Sep 112019
 
 September 11, 2019  Posted by at 1:26 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

 

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this.

That the European Union as a political structure was so unadaptable to the political calls upon it that it was not able to hand out the appropriate concessions to show that it had political legitimacy by doing what people wanted. And regardless of what that structure is, any structure which manages a nation state or collection of nation states has to be able to keep political legitimacy.

So I think that there is a very strong argument that the structure is a failure. Regardless of what side of politics you are on. A structure that cannot dynamically adapt to the political expediencies around it to regain political legitimacy when it is eroding is a failed structure.

Once again, testimony to Julian’s profound insight if not intelligence. And testimony to how much he is missed, withering away in solitary confinement in a prison for terrorists while he should be explaining our world to us.

Still, Varoufakis has some good points as well I find:

The British people are disenchanted. They’ve had a gutful of the policies that have come from Brussels, as well as the austerian authoritarianism from the British establishment, even those who are voting for Brexit, like Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tories. The only quarrel that they have with the practice is that they want to be able to rule over the British people without any impediments from Brussels.

Wayne has some more well-argued thoughts on the difference in thinking between Assange and Varoufakis. Here he is:

 

 

Wayne Hall: I am Wayne Hall and I’m speaking from Athens. I have a message for the Unity 4j network in defence of Julian Assange and first and foremost for the Greek group. Many if not most of Julian’s defenders in Europe are on the Left. In the US the situation is different but here we are talking about Europe. Some of Julian’s Leftist defenders even criticize him for not being Left himself. If he is not a Leftist what is he?

I think he would say that the question of truth and falsehood should take priority over political identity and that this is particularly urgent because at this moment the world is approaching a situation of near total domination of either falsehood in public discussion or else of censorship. At the moment a hot issue in Europe is Britain’s relations with the European Union. It is certainly more discussed than Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or Wikileaks.

I have proposed the idea of opening a discussion under the title “From Wikileaks to Brexit” and I have been confronted with this question “what is the connection between Wikileaks and Brexit?” The first point I would like to make in response to this is to remind people, or inform people, because most probably they will not know, that on the day of the Brexit referendum (23rd June 2016) that has led to the current situation in relations between Britain and the EU, Julian Assange organized a comprehensive debate on Brexit with a wide range of activists, scholars and other citizens, and made it available through live streaming.

At that time Julian was still in the Ecuadorian Embassy and was able to receive visitors, have access to the internet and speak to the public. This was changed on 28th March 2018 and on 11th April 2019 Assange was expelled from the Embassy, tried and imprisoned. At the moment he is being held incommunicado and also prevented from preparing for the hearing on extradition to the United States, to be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. The hearing in England is programmed for 25th February 2020.

The discussion on Brexit hosted by Julian Assange has characteristics that are not present in the Brexit debate as it is being conducted today. The Assange discussion strives for impartiality and a plurality of viewpoints, mostly sincere, unscripted viewpoints of a kind that seem today, unfortunately, to be disappearing from public discussion.

Hopefully this offers the beginning of an answer to the question “What is the connection between Wikileaks and Brexit”? The participant in the discussion that is featured in the following video is Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister in the first six months of the 2015 to 2019 SYRIZA government headed by Alexis Tsipras. Varoufakis resigned from this government in protest at its surrendering to pressures from the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Assange’s and Varoufakis’ stance on the Brexit issues are not the same. Assange is more or less favourable to Brexit. Varoufakis and the citizens’ movement he founded, DiEM25, campaigned against it, saying that the issue was not that Britain should withdraw from the EU but that the EU should become an entity with which British people and people in other EU member countries would wish to be associated.

Assange asked Varoufakis an important question just before the result of the referendum became known. He said, if the Remains side wins, will there be any pressure at all for the kinds of changes in the EU that DiEM25 seeks to promote? Varoufakis replied that DiEM will see to it that the pressure continues. But is this what has happened, even though it is the Leave side, not the Remain side, that won the referendum? There has been a separation between the Assange question and the Brexit question.

A defence campaign for Julian Assange is under way but it faces a mainstream media blackout. A recent concert by Pink Floyd member Roger Waters was totally ignored by the channels that the majority of people watch. Was DiEM25 able to help get this concert into the mainstream media? And in any case, was Roger Waters’ message the same as what Julian’s message would have been if he had been able to speak for himself? Has the campaign against Brexit, against Trump and against Boris Johnson displaced the campaign for democracy? And is democracy favoured when a British Prime Minister is prevented from being able to call an election?

All because of a change in the electoral law voted on the initiative of the Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg in 2011 to make it more difficult for his coalition partner the Tory David Cameron to bring down the fragile Tory-Lib Dem coalition government that was in power at that time. How much is the media talking about this factor? How much is it being mentioned by DiEM25? Doubtless it would be mentioned by Julian Assange but he is no longer a participant in public discussion. If disinformation and censorship is becoming universalized and control over it almost total, the question of right wing versus left wing politics becomes a secondary issue.

Not to be ignored but not given priority over accuracy and availability of correct information. This is a basic component of Julian Assange’s world view. On 8th September 2019 Labour members of the House of Commons sang “The Red Flag” as they supported the moves against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to call an election. Is the symbolism of this enough to open minds?

 

 

Transcript for the video


Introduction:

The Brexit referendum took place on 23rd June 2016 to ask if the United Kingdom should remain a member of, or leave the European Union. Julian Assange, at that time being given political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy but also free from the restrictions later imposed by the successor Ecuadorian government of Lenin Moreno, was still able to receive visitors, organize meetings and use the internet. He held a marathon videorecorded discussion of Brexit with a variety of activists, journalists, public figures and supportive citizens. The referendum resulted in 51.89% of votes being in favour of leaving the EU. One of the people Assange interviewed was Yanis Varoufakis.

 

Julian Assange: This is Brexit club, live streaming at Brexitclub.eu throughout the evening as we count the Brexit vote from here inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. I’m Julian Assange. This embassy, some of you probably know, has been under a police siege for the last four years, incredibly. Here at the centre of the siege we have Yanis Varoufakis calling in from Rome. He is the immediately former Finance Minister of Greece, who famously negotiated with Schaeuble and the European Central Bank in relation to the Greek bailout. Naomi Colvin, the London director of the Courage Foundation. She represents a number of people who are being extradited from the UK. Craig Murray,former ambassador to Usbekistan. A Scot, so he’ll have some social perspective. He’s come down…. Where in Scotland, Craig?

Craig Murray: Edinburgh.

Julian Assange: To join us. And Srecko Horvat, a Croatian philosopher, who perhaps can give us an Eastern European perspective. He’s also involved in something that Yanis Varoufakis founded, which is the DiEM25 movement, which is the movement from the Left, essentially, to create ideas and structure a unity for a new and better Europe, not the Europe we have now, which I think most people concede has an enormous democratic deficit.

Yanis, your thoughts from Rome, where you are now. (He’s not from Rome. He’s Greek).

Yanis Varoufakis: Well you know we’re all pigs after all, you know. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, even Spain. We’re all the swine of Europe. Well, Julian, you say that from where I’m standing it seems that the “remain” may have a small lead. It’s not clear yet. As we know DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe movement that you were so kind as to refer to a moment ago – and which of course you have signed the Manifesto of.

Julian Assange: That’s right, which I have signed the Manifesto of I must confess and which I helped, with some words……

Yanis Varoufakis: Unlike you, as a movement, we have campaigned vigorously in favour of a radical “in” vote, not the kind of “in” votes or “remains” that Cameron has been campaigning for, which together with Hillary Clinton, Francois Hollande, Wolfgang Schaueble, Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker, Barack Obama and all the other contributors to the loss of the European Union legitimately, technically and so on. We’ve been campaigning for a radical “in” and “against” the European Union approach, to struggle within the European Union institutions in order to usurp them, in a sense.

A standard dialectical position about how to enter a particular set of institutions and try to change them from within through confrontation, not just mere reform. One way or the other, my view – and I think it’s where we differ is that the British people have clearly given the ambivalence that they are displaying on the runup to the referendum and I’m sure that that ambivalence will be demonstrated today….

And we’re saying that the establishment, both in London and in Brussels, has spectacularly failed with Brexit. The British people are disenchanted. They’ve had a gutful of the policies that have come from Brussels, as well as the austerian authoritarianism from the British establishment, even those who are voting for Brexit, like Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tories. The only quarrel that they have with the practice is that they want to be able to rule over the British people without any impediments from Brussels. And it is clear to us in DiEM25 that if “remain” wins, even though we campaigned for “remain”, we are not in any mood for celebration.

We rejected the logic of the European Union, the creation of the Brexit. But we also reject the logic of “business as usual”, which is the establishment view in Brussels and in London. And as of today, whatever the result might be we are going to promote, continue promoting a radical agenda for confronting the Establishment in London and Brussels and Paris everywhere and to put in practice the ideas that can be linked to. . Bring together European democrats in a fight to democratize Europe. And therefore we see 24th June as the beginning of a very long campaign. We certainly don’t see it as the beginning of “business as usual” or the end of some process.

Julian Assange: Do you think there are opportunities, Yanis, in the case of a “remain” result, of course, you know the Junckers of this world, the Camerons, respectively I suppose, European federalists and Transatlanticists will be celebrating, trying to suggest that it was a landslide, for example. I think that is highly unlikely. It seems like it is going to be a very close vote, whichever way it is. Do you think that there is an opportunity to take hold. Is there an opportunity at all if there is a “remain” outcome?

Yanis Varoufakis: Oh there is always an opportunity and we are going to make sure there is one. We will carve one out of the Establishment’s hopes for “business as usual”. We’re not going to allow them to celebrate. We’re going to make sure that the scare that they got from this referendum, and they did get a major scare, is going to be magnified. And we are going to try to utilize that fear that the popular will has instilled into their souls by coalescing around a democratic campaign from Ireland to Greece, from the Baltics all the way to Portugal. We’re not going to allow them to even imagine that they can continue doing what they have been doing all those years.

And in any case the European crisis, including immigration, even though it has a gigantic human cost in terms of actual lives that are being diminished as a result of this crisis, nevertheless this crisis is going to make sure that they cannot be allowed to celebrate. They know that they are clueless. They have no idea as to stabilize this undemocratic, antidemocratic, European Union, and it is the peoples of Europe that have an opportunity to seize upon the democratic process that culminates in this referendum in order to create the space we need for an integrating democracy in Europe and for making sure that they have sleepless night after sleepless night.

Julian Assange: Tomorrow, Yanis, when the result is known and I guess the work must start, tomorrow, across the weekend, on Monday, if it’s a leave, what is the call by DiEM to heed the lessons of a Leave vote?

Yanis Varoufakis: I’d like to speak personally for a moment and then on behalf of DiEM. I can do that too but I think it is more honest and straightforward to speak personally. I happen to be a politician who last year was crushed by Brussels, crushed by Berlin, crushed by Frankfurt, where the European Central Bank is domiciled. and vilified by the scandal press, throughout Europe, in Greece, the world over. And yet in this campaign I campaigned for remaining in the EU.

Not because of any love lost between me and the European Union but because of the particular judgements that we need an internationalist agenda, we need a narrative of binding people together, within the European Union against the European Union. I believe in being honest to people like Wolfgang Schaeuble, Jean-Claude Juncker, my own comrades who remain now in the European Union completely surrendered to its ways and means and the idea that there is no alternative logic, and I say to them: We radicals who opposed Brussels argue for Remain.

We went, I went, personally, to Birmingham, to Ireland, to Wales, to Ireland, to London, to Scotland, and campaigning for the British people to stay in. And the British people turned it down. And they turned it down not because they didn’t want to listen to me. They turned it down because you, the Establishment of the European Union has made such a deep mess of the European Union that it was impossible to convince them to continue to accept you as the established order of Europe. So we tried to save the European Union from you, and you who are supposed to be the custodians of the European Union have failed so badly.

Julian Assange: I mean, to my mind, if there is a successful Leave vote, and I mean we have some vote counts here, but they’re very early. 146,000 England-wide Leave votes 136,000 Remain votes. I don’t think you can say very much on that. Actually, here we have some slightly updated but still very early. Remain on 49.5%. Brexit on 50.5%. The vote counts are only 150,000 so it doesn’t really mean anything statistically. But, what was I saying? So yes, if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far.

And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. That the European Union as a political structure was so unadaptable to the political calls upon it that it was not able to hand out the appropriate concessions to show that it had political legitimacy by doing what people wanted.

And regardless of what that structure is, any structure which manages a nation state or collection of nation states has to be able to keep political legitimacy. So I think that there is a very strong argument that the structure is a failure. Regardless of what side of politics you are on. A structure that cannot dynamically adapt to the political expediencies around it to regain political legitimacy when it is eroding is a failed structure.

Yanis Varoufakis: It is very much so. Indeed I dedicated a whole book recently on precisely that. And I’ve described the European Union as a postwar cartel of heavy industry which was pretty adept at creating consensus around it throughout Europe. Think of the period of growth when it was distributing monopoly profits throughout Europe and in a way which was very unequal but nevertheless it created alliances between different social groups for instance there was a Greek monopoly that gave the profits to farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Cartels that could be good at distributing the goodies during the good times but they are pretty appalling and inefficient when it comes to distributing burdens in periods of crisis and particularly when it comes to arresting the crisis through macroeconomic adjustment policies which recycle surpluses and deficits in a way that is macroeconomically sustainable. And Europe has really failed in this task especially since 2008. And you don’t have to wait for today’s result, or tonight’s result to be given. Just look at the Eurobarometers. The Eurobarometer is an official European Union opinion poll which is controlling over time. …..

Julian Assange: And what is it? It’s a port for the EU.

Yanis Varoufakis: The vast majority of Europeans declared that they have confidence in the institutions of the European Union. Percentages above 65-70%. In some countries more than 80%. If you look at the same data today on the same questions. “Do you trust the institutions of the European Union?” in most countries you get below 50%. In some countries you get below 35%. So there is no doubt about it.

 

 

NOTE: the video continues after the conversation with Varoufakis, and I didn’t want to cut it off.

 

 

 

 

Sep 092019
 
 September 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Maya 1939

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

 

Brexit Heading For Dramatic Supreme Court Showdown (Ind.)
Boris Johnson ‘Sabotage’ Letter To EU ‘Would Break Law’ (G>)
Johnson Has Reneged On Good Friday Agreement Vows, Says EU (G.)
EU’s Ex-Legal Chief Says Johnson’s Plan To ‘Shut Down EU’ Will Fail (Ind.)
China’s Exports To US Fell 16% In August As Trump Escalates Trade War (CNBC)
Air China Denies Plans To Take Over Cathay Pacific (R.)
Nearly All British Airways Flights Canceled As Pilots Go On Strike (CNN)
States Expected To Target Google In New Antitrust Probe (AP)
Yanis Varoufakis’ Close-Up (K.)
Australia Launches Emergency Relocation Of Fish (G.)

 

 

Really, what is not to like about the Brexit comedy? it’s the British doing what they do best. Parliament will vote for a law that forces Boris to send a letter to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50, and he plans to send a second letter saying he doesn’t want that extension.

Anyway, Supreme Court it always would be. But can that court tell parliamentarians or a prime minster what to do, or are they above the court in legal standing, as a lower court suggested last week? Too late to get a constitution now. But not too late to make this much more chaotic still.

There is even a plan for the UK to shut down the EU.

Brexit Heading For Dramatic Supreme Court Showdown (Ind.)

The battle for Brexit is heading for a nailbiting showdown in the Supreme Court in late October – when the deadline for crashing out of the EU will be just days away – after Boris Johnson’s new strategy was revealed. Ministers plan to manufacture a legal fight to avoid directly breaking the law when compelled to ask for a further Article 50 extension, while also sidestepping the requirement to comply with it. The “plan B” paves the way for an unprecedented constitutional crisis after parliament’s deadline for seeking a Brexit delay passes on 19 October – with the threat of the prime minister being jailed for contempt of court. With the deadline for crashing out on 31 October, it will be a race against time to force Mr Johnson to Brussels before Halloween, or to bring him down in a vote of no confidence and send a replacement.

Labour condemned the strategy as behaving like “every tinpot dictator on the planet throughout history” – demanding that Mr Johnson obey the “duty” imposed by parliament. No10 is also reported to be considering sending a letter to the EU requesting a Brexit extension, in order to meet the conditions passed by MPs last week, but then immediately sending another saying the government does not actually want a delay. Legal experts, including former attorney general Lord Falconer, warned that this would still breach the law. If Mr Johnson disregards some or all of the bill’s requirements – which is set to receive royal assent on Monday – this could lead to an emergency judicial review in the courts by MPs.

The unprecedented case would start in the High Court and the expectation is that it would very quickly move to the Supreme Court, almost certainly before 31 October. And it triggered an extraordinary warning from the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, to obey “the rule of law”, as he denied he was poised to follow Amber Rudd by resigning.

Read more …

“..he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet…”

Boris Johnson ‘Sabotage’ Letter To EU ‘Would Break Law’ (G>)

A former supreme court justice has said Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it. Reports in the Daily Telegraph suggested that the prime minister has drawn up plans to “sabotage” parliament’s efforts to force through a Brexit extension to prevent the UK leaving the bloc without a deal. He is said to be considering sending an accompanying letter to the EU alongside the request to extend article 50, which would say the government does not want any delay to Brexit. Lord Sumption, a former supreme court justice, said it would not be legal for the prime minister to ask for an extension while rubbishing the request at the same time.


He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The bill or the act as its about to become says that he’s got to apply for an extension. Not only has he got to send the letter, he’s got to apply for an extension. And to send the letter and then try and neutralise it seems to me to be plainly a breach of the act.” A Downing Street source said: “We intend to sabotage any extension. The ‘surrender bill’ only kicks in if an extension is offered. Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won’t be offered a delay. Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too.” Sumption said he had read the bill and there was not “the slightest obscurity” about what the government was obliged to do. [..] Sumption said Johnson would not only be in contempt of court if he failed to do what the bill states, he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet.

Read more …

“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.”

Johnson Has Reneged On Good Friday Agreement Vows, Says EU (G.)

European officials have accused Boris Johnson of reneging on pledges to uphold the Good Friday agreement, ahead of the prime minister’s first meeting with his Irish counterpart. Johnson will meet the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin on Monday at a tumultuous moment in the Brexit process, with only 52 days until the UK’s departure. Talks are set to be tense as fears grow in Dublin and Brussels that the British prime minister is backsliding on promises to protect the tightly knit economic and social links on the island of Ireland. “The commitment to all aspects and all the provisions of the letter and spirit of the Good Friday agreement recently seems to be taken more lightly than before,” a senior diplomat from a continental member state told the Guardian.

“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.” A senior official working for the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told diplomats this week that the UK had reneged on commitments to protect north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland, a key pillar of the Good Friday agreement. Alarm bells were set off by Johnson’s recent letter to the European council president, Donald Tusk, which declared his government could not endorse a commitment made by Theresa May in a December 2017 EU-UK joint report. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, fuelled concerns that the government was seeking to back out of past commitments, when he tweeted that the government was “committed to no infrastructure on the NI border”.

Such comments were seen in Brussels as “meaningless” words that marked a significant dilution of the promise to uphold an open border. The May government pledged to protect “north-south cooperation” on the island of Ireland in the 2017 joint report, widely seen in Brussels as a landmark in Brexit talks.

Read more …

Something tells me Dominic Cummings will have more before this is over.

EU’s Ex-Legal Chief Says Johnson’s Plan To ‘Shut Down EU’ Will Fail (Ind.)

Brussels’ former top law officer has rubbished Boris Johnson’s extraordinary plan to sabotage the EU and make it ‘no longer legal’, arguing it makes no sense. Downing Street has threatened to render the bloc no longer “legally constituted”, paralysing its decision making, to force EU leaders to cave in to the UK’s demands. But Jean-Claude Piris, formerly the director-general of the EU Council’s legal service, said the idea – refusing to appoint a new commissioner – would fail to shut down the EU, as No 10 hoped. “The Commission can continue to work and decide legally,” Mr Piris wrote on Twitter, citing a precedent dating back to 1999. Instead, he said: “The UK will be brought to the EUCJ [the European Court of Justice] for violation of its obligation.”


Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour’s bloc of Euro-MPs, echoed the criticism, tweeting: “Nonsense idea that Johnson could paralyse EU to force it to expel UK. “If he refuses to nominate a Commissioner, the UK would be in breach of the treaty – that being so, EU Commission not at fault and can operate legally.” In a dramatic escalation of its battle with Brussels, No 10 believes it can put the EU in breach of its own legal duty for all 28 member states to be represented on its executive branch. The UK would be “disrupting” Brussels life to such a degree that member states will then make it clear they will refuse to grant an Article 50 extension – even if asked for – it hopes. A source told The Independent: “We will turn the pressure onto the EU to show how difficult it will be for them if the UK is still hanging around.”

Read more …

That’s a lot.

China’s Exports To US Fell 16% In August As Trump Escalates Trade War (CNBC)

China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August as shipments to the United States slowed sharply, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for a seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signalled that more policy loosening may be imminent.


August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that a falling yuan would offset some cost pressure and looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. China let its currency slide past the key 7 per dollar level in August for the first time since the global financial crisis, and Washington labelled it a currency manipulator.

Read more …

“..the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations..”

Air China Denies Plans To Take Over Cathay Pacific (R.)

Air China has no plans to take over Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, an independent director of the state-owned Chinese carrier told the South China Morning Post newspaper. “Based on what I know, I wouldn’t think that is anywhere on the agenda, no way,” Air China non-executive director Stanley Hui told the newspaper when asked if the carrier, a 30% shareholder, might seek to buy Cathay outright. The Hong Kong airline has become the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis.


Cathay Chairman John Slosar last week announced plans to step down in November, less than three weeks after CEO Rupert Hogg left amid mounting regulatory scrutiny. Air China is Cathay’s second-largest shareholder, behind manager Swire Pacific with a 45% stake. Long-time Swire executive Patrick Healy was last week appointed as Slosar’s replacement.

Read more …

No flights tomorrow either. Big airline.

Nearly All British Airways Flights Canceled As Pilots Go On Strike (CNN)

British Airways says it was forced to cancel “nearly 100 per cent” of flights for Monday and Tuesday after the British pilots union went ahead with a strike. The strike was called for by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) amid a heated dispute over pay with the airline. BALPA said Sunday on Twitter that it put forward a proposal to the carrier’s management Wednesday, but had yet to receive a reply. British Airways said in a statement posted Monday it remains “ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA.”


The airline said it was forced to cancel so many flights because “with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.” Customers who had flights booked for Monday and Tuesday will likely “not be able to travel as planned,” British Airways said. The airline also advised customers not to go to the airport. Members of the pilots union voted 93% in favor of a strike in July. BALPA said last week that it would be willing to call it off if British Airways returned to the negotiating table. According to its website, BALPA represents more than 10,000 pilots in the United Kingdom — more than 85% of all commercial pilots who fly there.

Read more …

And Facebook in a different probe. But Google is CIA.

States Expected To Target Google In New Antitrust Probe (AP)

A group of states led by Texas is expected to announce an investigation into Google on Monday to examine whether the Silicon Valley tech giant has gotten too big and effective at stomping or acquiring rivals. The probe is the latest blow against big tech companies as antitrust investigations ramp up in the U.S. and around the world. A separate group of states announced an investigation into Facebook’s dominance on Friday. The Department of Justice , the Federal Trade Commission and Congress are also conducting probes.


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said only that the investigation will look at “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.” Reports in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal say Google will be the primary target. Google expects state attorneys general will ask it about past similar investigations in the U.S. and internationally, senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post Friday . Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls so many aspects of the internet that it’s hard to imagine surfing the web for long without running into at least one of its services. Experts believe the antitrust probe could focus on at least one of three aspects of Google’s business that have caught regulators’ eyes.

Read more …

Background: renowned Greek film director Costa-Gravas has made a movie based on Varoufakis’ book “Adults in the Room,” which recounts Yanis’ dealings with the EU. It was presented at the Venice film festival this week. Well, the Greek press still doesn’t like him (but they dare not ignore Costa-Gavras either). And because of the structure of the press, neither do many Greeks. But they make it about how Yanis presents himself, and sure, maybe it’s too much about him at times. But really, it should be about his ideas, about substance. Unfortunately, those ideas go above their paygrade and understanding. So appearance it is then…

Yanis Varoufakis’ Close-Up (K.)

The term “narcissist,” which has become almost a permanent fixture in any description of Yanis Varoufakis – in tones ranging from the deliberate and angry to the lighthearted and playful, sometimes to the point of absolving him of his sins – is inadequate. A man who writes a book while simultaneously envisioning himself as a big-screen hero does not simply fall into the category of garden-variety delusions of stardom because his actions are rife with intent. Viewing reality through the realm of fiction neither clears nor burdens an official of complicity with regard to how he managed the country’s economic affairs and the stance he adopted more generally, and especially when this concerns an exceptionally crucial period.


Walking down the red carpet does not instantly transform Varoufakis from a former finance minister (who is co-credited with a memorandum and capital controls) into a movie star. The Venice International Film Festival – the glamour, the camera flashes, the gowns – and the reviews of critics neither erase nor transfer political responsibility. The publicity shone on Greece as a result of Costa-Gavras’ film “Adults in the Room,” based on Varoufakis’ book of the same title, shifts the focus of the conversation from the intentions and rules according to which officials with institutional responsibilities ought to abide, to the rule-free realm of art. It takes it away from the need for political figures to answer for their actions and omissions, to the extremely capacious realm of film production and artistic creativity.

Read more …

Noah.

Australia Launches Emergency Relocation Of Fish (G.)

Faced with a looming ferocious summer with little rain forecast, the New South Wales government has embarked on a Noah’s Ark type operation to move native fish from the Lower Darling – part of Australia’s most significant river system – to safe havens before high temperatures return to the already stressed river basin. Researchers have warned of other alarming ecological signs that the Lower Darling River – part of the giant Murray-Darling Basin – is in a dire state, following last summer’s mass fish kills. Professor Fran Sheldon, from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said only one surviving colony of river mussels had been found along the river and there were signs that river red gums were under severe stress.


“If the river red gums die, and some are hundreds of years old, there will be a domino effect. Banks will collapse, there will be massive erosion and it will send sediments down the river.” “These sort of ecological collapses are much harder and expensive to reverse,” she warned. The New South Wales government announced a $10m rescue package last week to mitigate the effects of the river crisis on native fish this summer. The NSW agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, said the unprecedented action would provide “a lifeline for key native species ahead of an expected summer of horror fish kills”. “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon, which is why we’re wasting little time rolling out this unprecedented action,” Marshall said.

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Jun 282019
 
 June 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Salvador Dali Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion 1930

 

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)
America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)
US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)
Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)
Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)
Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)
US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)
Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)
Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)
CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)
Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)
The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

 

 

Brought to you by the world’s richest country.

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)

How are you sleeping lately? Some Americans are feeling uneasy. Consumer confidence fell to a two-year low in June, the Conference Board announced this week. It fell to 121.5 this month from a 131.3 in May. That’s the lowest level since September 2017. “The escalation in trade and tariff tensions earlier this month appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence,” Lynn Franco, senior director at the Conference Board, said in a statement. Continued uncertainty could “diminish” people’s confidence in the economic expansion, she added. Many people are living with wildly fluctuating income, a recent report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System said.


“Volatile income and low savings can turn common experiences — such as waiting a few days for a bank deposit to be available — into a problem.” Despite unemployment hitting a 49-year low, plus low interest rates and inflation, people are feeling skittish. “A major trade war between the U.S. and China represents our greatest economic risk,” according to Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Controller’s Council of Economic Advisors. All of these worries are taking their toll. 78% of adults are losing sleep over work, relationships, retirement and other worries, according to a study released Thursday by personal-finance site Bankrate.com. Over half (56%) of Americans are lying awake at night worrying about money.

Read more …

Can’t make anything anymore. And now there are plans to make Europe use US nukes…..

America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)

Early this year, U.S. authorities filed criminal charges—including bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and theft of technology—against the largest maker of telecommunications equipment in the world, a Chinese giant named Huawei. Chinese dominance in telecom equipment has created a crisis among Western espionage agencies, who, fearful of Chinese spying, are attempting to prevent the spread of Huawei equipment worldwide, especially in the critical 5G next-generation mobile networking space. In response to the campaign to block the purchase of Huawei equipment, the company has engaged in a public relations offensive.

The company’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, portrayed Western fears as an advertisement for its products, which are, he said, “so good that the U.S. government is scared.” There’s little question the Chinese government is interested in using equipment to spy. What is surprising is Zhengfei is right about the products. Huawei, a relatively new company in the telecom equipment space, has amassed top market share because its equipment—espionage vulnerabilities aside—is the best value on the market. In historical terms, this is a shocking turnaround. Americans invented the telephone business and until recently dominated production and research. But in the last 20 years, every single American producer of key telecommunication equipment sectors is gone.

Today, only two European makers—Ericsson and Nokia—are left to compete with Huawei and another Chinese competitor, ZTE. This story of lost American leadership and production is not unique. In fact, the destruction of America’s once vibrant military and commercial industrial capacity in many sectors has become the single biggest unacknowledged threat to our national security. Because of public policies focused on finance instead of production, the United States increasingly cannot produce or maintain vital systems upon which our economy, our military, and our allies rely. Huawei is just a particularly prominent example.

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Well, they can still make cars…

US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)

The average age of passenger cars and trucks on the road in the US ticked up again in 2019, to another record of 11.8 years, IHS Markit reported today. When I entered the car business in 1985, the average age had just ticked up to 7.8 years, and the industry was fretting over it and thought the trend would have to reverse, and customers would soon come out of hiding and massively replace those old clunkers with new vehicles, and everyone would sell more and make more. But those industry hopes for a sustained reversal of the trend of the rising average age have been bitterly disappointed:

This rising average age is largely driven by vehicles lasting longer – an unintended consequence of relentless improvements in overall quality, forced upon automakers by finicky customers in an ultra-competitive market where automakers struggle to stay alive. To make it in the US, they have to constantly improve their products, and stragglers that can’t compete are left unceremoniously by the wayside. US consumers are brutal. This unintended consequence of rising overall quality contributes to the dreadful industry problem: The US, despite constant population growth, is a horribly mature auto market. In 1999, so 20 years ago, new vehicle sales reached a record of 16.9 million units.


This record was broken in 2000, with 17.3 million units. Then sales tapered off. By 2007, they’d dropped to 16.1 million units. Then the Financial Crisis hit, GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, Ford almost did, and peak-to-trough, sales plunged 40% to 10.4 million units by 2009. The recovery has been steep, and in 2015, finally the old record of the year 2000 was broken, but barely with 17.48 million units, and in 2016, the industry eked out another record of 17.55 million units. And that was it. Sales have fizzled since then. So far in 2019, the data indicates that sales are likely to fall below 17 million units, according to my own estimates, bringing the industry right back where it had been 20 years ago in 1999:

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Nothing a little QE won’t fix?!

Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)

Up until a few weeks ago the Baoshang Bank’s prospects seemed bright enough. According to Baoshing’s most recent regulatory filing, the smallish lender based in Inner-Mongolia, made a $600 million profit in 2017. It had assets of around $90 billion, non-performing loans were modest — under 2 per cent — and its capital buffers would fit comfortably with the global demands of a Tier1 bank. Then it collapsed. That set off a series of events rarely, if ever, seen in Chinese banking. Regulators seized Baoshang, the first action of its type since 1998. That may have shaken the foundations of Chinese banking, but of far greater significance was the collapse caused by China’s first recorded interbank default.

It is yet to be a “Lehman moment” — where the credit market freezes, banks stop lending to each other and the economy teeters above the abyss —but it has, as Societe Generale’s Wei Yao noted, “triggered severe liquidity tensions in the interbank market”. “The Baoshang incidence has challenged one fundamental belief of China’s financial system; interbank defaults are not possible thanks to 100 per cent implicit guarantees,” Ms Yao said. “Now that credit risks and counter-party risks have finally descended on this very core market in China’s financial system, all the key players in the system have to figure out how to price risks in the new paradigm, and quickly.”

Ms Yao said the understandable consequence was “a big and unpleasant wave of risk repricing”, with major banks shying away from doing business with smaller lenders. And that’s a worry, as small-to-medium sized banks combined have balance sheets as big as the big banks combined, but are far more dependent on interbank funding. The central bank (PBoC) immediately pumped around 600 billion yuan ($125 billion) into the system and halted a run on the banks by guaranteeing 100 per cent of all retail deposits.

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Not the Onion.

Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)

Deutsche Bank’s shares rose as much as 4.8% on Friday after Germany’s biggest bank passed an annual health check by the U.S. Federal Reserve, in a boost to its Wall Street operations. But the Federal Reserve placed conditions on the U.S. operations of Credit Suisse, knocking its shares 1% lower after identifying weaknesses in its capital planning. The tests assess whether it is safe for banks to implement their capital plans, including using extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and other purposes beyond providing a cushion against losses. They are designed to avoid a repeat of the taxpayer bailouts of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.


Deutsche Bank, whose U.S. business has been plagued by litigation, underperformance and regulatory investigations, topped the German bluechip index .GDAX in Frankfurt after its U.S. shares were up as much as 6% in after-the-bell trading on Thursday following the Fed’s news. The German bank maintained a large presence on Wall Street after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, while Credit Suisse made big cuts. But Deutsche’s efforts to compete with U.S. rivals have been hampered by litigation and regulatory investigations. Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Christian Sewing, who is battling to turn the bank around, said the Fed’s decision was “excellent news” in a memo to staff on its website. “Achieving success here was one of the key goals we set a year ago. It is a huge step forward for our business in the U.S. and globally. A strong operating platform in the Americas is essential to our clients,” he said.

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Lowballing.

Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, billionaire investor and Elliott Management founder, Paul Singer, warned that the global economy is heading toward a “significant market downturn” cautioning that “the global financial system is very much toward the risky end of the spectrum.” While Paul Singer’s traditionally downcast outlook is hardly surprising, as it permeates every investor letter published by the successful investor who has been particularly clear in the past decade that the Fed’s monetary experiment will end terribly, he sees two particular reasons why the economy is approaching a tipping point: “global debt is at an all-time high.

Derivatives are at an all-time high and it took all of this monetary easing to get to where we are today and I don’t think central bankers, or policymakers or academics are in any better shape to predict the next downturn and I think we are the high end of the risk spectrum.” He then ominously added that “I’m expecting the possibility of a significant market downturn.” How bad would the crash be? According to the Elliott Management CEO, there will be a market “correction” of 30% to 40% when the downturn hits, although unlike Goldman – which gave a timeline of 12 months in which the next major market will materialize, Singer said he couldn’t predict the timing.

In the panel discussion, Singer also said the market meltdown late last year after interest rates spiked in the 4th quarter was the first hint of a pending slump, as it indicated that the Federal Reserve and other central banks were now victims of their policies, something he has been warning about for years. “December supported the notion that they’re trapped,” he said. “What they should have done, and what they should do now, is try to restore the soundness of money. They should not be cutting rates right now. They should be calling on the congresses and parliaments around the developed world to take steps to deal with the economic slowdown in growth.”

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Europe likes Iran just the way it is.

US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)

NATO allies gave the U.S. no firm commitments that they will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran, acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, wrapping up his first alliance meeting. Esper said the U.S. will come back next month and provide reluctant allies more details on exactly how the Iranian threat has escalated in recent months, and how nations can work together to deter further aggression. “At the end of the day what our ask is here, near term, is to publicly condemn Iran’s bad behavior,” Esper said as he prepared to leave Brussels. “And in the meantime, in order to avoid a military escalation, help us maintain the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf and wherever.”


Esper, who didn’t have high expectations for firm commitments coming in, got little of either, though he said that some allies privately expressed interest in hearing more. Esper’s visit to NATO, just days after he took over at the Pentagon, came amid sharply increased tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as bombings in Iraq. Iranian forces also shot down an American drone that it said had flown into its airspace, which the U.S. disputes. Earlier this week, as he headed to NATO, Esper said his goal was to persuade allies that the confrontation with Iran is a global challenge requiring an international response, and that it is “not Iran versus the United States.”

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“There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it..”

Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)

Boeing says it expects to finish work on updated flight-control software for the 737 Max in September, a sign that the troubled jet likely won’t be flying until late this year. The latest delay in fixing the Max came a day after the disclosure that government test pilots found a new technology flaw in the plane during a test on a flight simulator. The plane has been grounded since mid-March after two crashes that killed 346 people. Preliminary accident reports pointed to software that erroneously pointed the planes’ noses down and overpowered pilots’ efforts to regain control. A Boeing official said Thursday that the company expects to submit the software update to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval “in the September timeframe.”

Once Boeing submits its changes, the FAA is expected to take several weeks to analyze them, and airlines would need additional time to take their grounded Max jets out of storage and prepare them to fly again. Airlines were already lowering expectations for a quick return of the plane, which has been grounded since mid-March. Southwest Airlines, the biggest operator of Max jets, announced Thursday that it has taken the plane out of its schedule for another month, through Oct. 1. Earlier this week, United Airlines pulled the plane from its schedule through early September.

While Boeing engineers continue working on the plane’s software, company lawyers pushed Thursday to settle lawsuits brought by the families of dozens of passengers killed in the October crash of a Lion Air Max off the coast of Indonesia and the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max near Addis Ababa. Boeing and the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims agreed to mediation that could lead to early settlements. However, the families of some Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers are resisting mediation. “There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it to prevent this kind of disaster from occurring again,” said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who filed lawsuits on behalf of nearly two dozen victims of the Ethiopian crash.

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Concentrate.

Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)

FTSE Russell will rebalance its suite of indexes at the close of trade Friday, and the changes will reflect several broad trends in equity markets over the past year, including the resilience of large-capitalization companies, the dismal performance of smaller U.S. firms, and the emergence of new, highly valued technology companies that promise to, or already have, revolutionized their respective industries. “We reconstitute the Russell indexes annually to accurately reflect equity markets,” said Catherine Yoshimoto, director of product management at FTSE Russell, in an interview. “All the companies are ranked by total market capitalization and the break point between the [large cap] Russell 1000 and [small cap] Russell 2000 are reset.”


The dividing line between the large cap index and the small fell this year, from a capitalization of $3.7 billion to $3.6 billion, as a result of the poor performance of small cap companies, which shrunk in average market capitalization from $2.5 trillion to $2.4 trillion, as the small cap index fell 6.3% over the past 12 months, versus a 7.5% rise in price for larger companies. Steven DeSanctis, equity strategist at Jefferies told MarketWatch that today’s environment — with rising labor costs, material costs and new trade barriers — is especially difficult for small companies to navigate. He estimates that earnings for Russell 2000 companies fell 14.5% in the first quarter of this year on 3.4% of sales growth, while the second quarter will likely show small-cap earnings falling 11.5%, on 3.6% of revenue growth. “Small cap companies are getting squeezed at the margin,” he said. “A lot of companies have revenue growth but falling profits.”

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The story gets uglier by the day.

CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)

Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency has been caught financing a group of grifters and fraudsters at the expense of the American taxpayers. In the latest case, just another in the agency’s 72-year history, the Trump administration-appointed ad hoc board of CITGO, the US subsidiary of the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, stands accused of steering $70 million of escrowed funds, earmarked for PDVSA’s fiscal year 2020 bond, to the pockets of CIA-supported officials of the Venezuelan opposition “Popular Will” party headed by the so-called “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

In addition to Guaidó, who is accused by the legitimate Venezuelan government of money laundering, treason, and corruption, other Popular Will leaders under investigation by both the Venezuelan Attorney General and the US Justice Department include Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s envoy in Washington; Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, Guaidó’s emissaries in Cucuta, a Colombian-Venezuelan border town; Sergio Vargara, Barrera’s brother-in-law and a Member of the Venezuelan Congress; Guaidó’s “ambassador” to Colombia, Humberto Calderon Berti, opposition businessman Miguel Sabal; and Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero. Over two dozen other Popular Will leaders are also under investigation for fraud involving money earmarked by the Trump administration, particularly Iran-Contra scandal felon and current Trump special envoy for regime change in Venezuela, Elliot Abrams.

Barrera and Rojas are accused of spending money given to the Popular Will by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a longtime CIA financial pass-through, for “humanitarian relief” for alleged massive numbers of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia. The Popular Will grifters reportedly used the aid money, including that which was raised by Virgin Group’s billionaire founder and obvious CIA dupe Richard Branson, for expensive hotels, fancy restaurants, nightclubs, prostitutes, and clothing.

Read more …

Varoufakis is way ahead of his time. Elections July 7, but he’ll be lucky to get any seats at all.

Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)

– Reduction of the public debt with an embedded growth clause: the higher the national income, the more creditors will receive, and the reverse. Varoufakis said that this will force lenders to become partners in the recovery of Greece.

– Ending austerity by a drastic reduction of surpluses. Varoufakis said that Syriza and ND have pledged to return to the lenders the equivalent of at least 7,000 euros per capita each year from the so-called primary state surpluses. MeRA25 will unilaterally reduce these surpluses by 60-100 pct, depending on the recovery rate, he added.

– Abolition of obligatory prepayment of 100% of taxes, and capping the VAT rate at 18% for cash purchases, 15% for using a credit card. Reduction of corporate tax: e.g. from current 29 pct, to 26 pct for large businesses, 20 pct for medium-sized ones and 15 pct for small businesses; capping profits on SMEs at 50 pct tax (currently at 75 pct).

– Public extra-bank reliant payment system allowing free digital transactions among citizens, businesses and the state, benefitting all: e.g. by mutual debt cancellation, tax deductions, funding of anti-poverty programs, reducting the hold of private banks and the European Central Bank on citizens and state alike.

– Establishment of a public management company of private debt, so that non-performing loans (NPLs) are transferred from banks to this organisation, in exchange for government guarantees not counted towards public debt. In addition, a ban on loan sales, foreclosure auctions, especially of primary residences and small businesses.

– Inclusion under the Foundation of Social Insurance (IKA) of all freelancers who work more than 8 hours a week for the same employer. Incentives towards start-up entrepreneurs with a 5-year exemption from taxes and insurance contributions.

– Conversion of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund to a Development Bank, abolition of all privatizations, and use of public property as collateral to create investment flows in the public sector; the new bank’s shares will be owned by insurance funds, boosting their capitalization.

Yanis Varoufakis insisted that these measures would be implemented without negotiation with Greece’s lenders and financial institutions, and underlined that the creditors might react by bringing back GRexit scenarios. In this case, which he ruled out, “it will cost them 1 trillion euros.” “If we continue to apply Syriza’s fourth memorandum there will be no young people left in our country,” concluded Varoufakis, who also reiterated that his party will not give a vote of confidence to either Syriza or New Democracy, but will nevertheless support any bill it considers fair.

Read more …

Mass suicide.

The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

Inside an Indiana aquafarming complex, thousands of salmon eggs genetically modified to grow faster than normal are hatching into tiny fish. After growing to roughly 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in indoor tanks, they could be served in restaurants by late next year. The salmon produced by AquaBounty are the first genetically modified animals approved for human consumption in the U.S. They represent one way companies are pushing to transform the plants and animals we eat, even as consumer advocacy groups call for greater caution. AquaBounty hasn’t sold any fish in the U.S. yet, but it says its salmon may first turn up in places like restaurants or university cafeterias, which would decide whether to tell diners that the fish are genetically modified.

“It’s their customer, not ours,” said Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO. To produce its fish, Aquabounty injected Atlantic salmon with DNA from other fish species that make them grow to full size in about 18 months, which could be about twice as fast as regular salmon. The company says that’s more efficient since less feed is required. The eggs were shipped to the U.S. from the company’s Canadian location last month after clearing final regulatory hurdles.

As AquaBounty worked through years of government approvals, several grocers including Kroger and Whole Foods responded to a campaign by consumer groups with a vow to not sell the fish. Already, most corn and soy in the U.S. is genetically modified to be more resistant to pests and herbicides. But as genetically modified salmon make their way to dinner plates, the pace of change to the food supply could accelerate. This month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to simplify regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals. The move comes as companies are turning to a newer gene-editing technology that makes it easier to tinker with plant and animal DNA.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 152018
 
 December 15, 2018  Posted by at 11:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Road menders at Saint-Remy 1889

 

US Banks See Biggest Unrealized Losses On Securities Since Q1 2009 (WS)
European Banks’ €300 Billion Race To The Bottom (BBG)
Global Debt Hits All-Time High Of $184,000,000,000,000 (RT)
Act V: Yellow Vests Prepare For Massive ‘Macron Resign’ Protest (RT)
Senior Tories Tell May To Work With Corbyn To Save Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Strategy Left Brutally Exposed By Brussels Failure (G.)
Affordable Care Act Is Ruled Unconstitutional By A Federal Judge (CNBC)
Clinton Foundation Oversight Panel Hears Explosive Testimony (RT)
The War Against Globalism (Giraldi)
Yanis Varoufakis’s Internationalist Odyssey (Nation)

 

 

EU banks are disasters. US banks are too.

US Banks See Biggest Unrealized Losses On Securities Since Q1 2009 (WS)

The FDIC just released the aggregated third-quarter performance metrics of the 5,477 banks and thrifts it insures. The amount of their combined assets ticked up to $17.7 trillion. These assets – mostly loans but also investments of all kinds – include $3.6 trillion in securities (not including the securities in their trading accounts). And banks got hit by the biggest quarterly losses on those securities since the first quarter of 2009. Banks designate these securities either as “held-to-maturity” securities (valued at “amortized cost” or book value) and “available-for-sale” securities (valued at “fair value,” such as market value). For Q3, these were their unrealized losses – meaning, banks have not yet sold the securities:

• Available-for-sale securities: $51.5 billion in unrealized losses, or 2% of their amortized cost, as the FDIC said, “the highest loss level since first quarter 2009.” • Held-to-maturity securities: $32.8 billion in unrealized losses. • Both combined: $84.3 billion in unrealized losses. Note the damage done in 2018, after years of big gains: $83.4 billion in Q3; $66.4 billion in Q2; and about $55 billion in Q1; for a total so far this year about $200 billion in unrealized losses.

Read more …

And Draghi went for negative rates. One for the history books.

European Banks’ €300 Billion Race To The Bottom (BBG)

As we approach the end of a dismal year for European stocks, the question is: which sector had the worst year of them all? With a few trading sessions left before the end of 2018, banks and autos are in a tight race to the bottom. As of Thursday’s close, lenders are the biggest losers, with a quarter of their market value down the drain, a wipeout of roughly 300 billion euros in shareholders’ money. Banks haven’t seen such a bad year since the heat of the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis in 2011. As the final ECB meeting of the year confirmed, the central bank will keep rates unchanged at least until next summer and the grim outlook for the sector highlighted in one of our earlier Taking Stock columns remains valid.

Any attempt by the sector to break out from its downward trend in 2018 has so far failed. Perhaps it’s not a surprise as banks face a wall of worry from investors and nothing seems to be able to help them move forward. Repeated calls from some analysts that the sector is cheap hasn’t triggered any significant buying. A good example is Credit Suisse’s buyback and dividend announcement on Wednesday. That didn’t even raise investors’ interest with the stock hovering near its low. While any return of capital to shareholders is welcome, the dark clouds over its investment banking outlook seemed to weigh more.

Here’s the grim silver lining: …it doesn’t matter much to the rest of the market: Since the financial crisis a decade ago, the influence of banks over the broader European gauge has fallen dramatically, to a point where they now barely move the Stoxx 600. So what could help the shares regain their vigor? Although merger talk seems to find fruitful (speculative) ground, large cross-border deals remain a fantasy. But domestic love stories might be one theme to keep an eye on next year. Most prominent is the ongoing chatter about Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, the worst and third-worst performing stocks in the Stoxx 600 Banks index. While any merger is far from certain, market reaction shows that investors, or at least algos and punters, are betting on any consolidation as the last resort to improve bottom-lines.

And if you are gloating at the “fortress balance sheet” US banks, as BMO’s Brad Wishak notes, price and time are playing a familair hand in US bank stocks… Finally, BofAML strategists summed it all up very succinctly this week: “What we learned in 2018: That central banks trump everything, when global liquidity peaked in Q1, markets peaked; that we remain in a deflationary world which cannot handle a 10-year Treasury yield above 3%; That investors have no satisfactory answers to the existential questions of ‘If not stocks, what?’, ‘If not tech, what?’ ‘If not the U.S. dollar, what?'”…

Read more …

Sometimes you wonder if even a grand jubilee could change this.

Global Debt Hits All-Time High Of $184,000,000,000,000 (RT)

The world’s debt currently exceeds $86,000 per person on average, according to the IMF. The US, China, and Japan are the top three global borrowers, accounting for more than half of the global debt. The IMF has calculated that their share of debt exceeds that of output. It stated that the emergence of China among the top ranking is, however, a relatively new development. Since the beginning of the millennium, China’s share in global debt surged from less than three percent to over 15 percent, underscoring the rapid credit surge in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. According to the IMF, global debt has reached a record high of $184 trillion in nominal terms.

That’s the equivalent of 225 percent of the world GDP in 2017. The debt figure is $2 trillion higher than the estimated number released by the fund in October, because it includes the debts of several countries who had not previously reported their updated data. “By including both the sovereign and private sides of borrowing for the entire world, the GDD (Global Debt Database) offers an unprecedented picture of global debt in the post-World War II era,” said the IMF. GDD is a comprehensive dataset covering public and private debt for 190 countries dating back to the 1950s.

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As I write this, things seem to be quiet still.

Act V: Yellow Vests Prepare For Massive ‘Macron Resign’ Protest (RT)

Paris is bracing for yet another round of Yellow Vest protests, with demonstrators planning to take to the streets on Saturday. More than 10,000 people have already RSVP’d on Facebook to the ‘Acte 5: Macron Démission’ march. The demonstration is scheduled to take place in the French capital on the Champs-Élysées. The organizers, consisting of some 15 groups, have outlined their list of demands on Facebook, saying they will continue their action against Macron until all their demands are met. “Our organizations support the demands of tax and social justice brought by the movement of yellow vests.

They call for demonstrations Saturday, December 15, for social justice and tax, for a real democracy, for equal rights, for a true ecological transition…” the planners said in a statement, as quoted by Le Parisien. Similar demonstrations are also expected to take place in other cities across the country. Security officials are gearing up for the protests, with Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech stating that tens of thousands of cops will be deployed across France, and some 8,000 in Paris. “We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” he said. Delpuech told RTL that authorities are aiming to be in “better control” of the situation than they were last weekend, when more than 125,000 people hit the streets of France, 10,000 of whom protested in Paris.

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But why should he?

Senior Tories Tell May To Work With Corbyn To Save Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Senior Tories have told Theresa May to open talks with Labour as her only hope of salvaging a Brexit deal, after the EU’s outright refusal to renegotiate left her strategy in tatters. A badly bruised prime minister was urged to stop trying to “go it alone”, accept her proposed agreement is dead and that she needs the help of other parties to push through softer exit terms. Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, told The Independent that “cross-party support and proper discussions” were now essential, while Nick Boles, another former minister, said Ms May “must open cross-party discussions”.

The calls came after EU leaders dealt a devastating blow by scrapping written commitments, designed to help Ms May pass her deal through parliament, after disastrous talks failed to achieve a breakthrough. Brussels’ frustration at the prime minister’s inability to set out clearly what she wanted was laid bare when Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, branded the UK approach “nebulous”. At a press conference, Ms May put a brave face on, insisting her Brexit deal remained on track and that talks in the next few days would achieve “further clarification”.

[..] Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister had “utterly failed in her attempts to deliver any meaningful changes to her botched deal”, calling for a Commons vote to kill it off without delay “Rather than ploughing ahead and dangerously running down the clock, the prime minister needs to put her deal to a vote next week so parliament can take back control,” he said. Nevertheless, Mr Boles said the route to success for Ms May was cross-party talks to “deliver their support for the deal”.

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She fled to Europe because she could, not to get anything done. The result is no Commons vote until after Christmas.

Theresa May’s Brexit Strategy Left Brutally Exposed By Brussels Failure (G.)

Theresa May has come home from Brussels empty-handed and without hope of further negotiations over the Irish backstop, with the failure to achieve any kind of breakthrough leaving her brutally exposed. Plans to work over Christmas on a legal guarantee over the temporary nature of the backstop had run into a brick wall, EU officials said, despite May’s claim that she would be holding further talks “in the coming days”. Brussels sources claimed May was just keeping up a pretence that the legal guarantee she had promised rebellious Tory MPs during this week’s leadership challenge was still on the cards.

Without clear evidence that she has made progress, May faces mounting jeopardy in Westminster, with Labour seriously considering tabling a vote of no confidence before Christmas, if it believes the prime minister’s DUP partners might support it. Jeremy Corbyn accused May on Friday of “dangerously running down the clock”. “The last 24 hours have confirmed that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water. The prime minister has utterly failed in her attempts to deliver any meaningful changes to her botched deal,” he said. One shadow cabinet member said the moment at which Labour would table a no-confidence vote was getting “much, much closer”, but said it would depend on the stance of the DUP. “We are watching like hawks,” he added.

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Set up a bipartisan commission and get this solved. The US is a tragic laughing stock.

Affordable Care Act Is Ruled Unconstitutional By A Federal Judge (CNBC)

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, potentially threatening health-care coverage for millions of Americans and setting up a new legal showdown over former President Barack Obama’s signature policy initiative. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas issued the decision, declaring that key portions of the legislation were inconsistent with the Constitution. O’Connor’s ruling argued that the health-care law can not stand on its own since Congress last December repealed the individual mandate, which imposed a tax penalty on consumers who went uninsured. The mandate, which remains in effect for 2018, was a key part of ACA legislation, otherwise known as Obamacare. The mandate is the greater of $695 person per adult, or 2.5% of household income.

The lawsuit was backed by the Trump administration, and is likely to be appealed — which could mean the legislation will heard anew by the Supreme Court, which upheld Obamacare in a narrowly divided 2012 ruling. Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma told reporters earlier this month that CMS has a plan to protect pre-existing conditions if the law is struck down. A CMS spokesperson late Friday told CNBC, “The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.”

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Government investigators who refuse to share documents with the House. Not just insane, but by now years of insanity.

Clinton Foundation Oversight Panel Hears Explosive Testimony (RT)

Fraud investigators have exposed the Clinton Foundation’s alleged misdeeds in a Congressional hearing, describing it as a de facto “foreign agent” devoted not to charity but to “advancing the personal interests of its principals.” The Clinton Foundation acted as an agent of foreign governments “early in its life and throughout its existence,” according to testimony by former government forensic investigator John Moynihan, which, if true, would not only render it in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act but also would violate its nonprofit charter, putting it on the hook for a massive quantity of unpaid taxes. Moynihan and fellow ex-government investigator Lawrence Doyle shared 6,000 pages of evidence with the IRS over 18 months ago, only to be met with silence.

They shared them with the FBI multiple times – ditto. Yet when the pair testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, they refused to turn over the documents, stating they did not want to interfere with any ongoing investigations. The committee chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said witnesses’ reluctance to share all the documents was hardly a “good foundation for truth and transparency,” while Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said he felt the duo was “using” the panel for their own benefit. “These are not our facts. They are not your facts. They are the facts of the Clinton Foundation,” said Moynihan, maintaining his interest in the case is purely financial – not political.

Testifying on their findings, Doyle highlighted the Foundation’s alleged “misuse of donated public funds,” explaining that it “falsely attested that it received funds and used them for charitable purposes which was, in fact, not the case. Rather the foundation pursued in an array of activities both domestically and abroad,” which included activities “properly characterized as profit-oriented and taxable undertakings of private enterprise, again failing the operational tests of philanthropy referenced above,” referring to the equally non-charitable pursuit of funding the Clinton Presidential Library. John Huber, appointed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the Clinton Foundation after Sessions recused himself from doing so, was conspicuously absent from the hearing, even though his job is to probe Clinton’s approval of the sale of US uranium assets to Russia.

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Globalism has been extremely destructive. Hard to defend.

The War Against Globalism (Giraldi)

The idea that republican or democratic government will eventually deteriorate into some form of tyranny is not exactly new. Thomas Jefferson advocated a new revolution every generation to keep the spirit of government accountable to the people alive. Call it what you will – neoliberalism, neoconservatism or globalism – the new world order, as recently deceased President George H.W. Bush once labeled it, characteristically embraces a world community in which there is free trade, free movement of workers and democracy. They all sound like good things but they are authoritarian in nature, destructive of existing communities and social systems while at the same time enriching those who promote the changes.

They have also been the root cause of most of the wars fought since the Second World War, wars to “liberate” people who never asked to be invaded or bombed as part of the process. And there are, of course, major differences between neoliberals and neoconservatives in terms of how one brings about the universal nirvana, with the liberals embracing some kind of process whereby the transformation takes place because it represents what they see, perhaps cynically, as the moral high ground and is recognized as being the right thing to do. The neocons, however, seek to enforce what they define as international standards because the United States has the power to do so in a process that makes it and its allies impossible to challenge.

The latter view is promoted under the phony slogan that “Democracies do not fight other democracies.” The fact that globalists of every type consider nationalism a threat to their broader ambitions has meant that parochial or domestic interests are often disregarded or even rejected. With that in mind, and focusing on two issues – wholesale unwelcome immigration and corrupt government run by oligarchs – one might reasonably argue that large numbers of ordinary citizens now believe themselves to be both effectively disenfranchised and demonstrably poorer as rewarding work becomes harder to find and communities are destroyed through waves of both legal and illegal immigration.

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I can still hope he succeeds, but it’s getting hard to see how.

Yanis Varoufakis’s Internationalist Odyssey (Nation)

Flanked by a dozen members of DiEM25, the pan-European movement launched in 2016 to “democratize” the continent’s institutions, Varoufakis announced that he would run for a seat representing Germany in the European Parliament. He would make his bid as a Greek, a European, and, you might even say, a Berliner—all to drive home a larger point about the necessity of thinking beyond borders. “No European people can be prosperous and free when other European countries are condemned to the permanent depression that eternal austerity creates,” he said. Persistent unemployment, cuts to welfare, and other suffocating economic policies across the continent help explain why Varoufakis chose Germany—a country he’s best known for antagonizing, precisely over its leaders’ support for austerity, in the fraught negotiations over Greece’s debt in 2015.

These circumstances are also the motivating force behind the Progressive International, an initiative that Varoufakis launched five days later in Burlington, Vermont, with DiEM25 and the Sanders Institute. Building broad-based coalitions takes time, and for now, the Progressive International is just a website with some inspiring language and a video. Its membership is also very Eurocentric. But Varoufakis hopes it will blossom into a global movement that helps leftists create coherent platforms, policies, and parties to defeat the “nationalist international” masterminded by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The logic is simple. Financiers have long had global networks; now, right-wing authoritarians do too, with coordinated social-media strategies and deep pools of dark money funding campaigns and disrupting elections around the globe.

It’s time for the left to go on the offensive and reclaim its tradition of internationalism: in Varoufakis’s words, to “mobilize workers, women, and the disenfranchised around the world” to prevent outright fascism from taking hold. This means local action, but it also means dreaming big. It’s a fuzzy plan, of course, and one that Varoufakis’s critics deem implausible. Aren’t ideas like “democratizing” the European Union and making global finance more “progressive” oxymorons? How will a ragtag group of leftists dream up a new monetary system and an ecological New Deal for the whole world when Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil call the shots?

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Dec 142018
 
 December 14, 2018  Posted by at 10:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Paul Signac Boulevard de Clichy under snow 1886

 

ECB To Halt €2.6 Trillion Stimulus Despite Eurozone Slowdown Concerns (G.)
Shipping Costs From China To The US More Than Doubled In 2018 (CNBC)
China Reports ‘Ugly’ Industrial Output And Retail Sales Growth (CNBC)
Average UK Worker Earns A Third Less Than In 2008 (PA)
EU Leaders Scrap Plans To Help Theresa May Pass Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Labour Plans To ‘Throw Kitchen Sink’ To Force May’s Hand On Brexit (G.)
There Should Be No Exit from Brexit (Spiegel)
My Plan To Revive Europe Can Succeed Where Macron, Piketty Failed (Varoufakis)
A World That Is the Property of the 1% (Nomi Prins)
Trump Inauguration Spending Under Criminal Investigation (CNBC)
US ‘Miscarriage Of Justice’ In Butina Case Denounced (RT)
US Senate Passes Resolution Saying MbS Responsible For Khashoggi Murder (Ind.)

 

 

No. 1 victim will be Italy. ECB was the only buyer of their bonds. And bit by bit Europe will realize Draghi has been spending them into a blind alley. 2019 promises to be a crazy year in Europe.

ECB To Halt €2.6 Trillion Stimulus Despite Eurozone Slowdown Concerns (G.)

The European Central Bank will halt its €2.6tn stimulus programme in January despite concerns that the eurozone is poised to slow down over the next couple of years. Mario Draghi, the ECB boss, warned that rising uncertainty had forced the bank to downgrade its outlook for the currency bloc next year and the effects would continue to be felt in 2020. Draghi, without mentioning the US-China trade war, Brexit or the Italian government’s dispute with Brussels, said: “The balance of risk is moving to the downside.” He said growth would be limited to 1.7% in 2019, “owing to the persistence of uncertainties related to geopolitical factors, the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility”.

The worse-than-expected outlook sent the euro tumbling on international exchanges as investors cut back their expectations for growth across the continent. Figures showing that the German economy contracted in the last quarter were a clear signal that the eurozone had come under pressure from weakening global trade, while the slowing of the bloc’s other two major economies – France and Italy – only added to the worsening outlook. However, the ECB said the recovery was strong enough that it could stop expanding its QE programme that has seen it pump €2.6tn into the eurozone economy to stoke growth and inflation from January.

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Fear of tariffs and trade wars cause US importers to front-load their orders, causing shipping to get much busier. The US imported much more, not less after Trump’s tariffs rhetoric.

Shipping Costs From China To The US More Than Doubled In 2018 (CNBC)

The price of shipping a container from China to the United States has risen dramatically in the last year due to uncertainty surrounding trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. That’s because Chinese exporters have been rushing to get goods to U.S. ports before new tariffs kick in, but data are suggesting that trend may soon run out of steam. China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies, have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff fight over the last year, levying duties on each other’s imports worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the last few months. Increasingly strong fears of an all-out trade war have inspired exporters to push forward shipment dates — a phenomenon called front-loading.

In fact, freight prices for containers going from China to the U.S. have surged more than 100 percent from a year ago as of the beginning of December, according to data from Freightos, an online freight marketplace, “Transpacific ocean freight peak season has been a bonanza, with prices still more than double last year,” said a report on the most recent Freightos data published on the Baltic Exchange’s news website. That was as freight rates for China to the U.S. West Coast jumped 128 percent while those from China to the U.S. East Coast surged 123 percent compared to the same period a year ago. In contrast, China to North Europe freight rates were up just 11 percent in the same period due to pre-Christmas cargoes.

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And that is after exports to the US were frontloaded because of tariffs. What’s going to happen after January 1?

China Reports ‘Ugly’ Industrial Output And Retail Sales Growth (CNBC)

China on Friday reported industrial output and retail sales growth for the month of November that missed expectations, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, as the world’s second-largest economy started to show signs of slowing amid a bitter trade dispute with the U.S. Industrial output in November grew 5.4 percent from a year ago — the slowest pace in almost three years as it matched the rate of growth seen in January to February 2016, according to Reuters records. The growth in industrial production was lower than the 5.9 percent analysts in a Reuters poll had predicted.

Retail sales rose 8.1 percent in November — the weakest pace since 2003, according to Reuters’ records — lower than the 8.8 percent the analysts expected. November retail sales growth was down from 8.6 percent in October. Fixed asset investment rose 5.9 percent from January to November, marginally higher than the 5.8 percent the economists had forecast. FAI rose 5.7 percent from January to October. [..] The weaker Chinese data in November shows that the positive impact of front-loading had begun to taper off and that downward pressure on the Chinese economy was increasing, wrote Sue Trinh, head of Asia foreign exchange strategy at RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong. The industrial output and retail sales data released on Friday were “ugly,” she added in a Friday note.

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Why Brexit, you asked?

Average UK Worker Earns A Third Less Than In 2008 (PA)

Wages are still worth a third less in some parts of the country than a decade ago, according to a report. Research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that the average worker has lost £11,800 in real earnings since 2008. The UK has suffered the worst real wage slump among leading economies, said the union organisation. The biggest losses have been in areas including the London borough of Redbridge, Epsom and Waverley in Surrey, Selby in North Yorkshire and Anglesey in north Wales, the studyfound.

Workers have suffered real wage losses ranging from just under £5,000 in the north-east to more than £20,000 in London, said the report. The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The government has failed to tackle Britain’s cost-of-living crisis. As a result, millions of families will be worse off this Christmas than a decade ago. “While pay packets have recovered in most leading economies, wage growth in the UK is stuck in the slow lane. “Ministers need to wake up and get wages rising faster. This means cranking up the pressure on businesses to pay staff more, especially at a time when many companies are sitting on large profits.”

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“..European leaders were left amazed when she turned up without any developed requests or ideas…”

EU Leaders Scrap Plans To Help Theresa May Pass Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May‘s Brexit plan was dealt another major blow at a meeting with EU leaders on Thursday night in a disastrous turn of events that resulted in them scrapping written commitments to help her pass her deal through parliament. After arriving in Brussels with promises to help the prime minister, European leaders were left amazed when she turned up without any developed requests or ideas. The 27 heads of state and government subsequently decided to delete lines from their council conclusions saying the EU “stands ready to examine whether any further assurance can be provided” and that “the backstop does not represent a desirable outcome for the union”.

The key paragraphs appeared in leaked earlier drafts on the conclusions and their absence leaves a barebones statement that does the bare minimum to help the prime minister. The limited assurances provided in the statement are extremely unlikely to placate Ms May’s MPs, who have said they want major changes to the agreement. Accounts of the meeting suggest the prime minister’s speech, in which she called for help to get the agreement “over the line”, was repeatedly interrupted by Angela Merkel asking her what she actually wanted from them. Senior UK government officials admitted that the prime minister did not bring any documented proposals with her to the meeting. The approach puzzled EU diplomats, who for days before the conference had said they needed to see what proposals Ms May had come up with before they could respond to her request for aid.

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Labour lacks all strength. What have they been doing in the past 2 years?

Labour Plans To ‘Throw Kitchen Sink’ To Force May’s Hand On Brexit (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn will seek to increase pressure on Theresa May in parliament next week in a bid to prevent the Tories running down the clock on Brexit. As the prime minister urged EU leaders to offer fresh concessions in Brussels on Thursday, senior Labour sources stressed the party was determined to “turn up the heat” at home. May’s spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that “there will be no meaningful vote before Christmas”, while the prime minister negotiates with her EU counterparts. But Labour fears May will only be able to win cosmetic changes to the backstop – and that she will use the ongoing talks as an excuse to avoid testing the will of parliament.

“There must be no more dither and delay, or attempts to run down the clock in an attempt to deny parliament alternative options,” Corbyn said on Thursday. “People and businesses need certainty. The prime minister should put her deal before parliament next week in our country’s interest,” he said, adding that there was “no time to waste”. The Labour leader has held meetings with the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, who has been pressing for the party to table a motion of no confidence in the government before parliament rises for a Christmas break next Thursday. That option has not been ruled out – depending on the reaction of Conservative backbenchers and the DUP when May reports back to MPs from the European council meeting on Monday.

But the party is also studying alternative, less drastic options, including tabling an urgent question on the government’s no-deal preparations; and demanding a three-hour emergency debate to allow parliament to set out its expectations for the latest negotiations over the backstop. It could also demand a full parliamentary debate of regulations readying the financial services sector for a no-deal Brexit, which are currently due to be considered in a committee. “Essentially we can throw the parliamentary kitchen sink at them,” said another senior Labour source, “with all the trimmings”. Some shadow ministers are more sceptical about calling a no-confidence vote early, fearing it would only unite the Conservatives behind May. One told the Guardian: “We’ve got to wait until January now.”

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Germans that don’t want a way back for Britain. But that’s not their decision.

There Should Be No Exit from Brexit (Spiegel)

For two years, the British government has been negotiating the terms of its withdrawal with the European Commission, and now Prime Minister Theresa May is unable to secure a majority for that deal in parliament. The more chaotic things get in London, the more tempting it will become for the country to exit from Brexit through the emergency door the European Court of Justice unlocked on Monday when it declared that the British government could unilaterally move to revoke Article 50. A second referendum that would provide democratic legitimacy to that step seems increasingly likely. But such a move could potentially have graver consequences than an orderly Brexit — both for Britain and the EU.

There’s a good and perhaps even compelling argument for a second referendum: Now that a deal with the EU is on the table, voters would at least finally know what it is they were voting on. In the first referendum in June 2016, that wasn’t even remotely the case. But the campaign ahead of a second referendum would in all likelihood be even more xenophobic and hate-filled than the first. That could in turn produce a British society that is even more divided than it already is today, particularly given that recent polls show the pro-EU camp winning a second referendum by a narrow margin. This time, however, it is likely that the losers would be even angrier and more disappointed than the losers of the first vote.

Many would feel that their long-desired Brexit had been stolen from them and would turn away from democracy in frustration. It would provide a significant boost to anti-European right-wing populists. And this would lead to problem No. 2: Such an outcome would also be uncomfortable for the rest of the EU. The European bloc is currently desperately seeking to find common ground on important policy areas including economic and monetary union, defense and immigration. A Britain that is hopelessly divided on domestic policy could cause significant damage were it still an EU member state.

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I’m wondering how much of any Green New Deal -there are quite a few- depends on investing billions in allowing energy consumption to stay at equal levels, just with a shift from fossil to something else. How many people propose a 10-20-50% cut in overall energy consumption?

My Plan To Revive Europe Can Succeed Where Macron, Piketty Failed (Varoufakis)

[..] the latest Piketty manifesto retains a hybrid parliamentary chamber, but forfeits any Europeanist ambition – all proposals for debt pooling, risk sharing and fiscal transfers have been dropped. Instead, it suggests that national governments agree to raise €800bn (or 4% of eurozone GDP) through a harmonised corporate tax rate of 37%, an increased income tax rate for the top 1%, a new wealth tax for those with more than €1m in assets, and a C02 emissions tax of €30 per tonne. This money would then be spent within each nation-state that collected it – with next to no transfers across countries. But, if national money is to be raised and spent domestically, what is the point of another supranational parliamentary chamber?

Europe is weighed down by overgrown, quasi-insolvent banks, fiscally stressed states, irate German savers crushed by negative interest rates, and whole populations immersed in permanent depression: these are all symptoms of a decade-long financial crisis that has produced a mountain of savings sitting alongside a mountain of debts. The intention of taxing the rich and the polluters to fund innovation, migrants and the green transition is admirable. But it is insufficient to tackle Europe’s particular crisis. What Europe needs is a Green New Deal – this is what Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 – which I co-founded – and our European Spring alliance will be taking to voters in the European parliament elections next summer.

The great advantage of our Green New Deal is that we are taking a leaf out of US President Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal in the 1930s: our idea is to create €500bn every year in the green transition across Europe, without a euro in new taxes. Here’s how it would work: the European Investment Bank (EIB) issues bonds of that value with the ECB standing by, ready to purchase as many of them as necessary in the secondary markets. The EIB bonds will undoubtedly sell like hot cakes in a market desperate for a safe asset. Thus, the excess liquidity that keeps interest rates negative, crushing German pension funds, is soaked up and the Green New Deal is fully funded. Once hope in a Europe of shared, green prosperity is restored, it will be possible to have the necessary debate on new pan-European taxes on C02, the rich, big tech and so on – as well as settling the democratic constitution Europe deserves.

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From 2009 to 2017, the number of billionaires that own as much as the poorest 50% of world population went from 380 to 8. At that rate, pretty soon the world’s richest individual will own that much.

A World That Is the Property of the 1% (Nomi Prins)

Thanks to the massive accumulation of wealth by a 1% skilled at gaming the system, the roots of a crisis that didn’t end with the end of the Great Recession have spread across the planet, while the dividing line between the “have-nots” and the “have-a-lots” only sharpened and widened. Though the media hasn’t been paying much attention to the resulting inequality, the statistics (when you see them) on that ever-widening wealth gap are mind-boggling. According to Inequality.org, for instance, those with at least $30 million in wealth globally had the fastest growth rate of any group between 2016 and 2017. The size of that club rose by 25.5% during those years, to 174,800 members.

Or if you really want to grasp what’s been happening, consider that, between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires whose combined wealth was greater than that of the world’s poorest 50% fell from 380 to just eight. And by the way, despite claims by the president that every other country is screwing America, the U.S. leads the pack when it comes to the growth of inequality. As Inequality.org notes, it has “much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1% than any other country.” That, in part, is due to an institution many in the U.S. normally pay little attention to: the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve. It helped spark that increase in wealth disparity domestically and globally by adopting a post-crisis monetary policy in which electronically fabricated money (via a program called quantitative easing, or QE) was offered to banks and corporations at significantly cheaper rates than to ordinary Americans.

[..] In our post-2008 era, people have witnessed trillions of dollars flowing into bank bailouts and other financial subsidies, not just from governments but from the world’s major central banks. Theoretically, private banks, as a result, would have more money and pay less interest to get it. They would then lend that money to Main Street. Businesses, big and small, would tap into those funds and, in turn, produce real economic growth through expansion, hiring sprees, and wage increases. People would then have more dollars in their pockets and, feeling more financially secure, would spend that money driving the economy to new heights — and all, of course, would then be well.

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It should not be possible to have this kind of investigation into one side and not the other, simultaneously.

Trump Inauguration Spending Under Criminal Investigation (CNBC)

Manhattan-based federal prosecutors are investigating whether some of the $107 million in donations to then President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural committee were misspent, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said the investigation arose in part from the slew of materials seized in April raids on Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, by federal prosecutors. Cohen on Wednesday was sentenced to three years in prison on charges that came in part from those April raids on his office and residence. The criminal probe is also looking into whether some of the committee’s top spenders traded money for access to the incoming Trump administration, as well as “policy concessions or to influence official administration positions,” sources told the Journal.

“Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws,” the newspaper explained. “Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.” Federal prosecutors have reportedly also questioned Richard Gates — the ex-partner of onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy and lying charges lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller. Gates, who has cooperated with investigators in Mueller’s probe of Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. election, served as deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee.

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Exactly what I said about the case a few days ago. It’s become accepted in the US to coerce guilty pleas with vile threats and ugly treatment.

US ‘Miscarriage Of Justice’ In Butina Case Denounced (RT)

Maria Butina’s only crime is that she is Russian, legal analysts told RT, attacking the US justice system for keeping her in solitary confinement until she admitted guilt to at least one of the many charges brought against her. “This is an utter and total miscarriage of justice,” retired CIA agent and whistleblower John Kiriakou told RT after Butina pleaded guilty to the charge of failing to register with the Justice Department as an agent of the Russian government. “You can see clearly, this is not about justice, this is not about criminal activity. This is about making a political point. This is about identifying Russia and Russians as the enemy of the United States, and punishing them.”

“We arrested this young woman because we need dirt on Trump and Russia. And she is Russian, political and pro-Trump,” US legal analyst Jennifer Breedon explained. “We are seeing [the Foreign Agents Registration Act – FARA] being used specifically as it relates to undermining the Donald Trump administration or conservatives really with anybody involved in Russia, friends with Russia or contacts.” The Russian gun activist was subjected to “unbearable pressure” from US authorities, by being kept in solitary confinement in the Alexandria detention center outside Washington, and only allowed to take an hour-long break from her “cage” per day. John Kiriakou believes this borderline “torture” could have forced her to admit to a crime she might never even have committed.

“This woman is not an enemy combatant. So, unless news surfaces that there was some kind of skirmish or issue within the jail… it seems to go against US policy and laws as to who is forced into solitary confinement, just based solely on the charges that were lodged against her,” Breedon said. “You are kept in a steel cage 23 hours a day. And for what? Because she failed to fill out a form to send to the Justice Department?” Kiriakou pondered. “It is no wonder people in solitary confinement in the United States commit suicide every day.”

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Nothing to do with defying Trump, he wants this. Imagine he would say this, and then be held responsible for $400 oil. It’s much easier to speak as senator than as president. And many of these senators have politically supported Saudi for decades. They’re merely cleaning up their own mess.

US Senate Passes Resolution Saying MbS Responsible For Khashoggi Murder (Ind.)

The Senate has passed a resolution saying Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Defying Donald Trump’s desire to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia including lucrative weapons deals, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker proposed the legislation, which has been backed by at least 10 of his fellow Republicans. The CIA is reported to have assessed with “high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed was involved in the order to kill Mr Khashoggi, partly based on the judgement that as the country’s de facto ruler he would have had to have known. Saudi authorities have blamed a “rogue” team of operatives for the killing and have repeatedly denied any involvement by the crown prince.

Mr Trump and a number of administration officials have sought to play down the CIA assessment, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying this week that it has been reported “inaccurately”. The joint resolution calls for the Saudi government to ensure “appropriate accountability” for all those responsible for Mr Khashoggi’s death, calls on Riyadh to release Saudi women’s rights activists and encourages the kingdom to increase efforts to enact economic and social reforms. However, it is unclear if the House of Representatives will consider voting on the measure.

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Nov 262018
 
 November 26, 2018  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh On the Outskirts of Paris 1887

 

Russia Seizes Three Ukrainian Naval Ships In The Black Sea (AP)
Not Remotely Possible For May’s Brexit Deal To Pass Parliament – UK MP (CNBC)
UK High Court To Rule If Brexit Vote ‘Void’ As Early As Christmas (Ind.)
Nineteen Months Of Brexit Wrangling – And That’s Just A Taster (BBC)
Business Leaders Rally Behind May’s Brexit Deal Amid Fears Of Crashing Out (G.)
Texas Is About to Create OPEC’s Worst Nightmare (BBG)
Tesla Was Weeks From Dying Earlier This Year – Elon Musk (MW)
Former Greek FinMin Varoufakis To Run In European Election – In Germany (R.)
Give In To The EU, Greek PM Tsipras Counsels Italian Government (K.)
Russia Space Agency To Check If US Moon Landings Really Happened (Ind.)

 

 

I would think Ukraine is trying to provoke things, but western politicians and media all disagree.

Russia Seizes Three Ukrainian Naval Ships In The Black Sea (AP)

Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea on Sunday after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors, a move that risks igniting a dangerous new crisis between the two countries. Russia’s FSB security service said early on Monday its border patrol boats had seized the Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea and used weapons to force them to stop, Russian news agencies reported. The FSB said it had been forced to act because the ships — two small Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tug boat — had illegally entered its territorial waters, attempted illegal actions, and ignored warnings to stop while maneuvering dangerously.

“Weapons were used with the aim of forcibly stopping the Ukrainian warships,” the FSB said in a statement circulated to Russian state media. “As a result, all three Ukrainian naval vessels were seized in the Russian Federation’s territorial waters in the Black Sea.” The FSB said three Ukrainian sailors had been wounded in the incident and were getting medical care. Their lives were not in danger, it said. Ukraine denied its ships had done anything wrong, accused Russia of military aggression, and for the international community to mobilize to punish Russia. The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss the developments on Monday at the request of Russia, said Deputy Russian U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with his top military and security chiefs. Poroshenko said he would propose that parliament impose martial law. [..] Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s border guard service had accused Ukraine of not informing it in advance of the three ships’ journey, something Kiev denied. Russia said the Ukrainian ships had been maneuvering dangerously and ignoring its instructions with the aim of stirring up tensions. Russian politicians denounced Kiev, saying the incident looked like a calculated bid by Poroshenko to increase his popularity ahead of an election next year. In another sign of rising tensions, Russia’s state-controlled RIA news agency reported on Sunday night that Ukrainian forces had started heavy shelling of residential areas in eastern Ukraine which is controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.

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She needs 320+ votes, has 260.

Not Remotely Possible For May’s Brexit Deal To Pass Parliament – UK MP (CNBC)

It is not “remotely possible” that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement would pass the House of Commons, which is the lower house of Parliament, in a crucial vote that will likely take place in December, a member of Parliament said on Monday. Lawmakers on both sides of the debate over the United Kingdom’s future as part of the European Union are unhappy with the proposals set by May in a 585-page, legally-binding document that lays out the terms of the former’s exit, Sarah Wollaston, who is also a member of the prime minister’s Conservative party, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“I just don’t think it’s remotely possible that this deal would pass the Commons,” she said, adding that it will likely fall short on the numbers needed to move the agreement forward. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that we would crash out with no deal because, certainly, Parliament, British parliamentarians are very opposed to leaving with no deal at all.” [..] May needs a simple majority of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons, but experts have indicated it will be an uphill task for the prime minister. Her Conservative Party holds 315 seats and represents the largest party in the House, but a significant number are against the plan, including some pro-Brexit members. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the opposition have mostly indicated that they will vote against the deal.

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Was the vote fraudulent to begin with?

UK High Court To Rule If Brexit Vote ‘Void’ As Early As Christmas (Ind.)

The High Court will rule as early as Christmas whether Brexit should be declared “void”, in a legal case given a turbo-boost by the criminal investigation into Leave funder Arron Banks. Judges are poised to fast track the potentially explosive challenge, after Theresa May’s refusal to act on the growing evidence of illegality in the 2016 referendum campaign, The Independent can reveal. Lawyers describe that failure as “absolutely extraordinary” – given the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) probe into suspicions of “multiple” criminal offences committed by Mr Banks and the Leave.EU campaign.

Now The Independent understands the case is likely to move to a full hearing and a ruling within weeks of opening on 7 December, with the clock ticking on the UK’s departure from the EU next March. Both its lawyers and a leading academic believe its chances of success have been given a big boost by the unfolding scandal and the government’s refusal to recognise the gravity of what is being exposed. The government is expected to deploy Sir James Eadie QC – the star barrister who led the unsuccessful battle for the government to trigger Article 50 without parliament’s consent – in a sign of the case’s importance.

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We haven’t even started.

Nineteen Months Of Brexit Wrangling – And That’s Just A Taster (BBC)

There was a definite “battle of the tones” at the seal-the-deal Brexit summit with Theresa May. EU leaders were determinedly sombre, while the UK prime minister had to sound upbeat and positive about her country’s Brussels-free future. It shouldn’t be under-estimated. Sunday was a huge day for the EU, signing off on the divorce papers of a departing key member state for the first time in the history of the bloc. In the eyes of many, Brexit counts as an EU failure. At the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron reminded the press of the fragility of European Union. Which is why, time and again, EU leaders in Brussels continue to make so much of the (unusual) show of unity the Brexit process has provoked in EU ranks.

For now, of course, all European eyes turn to the UK to see if the hard-negotiated Brexit deal passes through the House of Commons. If it doesn’t, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, insists there will be no deal. “This is the deal. This is THE deal,” he told me emphatically, ruling out the possibility of renegotiating the Brexit texts. If he’s true to his word, and parliament votes down the divorce deal, then all 19 months of painful EU-UK negotiations were for naught. And both sides could find themselves staring at the cost and potential chaos of what the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier calls a non-orderly Brexit. EU leaders are hell-bent on avoiding that.

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May sure scared the money.

Business Leaders Rally Behind May’s Brexit Deal Amid Fears Of Crashing Out (G.)

Business leaders have rallied to support Theresa May’s Brexit deal, even as an independent study showed that the prime minister’s agreement meant the UK stood to lose £100bn a year by 2030 in reduced trade and income. Executives in the City of London warned MPs to vote for the deal negotiated by the prime minister to avoid a no-deal Brexit that would harm the UK economy. TheCityUK, which represents banks and insurers in the Square Mile, said parliament had “a straight choice” between the agreement hammered out in Brussels and a no-deal Brexit, “which offers only higher risk, costs and disruption”.

Miles Celic, the organisation’s boss, said: “The focus must now be on securing the withdrawal agreement and the transition period it brings – which is critical for our industry and many others. There is much still to be negotiated to define the future relationship. The sooner that can get started, the better.” His warning echoed those of industry bodies and small business groups, which have become nervous in recent weeks that No10 would fail to overcome the hurdles towards securing a withdrawal agreement. The Institute of Directors, which has found in polls of its members that they split 50:50 over proposals for a second referendum, said they all objected to an outcome that leaves Britain with no deal.

“The deal the EU approved today provokes a wide range of reactions across the political spectrum, and indeed among business leaders, but the steer from our members is that avoiding no deal must be the main priority,” said Stephen Martin, the director general.

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Hmmm. Problem with shale is debt.

Texas Is About to Create OPEC’s Worst Nightmare (BBG)

OPEC helped create the monster that haunts its sleep. After it flooded the market in 2014, oil prices crashed, forcing surviving U.S. shale producers to get leaner so they could thrive even with lower oil prices. As prices recovered, so did drilling. Now growth is speeding up. In Houston, the U.S. oil capital, shale executives are trying out different superlatives to describe what’s coming. “Tsunami,’’ they call it. A “flooding of Biblical proportions’’ and “onslaught of supply’’ are phrases that get tossed around. Take the hyperbolic industry talk with a pinch of salt, but certainly the American oil industry, particularly in the Permian, has raised a buzz loud enough to keep OPEC awake. “You’ve got an awful lot of production that can come in very economically,’’ said Patricia Yarrington, Chevron’s CFO.

“If you think back four or five years ago, when we didn’t really understand what shale could do, the marginal barrel was priced much higher than what we think the marginal barrel is priced today.’’ That shift makes shale resilient to a price tumble. After touching a four-year high in October, West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, has fallen by more than 20 percent. [..] August saw the largest annual increase in U.S. oil production in 98 years, according to government data. The American energy industry added, in crude and other oil liquids, nearly 3 million barrels, roughly the equivalent of what Kuwait pumps, than it did in the same month last year. Total output of 15.9 million barrels a day was more than Russia or Saudi Arabia.

[..] By the end of 2019, total U.S. oil production – including so-called natural gas liquids used in the petrochemical industry – is expected to rise to 17.4 million barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At that level, American net imports of petroleum will fall in December 2019 to 320,000 barrels a day, the lowest since 1949, when Harry Truman was in the White House. In the oil-trading community, the expectation is that, perhaps for just a single week, the U.S. will become a net oil exporter, something that hasn’t happened for nearly 75 years.

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Now he tells us.

Tesla Was Weeks From Dying Earlier This Year – Elon Musk (MW)

Tesla Inc. was “bleeding money like crazy” during its Model 3 production ramp-up and almost went under earlier this year, Elon Musk said Sunday. In an interview aired Sunday night on “Axios on HBO,” Tesla’s chief executive said the electric-car company was “within single-digit weeks” of dying. “Essentially, the company was bleeding money like crazy, and if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period of time, we would die. And it was extremely difficult to solve them,” Musk said. Earlier this year, Musk described “production hell” as Tesla ramped up production to build 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of June, and said he had been sleeping on the factory floor.

Musk admitted in Sunday’s interview that he had been stretched to the limit. “People should not work this hard,” he said of his stretch working 22-hour days, seven days a week. “This is very painful.” “It hurts my brain and my heart,” Musk said. “It hurts. It is not recommended for anyone. I just did it because if I didn’t do it… there was a good chance Tesla would die.” In late October, Tesla posted a surprise quarterly profit, and earlier this month, Musk said Tesla is not “staring death in the face” anymore, and it will likely be cash-flow positive for all quarters going forward.

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Godspeed. Politics? You sure?

Former Greek FinMin Varoufakis To Run In European Election – In Germany (R.)

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was outspoken in his criticism of the austerity policies championed by Berlin at the height of the euro zone’s debt crisis, is to stand in European elections next year – in Germany. The Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), which he launched in 2016 to “democratize” the continent, picked him on Sunday as a candidate for the elections to the European Parliament in May 2019. “I accept [the nomination] because it epitomizes the new trans-national politics we need in Europe,” he told a news conference in Berlin where his colleagues unfurled a banner with the slogan “European Spring.” “I call on all of you to join us in this pan-European quest for democracy in Europe, democracy in Germany as a condition for prosperity and authentic democracy,” he said.

The motorbike-riding academic-economist, who rose to celebrity status in the euro crisis, once described the austerity measures forced on Greece by creditors as “fiscal waterboarding”. Varoufakis, who frequently clashed with his hardline German counterpart at the time, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said the political center in Germany was under threat because of austerity. “On paper, Germany is drowning in money…but the German people have been victims of the same austerity as the rest of Europe. The result is low levels of investment,” he said. This, he argued, boosted inequality, share prices and house prices. He said his movement wanted to pour cash, raised if necessary via bond issuance, into green policies to tackle climate change.

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‘You’d better do today what they’ll do tomorrow..’

Give In To The EU, Greek PM Tsipras Counsels Italian Government (K.)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has counseled the Italian government to give in to EU demands that it lower its budget deficit, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera. In an analysis piece titled “Tsipras’ advice to Italy: Give in now, then it will be worse,” Federico Fubini writes that Tsipras was sort of apologetic to the Italians for not taking their side in their conflict with the EU Commission. “I can not do anything because I would be the first to arouse suspicion,” Tsipras reportedly said. Rubini adds: “(Tsipras) no doubt remembers that Italy did nothing when he tried desperately to soften the conditions – then draconian – placed by the euro area on Greece.”

“But then Tsipras, mindful of the retreat that he improvised in July 2015 after blocking the bank accounts of the voters to avoid the collapse of the system, has offered advice to Italy. ‘You’d better do today what they’ll do tomorrow,’ he said. ‘If instead you have another idea – he added, perhaps alluding to the euro exit option that he refused – well, then, good luck.’”

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Ha!

Russia Space Agency To Check If US Moon Landings Really Happened (Ind.)

The head of Russia‘s national space agency has proposed a mission to the moon to verify whether the American moon landings really took place. Dmitry Rogozin responded to a question about whether Nasa’s Apollo programme actually put men on the moon back in the 1960s and 1970s during a conversation with the president of Moldova, Igor Dodon. He appeared to be joking, as he smirked and shrugged while answering. But conspiracies surrounding Nasa’s moon missions are common in Russia. In a video of their interaction, posted to his 815,000 Twitter followers, Mr Rogozin says: “We have set this objective to fly and verify whether they’ve been there or not”.

Nasa’s six well-documented official manned missions to the surface of the Moon, beginning with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969 and continuing with Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt in December 1972, have been dogged with conspiracy theories. In 2015, a former spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee called for an investigation into the Nasa moon landings. Vladimir Markin said an enquiry should be launched into the disappearance of original footage from the first moon landing in 1969 and the whereabouts of lunar rock, which was brought back to Earth during several missions.

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Oct 272018
 


Pablo Picasso Mandolin and glass of Pernod 1911

 

Global Selloff Erased $5 Trillion From Stock And Bond Markets In October (MW)
Dow Down 300 Points, S&P 500 1.7% In Another Wild Day On Wall Street (CNBC)
Jeff Bezos Loses $11 Billion In One Day After Amazon Sales Disappoint (F.)
Trump Adds A Global Pricing Plan To Wide Attack On Drug Prices (Tribble)
Swedish Central Bank Makes U-Turn on Cash as NIRP is Ending (DQ)
FBI Reviews Tesla Model 3 Production Numbers As Part Of Criminal Probe (CNBC)
Varoufakis, Bernie Sanders To Launch Progressives International Movement (RT)
Mexico Offers Caravan Migrants Temporary Work Permits, Housing (BBC)
Hundreds Ready To Go To Jail Over Climate Crisis (G.)
US Withdrawal Of Gillnet Protections For Whales, Turtles Ruled Illegal (R.)

 

 

Or $8 trillion, depending on who you ask.

Global Selloff Erased $5 Trillion From Stock And Bond Markets In October (MW)

The recent stampede by investors has erased about $5 trillion in value from global stock and bond markets in October alone. But that shouldn’t be severe enough to affect the economy, for now, according to economists at Deutsche Bank. Still, unless the markets regain their footing soon, the pressure for the Federal Reserve to reassess their monetary policy will continue to mount, they said. “Academic studies of the wealth effect find that households and companies don’t react to short-term fluctuations in their wealth but instead react to a moving average of where their wealth levels are,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, said in a note to clients.

As the chart below illustrates, global markets shed roughly $5 trillion in market cap just this month, but the total value of equity and debt markets has increased $15 trillion from 2017. “The bottom line is that we need a more significant correction before it will begin to have a meaningful impact on the economic outlook,” he said. The Fed said wages and prices are rising in its 12 districts and overall economic activity expanded at a “modest to moderate” pace, according to the Beige Book released on Wednesday. The report, which compiles anecdotal observations about the economy, by and large suggests that the Fed is likely to stay on course to execute its fourth rate rise of 2018 in December and deliver additional increases next year unless there is a more dramatic unwind in the financial markets.

[..] The sharp selloff this month has prompted at least one market expert to suggest that stocks are in the midst of a sustained downward spiral. “With the S&P 500 only five weeks removed from its all-time high, we’ve not been definitive about labeling this move a new cyclical bear market. But it’s very likely we are experiencing one,” said Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at Leuthold Group, in a report.

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At some point, the word ‘momentum’ will come into play.

Dow Down 300 Points, S&P 500 1.7% In Another Wild Day On Wall Street (CNBC)

Stocks fell sharply on Friday as investors slogged through another volatile session on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 296.24 points lower at 24,688.31 after dropping 539 points at its lows of the day. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.1 percent to 7,167.21. At its lows, the tech-heavy Nasdaq had fallen more than 3 percent. The S&P 500 fell 1.7 percent to 2,658.69 and briefly entered into correction territory, trading more than 10 percent below its record high reached in September. The average stock market correction, since WWII, results in a 13 percent drop and lasts for four months if it does not turn into a full-fledged bear market. Larry Benedict, CEO of The Opportunistic Trader, said traders “don’t want to be long heading into the weekend.”

He added, “S&P now down on the year and people are more afraid to be long today than they were when market was 10 percent higher.” Seven of the 11 S&P 500 sectors are down at least 10 percent from their 52-week highs, including energy, materials and financials. Around three quarters of the index’s stocks are also in a correction. “The 19.7 percent correction in 2011 is as close to a bear market as we’ve had in recent years. I don’t think we’ll get close to that, but I think we’re heading for a deeper correction than the one we had in January and early February,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research. He noted investors are realizing that earnings growth will slow down moving forward, thus they are pricing this in.

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How much of Bezos’s wealth comes directly from cheap and easy money?

Jeff Bezos Loses $11 Billion In One Day After Amazon Sales Disappoint (F.)

Easy come, easy go: Jeff Bezos’ fortune dropped by $11 billion on Friday, a day after Amazon came out with quarterly results that fell short of the mark. Shares of the e-commerce behemoth fell almost 8% on Friday, swiftly knocking some $70 billion off the company’s market capitalization. The selloff also dragged down the broader market, which has been flirting with correction territory this week. Bezos’ net worth fell in lockstep, dropping by $11 billion to $135.8 billion. That is down from the $160 billion he was worth as of mid-September. Bezos, who owns 16% of Amazon, is still by far the richest man on the planet. He is trailed by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, whose fortune clocks in at $94.8 billion.

Amazon, which briefly became the second U.S. company to fetch a $1 trillion valuation in September, shared third quarter results on Thursday that failed to live up to the high expectations that investors and Wall Street have come to adopt. Sales rose by 29% to $56.6 billion in the third quarter. However, that was a far cry from the $73.9 billion that analysts had projected. Amazon also told investors to brace for a slower holiday season. It expects revenue to grow just 10% to 20% in the fourth quarter, reaching $72.5 billion at most. That would make for Amazon’s worst holiday season since 2014. For the last three straight years it has boasted sales increases of more than 20% during the fourth quarter.

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Makes sense: “Trump proposed having Medicare base what it pays for some expensive drugs on the average prices in other industrialized countries, such as France and Germany..”

Trump Adds A Global Pricing Plan To Wide Attack On Drug Prices (Tribble)

President Donald Trump’s new pledge to crack down on “the global freeloading” in prescription drugs had a sense of déjà vu. Five months ago, Trump unveiled a blueprin to address prohibitive drug prices, and his administration has been feverishly rolling out ideas ranging from posting drug prices on television ads to changing the rebates that flow between drugmakers and industry middlemen. Thursday, Trump proposed having Medicare base what it pays for some expensive drugs on the average prices in other industrialized countries, such as France and Germany, where prices are much lower. The proposal is in the early stages of rule-making and awaiting public comments. The U.S., Trump said, will “confront one of the most unfair practices, almost unimaginable that it hasn’t been taken care of long before this.”

The proposal was met with hope and skepticism, with several experts saying they were happy the administration was taking on Medicare Part B’s rising drug prices but questioning its approach. Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, said in an online post that the administration’s proposed solutions were unclear. And, he said, they would “face insurmountable challenges.” While some industry watchers pointed to the announcement as a political move, Wells Fargo pharmaceutical analyst David Maris said that this is a broader effort by the president and his administration to attack the root causes of high drug prices. “The reality is he could very easily not take this on and do what other administrations have done and let the prices keep rising.”

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Defeat. Good.

Swedish Central Bank Makes U-Turn on Cash as NIRP is Ending (DQ)

Sweden’s Riksbank has become the first central bank in the 21st century to take concrete measures to ensure that cash does not disappear as a means of payment from the financial system. To that end, the Riksbank proposes, in a document published on its website, to make it mandatory for all banks and financial institutions to offer cash services. The pronouncement comes in response to a recent policy suggestion by the Riksbank Committee that only the country’s six major banks should be obligated to continue offering cash services. That prompted a backlash from Sweden’s competition watchdog, which argued that the plan would distort competition as it would affect only a few of the nation’s banks. In response, the Riksbank has opted to apply the rule to “all banks and other credit institutions that offer payment accounts.”

[..] For years, the government and the Riksbank have been pushing for a “cashless society.” The Riksbank has over 1,000 articles posted on its website on the “cashless society“. The emphasis worked: between 2013 and 2017, the amount of cash in circulation dropped by 35%, earning Sweden a reputation as the world’s “most cashless nation”:

Many of Sweden’s bank branches had stopped handling cash altogether. Now, they will have to begin doing so all over again. Many of them are not happy about it. Nor indeed are Sweden’s competition and financial watchdogs, which both oppose the proposal, arguing that access to cash should be the sole responsibility of the state and not private banks. “To secure access to cash is a collective good that the state should reasonably be responsible for,” the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority said. It’s an opinion that’s shared by ATM provider Bankomat, which argued that it should be the state’s responsibility to ensure that citizens have access to cash since the handing of notes and coins is such an important — and expensive — part of a country’s infrastructure. Bankomat is jointly owned by the five largest banks in Sweden.

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To be continued. Forever.

FBI Reviews Tesla Model 3 Production Numbers As Part Of Criminal Probe (CNBC)

The FBI is reviewing Tesla’s Model 3 production numbers as part of an ongoing criminal probe into whether the company misled investors, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Friday. Federal agents are reviewing Tesla’s stated Model 3 numbers dating back to early 2017, the Journal reports, citing unnamed sources. Tesla had previously said it provided documents to the Department of Justice regarding CEO Elon Musk’s controversial take-private tweet — a blunder that ultimately cost Tesla and Musk a combined $40 million in fraud settlement fees. Now Tesla says it also provided information to the Department of Justice regarding Musk’s public statements regarding production numbers of its Model 3 sedan.

Tesla says the company has not received “a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process,” but the Journal reported Friday that former Tesla employees have received subpoenas and requests for testimony. Tesla struggled to ramp up Model 3 production as promised, plagued by factory issues and reports of unfit working conditions. Musk set lofty goals and insisted on sticking to them, according to countless media reports. Federal agents are probing whether the company knowingly made public statements of impossible production goals, the Journal reported.

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Godspeed.

Varoufakis, Bernie Sanders To Launch Progressives International Movement (RT)

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he and US Senator Bernie Sanders will in a month formally launch a left-wing counterpart to the nationalist movement being forged by Steve Bannon. A Sanders-Varoufakis team-up was suggested in an recent op-ed by the Greek economist published by the Guardian. The formal creation of Progressives International is to happen in Sanders’ home state of Vemont on November 30, Varoufakis announced during a press conference in Rome on Friday. Varoufakis, who led tough negotiation with European lenders in 2015 before resigning after Athens agreed to EU’s austerity terms, says the world today is facing a crisis of leadership similar to what Europe saw in the 1930s.

With the establishment failing the common people, populist nationalist forces are rising to power, offering quick and simple solutions to problems like social inequality, loss of jobs to countries with cheaper labor and mass migration. Steven Bannon, the former strategist for the Donald Trump 2016 campaign, is currently trying to unite such right-wing forces in various nations into a global movement. For Varoufakis figures like Bannon, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Hungarian President Viktor Orban and others pose a threat similar to the fascist movements of the 1930s, according to his Guardian op-ed. He and potential allies like Sanders or UK’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn can offer an alternative way out of the crisis, he believes.

But if they are to succeed in a struggle for power against both the globalist establishment and the nationalists, they need to unite across borders. “The financiers are internationalists. The fascists, the nationalists, the racists – like Trump, Bannon, [German Interior Minister Horst] Seehofer, Salvini — they are internationalists,” Varoufakis told BuzzFeed News. “They bind together. The only people who are failing are progressives.”

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Could be part of a solution.

Mexico Offers Caravan Migrants Temporary Work Permits, Housing (BBC)

Mexico has offered temporary work permits to migrants who register for asylum, as a big caravan of Central American migrants makes its way through the country toward the US. The plan also envisages temporary ID cards, medical care and schooling. But to qualify, migrants must remain in Mexico’s southern Chiapas and Oaxaca states. The US has warned that about 800 troops may be sent to the US-Mexico border to stop the migrant caravan. “I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency,” US President Donald Trump said earlier this week. “They [migrants] will be stopped!” The president also threatened cutting aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The caravan set off from Honduras several weeks ago.

The scheme, announced by President Peña Nieto, covers Central Americans who have officially asked for a refugee status in Mexico or are planning to do so in the nearest future. It is called Estas en Tu Casa (“This is Your Home” in Spanish). “Today, Mexico extends you its hand,” President Nieto said. But he added: “This plan is only for those who comply with Mexican laws, and it’s a first step towards a permanent solution for those who are granted refugee status in Mexico.” The plan envisages: • Temporary ID cards and work permits • Medical care • Schooling for migrants’ children • Housing in local hostels. But President Nieto failed to explain what would happen to the migrants if they chose to carry on regardless.

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But they confuse climate crisis and species extiction. Not the same thing at all.

Hundreds Ready To Go To Jail Over Climate Crisis (G.)

A new group of “concerned citizens” is planning a campaign of mass civil disobedience starting next month and promises it has hundreds of people – from teenagers to pensioners – ready to get arrested in an effort to draw attention to the unfolding climate emergency. The group, called Extinction Rebellion, is today backed by almost 100 senior academics from across the UK, including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. In a letter published in the Guardian they say the failure of politicians to tackle climate breakdown and the growing extinction crisis means “the ‘social contract’ has been broken … [and] it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.”

Those behind Extinction Rebellion say almost 500 people have signed up to be arrested and that they plan to bring large sections of London to a standstill next month in a campaign of peaceful mass civil disobedience – culminating with a sit-in protest in Parliament Square on 17 November. Roger Hallam, one of the founders of the campaign, said it was calling on the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and establish a “citizens assembly” to devise an emergency plan of action similar to that seen during the second world war. On top of the specific demands, Hallam said he hoped the campaign of “respectful disruption” would change the debate around climate breakdown and signal to those in power that the present course of action will lead to disaster.

“The planet is in ecological crisis – we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced,” he said. “Children alive today in the UK will face the terrible consequences of inaction, from floods to wildfires, extreme weather to crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society. We have a duty to act.”

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Make America Great Again MUST start with American nature, with protecting species. Major flaw.

US Withdrawal Of Gillnet Protections For Whales, Turtles Ruled Illegal (R.)

The Trump administration unlawfully withdrew a plan to limit the number of whales, turtles and other marine creatures permitted to be inadvertently killed or harmed by drift gillnets used to catch swordfish off California, a federal judge has ruled. The decision requires U.S. fisheries managers to take steps to implement the plan, which calls for placing numerical limits on the “bycatch” of bottlenose dolphins, four whale species and four sea turtle species snared in swordfish gillnets. As currently written, the regulation in question also would mandate suspension of swordfish gillnet operations altogether off Southern California if any one of the bycatch limits were exceeded.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council endorsed the plan in 2015, and it was formally proposed for implementation by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service the following year. The rule was expected to gain final approval but was abruptly withdrawn instead in June 2017 under President Donald Trump, whose Commerce Department determined the cost to the commercial fishing industry outweighed conservation benefits. The environmental group Oceana sued, accusing the Commerce Department of violating U.S. fisheries laws and the federal Administrative Procedures Act. Oceana also asked the courts to order the agency to put the bycatch limits into effect.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner declined to force the National Marine Fisheries Service to immediately implement the restrictions in a decision handed down Wednesday in Los Angeles. But he sided with environmentalists in finding the agency’s reversal exceeded its authority and was “arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of its discretion.”

Read more …

Jun 012018
 
 June 1, 2018  Posted by at 1:01 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Nikolay Dubovsky Became Silent 1890

 

“European Stocks Surge Celebrating New Spanish, Italian Governments”, says a Zero Hedge headline. “Markets Breathe Easier As Italy Government Sworn In”, proclaims Reuters. And I’m thinking: these markets are crazy, and none of this will last more than a few days. Or hours. The new Italian government is not the end of a problem, it’s the beginning of many of them.

And Italy is far from the only problem. The new Spanish government will be headed by Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who manoeuvred well to oust sitting PM Rajoy, but he also recently saw the worst election result in his party’s history. Not exactly solid ground. Moreover, he needed the support of Catalan factions, and will have to reverse much of Rajoy’s actions on the Catalunya issue, including probably the release from prison of those responsible for the independence referendum.

Nor is Spain exactly economically sound. Still, it’s not in as bad a shape as Turkey and Argentina. A JPMorgan graph published at Zero Hedge says a lot, along with the commentary on it:

The chart below, courtesy of Cembalest, shows each country’s current account (x-axis), the recent change in its external borrowing (y-axis) and the return on a blended portfolio of its equity and fixed income markets (the larger the red bubble, the worse the returns have been). This outcome looks sensible given weaker Argentine and Turkish fundamentals. And while Cembalest admits that the rising dollar and rising US rates will be a challenge for the broader EM space, most will probably not face balance of payments crises similar to what is taking place in Turkey and Argentina, of which the latter is already getting an IMF bailout and the former, well… it’s only a matter of time.

 

And now Erdogan has apparently upped the ante once more yesterday. Last week he called on the Turkish population to change their dollars and euros into lira’s, last night he ‘suggested’ they bring in their money from abroad (to profit from ‘beneficial tax rules’). Such things have, by and large, one effect only: the opposite of what he intends. He just makes his people more nervous than they already were.

It’s June 1, and the Turkish elections are June 24. Will Erdogan be able to keep things quiet enough in the markets? It’s doubtful. He has reportedly already claimed that the US and Israel are waging an economic war on Turkey. And for once he may be right. A few weeks ago Erdogan called on all member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to boycott all Israeli products (and presumably America products too).

On April 30, the IMF warned that the Turkish economy is showing “clear signs of overheating”. On May 1, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the Turkish economy to double-B-minus. Economic war? Feels a bit more like a political war. Erdogan has three weeks left to win that election. Don’t expect things to quieten down before then. But as the graph above shows, Turkey itself is the problem here first and foremost.

Expect Erdogan to say interest rates -usury- are immoral in Muslim countries. Expect much more pressure from the west on him. Erdogan has also been busy establishing Turkish ‘enclaves’ in Syria’s Afrin territory (where he chased out the original population) and in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus (where he added 100s of 1000s of Turks).

No, the West wouldn’t mourn if the man were defeated in the vote. They can add a lot more pressure in three weeks, and they will. Will it suffice? Hard to tell.

 

Back to Italy. Where the optimism comes from, I can’t fathom. The M5S-Lega coalition has never made a secret of its program and/or intentions. Just because pronounced eurosceptic Paolo Savona was shifted from Finance to EU minister doesn’t a summer make. New Finance minster Tria may be less outspoken than Savona, but he’s no europhile, and together the two men can be a woeful pain in Europe’s behind. This is Italy. This is not Sparta.

The essence of the M5S-Lega program is painfully simple: they reject austerity as the basics of economic policy. And austerity is all that Europe’s policy has been based on for the past decade at least. That spells collision course. And there is zero indication that the new coalition is willing to give an inch on this. Tsipras may have in Greece, but Italy’s sheer size means it has a lot more clout.

To begin with, the program wants to do away with the Eurozone’s 3% deficit rule. It speaks of a 15-20% flat tax, and a €780 basic income. These two measures would cost between €109 billion and €126 billion, or 6 to 7% of Italian GDP. As Italy’s public debt stand at €2.4 trillion, 132% of GDP.

“The government’s actions will target a programme of public debt reduction not through revenue based on taxes and austerity, policies that have not achieved their goal, but rather through increased GDP by the revival of internal demand,” the program says. Yes, that is the opposite of austerity.

The parties want a roll-back of previously announced pension measures to a situation where the sum of a person’s age and years of social security contributions reach 100. If someone has worked, and contributed to social security for 40 years, they will be able to retire at 60, not at 67 as the present plans demand.

In an additional plan that will make them very popular at home amongst the corrupt political class, the parties want to slash the number of parliamentarians to 400 MPs (from 630) and 200 senators (from 318). They would be banned from changing political parties during the legislature.

 

And then there are the mini-Bots, a parallel currency system very reminiscent of what Yanis Varoufakis proposed for Greece. Basically, they would allow the government to pay some of its domestic obligations (suppliers etc.) in the form of IOUs, which could then in turn be used to pay taxes and -other- government services. They would leave what is domestic, domestic.

There’s a lot of talk about this being a first step towards leaving the euro, but why should that be so? The main ‘threat’ lies in the potential independence from Brussels it may provide a country with. But it’s a closed system: you can’t pay with mini-Bots for trade or other international obligations.

Italy, like an increasing number of Eurozone nations, is looking for a way to get its head out of the Brussels/Berlin noose that’s threatening to suffocate it. If the EU doesn’t react to this, and soon, and in a positive manner it will blow itself up. Yes, if Italy started to let its debt balloon, the European Commission could reprimand it and issue fines. But the Commission wouldn’t dare do that. This is Italy. This is not Sparta.

Anyway, risk off, as the markets suggest(ed) this morning? Surely you’re joking. And we haven’t even mentioned Trump’s trade wars yet. Risk is ballooning.

 

 

May 292018
 


Theodoor Rombouts( 1597-1637) Prometheus

 

On Friday, in This is the End of the Euro, I said: The euro has become a cage, a prison for the poorer brethren. The finance minister proposed by 5-Star/Lega and refused by Italian president Mattarella, Paolo Savona, has called the euro a German cage.

There are now stories spreading that the coalition, Savona first of all, were secretly planning an exit from the euro. A series of slides Savona prepared in 2015 on how to exit the euro is used as evidence of that secret plan. But the slides are not secret. Yes, he has said that it’s good to have a plan to leave ‘if necessary’. But that’s not the same as secretly planning such a move.

Every country should have such a plan, and you would hope they do. A government that doesn’t is being very irresponsible. But it’s true, this is how both the EU and the euro have been designed: not just as a prison, but as a prison without any doors or windows. No way to get out. And that will prove to be its fatal flaw.

It has more such flaws, for sure. The inequality of its members, which allows for the richer to feed on the poorer, is a big one. The US founders were smart enough to provide for transfer payments from rich to poorer, the EU founders couldn’t be bothered with that lesson. They must have studied it, though, and rejected it.

Credit were credit’s due: Yanis Varoufakis said it best when he compared the EU to the Eagles’ Hotel California. A few lines:

Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
“Relax,” said the night man
“We are programmed to receive
You can check-out any time you like
But you can never leave!”

The EU was set up as some kind of eternal prison, a concept most familiar to us in the way Christian churches depict Hell, or the ancient Greek mythological story of Prometheus, who, as punishment for providing man with fire, was condemned by Zeus to being tied to a rock, with an eagle feeding on his liver every day, for eternity.

Rule number 1 for any organization: there must always be an escape, a way out. If there isn’t, that’s what will break the whole thing in the end. Think Leonard Cohen’s “There a crack in everything; that’s where the light comes in.” Every system must always be designed with inbuilt redundancy.

Paolo Savona understands that, and he said there must be a way to leave the euro. For Brussels and Rome, that means he’s not acceptable as a finance minister, no matter his competence, experience or credentials. It reeks of desperation on the ‘establishment’ side more than anything.

And now the entire financial world is in panic and turmoil. It’s ironic to see people decrying the sudden weakness in Italian “sovereign debt” at the same time they see pointed out, as if that were still necessary, that Italy is no longer a sovereign country. Think maybe there’s a clue to be found somewhere in there?

 

 

Italian bonds are falling so fast traders get vertigo. At what point will Mario Draghi be held accountable for the enormous losses this causes on the ECB’s books?

But fear not: the elites simply blame the whole thing on the people elected in Italy. Yes, that means they blame democracy. For daring to provide an election result that threatens their powers. And no, there is no other way to define what is happening than as a coup.

Italy will soon have all the characteristics of an emerging market. Which is a market from which no one can emerge in an emergency, according to one Don Cowe. I read that the six largest Italian banks together have €143 billion in Italian debt securities on their balance sheet. Systemic banks in the rest of Europe, mainly France, Spain and Germany, have €137 billion of Italian debt on their balance sheet. God only knows how much Mario Draghi holds:

 

 

That is one scary chart. And no, that is not the fault of 5-Star/Lega. It’s the fault of the European Union founders, and of its present ‘leadership’. What 5-Star/Lega have done is expose the stark-naked emperor. And the little boy who called out that sovereign didn’t undress him; he went out without any clothes on all by himself.

Varoufakis called out the naked emperor Brussels in 2015. Paolo Savona did so multiple times as well. The emperor’s reaction? Shut up the little boy, not get dressed. But the lesson contained in The Naked Emperor story is that there will always be another little boy to call him out. Shutting up the boy doesn’t solve the problem.

 

Greece and Italy are where western civilization was born. It appears wonderfully fitting to picture the EU at present as the German eagle picking at the southern European Prometheus’s liver for eternity. All the more so because Prometheus in Greek mythology was the champion of man: he first made man from clay, stood against the gods in favor of mankind, stole fire to provide it to man, and got punished for eternity for it.

The EU and euro cannot survive in their present state. But those who benefit most from both are also the ones who can stop either from undergoing desperately needed changes. That’s Hotel Europa.

 

 

Apr 012018
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb 1638

 

US Homes Become ATMs Again (MW)
The Housing Crisis – There’s Nothing We Can Do… Or Is There? (Steve Keen)
Fear is Back (MW)
The S&P’s 200-DMA: Why It Ain’t No Maginot Line (Stockman)
Trump Renews Amazon Attack, Says ‘Post Office Scam’ Must Stop (BBG)
Senator Warren, In Beijing, Says US Is Waking Up To Chinese Abuses (R.)
Yanis Varoufakis: ‘Greece Is A Debtors’ Prison’ (G.)
Emmanuel Macron On France’s AI Strategy (Wired)
Conservationists Call For Urgent Action To Fix ‘America’s Wildlife Crisis’ (G.)
More Poachers Than Rhinos Killed In India Reserve (BBC)

 

 

There’s nonsense and then there’s nonsense. Staying in your home is now a “huge expansion of retirement options”: “We’ve seen a huge expansion of the types of retirement options people have. One is aging in place and retrofitting your house.”

US Homes Become ATMs Again (MW)

As interest rates rise, fewer households refinance their mortgages. And the refinances that do get done are often very different than those initiated during low-rate periods. “When rates are low, the primary goal of refinancing is to reduce the monthly payment,” wrote researchers for the Urban Institute in a recent report. “But when rates are high, borrowers have no incentive to refinance for rate reasons. Those who still refinance tend to be driven more by their desire to cash out.” “Cashing out” is shorthand for taking out a new mortgage that’s bigger than the remaining balance on the old one and using the money that makes up the difference for discretionary purchases.

As of the fourth quarter of last year, the share of all refinances that were cash-outs rose to the highest since 2008, according to Freddie Mac data. Rates have churned higher since the presidential election in late 2016, though they spent much of 2017 reversing the immediate post-election surge. It’s not clear whether the overall volume of cash-out refinances is rising. Right now they’re making up a bigger share of the pie because traditional lower-monthly-payment refis are plunging. Tapping into home equity is often a good way for owners to consolidate or manage other, more expensive, forms of debt like high-interest credit cards or bills for higher education.

“As people stay in their homes longer we see people reinvesting in their homes by using equity to update their homes and do repair work,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president for Carrington Mortgage Holdings and an industry veteran. That’s especially true for older Americans, he added. “We’ve seen a huge expansion of the types of retirement options people have. One is aging in place and retrofitting your house.”

Read more …

Housing markets need ever more private debt. So then does the overall economy.

The Housing Crisis – There’s Nothing We Can Do… Or Is There? (Steve Keen)

The supply side of the housing market has two main two factors: the turnover of the existing stock of housing, and the net change in the number of houses (thanks to demolition of old properties and construction of new ones). The turnover of existing properties is far larger than the construction rate of new ones, and this alone makes housing different to your ordinary market. The demand side of the housing market has one main factor: new mortgages created by the banks. Monetary demand for housing is therefore predominantly mortgage credit: the annual increase in mortgage debt. This also makes housing very different to ordinary markets, where most demand comes from the turnover of existing money, rather than from newly created money.

We can convert the credit-financed monetary demand for housing into a physical demand for new houses per year by dividing by the price level. This gives us a relationship between the level of mortgage credit and the level of house prices. There is therefore a relationship between the change in mortgage credit and the change in house prices. This relationship is ignored in mainstream politics and mainstream economics. But it is the major determinant of house prices: house prices rise when mortgage credit rises, and they fall when mortgage credit falls. This relationship is obvious even for the UK, where mortgage debt data isn’t systematically collected, and I am therefore forced to use data on total household debt (including credit cards, car loans etc.).

Even then, the correlation is obvious (for the technically minded, the correlation coefficient is 0.6). The US does publish data on mortgage debt, and there the correlation is an even stronger 0.78—and standard econometric tests establish that the causal process runs from mortgage debt to house prices, and not vice versa (the downturn in house prices began earlier in the USA, and was an obvious pre-cursor to the crisis there).

None of this would have happened – at least not in the UK – had mortgage lending remained the province of money-circulating building societies, rather than letting money-creating banks into the market. It’s too late to unscramble that omelette, but there are still things that politicians could do make it less toxic for the public. The toxicity arises from the fact that the mortgage credit causes house prices to rise, leading to yet more credit being taken on until, as in 2008, the process breaks down. And it has to break down, because the only way to sustain it is for debt to continue rising faster than income. Once that stops happening, demand evaporates, house prices collapse, and they take the economy down with them. That is no way to run an economy.

Yet far from learning this lesson, politicians continue to allow lending practices that facilitate this toxic feedback between leverage and house prices. A decade after the UK (and the USA, and Spain, and Ireland) suffered property crashes – and economic crises because of them – it takes just a millisecond of Internet searching to find lenders who will provide 100% mortgage finance based on the price of the property. This should not be allowed. Instead, the maximum that lenders can provide should be limited to some multiple of a property’s actual or imputed rental income, so that the income-earning potential of a property is the basis of the lending allowed against it.

Read more …

Fear is needed.

Fear is Back (MW)

The Dow and the S&P 500 halted a record-setting streak of quarterly wins at nine, and the clearest reason why may be explained by the VIX index, widely known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a quarterly decline of more than 2.3%, snapping the longest streak of quarterly gains for the blue-chip average since an 11-quarter rally that ended in the third quarter of 1997. The S&P 500 index booked a 1.2% quarterly fall, ending its longest such stretch since the first quarter of 2015.

There are perhaps a host of reasons for the surcease of such a lengthy bullish run for the most prominent equity benchmarks: The Federal Reserve’s normalization of monetary policy, with the central bank lifting rates for the fifth time this month since December 2015; Intensifying uncertainty in the makeup and agenda of President Donald Trump’s administration, underscored by a number of high-profile departures; and the intensification of trade-war fears, after the president imposed duties on steel and aluminum imports and leveled more targeted tariffs at the world’s second-largest economy: China.

However, the surge in the Cboe Volatility Index VIX is perhaps the most correlated with the market’s downtrend. According to WSJ Market Data Group, the VIX posted its biggest quarterly rise, up 81% since it jumped in the third-quarter of 2011 following Standard & Poor’s historical downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and European debt-crisis jitters.

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Rhyme and repeat.

The S&P’s 200-DMA: Why It Ain’t No Maginot Line (Stockman)

For the last five years the S&P 500 has been dancing up its ascending 200-day moving average (200-DMA), bouncing higher repeatedly whenever the dip-buyers did their thing. Only twice did the index actually break below this seeming Maginot Line: In August 2015, after the China stock crash, and in February 2016, when the shale patch/energy sector hit the wall. As is evident below, since the frenzied peak of 2873 on January 26, the index has fallen hard twice—on February 8 (2581) and March 23 (2588). Self-evidently, both times the momo traders and robo-machines came roaring back with a stick-save which was smack upon the 200-DMA.

But here’s the thing. The blue line below ain’t no Maginot Line; it’s just the place where the Pavlovian dogs of Bubble Finance have “marked” the charts. And something is starting to smell. In fact, it’s starting to smell very much like an earlier go-round when Pavlov’s 200-DMA barkers had enjoyed a prolonged ascent – only to find an unexpected cliff-diving opportunity at the end. We refer to the nearly identical five year run-up to the March 2000 top at 1508 on the S&P 500. Back then, too, the 200-DMA looked invincible, and had only been penetrated by the August 1998 Russian bankruptcy and the Long Term Capital Management meltdown a month later.

Indeed, the bounce from the October 8, 1998 interim bottom of 960 was nearly parabolic, rising by 57% to the March 2000 top. That latter point might sound vaguely familiar. That’s because the rebound from the February 11, 2016 interim bottom (1829) to the January 26th top (2873) this year was, well, 57%!

Read more …

This is going to cost Amazon.

Trump Renews Amazon Attack, Says ‘Post Office Scam’ Must Stop (BBG)

President Donald Trump lit into Amazon.com Inc. for the second time in three days with a pair of Twitter messages that said the online retailer “must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” The president on Saturday claimed, citing reports he didn’t specify, that the U.S. Postal Service “will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon” and added that the “Post Office scam must stop.” Amazon has said the postal service, which has financial problems stretching back for years, makes money on its deliveries. Amazon shed $53 billion in market value on Wednesday after Axios reported that the president is “obsessed” with regulating the e-commerce giant, whose founder and chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post newspaper.

Those losses were pared on Thursday, the final day of a shortened trading week, even as Trump tweeted that Amazon was using the postal service as its “Delivery Boy.” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said on Thursday that while the president was displeased with the e-commerce giant, and particularly instances where third-party sellers on the site didn’t collect sales tax, there were no administrative actions planned against Amazon “at this time.” Still, Brad Parscale, who’s managing Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, hinted in a tweet late Thursday that the administration may act to raise Amazon’s postal costs. “Once the market figures out that a single @usps rule change will crush @amazon’s bottom line we will see,” Parscale wrote.

Amazon.com and the Washington Post have been regular punching bags for Trump. In July, the president mused about whether the newspaper was “being used as a lobbyist weapon” to keep Congress from looking into Amazon’s business practices. He echoed that comment on Saturday, saying the Post “is used as a ‘lobbyist’ and should so REGISTER.” [..] While full details of the agreement between Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service are unknown – the mail carrier is independently operated, and strikes confidential deals with retailers – David Vernon, an analyst at Bernstein Research who tracks the shipping industry, estimated in 2015 that the USPS handled 40% of Amazon’s volume the previous year.

He estimated at the time that Amazon pays the postal service $2 per package, which is about half what it would pay UPS or FedEx. A sudden increase in postal rates would cost Amazon about $2.6 billion a year, according to a report by Citigroup from April 2017. That report predicted UPS and FedEx would also raise rates in response to a postal service hike. Citigroup also said that the “true” cost of shipping packages for the USPS is about 50% higher than its current rates, leading some editorial writers to conclude that Amazon was receiving the type of subsidy cited in Trump’s Thursday tweet.

Read more …

Wait, wasn’t she supposed to be the anti-Trump?

Senator Warren, In Beijing, Says US Is Waking Up To Chinese Abuses (R.)

U.S. policy toward China has been misdirected for decades and policymakers are now recalibrating ties, Senator Elizabeth Warren told reporters during a visit to Beijing amid heightened trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies. Warren’s visit comes as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to implement more than $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods meant to punish China over U.S. allegations that Beijing systematically misappropriated American intellectual property. The Massachusetts Democrat and Trump foe, who has been touted as a potential 2020 presidential candidate despite rejecting such speculation, has said U.S. trade policy needs a rethink and that she is not afraid of tariffs.

After years of mistakenly assuming economic engagement would lead to a more open China, the U.S. government was waking up to Chinese demands for U.S. companies to give up their know-how in exchange for access to its market, Warren said. “The whole policy was misdirected. We told ourselves a happy-face story that never fit with the facts,” Warren told reporters on Saturday, during a three-day visit to China that began on Friday. “Now U.S. policymakers are starting to look more aggressively at pushing China to open up the markets without demanding a hostage price of access to U.S. technology,” she said.

Read more …

A poisonous political climate.

Yanis Varoufakis: ‘Greece Is A Debtors’ Prison’ (G.)

Yanis Varoufakis is back. He, of course, would say he never went away, but in Greece’s hurly-burly world of politics his is a name prone to triggering toxic reaction. Abroad, the shaven-headed economist is feted as the man who took on Europe’s establishment. At home, the former finance minister is seen, on both left and right, as a reckless incarnation of all that was wrong with Greece at the height of its struggle to remain in the eurozone. In Athens and Brussels, his confrontational style is still blamed for the price the debt-stricken country had to pay to be bailed out in the summer of 2015. Although his resignation now seems a long time ago, the sight of Varoufakis launching his own party in Greece has unleashed emotions that have run the gamut from enthusiasm to anger and disdain.

Media reaction has been cool; so, too, has that of politicians. None of which seems to bother him in the least. “Nobody believes the systemic media in Greece, and they’re all bankrupt,” he told the Observer with typical defiance, days after announcing his new venture in a packed Athens theatre. “To those who say I cost the country, and I’ve heard €30bn, €86bn, €100bn and even €200bn… I say I cost exactly zero. The troika [of creditors] cost Greece two generations and continue to impose cost.” At 57, in his leather bomber jacket and boots, Varoufakis clearly relishes his anti-establishment role and believes the birth of his European Realistic Disobedience Front, AKA MeRA25, is not a moment too late. Greece, almost nine years after the eurozone crisis erupted, is still condemned to being a debtors’ colony, he says.

[..] MeRA 25 has been working behind the scenes for a year now. Its plan is to contest the European elections in May 2019, although Varoufakis acknowledges Tsipras may elect to call a general election before that. After almost a decade under international surveillance, Athens will exit its third international rescue programme – the biggest sovereign bailout in global financial history – in August. With his popularity compromised under the weight of enforcing measures he once vehemently opposed, Tsipras may opt to capitalise on the success of finally exiting the programme and economic oversight. “We have travelled the whole country and held rallies in all major towns,” says Varoufakis, adding that politicians are already expressing interest in jumping ship.

Far from being saved, Varoufakis believes Greece’s future has been put on hold. If anything, he argues, it is in for an even tougher time because Europe has elected to tackle its debt problem by taking the “extend and pretend” approach of prolonging repayment timetables and condemning the country to decades of further austerity. More pension cuts and tax hikes loom, legislated by MPs at the behest of the EU and IMF. Short of measures to stop the rot, Varoufakis quips that he sees Greece becoming another Kosovo, “with beautiful beaches, only it’s a protectorate emptied of its young people. Every month 15-20,000 young Greeks leave. Everywhere I go, I meet them.”

Read more …

Macron knows what’s best for you. He’s your big brother.

Emmanuel Macron On France’s AI Strategy (Wired)

I want to create an advantage for my country in artificial intelligence, directly. And that’s why we have these announcements made by Facebook, Google, Samsung, IBM, DeepMind, Fujitsu who choose Paris to create AI labs and research centers: this is very important to me. Second, I want my country to be part of the revolution that AI will trigger in mobility, energy, defense, finance, healthcare and so on. Because it will create value as well. Third, I want AI to be totally federalized. Why? Because AI is about disruption and dealing with impacts of disruption. For instance, this kind of disruption can destroy a lot of jobs in some sectors and create a need to retrain people. But AI could also be one of the solutions to better train these people and help them to find new jobs, which is good for my country, and very important.

I want my country to be the place where this new perspective on AI is built, on the basis of interdisciplinarity: this means crossing maths, social sciences, technology, and philosophy. That’s absolutely critical. Because at one point in time, if you don’t frame these innovations from the start, a worst-case scenario will force you to deal with this debate down the line. I think privacy has been a hidden debate for a long time in the US. Now, it emerged because of the Facebook issue. Security was also a hidden debate of autonomous driving. Now, because we’ve had this issue with Uber, it rises to the surface. So if you don’t want to block innovation, it is better to frame it by design within ethical and philosophical boundaries. And I think we are very well equipped to do it, on top of developing the business in my country.

But I think as well that AI could totally jeopardize democracy. For instance, we are using artificial intelligence to organize the access to universities for our students That puts a lot of responsibility on an algorithm. A lot of people see it as a black box, they don’t understand how the student selection process happens. But the day they start to understand that this relies on an algorithm, this algorithm has a specific responsibility. If you want, precisely, to structure this debate, you have to create the conditions of fairness of the algorithm and of its full transparency. I have to be confident for my people that there is no bias, at least no unfair bias, in this algorithm.

I have to be able to tell French citizens, “OK, I encouraged this innovation because it will allow you to get access to new services, it will improve your lives—that’s a good innovation to you.” I have to guarantee there is no bias in terms of gender, age, or other individual characteristics, except if this is the one I decided on behalf of them or in front of them. This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. If you don’t deal with it from the very beginning, if you don’t consider it is as important as developing innovation, you will miss something and at a point in time, it will block everything. Because people will eventually reject this innovation.

Read more …

“..more than 150 US species have already become extinct while a further 500 species have not been seen in recent decades..”

Conservationists Call For Urgent Action To Fix ‘America’s Wildlife Crisis’ (G.)

An extinction crisis is rippling though America’s wildlife, with scores of species at risk of being wiped out unless recovery plans start to receive sufficient funding, conservationists have warned. One-third of species in the US are vulnerable to extinction, a crisis that has ravaged swaths of creatures such as butterflies, amphibians, fish and bats, according to a report compiled by a coalition of conservation groups. A further one in five species face an even greater threat, with a severe risk of being eliminated amid a “serious decline” in US biodiversity, the report warns. “America’s wildlife are in crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation. “Fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates are all losing ground. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to prevent these species from vanishing from the earth.”

More than 1,270 species found in the US are listed as at risk under the federal Endangered Species Act, an imperiled menagerie that includes the grizzly bear, California condor, leatherback sea turtle and rusty patched bumble bee. However, the actual number of threatened species is “far higher than what is formally listed”, states the report by the National Wildlife Federation, American Fisheries Society and the Wildlife Society. Using data from NatureServe that assesses the health of entire groups of species on a sliding scale, rather than the case-by-case work done by the federal government, the analysis shows more than 150 US species have already become extinct while a further 500 species have not been seen in recent decades and have possibly also been snuffed out.

Whole classes of creatures have suffered precipitous drops, with 40% of freshwater fish species in the US now vulnerable or endangered, a third of bat species experiencing major declines in the past two decades and amphibians dwindling from their known ranges at a rate of about 4% a year. The true scale of the crisis is probably larger when species with sparse data, or those as yet unknown to science, are considered. “This loss of wildlife has been sneaking up on us but is now like a big tsunami that is going to hit us,” said Thomas Lovejoy, a biologist at George Mason University. Lovejoy was consulted on the study and said it “captures the overall degradation of American nature over recent decades, rather than little snapshots”.

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The future of wildlife conservation?! in 2015, park guards shot dead more people than poachers killed rhinos.

More Poachers Than Rhinos Killed In India Reserve (BBC)

A census in India’s Kaziranga National Park has counted 2,413 one-horned rhinos – up 12 from 2015. The Unesco World Heritage Site, in Assam state, is home to two-thirds of the world’s population of the species. The census is carried out every three years. It is an incredible conservation success story given the fact that there were only a few hundred rhinos in the 1970s, says the BBC’s South Asia editor Anbarasan Ethirajan. However, the conservation effort has not been without controversy. The government has in recent years given the park rangers extraordinary powers to protect the animals from harm – powers usually only given to soldiers intervening in civil unrest. About 150 rhinos have been killed for their horns since 2006, but in 2015, park guards shot dead more people than poachers killed rhinos.

[..] The census total given is an estimate, with authorities cautioning that the population could be bigger than that counted because some animals were concealed by tall grasses and reeds. This vegetation is usually burnt down to encourage its regeneration but this was hampered by unseasonal rains, said reports. It could mean the census is carried out again next year. Since its foundation in 1905, Kaziranga has had great success in conserving and boosting animal populations. As well as being a haven for one-horned rhinoceroses, the park was declared a tiger reserve by the Indian government, and is also home to elephants, wild water buffalo and numerous bird species. The endangered South Asian river dolphin also lives in the rivers that criss-cross the park.

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