Sep 192018
 
 September 19, 2018  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Salvador Dali Landscape with butterflies 1956

 

Trump: Exposing ‘Corrupt’ FBI Probe Could Be Crowning Achievement (Hill)
Trump: Expect Decision On US Role In Syria Soon (ZH)
China Hits Back At US With $60 Billion Of New Tariffs (G.)
Just How Wildly Exuberant is the Junk-Credit Market?” (WS)
Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too (Taibbi)
North And South Korea Sign Joint Agreement In ‘Leap Forward’ For Peace (Ind.)
Michel Barnier Rebuffs UK Calls For Flexibility On Irish Border (G.)
Keir Starmer Clashed With Corbyn On Brexit ‘To Brink Of Resignation’ (G.)
Rightwing Thinktanks Unveil Radical Plan For US-UK Brexit Trade Deal (G.)
Tesla To Be Investigated By US DOJ Over Elon Musk Tweets (Ind.)
Monsanto Asks US Court To Toss $289 Million Glyphosate Verdict (R.)

 

 

Let’s see what the declassified files have to say.

Trump: Exposing ‘Corrupt’ FBI Probe Could Be Crowning Achievement (Hill)

President Trump in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV said Tuesday he ordered the release of classified documents in the Russia collusion case to show the public the FBI probe started as a “hoax,” and that exposing it could become one of the “crowning achievements” of his presidency. “What we’ve done is a great service to the country, really,” Trump said in a 45-minute, wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office. “I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done… in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” he said. Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017 [..]

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.” [..] He criticizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s approval of the warrant that authorized surveillance of Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign aide, toward the end of the 2016 election, suggesting the FBI misled the court.

“They know this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country because basically what they did is, they used Carter Page, who nobody even knew, who I feel very badly for, I think he’s been treated very badly. They used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.” [..] The president spared no words in criticizing Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, lawyer Lisa Page and other FBI officials who started the probe. He recited specific text messages Page and Strzok traded while having an affair and investigating his campaign, arguing the texts showed they condoned leaks and conducted a bogus probe. Those texts are to be released as a result of Trump’s announcement on Monday. “It’s a hoax, beyond a witch hunt,” he said.

Read more …

If only that could be true:“Is it possible that Trump will take the window of opportunity to get out of Syria, and walk back from prior US threats?”

Putin’s deal with Turkey has made US threats empty: civilians and terrorists will be separated. Israel has no reason to bomb anything either.

Trump: Expect Decision On US Role In Syria Soon (ZH)

President Trump indicated that a decision on the future of US policy in Syria is coming soon in remarks made at a press conference with his Polish counterpart. Speaking alongside President Andrzej Duda, Trump said the Monday night downing of a Russian maritime surveillance plane by accidental Syrian friendly fire was “a very sad thing”. Trump’s remarks did not include criticism of Putin, and seemed to signal regret over Monday night’s dramatic escalation over Syria after a massive Israeli attack. Earlier in the day Tuesday, Russia had pointed the finger at Israel for purposefully provoking the mishap, something Israel has since denied in a military statement that ultimately put blame on Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Trump also said that the US fight against ISIS in Syria could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said of the Pentagon mission against ISIS. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.” [..] Only months ago the president expressed a desire “to get out” and pull the over 2,000 publicly acknowledged American military personnel from the country; but the new report said that Trump has approved “an indefinite military and diplomatic effort in Syria”. The report revealed that “the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.”

But is it possible that Monday’s attack involving missiles flying over the Mediterranean and an “accidental” downing of a Russian plane and 15 dead Russian crew members might have jolted Trump back to his prior position of wanting to withdraw from the Syrian quagmire? [..] Monday’s events also came just after Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a demilitarized zone in Idlib will be formed by October 15. [..] The Russia-Turkey deal over Idlib has at least temporarily deflated US threats that it could intervene should Syria launch a brutal assault on the province —something the US promised to do especially if chemical weapons are used. Is it possible that Trump will take the window of opportunity to get out of Syria, and walk back from prior US threats?

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Go sit around a table, all of you, including EU and japan.

China Hits Back At US With $60 Billion Of New Tariffs (G.)

China is to slap tariffs on an additional $60bn of imports from the US in retaliation against $200bn of new trade sanctions on Chinese goods announced by Donald Trump. The latest moves represent a new step towards a full-scale trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Further escalation is deemed likely because Trump is facing low approval ratings ahead of the US midterm elections in November, while China will not want to be seen to back down. Trump announced his latest escalation of the bitter trade standoff late on Monday, promising to introduce the additional border taxes of 10% on Chinese goods from next week.

The tariffs – designed to make US domestic products more competitive against foreign imports – apply to almost 6,000 items, including consumer goods such as luggage and electronics, housewares and food. The US president threatened further tariffs on an additional $276bn of goods if Beijing unveils retaliatory measures – a step that would mean tariffs on all Chinese imports to the US and equate to 4% of world trade. Early on Tuesday he tweeted to accuse China of “actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me”. The US president added: “What China does not understand is that these people are great patriots and fully understand that China has been taking advantage of the United States on trade for many years.

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‘Buying’ a company and loading it up with lousy debt. Business 101.

Just How Wildly Exuberant is the Junk-Credit Market?” (WS)

This is considered a door-opener Leveraged Buyout (LBO): If it flies and investors buy this $13.5 billion pile of deeply junk-rated debt today, even riskier and bigger LBOs may fly. It’s the fourth largest LBO since the Financial Crisis and the ninth largest of all times in the US and Europe: Thomson Reuters Corporation is separating its largest division, the financial information, analysis, and risk businesses, now called “Refinitiv,” to sell a 55% stake to a group of investors led by private equity firm Blackstone Group. This being a “leveraged” buyout, the Blackstone consortium is making the target company, Refinitiv, borrow in total $13.5 billion to fund most of its own buyout. This consist of $9.25 billion in “leveraged loans” and $4.25 billion in secured and unsecured bonds.

Some pieces are denominated in dollars, others in euros. This debt sale is being completed today. The Blackstone Consortium will infuse $3.025 billion in cash equity. Thomson Reuters will retain a 45% stake and will receive a special dividend from Refinitiv of approximately $17 billion, according to Moody’s. And there are some other details involved. Alas, Moody’s gives Refinitiv a corporate credit rating of B3, six steps into junk, considered “highly speculative.” [..] This deal is “reminiscent of the kind of deal I would have seen in 2006 and 2007,” Scott Roberts, head of high-yield investments at Invesco, told the Wall Street Journal. In addition to the large amount of debt being issued, “you have a covenant package that’s extremely weak.”

OK, but weak covenants have become a pandemic. Companies issuing leveraged loans love weak covenants, and creditors will rue the day, but for now everything flies. The share of these so-called “covenant-lite” (“cov-lite”) loans compared to all leveraged loans outstanding keeps setting new records. LCD of S&P Global Market Intelligence reported today that cov-lite loans in August accounted for 78.6% of outstanding leveraged loans, and up from 55% in mid-2014:

Read more …

Globalism hollows out economies. And societies.

Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too (Taibbi)

[..] it’s become increasingly clear that [Bernie Sanders] lost patience waiting for the news media to pay attention to this particularly loathsome problem of CEOs using public subsidies to pad their bottom lines. The issue in his campaigns against companies like Disney, Walmart, Burger King and Amazon is simple: our biggest and most successful companies use a business model that involves giant workforces earning beneath-subsistence wages, if not worse (particularly abroad). This business model would not work without the active cooperation of governments around the world.

Amazon and Walmart are particular villains on this score. On the supply end, they gobble up super-cheap products assembled in unfree labor zones like China, where workers are treated so badly that some have threatened mass suicides to improve conditions. Then, on the distribution end, in wealthy consumer countries like the U.S., these same companies pay many workers such low wages that they end up on public assistance. One study showed that in Arizona, for instance, 1 in 3 Amazon workers are on food stamps. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is worth $160 billion, and, according to one infuriating study, earns the median salary of an Amazon employee every nine seconds.

If you go by net worth in stock holdings, Bezos earns about $277 million a day. This set of circumstances is a profound comment on how the modern global economy functions. Misguided policies like the establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China long ago committed us to a world in which the industrial democracies of the West would be increasingly reliant upon human rights abusers in places like China to serve as mercantile suppliers. As manufacturing headed to the third world, domestic distributors became concentrated and de-unionized.

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They really want peace. Don’t stand in their way.

North And South Korea Sign Joint Agreement In ‘Leap Forward’ For Peace (Ind.)

The North and South Korean leaders presented a joint agreement during their summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday that Kim Jong-un said represented a “leap forward” for peace on the peninsula. At a joint press conference after the signing, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in said North Korea had agreed to “permanently” shut down all of its nuclear and missile testing facilities, in the presence of international experts, as long as the US takes reciprocal measures. The two sides agreed that Mr Kim would visit Seoul, in what would be a first for a North Korean leader. And the two leaders agreed a number of wide-ranging measures designed to increase cooperation and reduce the risk of armed clashes on the border.

Mr Kim said the pair had agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”. The US had called for concrete developments regarding denuclearisation during Mr Moon’s three-day visit to Pyongyang, and Donald Trump suggested the joint agreement did not disappoint. “Very exciting!” was his response to the news on Twitter. “Kim Jong-un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing,” Mr Trump said.

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Trying to paint the picture that if only the EU wanted to, it could give the UK whatever it desires.

Michel Barnier Rebuffs UK Calls For Flexibility On Irish Border (G.)

Michel Barnier has rebuffed British calls for the EU to change its stance on the contested issue of the Irish border, and said a “moment of truth” was fast approaching on a Brexit deal. The EU’s chief negotiator said the bloc was ready “to improve” its proposal on avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, but stopped short of accepting British ideas for compromise, after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, called on the EU to show flexibility. “The European Council in October will be the moment of truth, it is the moment when we shall see if we have an agreement,” Barnier said. The Irish border has emerged as the biggest stumbling block to the Brexit deal that Theresa May hopes to strike with the EU this autumn.

While the EU and UK have agreed there should be no hard border to prevent any return to violence, they are deadlocked over how to manage what will become a 310-mile frontier between the UK and EU. Both sides have proposed fallback plans, known as backstops, that would kick into place if trade talks fail to settle the question. The EU’s involves Northern Ireland following EU law on customs and goods, a plan May has said no British prime minister could ever accept. Barnier said the EU was working to improve its proposal, adding that the problem had been caused by “the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its single market and the customs union”. Seeking to counter British criticism that the EU plan eroded UK sovereignty, he said: “What we talking about here is not a land border, not a sea border, it is a set of technical checks and controls. We respect the territorial integrity of the UK and we respect the constitutional order of the UK.”

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I include this to show how the Guardian shapes the discussion. After running over 100 headlines aimed at connecting Corbyn and anti-semitism in less than a year, they seamlessly move into internal divisions in Labour. All of this stuff comes from the Blairite neo-liberal side of the party.

Keir Starmer Clashed With Corbyn On Brexit ‘To Brink Of Resignation’ (G.)

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, was pushed to the brink of resignation early this year after Jeremy Corbyn and his allies tried to kick his customs union plan into the long grass, senior Labour sources have told the Guardian. Labour’s Brexit policy has evolved over the past 18 months through a series of painstaking negotiations between key players at the top of the party, the most fraught of which came at a stormy meeting of the “Brexit subcommittee” early this year. Corbyn’s close allies ambushed Starmer with a paper which shelved the decision on joining a customs union, a policy he had been pushing privately for weeks.

Several people present at the meeting told the Guardian the general feeling in the room was that Starmer was willing to resign rather than accept the proposals, numbered copies of which were handed out at the start of the meeting and retrieved at the end. “He looked close to telling them to shove it – and I think that did count for something,” said one MP present. “I think Jeremy was slightly surprised at how angry Keir was, and how pissed off he was.” Another witness to the confrontation said: “Jeremy started speaking, and Keir just said, enough, this was just completely outrageous. He did lose his temper. I think they were genuinely shocked at his reaction. They tried to bounce him and it completely backfired.”

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The ultimate plan all along in some circles.

Rightwing Thinktanks Unveil Radical Plan For US-UK Brexit Trade Deal (G.)

A radical blueprint for a free trade deal between the UK and the US that would see the NHS opened to foreign competition, a bonfire of consumer and environmental regulations and freedom of movement between the two countries for workers, is to be launched by prominent Brexiters. The blueprint will be seen as significant because of the close links between the organisations behind it and the UK secretary for international trade, Liam Fox, and the US president, Donald Trump. Its publication follows a week of policy launches by the European Research Group of Conservative MPs designed to pressurise the prime minister into “chucking Chequers”, her softer Brexit proposal, in favour of a harder, clean break from the European Union.

The text of the new trade deal has been prepared by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) – a thinktank founded by the longtime Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, one of the leaders of Vote Leave – and the Cato Institute, a rightwing libertarian thinktank in the US founded and funded by the fossil fuel magnates and major political donors the Koch family. The “ideal UK-US free trade deal” was due to be launched later on Tuesday in both London and Washington but the Cato Institute appears to have accidentally posted it online early. The policy initiative was shaped in consultation with a group of other conservative libertarian thinktanks on both sides of the Atlantic, the blueprint explains. These include UK organisations whose funding is opaque, such as the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Adam Smith Institute among others in the UK, and others in the US including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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“In the US, the number 420 is associated with April 20, when annual marijuana celebrations take place.”

Tesla To Be Investigated By US DOJ Over Elon Musk Tweets (Ind.)

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation looking at whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk broke the law by musing on Twitter about taking the company private. The firm was contacted by the Department of Justice after Mr Musk made the comments on Twitter last month in a tweet that spurred theories the tech CEO was trying to communicate he was smoking marijuana because he suggested he would take his company private once shares had reached $420 a share. In the US, the number 420 is associated with April 20, when annual marijuana celebrations take place.

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” a Tesla spokesperson told The Independent in an emailed statement. The spokesperson continued: “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

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They have limitless legal budgets.

Monsanto Asks US Court To Toss $289 Million Glyphosate Verdict (R.)

Bayer unit Monsanto on Tuesday asked a California judge to throw out a $289 million jury verdict awarded to a man who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including Roundup, gave him cancer. The company said in motions filed in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California that the jury’s decision was insufficiently supported by the evidence presented at trial by school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. Johnson’s case, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, that he alleged was caused by years of exposure to Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto herbicide that contains glyphosate.

Monsanto asked Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos, who oversaw the trial, to set aside the verdict or, in the alternative, reduce the award or grant a new trial. A hearing on the motions is set for Oct. 10. The company, which denies the allegations, has previously said it would appeal the verdict if necessary. Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial over allegations that glyphosate causes cancer. Monsanto is facing some 8,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. Shares in Bayer, which bought Monsanto this year for $63 billion, slid following the Aug. 10 jury decision and the stock was still trading some 20 percent below its pre-verdict value of 73.30 euros ($85.45) on Tuesday.

“The jury’s decision is wholly at odds with over 40 years of real-world use, an extensive body of scientific data and analysis … which support the conclusion that glyphosate-based herbicides are safe for use and do not cause cancer in humans,” Bayer said in a statement on Tuesday. Bayer said Johnson failed to prove glyphosate caused his cancer and the scientific evidence he presented at trial “fell well below the causation standard required under California law.”

Read more …

Oct 202015
 
 October 20, 2015  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Hans Behm Windy City tourists at Monroe Street near State 1908

Another Quarter Of Remarkably Precise China GDP Growth Data (Reuters)
China’s Better-Than-Expected GDP Prompts Skepticism From Economists (WSJ)
Chinese Economists Have No Faith In 7% Growth ‘Target’ (Zero Hedge)
China’s Capital Outflows Top $500 Billion (FT)
China Heads For Record Crude Buying Year (Reuters)
Britain’s Love Affair With China Comes At A Price (AEP)
The Perfect Storm That Brought Britain’s Steel Industry To Its Knees (Telegraph)
Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse Set to Scale Back Global Ambitions (Bloomberg)
Wal-Mart Puts The Squeeze On Suppliers To Share Its Pain (Reuters)
Brazil’s Corruption Crackdown Can’t Be Stopped (Bloomberg)
US Supreme Court May Weigh In on a Student Debt Battle (Bloomberg)
New Canada PM Justin Trudeau: Out of Father’s Shadow and Into Power (Bloomberg)
Farewell Fossil Fools – Harper And Abbott Both Dispatched (CS)
Death by Fracking (Chris Hedges)
Is There A War Crime In What The Dutch Safety Board Is Broadcasting? (Helmer)
Stranded in Cold Rain, a Logjam of Refugees in the Balkans (NY Times)
Without Safe Access To Asylum, Refugees Will Keep Risking Their Lives (Crawley)
Merkel In Turkey: Trade-Offs And Refugees (Boukalas)
Greek Coast Guard Rescues 2,561 Migrants Over The Weekend (AP)

Maybe Beijing is just very good at predicting.

Another Quarter Of Remarkably Precise China GDP Growth Data (Reuters)

China GDP releases are starting to look like near-perfect landings each and every time, in all kinds of weather conditions and visibility. Yet another quarter has just gone by – literally less than three weeks ago – and already statisticians have reported that growth slowed a tiny sliver from Beijing’s 2015 target of 7% recorded for the first half of the year. Now it’s 6.9%, slightly above the Reuters consensus forecast from 50 economists of 6.8%. It is difficult to understate just how precise such figures are in the grand scheme of economic data reporting. It is also difficult to ignore just how remarkable this stability is considering the Chinese authorities are trying to rebalance the entire economy away from reliance on exporting manufacturing goods toward domestic consumer spending.

And that worry about a Chinese growth slowdown was one of the main reasons cited by the U.S. Federal Reserve for holding off last month on its first rate rise in nearly a decade. That’s also not to mention that China growth concerns dominated the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s latest meetings in Lima, Peru. In the past three years, Chinese GDP data as reported have only missed the Reuters Polls consensus three times, and on each occasion it was because the reported growth figure beat by just 0.1 percentage point. For the periods of Q4 2013 through to Q1 of this year, the reported figure was exactly on forecast.

Other large and important global economies are nowhere near as accurate. U.S. growth data have taken even the most pessimistic forecaster completely off guard on several occasions since the financial crisis, most recently in the first quarter of last year. The initial report for Q1 GDP this year also matched the lowest forecast. Initial U.S. growth data have only actually been reported exactly in line with expectations three times in the last half decade. It seems implausible that economists, who are often widely panned as a group for failing to predict economic turning points, are uncannily able to nail Chinese GDP within a few tiny slivers of a percentage point each and every time.

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Not much use trying to analyze something so obvious.

China’s Better-Than-Expected GDP Prompts Skepticism From Economists (WSJ)

Within minutes of China’s publishing its rosier-than-expected numbers, a wave of skepticism emanated from economists over the accuracy of the official 6.9% third-quarter growth figure. Economists’ doubts centered in part on the apparent disconnect between the headline figure and the underlying data. Both exports and imports declined during the third quarter, and industrial production was weaker than expected. Factories have seen 43 consecutive months of falling prices and—despite a flood of government infrastructure spending—fixed-asset investment decelerated in September. While retail sales and services have held up, and new lending data in September point to a pickup in demand, these factors haven’t been enough to offset the parade of negative data, economists said.

“When you look at the numbers, it’s not entirely easy to see how GDP growth held up so well,” said Société Générale CIB economist Klaus Baader. The weak reports leading up to Monday’s GDP release had strengthened the impression that China is increasingly under siege to reach its 2015 growth target of about 7%, which already would be its slowest pace in a quarter century. Economists say the world’s second-largest economy is far from collapsing, though a number of them say they believe actual growth is one or two percentage points below the official figure. China’s official growth statistics have long been viewed with skepticism. Although the methodology has improved exponentially since the days of the 1958-61 Great Leap Forward, when cadres were encouraged to inflate production statistics to please Chairman Mao, many say there is still a focus on reaching a predetermined number, even when underlying conditions change.

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Much better index, and Pettis explaining how China is both much worse and not all that bad (I disagree).

Chinese Economists Have No Faith In 7% Growth ‘Target’ (Zero Hedge)

Earlier today in “The Truth Behind China’s GDP Mirage: Economic Growth Slows To 1999 Levels”, we pointed out that Beijing may be habitually understating inflation for domestic output, which has the effect of making “real” GDP less “real” than nominal GDP. This is what we’ve called the “deficient deflator math” problem and it raises questions about whether China is netting out import prices when they calculate the deflator. If they’re not, then the NBS is likely overstating GDP during periods of rapidly declining commodities prices. If Beijing is indeed understating the deflator it’s not entirely clear that it’s their fault, as robust statistical systems take time to implement, especially across an economy the size of China’s.

That said, there are plenty of commentators who believe that the practice of overstating GDP is policy and exists with or without an understated deflator. Put simply: quite a few people think China is simply lying about its economic output. To be sure, there’s ample evidence to suggest that Beijing’s critics are right. After all, the Li Keqiang index doesn’t appear to be consistent with the numbers coming out of the NBS and the degree to which the data tracks the Communist party’s “target” is rather suspicious (and that’s putting it nicely).

In effect, everyone is perpetually in an awkward scenario when it comes to Chinese GDP data. Economists are forced to “predict” a number that they know is gamed and while that’s pretty much always the case across economies (just see “double adjusted” US GDP data for evidence), with China it’s arguably more blatant than it is anywhere else, and one could run up a pretty impressive track record simply by betting with Beijing’s “target.” It’s with all of this in mind that we bring you the following clip from University of Peking economist Michael Pettis, whose outlook is apparently far more dour than his compatriots:

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I can’t see how or why this would stop.

China’s Capital Outflows Top $500 Billion (FT)

Capital outflows from China topped $500bn in the first eight months of this year, according to new calculations by the US Treasury that highlight the shifting fortunes in the global economy. The outflows, which peaked at about $200bn during the market turmoil in August according to the estimates released on Monday, have also contributed to a shift by Washington in its assessment of the valuation of China’s currency, the renminbi. In its latest semi-annual report to Congress on the global economy, the US Treasury dropped its previous assessment that the renminbi was “significantly undervalued”. Instead, the Treasury said the Chinese currency was “below its appropriate medium-term valuation”. “Given economic uncertainties, volatile capital flows and prospects for slower growth in China, the near-term trajectory of the RMB is difficult to assess,” Treasury economists wrote.

“However, our judgment is that the RMB remains below its appropriate medium-term valuation.” The new language reflects the cautious welcome that the Obama administration has given to Beijing’s efforts in recent months to prop up the renminbi since China announced on August 11 that it would allow a greater role for the market in setting the currency’s exchange rate. It is also a sign of the recognition in Washington that even as it believes China’s currency should strengthen in the longer term, in the short term the renminbi is facing downward pressures because of several factors including what amount to historic outflows from China and other emerging economies. “Market factors are exerting downward pressure on the RMB at present, but these are likely to be transitory,” the Treasury said. Among those factors, Treasury economists wrote, was the unwinding of carry trades betting on the appreciation of the renminbi.

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Q: what will happen to prices when Chinese storage has filled up its teapots?

China Heads For Record Crude Buying Year (Reuters)

As China closes in on the US as the world’s biggest crude oil importer, demand from private refiners and stockpiling of cheap oil is expected to keep imports at record levels after a wobble in the third quarter. Despite slower growth in recent months – crude imports rose just 1.3% in September on a year earlier – buying for October-November delivery has picked up strongly, traders and analysts say. The purchases will ease concerns of a sharp slowdown in Chinese buying and support prices in coming months, analysts said. The increased buying has shown up in tanker movements and freight rates, said Energy Aspects analyst Virendra Chauhan, and analysts are upgrading earlier forecasts for second half growth. “Despite a slowing Chinese economy, crude imports remain robust on the back of accelerated stockpiling activities into operating and commercial storage,” said Wendy Yong, analyst at oil consultancy FGE.

Since July, China has also granted nearly 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude import quotas to small refiners, known as “teapots”, or roughly 10% of China’s current total imports, as part of efforts to boost competition and attract private investment, creating a new source of demand. “The teapots are super-active,” said one oil trader, with many racing to fill their new quotas. And state-owned refiners are restocking after a third-quarter lull. Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s top refiner Sinopec, bought 6 million barrels of North Sea Forties crude and 2.9 million barrels of Russian ESPO for loading this month, and it has also stepped up Angolan crude purchases for November. To accommodate the oil, new storage tanks on southern Hainan island have either been put to use or are due to be filled with crude from end-2015.

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Something to do with licking certain body parts.

Britain’s Love Affair With China Comes At A Price (AEP)

It is a sobering experience to travel through eastern China with a British passport. Again and again you run into historic sites that were burned, shelled or sacked by British forces in the 19th century. The incidents are described in unflattering detail on Mandarin placards for millions of Chinese national pilgrims, spiced with emotional accounts of the Opium Wars. The crown jewel of this destructive march was the Summer Palace of the Chinese emperors outside Beijing, looted of its Qing Dynasty treasures by Lord Elgin in 1860, and burned to ground. It was a reprisal for the murder of 18 envoys by the Chinese court, but the exact “casus belli” hardly matters anymore. The defilement lives on in the collective Chinese mind as a high crime against the nation, the ultimate symbol of humiliation by the West.

The Communist Party has carefully nurtured the grievance under its “patriotic education” drive. David Marsh, from the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, says Britain’s leaders are implicitly atoning for a colonial past by rolling out the red carpet this week for Chinese President Xi Jinping, and biting their tongue on human rights. They are acknowledging that British officialdom is in no fit position to lecture anybody in Beijing. The exact line between good manners and kowtowing is hard to define, but George Osborne came close to crossing it on his trade mission to China last month, earning plaudits from the state media for his “pragmatism” and deference. But as the Chancellor retorted, you have to take risks in foreign policy. Moral infantilism is for the backbenches. “China is what it is,” he said.

The proper question for David Cameron and Mr Osborne is whether they have accurately judged the diplomatic and commercial trade-off in breaking ranks with other Western allies and throwing open the most sensitive areas of the British economy to Chinese expansion, and whether they will reap much in return. The US Treasury was deeply irritated when the Chancellor defied Washington and signed up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China’s attempt to create an Asian rival to the Bretton Woods institutions controlled by the West. Mr Osborne was correct on the substance. Congress acted foolishly in trying to smother the AIIB in its infancy and stem the rise of China as a financial superpower. It was tantamount to treating the country as an enemy, an approach that soon becomes self-fulfilling.

The AIIB is exactly what is needed to recycle China’s trade surpluses back into the world economy, just as the US Marshall Plan recycled American surpluses in the 1950s. The problem is that Britain carelessly undercut a close ally, putting immediate mercantilist interests ahead of a core strategic relationship. Anglo-American ties are now at their lowest ebb for years, a risky state of affairs at a time when the UK faces a showdown with the European Union.

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Overinvestment.

The Perfect Storm That Brought Britain’s Steel Industry To Its Knees (Telegraph)

Britain’s steel industry is caught in a “perfect storm”, ravaged by global economics and politics, reducing an industry that once led the world to a mere bit player on the global stage. Just 12m tonnes of the metal that is a basic raw material for the modern world were produced in the UK in 2013, according to the World Steel Association, out of a global total of 1.65bn. In 1983 this figure was 15m tonnes out of a total 663bn. However, the number of people employed making the metal in Britain has dropped from 38,000 in 1994 to less than 18,000 today. While productivity improvements account for some of the decline, with worldwide demand more doubling than in a generation, there are other factors that are inflicting a much heavier toll on the industry. Globalisation is the main one, according to Chris Houlden at commodities analyst CRU.

“The issue facing UK steel has been developing since the financial crisis,” he says. “Demand for steel in Britain and the EU has fallen and not recovered and there’s persistent global overcapacity.” While things weren’t all sunshine and roses ahead of the crash – the sector faced the universal pressures to find efficiencies and savings – Britain’s steel industry could function successfully with the growing global economy gobbling up available output, led by China’s burgeoning growth. Today things are different. Beijing is pencilling in annual growth of about 7pc, half the rate seen in heady pre-crisis times as its economy industrialised, placing huge demand on the country’s steel mills to turn out the beams and sheets needed for machines and construction.

Thanks to heavy investment in its steel industry, China is now responsible for half of the world’s steel output – up from 10pc a decade ago – and is reluctant to let it go to waste. As a result, China’s mills are dumping excess output abroad, and the country’s overcapacity is estimated to be 250m tonnes a year. “China’s production is not abating,” says Peter Brennan, European editor at steel industry data provider Platts. “You might have thought they would cut capacity but in a country where industry is effectively government controlled, it’s not happened. In what’s arguably a more unstable society, the government has no intention of cutting masses of jobs.”

The sentiment is echoed by the International Steel Statistics Bureau. “It would take a major reversal of the slowdown in the Chinese economy to prevent them pushing steel abroad,” says ISSB commercial manager Steve Andrews. “That’s why they are looking externally. There’s not the political will to remove capacity. They have taken some of the old and highly polluting plants out as they look at improving air quality but a lot of their stuff is big and modern.” The result is cheap steel coming on to the market, pushing prices down. But it’s not just China that is dumping output. “China is not unique,” says Houlden. “There’s low to no growth in a lot of other major steel producers such as Brazil and Russia, so they are doing it, too. Japan, the world’s second largest producer, is also looking to export more steel.”

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All banks are in deep shit.

Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse Set to Scale Back Global Ambitions (Bloomberg)

Europe’s last global banks are caving in to pressure from regulators and preparing to tell investors just how much their aspirations will shrink. “The European banks were too long holding onto the past and not realizing that this change is for good – it’s permanent,” said Oswald Gruebel, a former chief executive officer of both UBS and Credit Suisse. “The main reason for reducing global investment banking is that with the capital requirements which the regulators put on these banks, you cannot make any decent return.” Deutsche Bank announced sweeping management changes on Sunday, less than two weeks before co-CEO John Cryan will present his plans to scale back the trading empire built by his predecessor.

On Wednesday, Tidjane Thiam will probably reveal a strategy to prune Credit Suisse’s investment bank in favor of wealth management. Barclays, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered are also trimming operations. Europe’s global lenders are struggling to adapt to rising capital requirements, record-low interest rates and shrinking opportunities for growth. Their retrenchment risks further squeezing lending to economies in the region and handing more business to U.S. competitors, which were quicker to raise capital levels and are benefiting from growth at home. “Everything that’s being done should have been done years ago,” said Barrington Pitt Miller at Janus Capital in Denver. “The European muddle-through scenario has been proven not to be a terribly good one.”

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Very predictable, and very blind too: “..Wal-Mart believes it can grow sales by 3 to 4% a year over the next three years..”

Wal-Mart Puts The Squeeze On Suppliers To Share Its Pain (Reuters)

Suppliers of everything from groceries to sports equipment are already being squeezed for price cuts and cost sharing by Wal-Mart. Now they are bracing for the pressure to ratchet up even more after a shock earnings warning from the retailer last week. The discount store behemoth has always had a reputation for demanding lower prices from vendors but Reuters has learned from interviews with suppliers and consultants, as well as reviewing some contracts, that even by its standards Wal-Mart has been turning up the heat on them this year. “The ground is shaking here,” said Cameron Smith, head of Cameron Smith & Associates, a major recruiting firm for suppliers located close to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Suppliers are going to have to help Wal-Mart get back on track.”

For the vendors, dealing with Wal-Mart has always been tough because of its size – despite recent troubles it still generates more than $340 billion of annual sales in the U.S. That accounts for more than 10% of the American retail market, excluding auto and restaurant sales, and the company increasingly sells a lot overseas too. To risk having brands kicked off Wal-Mart’s shelves because of a dispute over pricing can badly hurt a supplier. On Wednesday, Wal-Mart stunned Wall Street by forecasting that its earnings would decline by as much as 12% in its next fiscal year to January 2017 as it struggles to offset rising costs from increases in the wages of its hourly-paid staff, improvements in its stores, and investments to grow online sales.

This at a time when it faces relentless price competition from Amazon.com, dollar stores and regional supermarket chains. Keeping the prices it pays suppliers as low as it can is essential if it is to start to claw back some of this cost hit to its margins. Helped by investments to spruce up stores and boost worker pay, Wal-Mart believes it can grow sales by 3 to 4% a year over the next three years, or by as much as $60 billion, offering suppliers new opportunities to boost their own revenues.

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Here’s hoping.

Brazil’s Corruption Crackdown Can’t Be Stopped (Bloomberg)

In a continent of peacocks, Brazilian federal judge Sergio Moro makes an unlikely celebrity. Laconic and poker-faced, he has little time for the spotlight, and yet his name is emblazoned on t-shirts and protest banners, and splashed across social media. Why the fuss? Check out the 13th federal district court, where Moro has presided over the largest corruption investigation in the country’s history, sent muckety-mucks to jail and helped restore civic pride in a land where too often justice has been honored in the breach. So after the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled last month to take a high-profile defendant named by witnesses in the landmark Petrobras case away from the 13th district, worried citizens hit the streets. Is the so-called Operation Carwash investigation into looting at the state oil company in danger of getting derailed, as some claim?

Brazil’s white-collar crooks should be so lucky. True, the scope of the scam at Latin America’s biggest corporation might never have come to light had it not been for the 43-year-old judge, who specializes in money-laundering cases, and a dedicated cadre of prosecutors. From their base in Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil, investigators exposed what Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot called a “complex criminal organization” bent on skimming money from padded supply contracts with Petrobras into political coffers. But getting to Curitiba took the collaboration of the best minds in public service, from the federal police to the Finance Ministry’s financial intelligence unit. That web of sleuths and wonks is the best assurance that the effort to shut down Brazil’s most brazen political crime ring will carry on, no matter who holds the gavel.

The probe began when federal police watching a gas station and one-time car wash (hence the name) in the nation’s capital uncovered a money-changing scheme to spirit gains overseas. The public prosecutor’s office took up the chase and, tapping into finance ministry data, followed the money trail to Petrobras. Janot took the investigation across the Atlantic, where Swiss prosecutors found evidence pointing to the head of Brazil’s lower house, as well as to corporate leaders. Some of Brazil’s biggest oil and construction executives are behind bars, and dozens of politicians are under investigation, including the head of the senate. And despite recently ruling to spin off parts of the investigation, the Supreme Court has consistently buttressed Moro’s authority in the past.

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“One in four borrowers is either delinquent or in default on his or her student loans.”

US Supreme Court May Weigh In on a Student Debt Battle (Bloomberg)

Mark Tetzlaff is a 57-year-old recovering alcoholic who has been convicted of victim intimidation and domestic abuse. He may also be the person with the best shot at upending the way U.S. courts treat student debt for bankrupt borrowers. Tetzlaff has spent three years battling lawyers for the Department of Education over the right to have his student loans canceled in bankruptcy. On Thursday, he appealed his case to the Supreme Court. If the nation’s highest court takes the case on, it will be one of the rare occasions when it has addressed the $1.3 trillion pile of student debt held by 41 million Americans. Tezlaff also got a new attorney after representing himself for most of his case. The lawyer, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, successfully argued part of the landmark June case that made same-sex marriage a legal right in all 50 states.

Hallward-Driemeier and his team have asked the court to clarify 1970s-era rules that prevent borrowers from getting rid of education debt in bankruptcy, except in cases in which repaying it would constitute an “undue hardship.” Lawmakers never fully defined “undue hardship,” leaving it to the courts to define these special, and rare, circumstances in individual cases. Tetzlaff has said that the standard being applied to his case is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court may be tempted to consider the case partly because it would be able to resolve a split between federal courts in their interpretation of the law, according to court documents. Courts disagree mainly on which of two tests should be used to determine whether someone can erase his or her debt in bankruptcy.

The so-called Brunner test is used in most federal courts and was applied in Tetzlaff’s case. It is the strictest version of the standard because it requires debtors to prove that they have diligently tried to repay their loans, that making any payments would deprive them of a “minimal” standard of living, and that the hardship affecting them today will persist long into the future. Over the past two decades, lawyers arguing on behalf of the government have further pushed courts to take the most stringent view of each one of those components. Tezlaff’s legal team has said the Supreme Court should instead apply a less harsh alternative to the Brunner test, known as the “totality of the circumstances” test, which has been gaining ground in courts across the country.

[..] It would be hard to overstate the significance of this case for people struggling with student debt. Student loans are the largest source of consumer debt aside from mortgages. The total amount of outstanding student debt is expected to double to $2.5 trillion in the next decade. One in four borrowers is either delinquent or in default on his or her student loans.

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Surprisingly nice write-up of Trudeau for Bloomberg. I wish Justin well, but Canada’s in for very hard times.

New Canada PM Justin Trudeau: Out of Father’s Shadow and Into Power (Bloomberg)

As a young man, Justin Trudeau continually sought respite from his father’s long shadow. He debated in university as Jason Tremblay, boxed as Justin St. Clair and eventually settled on Canada’s west coast – as far in Canada as he could get from being Pierre Trudeau’s eldest and still be close to great skiing. Now 43, he has come full circle, reviving a moribund Liberal Party to a solid majority amid a new wave of the Trudeaumania that swept his father to power in 1968. In ousting Stephen Harper Monday, he becomes the country’s first inter-generational prime minister and gets to move back into his childhood home. Trudeau campaigned on a brand of optimism, transparency and youthful energy – while promising government activism to stimulate a weak economy and address middle class anxiety over income inequality and retirement security.

In contrast to the departing Harper, he will run deficits willingly, reduce Canada’s combat role against the Islamic State and get behind the Iran nuclear deal. He’ll also rule out the purchase of F-35 fighters in favor of more spending on the navy and join President Barrack Obama in Paris in pushing for aggressive action on climate change. He is, in many ways, the happy faced anti-Harper. Trudeau’s political role model is not so much his beloved “papa,” whose public persona over 15 years as prime minister mixed charisma and aloofness, but his maternal grandfather, Jimmy Sinclair, a consummate glad-handing, baby-kissing Scottish immigrant to Canada and Rhodes scholar.

It was no accident that Trudeau held his final campaign event Sunday night in the Vancouver constituency his grandfather represented from 1940 to 1958. “I’m not sure if love of campaigning has any kind of genetic component, but if it does, I can trace my passion for it straight back to grandpa,” he told an enthusiastic crowd on what was the birthday of both his father and his eldest son, eight-year-old Xavier James, named for Sinclair. “He loved knocking on doors, getting out, meeting with people, taking the time to really listen to what they had to say. It’s his style that I’ve adopted as my own.”

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“Both of them had a penchant for using precisely the same words to describe the country’s future as an “Energy Superpower”.

Farewell Fossil Fools – Harper And Abbott Both Dispatched (CS)

The prospects for the forthcoming global climate conference to be held in Paris later this year have received a significant diplomatic boost. The two developed world leaders most intent on undermining the conference – Australia’s Tony Abbott and Canada’s Stephen Harper – have been dispatched to the political wilderness. Based on early Canadian election vote counting Monday night, Harper’s Conservative Party look set to lose office, with the centrist Liberals having been declared the winner of 173 seats at the time of writing and projected to win 184 of the 338 lower house seats (according to Canada’s Globe and Mail), giving them the ability to rule in their own right. The Conservatives have suffered big losses, with latest counting giving them 92 seats with a projection of 102 seats.

Back in June 2014 when Abbott visited Harper in Canada, the two put on an act of professing concern for climate change while describing a policy that would actually limit carbon emissions as something that would “clobber the economy” in Abbott’s words while being “job killing” in Harper’s words. As Climate Spectator noted in Harper and Abbott: Two fossils fooling no one, what was plainly obvious was that both Harper and Abbott had confused the interests of the coal mining industry (in Abbott’s case) and tar sands (Harper) with the interests of their respective country as a whole.

A year on it appears the two of them had far too narrowly focussed and deeply flawed economic strategies. [..] Harper and Tony Abbott have followed eerily similar strategies. Both of them had a penchant for using precisely the same words to describe the country’s future as an “Energy Superpower”. Unfortunately for them the plummeting price of a barrel of oil and a tonne of coal left them both floundering without a coherent economic narrative for how to drive their respective nations’ future prosperity. They then both resorted in desperation to the bottom of the barrel trying to using fears of terrorism in an attempt to restore their popularity.

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“Resistance will be local. It will be militant. It will defy the rules imposed by the corporate state. It will turn its back on state and NGO environmental organizations. And it will not stop until corporate power is destroyed or we are destroyed.”

Death by Fracking (Chris Hedges)

The maniacal drive by the human species to extinguish itself includes a variety of lethal pursuits. One of the most efficient is fracking. One day, courtesy of corporations such as Halliburton, BP and ExxonMobil, a gallon of water will cost more than a gallon of gasoline. Fracking, which involves putting chemicals into potable water and then injecting millions of gallons of the solution into the earth at high pressure to extract oil and gas, has become one of the primary engines, along with the animal agriculture industry, for accelerating global warming and climate change. The Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who are profiting from this cycle of destruction will—once clean water is scarce and crop yields decline, once temperatures soar and cities disappear under the sea, once droughts and famines ripple across the globe, once mass migrations begin—surely profit from the next round of destruction.

Collective suicide is a good business, at least until it is complete. It is a pity most of us will not be around to see the power elite go down. [..] The activists are waging a war against a corporate state that is deaf and blind to the rights of its citizens and the imperative to protect the ecosystem. The corporate state, largely to pacify citizens being frog-marched to their own execution, passes environmental laws and regulations that, at best, slow the ongoing environmental destruction. Corporations, which routinely ignore even these tepid restrictions, largely write the laws and legislation designed to regulate their activity. They rewrite them or overturn them as the focus of their exploitation changes. They turn public hearings on local environmental issues into choreographed charades or shut them down if activists succeed in muscling their way into the room to demand a voice.

They dominate the national message through a pliable and bankrupt corporate media and slick public relations. Elected officials are little more than corporate employees, dependent on industry money to stay in office and, when they retire from “public service,” salivating for jobs in the industry. Environmental reform has become a joke on the public. And the Big Green environmental groups are complicit because they rely on donors, at times from the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries; they are silent about the reality of corporate power, largely ineffectual, and part of the fiction of the democratic process. Resistance will be local. It will be militant. It will defy the rules imposed by the corporate state. It will turn its back on state and NGO environmental organizations. And it will not stop until corporate power is destroyed or we are destroyed.

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John Helmer has written a deep-digging and extensive series on the Dutch MH17 report (h/t Yves Smith). I’ve left the topic alone, because Holland was never in a position to write a neutral analysis. From the get-go it was made clear that Russia and the rebels were responsible, proof be damned, because that fitted the overall anti-Russia mood whipped up by US and EU. What’s perhaps most galling is that the question of intent has been taken off the table altogether: whoever shot down the plane, did they do it on purpose? In ignoring that question, the answer is implied, and analysis makes way for propaganda. Victims’ families be damned.

Is There A War Crime In What The Dutch Safety Board Is Broadcasting? (Helmer)

Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, wants it to be very clear that Russia is criminally responsible for the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014; that a Russian-supplied ground-to-air missile, fired on Russian orders from territory under Russian control, exploded lethally to break up the MH17 aircraft in the air, killing everyone on board; and that Russian objections to these conclusions are no more than cover-up and dissimulation for the guilty. Joustra also wants to make sure that no direct evidence for what he says can be tested, not in the report which his agency issued last week; nor in the three Dutch government organs which prepared and analysed the evidence of the victims’ bodies, the aircraft remains, and the missile parts on contract to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) – the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).

So Joustra began broadcasting his version of what he says happened before the release of the DSB report. He then continued in an anteroom of the Gilze-Rijen airbase, where the DSB report was presented to the press; in a Dutch television studio; and on the pages of the Dutch newspapers. But when he and his spokesman were asked today for the evidence for what Joustra has been broadcasting, they insisted that if the evidence isn’t to be found in the DSB report, Joustra’s evidence cannot be released. So, if the evidence for Joustra’s claims cannot be found in the NLR, TMO and NFI reports either, what exactly is Joustra doing – is he telling the truth? Is he broadcasting propaganda? Is he lying? Is he covering up for a crime?

In the absence of the evidence required to substantiate what the DSB chairman is broadcasting, is the likelihood that Joustra is concealing who perpetrated the crime equal to the probability that he is telling the truth? And if there is such a chance that Joustra is concealing or covering up, is this evidence that Joustra may be committing a crime himself? In English law, that may be the crime of perverting the course of justice. In US law, it might be the crime of obstruction of justice. In German law, it might be the crime of Vortäuschung einer Straftat. By the standard of World War II, Joustra’s crime might be propagandizing for the losing side, that’s to say the enemy of the winning side.

When William Joyce, an Anglo-American broadcaster on German radio during the war and known as Lord Haw-Haw, was prosecuted in London in 1945, he was convicted of treason and hanged. The treason indictment said he “did aid and assist the enemies of the King by broadcasting to the King’s subjects propaganda on behalf of the King’s enemies.” The legality of this indictment and the conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.

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They’re going to die like flies.

Stranded in Cold Rain, a Logjam of Refugees in the Balkans (NY Times)

After weeks of warnings about the dangers involved in Europe’s migrant influx, and fears about winter’s arrival, the worries of public officials and humanitarian groups were realized on Monday when thousands of asylum seekers, many of them families with small children, began to back up at crossings and were stranded in a chilly rain. The backups came just two days after Hungary closed its border with Croatia, and occurred as countries on the north end of the Balkan route tightened border controls while states to its south quarreled over how to manage the unabated human flow into Europe.

The logjam followed a month of relative stability across the Balkans and Central Europe, as countries unofficially worked together to create a safe and relatively quick route north and west by transporting asylum seekers by bus or train from one border to the next, where they could exit on their way toward Germany, Sweden and other desired destinations. The arrangement filled the void left by the European Union, which has talked, bickered and failed to come up with a common solution to the problem of accommodating hundreds of thousands of new arrivals, many fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, or repression in places like Eritrea in northern Africa.

A recent effort to stem the flow of migrants by keeping them in Turkey, and preventing them from entering the European Union through Greece, faltered over the weekend, when little progress was reported in talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Turkish leaders. No other plans appear to be on the table, and the safety of the migrants has depended upon the cooperation of the countries along the route, many of them dubious about the migration from the start and resentful that Germany has encouraged it by agreeing to accommodate asylum seekers. That policy by the government of Ms. Merkel has created tensions in Germany, as well, where the weekend stabbing of the politician in charge of refugee affairs in Cologne heightened the polemics surrounding the influx.

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“I could get there and back for just €30. That’s because I’m British. I am not Syrian, Afghan, Palestinian, Iraqi, Somali or Eritrean.”

Without Safe Access To Asylum, Refugees Will Keep Risking Their Lives (Crawley)

I stood in the corner of a dusty cemetery on the Greek island of Lesvos and watched a mother bury her child. As the tiny body of a baby boy wrapped in a white sheet was lifted from the boot of a car, she fell to her knees and howled with pain. The child had slipped from her arms into the cold waters of the Aegean as she made the journey from Turkey to join her husband, who had already travelled to Germany to seek protection from the war that is ravaging their home country, Syria. Her baby should not have died. The journey from Turkey to Lesvos is short and safe. If I wanted to take a ferry trip from the port of Mytiline to Ayvalik on the Turkish coast, the trip would take around an hour. I could get there and back for just €30. That’s because I’m British. I am not Syrian, Afghan, Palestinian, Iraqi, Somali or Eritrean.

I am not required to put my life at risk by paying a smuggler hundreds or even thousands of euros to sit in the bottom of a motorised dingy with 30 or 40 other people to take the exact same journey. I do not need to close my eyes and pray that my children and I will make it to the other side without drowning. After a long summer of protracted negotiations about how to respond to the crisis in the Mediterranean region, this is what European asylum policy still looks like in practice. Although (most) EU member states have reluctantly agreed to redistribute 160,000 of those who have already arrived, there is still no legal route for refugees to enter Europe. And with no hope of a better life at home, thousands of people continue to make the illegal, expensive and potentially dangerous journey across the sea. They know the risks, but the water seems like a better option than the alternatives.

Although Turkey offers temporary protection to Syrian refugees, it is not a signatory to the 1967 Protocol which extends the protection available under the 1951 Refugee Convention to those coming from outside Europe. That means no guaranteed access to employment, education or even basic health care. Conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey are well documented and known to be deteriorating. There is no prospect that things will improve, no hope for a better future. Those who are not from Syria get nothing. And so they come to Europe. Since the beginning of 2015, more than a quarter of a million people have arrived on Lesvos by sea, and still more are coming. More than 70,000 people arrived in September alone and, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the numbers are set to be even higher for October.

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Cattle trade.

Merkel In Turkey: Trade-Offs And Refugees (Boukalas)

The gilded thrones may have been the perfect expression of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sultanic ambitions but they appeared to make his guest, Angela Merkel, somewhat uncomfortable judging by the customary photographs. Maybe the German chancellor was thinking that such a lavish setting was not appropriate for discussing the fate of thousands of people whose only surviving assets are their bodies, their children and whatever dollars or euros they have managed to save up to pay their traffickers. Maybe Merkel, as she sat in the kind of showy opulence that usually reveals something deeper, was thinking that she was being used by the Turkish president as a propaganda tool, that her presence in Istanbul just a few days before elections in Turkey was giving Erdogan a powerful boost.

Particularly at a time when the Turkish government is facing so many accusations: of waging war against the Kurds and brushing off every proposal for a peace settlement in a bid to appeal to those who want authoritarian rule; of racism and intolerance; of persecuting its political rivals; and of quashing free speech by cracking down on “unorthodox” journalists who don’t propagate the Erdogan narrative. Merkel cannot be unaware of all this, and even if her own advisers failed to brief her 100 Turkish university professors did in an open letter. Let us accept that on a mission during which she was not just representing Germany but the EU as a whole, Merkel decided to strike a concessionary tone for the sake of the issue at hand: the protection of the refugees, or, rather, the stemming of the flow of refugees.

The idea is that the refugee influx will abate not as a result of peace in Syria but by convincing Turkey to be more vigilant of its borders, to accept the creation of camps on its territory where refugees can be identified and documented and to grant passage to Europe to those who are deemed eligible for refugee status. It is a technical solution to a political problem; ergo, no solution at all. Turkey, naturally, did not just demand financial remuneration for its cooperation. It asked that its own people be given easier to access to Europe. And it got it. It asked that its European accession be speeded up even though it has fulfilled only a handful of the 40 criteria. And it was promised this would happen by the most powerful voice in Europe: the German one.

And what about the refugees? If only they had been the main topic of discussion at that meeting. Instead, they will keep drowning. And if the complex war in Syria continues unabated, even the winter will not prevent them from trying to get across.

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Most shocking: nobody’s shocked by dead babies anymore.

Greek Coast Guard Rescues 2,561 Migrants Over The Weekend (AP)

Greece’s coast guard says it has rescued 2,561 people in dozens of incidents in the eastern Aegean over the weekend as Europe’s refugee crisis continues unabated. The coast guard said Monday the rescues occurred in 69 operations from Friday morning until Monday morning near eight Aegean islands. The number doesn’t include those who make it ashore themselves from the nearby Turkish coast, often in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels. On Sunday, the bodies of two women, a baby and a teenager were recovered near the remote island of KastelLorizo after their vessel overturned, while 12 others were rescued by a passing sailing boat. The deaths came a day after a 7-year-old boy died after falling into the water from a boat carrying 80 people who reached the island of Farmakonisi.

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Oct 152015
 
 October 15, 2015  Posted by at 9:04 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


DPC League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia. USS Brooklyn spar deck 1898

The Biggest American Debt Selloff In 15 Years (CNN)
Inequality To Drive ‘Massive Policy Shift’: Bank of America (CNBC)
At US Ports, Exports Are Coming Up Empty (WSJ)
Consumers Shutting Down As US Economy Deflates (CNBC)
The US Is Closer To Deflation Than You Think (CNBC)
Walmart Share Plunge Wipes Out $21 Billion In Market Cap In One Day (USA Today)
Wal-Mart Just Made Things Worse For Everybody Else (CNBC)
The Chilling Thing Walmart Said About Financial Engineering (WolfStreet)
Glencore Collapse Could Be Even Worse Than Feared (MM)
Unwinding Of Carry Trade May Unmask China’s True Metal Demand (Bloomberg)
VW: Secret Emissions Tool In 2016 Cars Is Separate From ‘Defeat’ Cheat (AP)
VW Customers Demand Answers And Compensation Over Emissions Scandal (Guardian)
Lavrov: Unclear What Exactly US Is Doing In Syria (RT)
Two-Thirds Of British Hospitals Offer Substandard Care (Guardian)
Assange ‘In Constant Pain’ As UK Denies Safe Passage To Hospital For MRI (RT)
Will Trudeaumania Sweep Canada’s Liberals Into Power – Again? (Guardian)
EU Need for Turkey to Halt Refugee Flow Collides With History (Bloomberg)
Refugee Rhetoric Echoes 1938 Summit Before Holocaust: UN Official (Guardian)
‘Lesbos Is Carrying The Sins Of The Great Powers’ (ES)

This is not reversible.

The Biggest American Debt Selloff In 15 Years (CNN)

China has been selling U.S. debt but it’s not alone. Lots of emerging markets like Brazil, India and Mexico are also selling U.S. Treasuries. Not that long ago all these countries were all huge buyers of U.S. debt, which is viewed as one of the safest places to park money. “Five or six years ago, the big concern was that China was going to own the United States,” says Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Bank. “Now the concern is that China is selling them.” Foreign governments have sold more U.S. Treasury bonds than they’ve bought in the 10 consecutive months through July 2015, the most recent month of available data from the Treasury Department. Just in the first seven months of the year, foreign governments sold off $103 billion of U.S. debt, according to CNNMoney’s analysis of Treasury Department data.

Last year there was an overall increase of nearly $45 billion. It’s a reality of the global economic slowdown. When commodity prices boomed a decade ago, emerging market countries took their profits and invested them in U.S. Treasury bonds and other types of assets that are similar to cash. Now that commodity prices are falling, countries that rely on commodities – Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia – just don’t have the cash they once did to invest in safe assets like U.S. Treasury bonds. “Slow growth means that they just don’t have the same appetite for dollars because they don’t have cash to put to work,” says Lori Heinel, chief portfolio strategist at State Street Global Advisors. “The bigger issue is ‘do they have the dollars flowing into the economies to keep investing in Treasuries?'”

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Interesting thought on PQE. Too little too late though.

Inequality To Drive ‘Massive Policy Shift’: Bank of America (CNBC)

Rising income inequality and a deflationary global economic picture are going to lead to big changes in 2016, according to one Wall Street forecast. Quantitative easing and zero interest rates are on their way out in the U.S., and Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, believes they will be replaced with massive infrastructure spending. The result would benefit Main Street more than Wall Street, which has had a banner seven-year run helped by historically easy Federal Reserve monetary policy. “If the secular reality of deflation and inequality is intensified by recession and rising unemployment, investors should expect a massive policy shift in 2016,” Hartnett said in a note to clients. “Seven years after the West went ‘all-in’ on QE and ZIRP, the U.S./Japan/Europe would shift toward fiscal stimulus via government spending on infrastructure or more aggressive income redistribution.”

A reversal in trend would have a substantial impact on investing. Investors should move to assets that benefit in reflationary times, like Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, gold (which Hartnett thinks will bottom in 2016), commodities and small-cap Chinese stocks, Hartnett said. TIPs have been around flat for the year, while gold has dropped nearly 2% and commodities overall are off nearly 13%. Easy-money measures have helped boost Wall Street, with the S&P 500 up about 200% since the March 2009 lows as companies have spent some $2 trillion on stock repurchases. Dividend payments also have soared during the period, with the second quarter’s $105 billion increase the biggest in 10 years, according to FactSet.

Asset returns have jumped while global economic growth has been anemic in what Hartnett called “the most deflationary expansion of all time.” GDP gains in the U.S. have averaged barely 2% during the post-Great Recession recovery, while some economists believe a global recession could hit in 2016. The clamor for some of that asset wealth to find its way into the larger economy is growing and giving rise, according to Hartnett, to populist presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and similar movements around the world. “Deflation exacerbates ‘inequality’ of income, wealth, profits, asset valuations,” Hartnett wrote. “The gap between winners and losers is being driven wider and wider by excess liquidity and technological disruption (trends synonymous with the 1920s, another period infamous for ‘inequality’).”

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China exports fell 20%. US exports are pluning. See the trend.

At US Ports, Exports Are Coming Up Empty (WSJ)

One of the fastest-growing U.S. exports right now is air. Shipments of empty containers out of the U.S. are surging this year, highlighting the impact the economic slowdown in China is having on U.S. exporters. The U.S. imports more from China than it sends back, but certain American industries—including those that supply scrap metal and wastepaper—feed China’s industrial production. Those exporters have suffered this year as China’s economy has cooled. In September, the Port of Long Beach, Calif., part of the country’s busiest ocean-shipping gateway, handled 197,076 outbound empty boxes. They accounted for nearly a third of all containers that moved through the port last month. September was the eighth straight month in which empty containers leaving Long Beach outnumbered those loaded with exports.

The empties are shipping out at a faster rate at many U.S. ports, particularly those closely tied to trade with China, while shipments of containers loaded with goods are declining as exporters find it tougher to make foreign sales. That’s at least partly because the strong dollar makes American goods more expensive. Normally, after containers filled with consumer goods are delivered to the U.S. and unloaded, they return to export hubs. There, they typically are stuffed with American agricultural products, certain high-end consumer goods and large volumes of the heavy, bulk refuse that is recycled through China’s factories into products or packaging. Last month, however, Long Beach and the Port of Oakland both reported double-digit gains in exports of empty containers.

So far this year, empties at the two ports are up more than 20% from a year earlier. Long Beach’s containerized exports were down 8.2% this year through September, while Oakland’s volume of outbound loaded containers fell 12.7% from a year earlier in the January-September period. “This is a thermometer,” said Jock O’Connell at Beacon Economics. “The thing to worry about is if the trade imbalance starts to widen.” Trade figures released Tuesday in Beijing underscored China’s faltering demand. China’s imports fell 20.4% year-over-year in September following a 13.8% decline in August. As of June, U.S. exports of scrap materials were down 36% from their peak of $32.6 billion in 2011.

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This is what deflation truly is: “The math is pretty simple: A lack of purchasing power for consumers has led to a lack of pricing power for companies.”

Consumers Shutting Down As US Economy Deflates (CNBC)

The math is pretty simple: A lack of purchasing power for consumers has led to a lack of pricing power for companies. When it comes to the U.S. economy big-picture outlook, the ramifications are more complicated, and not particularly pleasant. Wednesday’s producer price index reading, showing a monthly decline of 0.5%, demonstrates a larger problem: At a time when policymakers are hoping to generate the kind of inflation that would indicate strong growth, the reality is that deflation is looming as the larger threat. Declining prices often would be treated as a net positive by consumers, but income weakness is offsetting the effects. Even Wall Street is feeling the heat. Prices for brokerage-related services and financial advice dropped 4.3% in September, accounting for about a quarter of the entire slide for final demand services.

The prospects heading into year’s end are daunting. In addition to the punk PPI number, retail sales gained by just 0.1% in September. Excluding autos, gasoline and building materials, sales actually declined 0.1%. On top of that, the August retail numbers were revised lower, with the headline rate now flat from the originally reported 0.2% gain. On the same day as the two disappointing data releases, Wal-Mart warned that the weakness is likely to extend through its fiscal year, with sales expected to be flat. The warning sent its shares tumbling 9% in morning trade, the worst performance in 15 years. All in all, then, not a great environment in which to raise rates, which the Federal Reserve hopes to do before the end of the year.

“Consumers are growing increasingly uncertain regarding their future income streams and are less willing to finance today’s spending with the prospect of tomorrow’s improved, future earnings,” Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Fixed Income, said in a note to clients. “With gasoline prices at multiyear lows, consumers should be spending gangbusters but they aren’t.” Wage growth remains elusive for most workers, with the average hourly earnings rising just 2.2% annually. Job growth has slowed as well, with average monthly nonfarm payroll additions in the third quarter down nearly 28% from the previous quarter. The data on the ground shoot holes in a number of theories that were expected to drive the economy, market behavior and Fed policymaking.

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Prices rise only in the West.

The US Is Closer To Deflation Than You Think (CNBC)

Deflation talk these days is mostly centered on the euro zone and parts of emerging markets, but the U.S. is dancing on the brink itself. In fact, if not for a comparatively high inflation rate in the Western quadrant, the U.S. itself actually would have had a negative consumer price index rating in August, driving its economy into the same deflationary malaise found in other slow-growth regions. Of the four Census regions, only the West had a positive CPI for August, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it hasn’t just been a recent occurrence. “All price growth in the U.S. in the past eight months came from the West,” the St. Louis Federal Reserve said in a report on geographic inflation influences. Inflation in the West has been a full percentage point above the other three regions, all of which experienced deflation.

Excluding the West, the national rate of inflation as measured by the CPI would have been -0.19% in August, as compared to the already anemic national rate of 0.2%, according to the St. Louis Fed. (The September reading will be released Thursday morning.) Annualized inflation in the West was 1.3% in August. In the Northeast it was -0.1%, -0.2% in the South and -0.3% in the Midwest. Much of the deflationary pressure came through falling energy prices – down 9.5% annualized in the West, 14.5% in the Midwest, 18.3% in the East and 17.1% in the South. Low inflation, and the possibility of deflation, presents a daunting conundrum for Fed officials, who have dismissed falling energy prices as transitory despite the fundamental factor of slowing global demand.

Wall Street has been waiting all year for signs the U.S. central bank would start down the path to normalizing monetary policy by raising rates for the first time in more than nine years. However, liftoff has been delayed as the FOMC has fussed over when conditions will be ideal for the move. More hawkish members want to raise because they worry the Fed will be too late once inflation accelerates, while also citing the need simply to have wiggle room for policy accommodation that the Fed does not have as long as it keeps its key rate near zero. Futures traders do not believe the Fed will hike until March 2016.

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The direct result of falling consumer spending.

Walmart Share Plunge Wipes Out $21 Billion In Market Cap In One Day (USA Today)

The Waltons had a bad – and expensive – day. Retailing giant Walmart stunned investors Wednesday when it gave disappointing guidance for growth and profit, sending its stock down 10% to $60.03. The stock drop, which was the biggest in decades, instantly wiped out more than $21 billion in shareholder wealth. That drop was bad for anyone who owns shares of Walmart. But it was especially painful for the company’s top 10 shareholders, who collectively own two-thirds of Walmart’s outstanding stock and saw $14.7 billion in wealth vanish Wednesday. The dive in Walmart shares hurt some of the wealthiest people in America including Walton family members Alice, Jim, John and S. Robson. Famed investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway also is a huge owner of Walmart stock.

Each was on the front line for one of the biggest implosions of a blue-chip stock in recent years. Walton Enterprises, an investment vehicle controlled by several members of the Walmart family, suffered the biggest hit. This investment vehicle owns 1.4 billion shares of Walmart, or 44% of the total shares outstanding, S&P Capital IQ says. Its holdings took a $9.5 billion hit. When you Include the holdings of other Walton family-controlled entities, such as the 197 million shares owned by S. Robson Walton and another 194 million held in the Walton Family name, the day’s loss jumps to more than $12 billion. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns 60.4 million shares of Walmart and lost nearly $405 million.

Don’t think it’s just a “rich person’s problem,” either. Walmart’s drop hit many individual investors closer to home. Index fund behemoth Vanguard is the fourth largest owner of Walmart stock because Walmart’s huge market value makes it a key holding in many index funds, which are widely held by individual investors. Vanguard’s 98.6 million shares brought home a $660 million daily loss directly to Vanguard investors. The pain of owning a big chunk of a single stock became painfully clear again Wednesday – especially if your last name is Walton.

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As the no. 1 drops, so must the smaller fish.

Wal-Mart Just Made Things Worse For Everybody Else (CNBC)

Wal-Mart shares had their worst day in 15 years Wednesday, after the world’s largest retailer said sales will be flat in fiscal 2016, while its earnings will slide to between $4.40 and $4.70 a share — down from $4.84 last year. Shares of competitors including Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney fell in sympathy, as Wal-Mart said it would invest billions into price over the next two years. With Wal-Mart already undercutting much of its peers, the move will put added pressure on its competitive set, which is already struggling to grow sales against a backdrop of steep price cuts and rock-bottom starting prices. Deflation in the retail sector was one reason why the National Retail Federation said that holiday sales will increase 3.7% this year, representing a deceleration from 2014.

Analysts and brands alike have said the holiday shopping season is already shaping up to be cutthroat, as retailers will do almost anything to get consumers to spend in their stores. “It’s a never-ending battle to capture their share of the overall spend,” Steve Barr, U.S. retail and consumer leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said Tuesday. It’s easy to understand why Wal-Mart, once the undisputed leader in pricing, is putting such an emphasis on delivering the best value to shoppers. According to PwC’s holiday forecast, 87% of shoppers said price is the primary driver behind their holiday spending choices. This is even more pronounced among what the consulting firm has dubbed “survivalists,” those who earn an annual income of less than $50,000.

According to PwC, 90% of survivalists said price is the No. 1 factor behind their holiday purchase decisions. Separately, a study released by coupon website RetailMeNot found consumers said a discount has to offer more than 34% off to be deemed a good deal. “I think we’ll see individuals taking advantage of the fact that prices haven’t moved against them this year,” the NRF’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said on a call after the trade group’s sales forecast.

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“The most chilling words in the news release? “These are exciting times in retail given the pace and magnitude of change.”

The Chilling Thing Wal-Mart Said About Financial Engineering (WolfStreet)

Wal-Mart had a bad-hair day. Its shares plunged $6.71, the largest single-day cliff-dive in its illustrious history. They ended the day down 10%, at $60.02, a number first kissed in 2001. Shares are 34% off their peak in January. So it wasn’t just today. But Wal-Mart didn’t do anything that special at its annual investor meeting today. It announced big “capital investments,” (we’ll get to the quotation marks in a moment), a crummy outlook, and a huge share buyback program. All of which it has done many times before. Only this time, the outlook is even worse, but the promised share buybacks are even larger. Wal-Mart proffered its strategies on how it would try to boost revenue growth in an environment where its primary customers – the 80% that got trampled by the Fed’s policies – are struggling to make ends meet.

A problem Wal-Mart has had for years. The news release hints at these new initiatives, spells out costs, and forecasts the resulting earnings debacle. Wal-Mart will goose “capital investments” by $11 billion in Fiscal 2017, on top of the $16.4 billion it’s spending on “capital investments” in fiscal 2016. This will maul earnings per share. In 2017, they’re expected to drop 6% to 12%, when the analyst community had forecast an increase of 4%. But 2019 is back in the rosy scenario of earnings growth. These capital investments aren’t computers, buildings, or new shelves. They’re largely “investments in wages and training,” which isn’t a capital investment at all, but an ordinary expense. “75% of next year’s investment will be related to people,” CEO Doug McMillon clarified.

That’s why they’ll hit earnings right away. A true capital investment would be an asset that is depreciated over time, with little earnings impact upfront. So sales in fiscal 2016 would be flat, which Wal-Mart blamed on “currency exchange fluctuations.” Would that be the strong dollar? But sales were also flat for the prior three fiscal years when the dollar was weak. Don’t lose hope, however. In the future, starting in fiscal 2017, sales would edge up 3% to 4%. To accomplish this, management is now desperately praying for inflation. The most chilling words in the news release? “These are exciting times in retail given the pace and magnitude of change.”

Then there was the announcement of a $20-billion share buyback program. $8.6 billion remaining from the $15 billion buyback program authorized in 2013 would be retired. That $15-billion program was on top of $36 billion in buyback programs over the preceding four years. Buybacks is what Wal-Mart does best.

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Derivatives.

Glencore Collapse Could Be Even Worse Than Feared (MM)

“Editor’s Note: We’re sharing this update on Glencore’s collapse with you because it’s shaping up to be even worse than Michael originally thought. Glencore still poses a “Lehman Brothers”-level risk to the global economy – but it’s now clear the world’s biggest commodities trader is on the hook for hundreds of billions in “shadow debt” that it simply refuses to address. This crisis is one small step away from upending our financial system, so here’s what you need to know…”

A lot of powerful voices have joined me in warning about the potential threat that Glencore poses to global financial markets. Bank of America, for instance, has published a report on the true size of the fallout. As you’ll see in a moment, it’s staggering. But since we talked about Glencore late last month, something insane has happened: The stock has gone up. But not for any good reason. The company has not righted the ship. The surge is only due to short-sellers covering their positions. The ugly truth is, the company is still a “shining” example of exactly what’s wrong with these markets. And I fear individual investors will get caught in the mess and wiped out on a stock like this or some of the others around it. That’s why I want to call out the misapprehensions and lies that are causing this “fauxcovery” and show you what’s next.

Because it could end up even worse than I thought…Since hitting a low of £0.69 ($1.05) per share on Sept. 28, Glencore stock has doubled to £1.29 ($1.97) per share. Even its credit default swap spreads have recovered to 650 basis points from a panic peak of 900 basis points. To place the last point in context, however, markets are pricing the company like a weak single B credit instead of a CCC credit. So while the major credit rating agencies still consider Glencore an investment-grade company, the actual credit markets have a much dimmer view of its prospects. Naturally, the company is doing everything possible to calm markets. First, last week it took the unusual step of publishing a six-page “funding factsheet” designed to dispel market concerns about its liquidity and solvency.

This factsheet shed very little light on what is really going on at the company, however. It said virtually nothing about Glencore’s derivatives contracts, other than stating that its derivatives contracts were undertaken within “industry standard frameworks.” Here’s the thing – “industry standard frameworks” normally require companies to post additional cash collateral upon the loss of an investment-grade rating, so the company’s statement should not have made anybody feel better. That suggests to me that the rise in the company’s stock price was largely a matter of short covering, not investors suddenly deciding that everything is hunky-dory in the House of Glencore.

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Remember the metals bought with stored and unpaid metals as collateral?

Unwinding Of Carry Trade May Unmask China’s True Metal Demand (Bloomberg)

The great mystery of metals is the amount used to finance the Chinese carry trade, or collateral used to borrow cheap dollars to buy yuan-backed high-interest-carrying notes. The Bank for International Settlements says this trade may be $1 trillion to $2 trillion, tying up tens of millions of metric tons of iron ore, aluminum and other metals. About a year of global copper consumption (22 million mt) equals just 5% to 10% of the estimate. The true figure will determine real China metal demand and future inventory. The impact of the Chinese metal carry trade is in the distortion of the true underlying copper demand, and a buildup in the metal’s inventory, strictly for collateral in financing. China accounts for 46% of global copper demand, according to the Word Bureau of Metals Statistics.

One question analysts must ask: What if it’s just 35%? The potential stopping of this trade, and normalization of the distorted demand, will provide understanding of China’s true copper needs and their potential growth. Nickel prices have fallen by half since year-end 2013, when they surged after No. 1 global exporter Indonesia banned exports of nonprocessed ore. Inventories are near record levels. The likely culprits for the higher inventory and price crash are the large amounts of the metal held off exchanges because they were used as collateral in a carry trade that took advantage of China’s high interest rates. A warehouse scandal at the Qingdao complex prompted banks to call in these trades, pummeling nickel prices.

The lucrative practice of using commodities as collateral to make money from interest-rate differentials inside and outside of China, a practice known as the carry trade, could cause significant pressure on commodity markets, were the trade to unravel. The Bank for International Settlements says this trade exceeds $1.2 trillion worth of commodities and could reach $2 trillion. Any major change in the direction of this trade could flood the market with more supply.

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Actually, it’s a second defeat device. And that means it’s company policy, not a freak incident involving only technicians.

VW: Secret Emissions Tool In 2016 Cars Is Separate From ‘Defeat’ Cheat (AP)

US regulators say they have a lot more questions for Volkswagen, triggered by the company’s recent disclosure of additional suspect engineering of 2016 diesel models that potentially would help exhaust systems run cleaner during government tests. That’s more bad news for VW dealers looking for new cars to replace the ones they can no longer sell because of the worldwide cheating scandal already engulfing the world’s largest automaker. Depending on what the Environmental Protection Agency eventually finds, it raises the possibility of even more severe punishment. Volkswagen confirmed to AP on Tuesday that the “auxiliary emissions control device” at issue operates differently from the “defeat” software included in the company’s 2009 to 2015 models and revealed last month.

The new software was first revealed to EPA and California regulators on 29 September, prompting the company last week to withdraw applications for approval to sell the 2016 model cars in the US. “We have a long list of questions for VW about this,” said Janet McCabe at EPA. “We’re getting some answers from them, but we do not have all the answers yet.” The delay means that thousands of 2016 Beetles, Golfs and Jettas will remain quarantined in US ports until a fix can be developed, approved and implemented. Diesel versions of the Passat sedan manufactured at the company’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, also are on hold. Volkswagen already faces a criminal investigation and billions of dollars in fines for violating the Clean Air Act for its earlier emissions cheat, as well as a raft of state investigations and class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of customers.

If EPA rules the new software is a second defeat device specifically aimed at gaming government emissions tests, it would call into question repeated assertions by top VW executives that responsibility for the cheating scheme lay with a handful of rogue software developers who wrote the illegal code installed in prior generations of its four-cylinder diesel engines. That a separate device was included in the redesigned 2016 cars could suggest a multi-year effort by the company to influence US emissions tests that continued even after regulators began pressing the company last year about irregularities with the emissions produced by the older cars.

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VW has provided precious little info for its clients. That’ll backfire.

VW Customers Demand Answers And Compensation Over Emissions Scandal (Guardian)

Nine out of 10 Volkswagen drivers in Britain affected by the diesel emissions scandal believe they should receive compensation, increasing the pressure on the carmaker as it attempts to recover from the crisis. Almost 1.2m diesel vehicles in Britain are involved in the scandal, out of 11m worldwide, and VW faces a hefty bill if it is forced to make payouts to motorists. The company has put aside €6.5bn (£4.8bn) to deal with the cost of recalling and repairing the affected vehicles, but it also faces the threat of fines and legal action from customers and shareholders. There is a growing frustration among VW drivers in the UK over the lack of information about how their vehicle will be repaired, according to the consumer watchdog Which?. VW has sent letters to affected customers, arriving this week.

However, the letters state that the company is still working on its plans and another letter will be sent when these are confirmed. Paul Willis, the managing director of VW UK, told MPs on Monday that the recall of vehicles may not be completed by the end of 2016 and that it was premature to discuss compensation. However a survey by Which? has found that nine out of 10 affected motorists want compensation. Richard Lloyd, the executive director of Which?, said: “Many VW owners tell us they decided to buy their car based on its efficiency and low environmental impact, so it’s outrageous that VW aren’t being clear with their customers about how and when they will be compensated.

“Volkswagen UK must set out an urgent timetable for redress to the owners of the affected vehicles. We also need assurances from the government that it is putting in place changes to prevent anything like this happening again.” In the wake of the scandal, 86% of VW drivers are concerned about the environmental impact of their car, while 83% questioned the impact on its resale value and 73% feared the performance of their vehicle would be affected. More than half of the VW customers said they had been put off from buying a VW diesel car in the future. A total of 96% stated that fuel efficiency was an important factor in buying the diesel vehicle, while 90% said it was the seemingly limited environmental impact. Both these issues are affected by the scandal.

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“..it’s unclear “why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant.”

Lavrov: Unclear What Exactly US Is Doing In Syria (RT)

The Russian Foreign Ministry has questioned the effectiveness of the US-led year-long air campaign in Syria, saying it’s unclear “why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant.” Failing to curb ISIS, the US has now “adjusted” its program. “We have very few specifics which could explain what the US is exactly doing in Syria and why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian channel NTV. “With, as far as I know, 25,000 sorties they [US-led air campaign] could have smashed the entire [country of] Syria into smithereens,” the minister noted.

Lavrov questioned the Western coalition’s objectives in their air campaign, stressing that Washington must decide whether its aim is to eliminate the jihadists or to use extremist forces to pursue its own political agenda. “Maybe their stated goal is not entirely sincere? Maybe it is regime change?” Lavrov said, as he expressed doubts that weapons and munitions supplied by the US to the so-called “moderate Syrian opposition” will end up in terrorists’ hands. “I want to be honest, we barely have any doubt that at least a considerable part of these weapons will fall into the terrorists’ hands,” Lavrov said. American airlifters have reportedly dropped 50 tons of small arms ammunition and grenades to Arab groups fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in northern Syria.

US officials assure concerned parties that the fighters have been screened and are really confronting IS. “We do not want the events, when [some countries] not only cooperated with terrorists but plainly relied on them, to happen again,” Lavrov said, recalling that the French, for instance supplied weapons to anti-government forces in Libya in violation of a UN Security Council resolution. Lavrov has called on the US to “transcend themselves” and decide what is more important, either “misguided self-esteem realization” or getting rid of the “greatest threat” that is challenging humanity.

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Scary.

Two-Thirds Of British Hospitals Offer Substandard Care (Guardian)

Two-thirds of hospitals are offering substandard care, according to the NHS regulator, which also warns that pressure to cut costs could lead to a further worsening of the health service in the coming years. The Care Quality Commission also said that levels of safety are not good enough in almost three-quarters of hospitals, with one in eight being rated as inadequate. In its annual report, the watchdog detailed examples including one hospital where A&E patients were kept on trolleys overnight in a portable unit and not properly assessed by a nurse; while in another, medicine was given despite the patient’s identity not being properly confirmed. In some care homes, residents either received their medication too late or were given too much of it, leading to overdoses.

Understaffing and money problems are already contributing to a situation where 65% of hospitals, mental health and ambulance services either require improvement or are providing inadequate care.Too many patients are already receiving care that is unacceptably poor, unsafe or highly variable in its quality, from staff who range from the exceptional to those who lack basic compassion, it adds. In the report, England’s health and social care regulator raises concerns that patients could suffer as the service seeks to make the £22bn of efficiency savings by 2020 that NHS England has offered and health secretary Jeremy Hunt is pressing it hard to start delivering. “The environment for health and social care will become even more challenging over the next few years,” it states. “Tensions will arise for providers about how to balance the pressures to increase efficiency with their need to improve or maintain the quality of their care”.

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As much humanity as refugees receive. “They can guard the car with 10,000 police officers if they wish..”

Assange ‘In Constant Pain’ As UK Denies Safe Passage To Hospital For MRI (RT)

The UK has refused to grant Julian Assange safe passage to a hospital for an MRI scan and diagnosis, WikiLeaks has said, adding that he has been in “severe pain” since June. Assange’s lawyer has accused the UK of violating his client’s basic rights. WikiLeaks said that the UK government refused to satisfy Assange’s request to visit a hospital unhindered after the Ecuadorian Embassy filed one on his behalf on September 30. An MRI was recommended by a doctor, Laura Wood, back in August, according to the statement read aloud at a press conference given by Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Wednesday.

“He [Julian Assange] has been suffering with a constant pain to the right shoulder region…[since June 2015]. There is no history of acute injury to the area. I examined him and all movements of his shoulder (abduction, internal rotation and external rotation) are limited due to pain. I am unable to elicit the exact cause of his symptoms without the benefit of further diagnostic tests, [including] MRI,” Patino read, citing a letter from the doctor. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a reply stating that Assange could not be guaranteed unhindered passage for a more thorough medical diagnosis on October 12.

Patino has criticized the decision saying that “even in times of war, safe passage are given for humanitarian reasons.” The Ecuadorian Embassy asked the UK authorities to offer a safe passage for a few hours for Assange into a London Hospital “under conditions agreed upon by UK and Ecuador,” Patino said, according to the WikiLeaks press release. “They can guard the car with 10,000 police officers if they wish,” the FM stressed, according to the press-release.

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If Canada elects Harper again, forget about the country.

Will Trudeaumania Sweep Canada’s Liberals Into Power – Again? (Guardian)

In the longest official federal election period in the nation’s history, it now appears Liberal leader Justin Trudeau may well be the nation’s next prime minister, with polls showing him establishing a commanding lead over his rivals, and the trend continuing to grow. It’s a stunning development in an election that could be described as an epic cliffhanger. Many, if not most, Canadians are eager for a change from prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, but with two worthy and eager rivals – the New Democratic party’s Thomas Mulcair and the Liberal party’s Justin Trudeau – where those change-hungry voters will place their bet has been difficult to decipher. When Harper announced the campaign in early August, it was met with immediate cynicism.

The extended campaign time (79 days as opposed to what had been the standard 37 days) gave the Conservatives an immediate advantage, given that their financial war chest is considerably larger than that of the Liberals or NDP. The Conservative strategy seemed a sound one: let the two opposition parties battle it out while the ruling party would float as much advertising as possible, handily winning over another majority. But the ruling party has faced considerable obstacles, including an astonishingly embarrassing ongoing scandal involving appointees to the unelected Senate (the Canadian version of the House of Lords) and a flagging economy. Polls have indicated many Canadians want change.

Ironically enough, one of the main reasons Canadians may have shifted their allegiances to the Liberal party leader is precisely because of the most famous negative ad campaign of the election, paid for and put into heavy rotation by the Conservatives. The ad, first rolled out in May by the Conservatives, has a group of people looking over an application by Justin Trudeau for the PM’s job. Perhaps most striking for its laughably bad acting, the ad has people concluding Trudeau is a lightweight who is “just not ready” for the job, with one concluding “nice hair, though”.

The ad attempts to suggest that not only is Trudeau simply not ready but voting for him is tantamount to a risky foray into untested waters, given the turbulent global economy and nagging threats of terror (the Cons have been playing both up at every turn). But a funny thing happened on the way through this fear-mongering: by just about any standards, Trudeau has run an excellent campaign. In late August he unveiled a campaign promise to invest billions of dollars in Canada’s roads, bridges, public transit and other public facilities. He suggested these were all necessary investments, which would help to stimulate the moribund economy, and went one step further, suggesting if he formed government, he would be open to deficit spending – moderate deficits, he cautioned, which would be over by 2019.

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Europe has it coming.

EU Need for Turkey to Halt Refugee Flow Collides With History (Bloomberg)

The EU needs Turkey more than ever to halt the flow of refugees from the Middle East – and has little to offer in return. With its decade-old bid to join the 28-nation union stalled, Turkey will be the topic without being at the table at a summit of EU leaders Thursday in Brussels. On the same mission, Angela Merkel plans to travel to Istanbul on Sunday to meet Turkish leaders. Relations have been all downhill since EU membership talks with Turkey began in 2005, years before civil war in neighboring Syria sent refugees streaming toward Europe. Turkey is stymied in part by Cyprus, its Mediterranean rival, and an anti-expansion mood in northern Europe. Meantime, a blossoming Turkish economy fed the sense that the country of 77 million could get along fine on its own.

“Many people in the EU are regretting the unproductive approach they had to the accession negotiations with Turkey, blocking the process and creating a deep sense of resentment in Ankara,” said Amanda Paul, an analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. “If it were going along normally, it would be easier to reach this sort of agreement with Turkey.” Contacts are so strained that after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to Brussels on Oct. 5 to consider an “action plan” on migration, Turkish officials said the plan wasn’t discussed. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s spokesman downgraded it to “an accord in principle to undertake a process.”

After Syria descended into war in 2011, European governments were content to let neighboring states such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan cope with the refugee influx. Only once Turkey amassed 2.2 million and they started heading northwest did European leaders wake up, finding themselves in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Germany, with a population of 81 million, is being roiled by this year’s expected arrival of at least 800,000 refugees, which is causing strains in Merkel’s governing coalition. “Turkey fears that even more refugees will come because the fighting in Syria isn’t letting up,” Merkel said Wednesday in a speech in eastern Germany. “I will fly to Turkey on Sunday to see how we can help on the ground so Turkey’s burden is shouldered more widely.”

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“It’s just a political issue that is being ramped up by those who can use the excuse of even the smallest community as a threat to the sort of national purity of the state..”

Refugee Rhetoric Echoes 1938 Summit Before Holocaust: UN Official (Guardian)

The dehumanising language used by UK and other European politicians to debate the refugee crisis has echoes of the pre-second world war rhetoric with which the world effectively turned its back on German and Austrian Jews and helped pave the way for the Holocaust, the UN’s most senior human rights official has warned. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, described Europe’s response to the crisis as amnesiac and “bewildering”. Although he did not mention any British politicians by name, he said the use of terms such as “swarms of refugees” were deeply regrettable. In July, the UK prime minister, David Cameron, referred to migrants in Calais as a “swarm of people”.

At this month’s Conservative party conference, the home secretary, Theresa May, was widely criticised for suggesting that mass migration made it “impossible to build a cohesive society”. In an interview, the high commissioner said the language surrounding the issue reminded him of the 1938 Evian conference, when countries including the US, the UK and Australia refused to take in substantial numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler’s annexation of Austria on the grounds that they would destabilise their societies and strain their economies. Their reluctance, Zeid added, helped Hitler to conclude that extermination could be an alternative to deportation.

Three-quarters of a century later, he said, the same rhetoric was being deployed by those seeking to make political capital out of the refugee crisis. “It’s just a political issue that is being ramped up by those who can use the excuse of even the smallest community as a threat to the sort of national purity of the state,” he said. “If you just look back to the Evian conference and read through the intergovernmental discussion, you will see that there were things that were said that were very similar.”

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“..there are cases of Afghan children drowning off Greece that would touch the public deeply if publicised..”

‘Lesbos Is Carrying The Sins Of The Great Powers’ (ES)

Four rubber boats arrive in an hour, 40 to 50 people in each. One man nudges his two-year-old daughter towards me while he fetches his son. I try to soothe her tears. While two French doctors attend the injured, most of the new arrivals seem in good health and high spirits. Many of them, with their fashionable sportswear and smart backpacks, could be day-trippers. But it feels very different as night falls and the coach bearing me and my fellow Startup Boat activists — young volunteers trying to find tech and strategic solutions to the problems posed by the refugee crisis — takes us past a crowd of 150. None of the promised buses have arrived to take them to refugee camps at Moria and Karatape, 20 miles away.

Welcome to Lesbos, where in recent weeks 1,500-3,000 people — predominantly Syrians, then Iraqis and Afghans — have arrived daily, paying traffickers €1,200 for the short passage from Turkey. The former military camp at Moria has an official capacity of 410 but at times has housed 1,000, with hundreds camped outside. Karatape, set up specifically for Syrians, can take 1,000. While we were on Lesbos, a 24-hour period when police were off duty left Karatape at twice capacity, and food stores exhausted. The situation, says Lesbos mayor Spyros Galinos, is like “a bomb in my hands”. “I believe Lesbos is carrying the sins of great powers,” he says. “If this dot on the map could manage to accommodate such high numbers, all member states can help us.”

The problems extend beyond Syrian refugees. In Athens, young Afghan Mohammad Mirzay tells me why EU nations have made a “big mistake”, allowing Syrians the right to remain, however many countries they have travelled through, but not extending this to others. The Taliban are persecuting the Hazaras, he says, while there are cases of Afghan children drowning off Greece that would touch the public deeply if publicised. He takes me to Galatsi Olympic Hall, a venue at the 2004 Games, now designated a safe house. Families are camped in the fetid space. “Why should we be divided?” says Mirzay. “We should push in altogether. We should support ‘human’.”

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