guardian. “We have about 300 staff,” she said. “My estimate is that if we are asked to handle anything like half the flow of last year, then we need to have 20 times more capacity.”

Read more …

First refugee shot dead in Europe?!

Afghan Refugee Shot Dead Trying To Enter Bulgaria (AJ)

Bulgarian border guards have shot dead an Afghan asylum seeker after he crossed into the country from Turkey. The man was killed near the border with Turkey after police fired and struck him with a warning shot that ricocheted, Bulgarian authorities said on Friday. Interior Ministry chief of staff Georgi Kostov said: “A group of 54 people aged between 20 and 30, all from Afghanistan, were intercepted by border guards and a police officer after crossing into Bulgarian territory. “One of my colleagues used his personal weapon and fired.” The man was injured and died from his wounds en route to hospital.

The targeted group of refugees were seen by a patrol near the southeastern Bulgarian town of Sredets. The UNHCR said it was the first time an asylum seeker had been shot dead while trying to cross into Europe. “We, at UNHCR, are deeply shocked by this incident,” said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. “We deplore the death of an Afghan asylum seeker, trying to reach safety across the border. We call on the Bulgarian authorities to conduct an immediate, transparent and independent investigation. Seeking asylum is an universal human right and not a crime.” The other refugees were detained while an investigation was launched. The men carried no identification documents.

Read more …

“.. recent deal that sees the world’s richest continent (population 500 million) corral a single Middle Eastern country (population 80 million) into caring for more Syrian refugees than the rest of the world combined.”

Turkey Is No ‘Safe Haven’ For Refugees – It Shoots Them At The Border (G.)

It was beyond sad to read in the Times this week that Turkish border guards have allegedly shot dead Syrians trying to reach safety in Turkey. Sixteen refugees, including three children, have been killed trying to escape the battlegrounds of northern Syria in the past four months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a frequently cited watchdog. It is shocking to think of people fleeing the combined atrocities of Islamic State and Bashar al-Assad being gunned down just as they make their bid for safety. But what is perhaps most shocking of all is that we observers are still shocked by this. The shooting of Syrians on the border is not a new phenomenon. Refugees and rights groups have reported shootings of migrants on the Turkish-Syrian border since at least 2013.

These abuses are well-documented, and the reports widely circulated. So why, in the months following a shady European deal that forces Turkey to shoulder the biggest burden of the refugee crisis, are we still so appalled when Turkey continues to use deadly violence to stop that burden getting any bigger? A surge in border abuses is the logical result of a recent deal that sees the world’s richest continent (population 500 million) corral a single Middle Eastern country (population 80 million) into caring for more Syrian refugees than the rest of the world combined. We shouldn’t have expected any other outcome. But sadly, some did. And Europe’s leaders – including David Cameron – apparently still do. Turkey is in the process of being designated by the EU as a “safe third country” for refugees – a sobriquet that gives Greece the right to send back almost all of those who land on its shores from Turkey.

Leaders, including Cameron, have justified this with the claim that refugees are safe from mortal danger in Turkey. Border shootings show this is not always strictly true, as do well-substantiated allegations that Turkey has illegally returned some Syrians and Afghans to the danger of their home countries, even after they had safely settled on Turkish soil. An alarming new report by Amnesty International, released today, alleges that in recent weeks large groups of Syrians have been deported back to Syria from southern Turkey, as officials there attempt to reduce their refugee burden.

In Cameron’s favour, most refugees in Turkey are not at risk of death on a battlefield. But this is not what refugee advocates mean when they say that Turkey is an unsuitable place for refugees. Refugee rights extend far beyond the simple right to life: they include the right to education, to healthcare and to work. The point of giving people refugee status is to guarantee them all the opportunities that are extended to natural-born citizens of the country in which they now live.

Read more …