Nov 012016
 
 November 1, 2016  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 1 2016


Unknown Magazine and cannonballs at Battery Rodgers, Alexandria 1863

Donna Brazile’s Sins A Microcosm Of Biased Media (BH)
FBI Finds No Clear Link Between Trump and Russia (NY Times)
FBI Speeds Up Clinton Email Investigation After Criticism (LATimes)
Halloween Nation (Jim Kunstler)
Global Bond Markets See Worst Rout in 3 Years (BBG)
A Little-Noticed Fact About Trade: It’s No Longer Rising (NY Times)
US Trucking Companies Pare Down Fleets Amid Tepid Shipping Demand (WSJ)
October Mergers Smash All Records With $500.1 Billion In Deals (ZH)
Asset Bubbles From Stocks to Bonds to Iron Ore Threaten China (WSJ)
China Shows a Cheap Currency Doesn’t Pack the Same Punch Anymore (BBG)
Air Quality Worsens In Greece As People Burn Anything To Stay Warm (G.)
A Parting Gift To Athens From Obama (Kath.)
Creating Child Poverty For A Whole New Generation (G.)
Calais ‘Jungle’ like ‘Lord of the Flies’, With 1500 Abandoned Children (Ind.)
QPR To Bring Over 1,000 Children To UK In Kindertransport-Style Mission (G.)

 

 

Spot on from Adriana Cohen. CNN fires Brazile after she provided Clinton with debate questions. But she’s still head of the DNC, and Obama praises her: “..she is a person of high character..” What??

Donna Brazile’s Sins A Microcosm Of Biased Media (BH)

CNN was asking for it when it let Donna Brazile take a seat on the pundit desk. A plugged-in Brazile, now the interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, seized on the opportunity and leaked questions to Hillary Clinton’s camp — one on Flint’s toxic water disaster before a CNN Michigan town hall in March and another a few days later on the death penalty before an Ohio showdown. CNN revealed yesterday – after WikiLeaks kept pointing out the embarrassing journalistic sins – that Brazile was no longer employed by the station. Unfortunately, it’s too late for Bernie Sanders. It’s also too late for voters hoping for an even playing field. There’s nothing wrong with having strong political opinions — I certainly have mine — but at least don’t cheat.

To put how serious this is into context, if Brazile traded stocks off inside information, the SEC would toss her in jail faster than you can say Martha Stewart. Yet, despite all of the above, the White House yesterday praised her integrity. You read that right. When asked about the hacked emails White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “No, the president believes she has done a fine job stepping in during a very difficult situation to lead the Democratic Party … she is a person of high character. She is a true professional who is a tenacious and effective advocate for Democrats.” Guess rigging a debate is just being a good advocate. Talk about a lack of ethics. But after the targeting of conservatives via the IRS — and recent undercover videos showing how Democratic operatives deployed paid agitators to disrupt Donald Trump rallies — who’s surprised?

But that’s not all Donald Trump and other candidates are up against when challenging the almighty Democratic machine. In a study conducted by Media Research Center of TV coverage during this election, a whopping 91% of Trump coverage was hostile toward the businessman compared to a small fraction of negative stories on Clinton. If that’s not a stacked deck, what is? Can you imagine in the World Series if the umpires made 91% of bad calls against one team and not the other? A biased media is risking its lifeblood — followers — by giving an unfair advantage to the candidate of their choice. A week from today voters will decide if they’ve had enough.

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It’s full tard insane and disgusting that this is still a story. This shallow-to-flat Clinton camp narrative would have been discarded many months ago if media like the NY Times had been just a little bit more impartial. And even this is not a real mea culpa; the article is still full of insinuations and innuendo that leaves plenty traces of the empty narrative alive.

FBI Finds No Clear Link Between Trump and Russia (NY Times)

For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead – which they ultimately came to doubt – about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank. Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters, angry over what they regard as a lack of scrutiny of Mr. Trump by law enforcement officials, pushed for these investigations. In recent days they have also demanded that James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., discuss them publicly, as he did last week when he announced that a new batch of emails possibly connected to Mrs. Clinton had been discovered.

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They can’t really not say anything by next weekend.

FBI Speeds Up Clinton Email Investigation After Criticism (LATimes)

The FBI accelerated its timeline for reviewing emails potentially linked to Hillary Clinton on Monday amid growing public pressure over the agency’s surprise announcement that it had found them in an unrelated case. Investigators had planned to conduct the review over several weeks but, after a torrent of criticism over the weekend, began scrambling to examine the trove of emails, according to law enforcement officials. The FBI hoped to complete a preliminary assessment in the coming days, but agency officials have not decided how, or whether, they will disclose the results of it publicly, and officials also could not say whether the entire review would be completed by election day.

The uncertainty did not stop Donald Trump from charging into the vacuum with ominous speculation that a Clinton victory would spark national upheaval. Clinton repeated that she was confident the FBI had no case against her and that voters had already made up their mind on her use of a private server while she was secretary of State. [..] FBI Director James B. Comey, a former Bush administration official appointed to run the bureau three years ago by President Obama, has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for disclosing the investigation to Congress so close to the election.

Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, demanded that Comey release more information about the review by Friday. “While I disagree with those who suggest you should have kept the FBI’s discovery secret until after the election, I agree that your disclosure did not go far enough,” Grassley wrote to Comey. “Unfortunately, your letter failed to give Congress and the American people enough context to evaluate the significance or full meaning of this development.” “Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton,” Grassley added. He also renewed concerns that the FBI’s initial email investigation may have been hampered “by political appointees at the Justice Department.”

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Jim wrote to compliment me on my Throw Huma Under the Bus? article on Saturday. Compliments right back at you.

Halloween Nation (Jim Kunstler)

What was with James Comey’s Friday letter to congress? It looks to me like the FBI Director had to go nuclear against his parent agency, the Department of Justice, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, his boss, in particular. Why? Because the Attorney General refused to pursue the Clinton email case when more evidence turned up in the underage sexting case against Anthony Weiner, husband of Hillary’s chief of staff, Huma Abedin. Over the weekend, the astounding news story broke that the FBI had not obtained a warrant to examine the emails on Weiner’s computer and other devices after three weeks of getting stonewalled by DOJ attorneys. What does it mean when the Director of the FBI can’t get a warrant in a New York minute? It must mean that the DOJ is at war with the FBI.

Watergate is looking like thin gruel compared to this fantastic Bouillabaisse of a presidential campaign fiasco. One way you can tell is that The New York Times is playing down the story Monday morning. Columnist Paul Krugman calls the Comey letter “cryptic.” Krugman’s personal cryptograph insinuates that Comey is trying to squash an investigation of “Russian meddling in American elections.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid chimed in with a statement that “it has become clear that you [Comey] possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government.” How’s that for stupid and ugly? It’s the Russian’s fault that Hillary finds herself in trouble again?

Earlier this week, lawyers at the DOJ attempted to quash a parallel investigation of the Clinton Foundation. They must be out of their minds to think that story will go away. Isn’t it about time that a House or Senate committee subpoenaed Bill Clinton to testify under oath about his June airport meeting with Loretta Lynch. He doesn’t enjoy any special immunity in this case. Speaking of immunity, when will we learn what kind of immunity Huma Abedin may have been granted in previous cycles of the email investigation? Plenty of other Clinton campaign associates got immunity from prosecution earlier this year, rendering bales of evidence on their own laptops inadmissible in the email server case.

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Central banks losing grip.

Global Bond Markets See Worst Rout in 3 Years (BBG)

When German bond markets sneeze, U.S. Treasuries catch a cold. That’s the conclusion drawn by analysts at TD Securities as global bonds march towards their worst streak of monthly losses since 2010. There’s a distinct rhythm to the selloff, according to the Canadian investment bank. Rising yields on benchmark bunds, and to a lesser-extent gilts, have driven the jump in long-dated Treasuries this month, strategists at TD Securities argue. They cite rising rate-market correlations, elevated selling of Treasuries during European trading hours, and market fears the ECB might moderate its monetary accommodation as factors that suggest international forces largely account for the rise in benchmark 10-year yields, which flirted with a five-month high of 1.88% on Friday.

“We believe that much of the recent rise in U.S. rates has been driven by bunds and gilts,” analysts at TD Securities, led by Priya Misra, wrote in a report on Friday. Rising U.S. Treasuries have been accompanied by an uptick in market-implied inflation expectations, combined with fears that investors are saddled with outsize duration risks. But tightening Treasury-bund spreads since September 30, in fact, throw into sharp relief the external drivers for the rout in the U.S. rate market, the strategists note. “Our analysis shows that since 2010, greater than a one-standard deviation increases in 10-year Treasury yields tend to result in a widening in Treasury-bund and Treasury-gilt spreads. However, this latest move has actually resulted in a tightening of US-Germany and U.K. spreads,” which suggests global rate-markets are dancing to a similar beat, the analysts write.

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Little-noticed? I have been writing about it for ages.

A Little-Noticed Fact About Trade: It’s No Longer Rising (NY Times)

During the 1990s, global trade grew more than twice as fast as the global economy. Europe united. China became a factory town. Tariffs came down. Transportation costs plummeted. It was the Walmart Era. But those changes have played out. Europe is fraying around the edges; low tariffs and transportation costs cannot get much lower. And China’s role in the global economy is changing. The country is making more of what it consumes, and consuming more of what it makes. In addition, China’s maturing industrial sector increasingly makes its own parts. The IMF reported last year that the share of imported components in products “Made in China” has fallen to 35% from 60% in the 1990s.

The result: The I.M.F. study calculated that a 1% increase in global growth increased trade volumes by 2.5% in the 1990s, while in recent years, the same growth has increased trade by just 0.7%. Hanjin, like other big shipping companies, bet that global trade would continue to expand rapidly. In 2009, the world’s cargo lines had enough room to carry 12.1 million of the standardized shipping containers that have played a crucial, if quiet, role in the rise of global trade. By last year, they had room for 19.9 million – much of it unneeded. India is not China redux. Most trade flows among developed nations. The McKinsey Global Institute calculates that 15 countries account for roughly 63% of the global traffic in goods and services, and for an even larger share of financial investment.

China joined this club the old-fashioned way: It used factories to build a middle class. But the automation of factory work is making it harder for other nations to follow. Dani Rodrik, a Harvard economist, calculates that manufacturing employment in India and other developing nations has already peaked, a phenomenon he calls premature deindustrialization. The weakness of the global economy is exacerbating the trend. Infrastructure investment by multinational corporations declined for the third straight year in 2015, according to the United Nations. It predicts a further decline this year. But even if growth rebounds, automation reduces the incentives to invest in the low-labor-cost developing world, and it reduces the benefits of such investments for the residents of developing countries.

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Overcapacity.

US Trucking Companies Pare Down Fleets Amid Tepid Shipping Demand (WSJ)

Big trucking companies have spent the second half of the year shrinking their fleets in hopes of changing an imbalance between the supply of rigs on the road and tepid shipping demand that has flattened industry earnings. They will learn in the coming weeks, as retailers stock up at stores and distribution centers for the holidays, whether efforts to slim down capacity have produced the rate increases that trucking companies say they need to increase profitability and to expand fleets next year. Trucking-industry reports in the coming week will take the pulse of a market at a critical point in the fourth quarter, when companies look to build off momentum in the consumer and manufacturing arenas to set business plans for 2017.

Industry data groups ACT Research and FTR are due to report this week on new heavy-duty truck orders for companies in October, a critical month for setting fleet plans for the coming year after several months in which orders have plummeted to historically low levels. DAT Solutions, which measures freight rates in the industrial-trucking market, will report the next week on whether carrier efforts to rein in capacity amid tepid demand are pushing up prices as hoped. DAT says prices for spot-market freight hauls and shipments moving under long-term contracts have been slipping for most of the year, and that rates in September were down 6.4% from the same month a year earlier. “We haven’t seen any difficulty in finding trucks,” said Ken Forster, CEO of logistics company Sunteck, that finds and books trucks for freight shippers. “It’s clear that overcapacity has driven down pricing.”

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Desperate insanity: “Low growth – which is bad for most things, but it’s good for M&A because that’s how you get growth..” No, it’s how you fake growth.

October Mergers Smash All Records With $500.1 Billion In Deals (ZH)

Last week David Rosenberg pointed out that mega Merger Manias like the one we are experiencing “invariably takes place at or near cycle peaks, as companies realize that they can no longer grow their earnings organically. We have just witnessed five multi-billion dollar deals this past week alone — $207 billion globally (AT&T/Time Warner; TD Ameritrade/Scottrade) in what has been the most active announcement list since 1999 … what do you know, near the tail end of that tech bull market too.” And now that October is officially over, we can close the books on what has been an unprecedented month for M&A.

According to Bloomberg, in the month when a chill was sent through the spines of corporate CFOs and their investment bankers over fears that rates are about to rise and thus make debt-funded deals more expensive, the scramble to acquire competitors went off the charts, leading to an all time high in global M&A with almost half a trillion dollars of mergers and acquisitions announced globally. CenturyLink’s $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications, as well as General Electric’s deal to combine its oil and gas division with Baker Hughes, pushed October’s deal volumes to about $489 billion. That’s the highest amount for at least 12 years, topping the previous record of $471 billion in April 2007, the data show.

Deallogic had a slightly different higher October deal total, calculating that the value for mergers and acquisitions for October actually surpassed the half a trillion mark, hitting $500.1B, but the idea is the same and adds that global deal volume has only been higher during five other months in records going back to 1995. More than half of the deals have been based in the US, where M&A volume has already hit a monthly record of $321.2 billion. That’s about a third higher than the next biggest month on record, according to Dealogic. Cited by Bloomberg TV, Bob Profusek, partner and chair of the global M&A practice at law firm Jones Day said that “every weekend recently has been busy.”

According to the Jones Day lawyer “the fundamental drivers are still there,” Profusek said. “Low growth – which is bad for most things, but it’s good for M&A because that’s how you get growth – and very accommodating capital markets.” More important, however, are concerns that the period of low interest rates is coming to an end, prompting corporations to scramble and issue debt now while it is still cheap.

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“China’s money supply has quadrupled since 2007, and the new cash is largely trapped inside the country by government capital controls.”

Asset Bubbles From Stocks to Bonds to Iron Ore Threaten China (WSJ)

A succession of asset bubbles has formed in China, caused by a torrent of speculative money sloshing from stocks to bonds to commodities. The biggest apparent bubble is in housing, but prices have surged for niche assets, too, such as calligraphy, antiques and art. In May, futures prices for soybean meal, used as pig feed, jumped 40%. The trading volume of 600 million tons was nine times higher than China’s annual consumption. The pipe-making material PVC is up 40% so far this year on the Dalian Commodity Exchange. The world’s second-largest economy is slowing. Easy credit and successive fiscal stimuli, designed to keep China aloft, mean it is awash in money that is chasing an increasingly small number of investment opportunities.

China’s money supply has quadrupled since 2007, and the new cash is largely trapped inside the country by government capital controls. [..] The debt binge began with a crisis-related stimulus package. China’s public and corporate debt then grew threefold to about $22 trillion as Communist Party leaders used freer credit to support struggling state-owned firms and meet annual economic-growth targets. The downside of so much cash washing from one asset type to the next burst into view with a stock-market crash in the summer of 2015 that wiped out $5 trillion, or 43%, of value in Chinese stocks at one point. The Shanghai market had doubled from June 2014 to June 2015 as investors borrowed 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) to buy stocks. To steady the stock market, authorities restricted short selling, and a “national team” of investors relied on by the Chinese government to support its stock market stepped in to purchase beaten-up shares.

Money then flowed into bonds. Many investors bought them by borrowing money against bonds they already owned, repeating the process over and over again. Such borrowing grew to 2.5 times the size of the $7 trillion bond market, according to bond-market analysts. The surge slowed only when yields tightened enough that bonds looked less attractive than other asset types. In this year’s first quarter, China’s total credit surged by another $690 billion, equivalent to about three times the economy of Ireland. Then came a bout of commodity speculation, which pushed prices for some products out of sync with economic fundamentals. Iron-ore futures surged 50% from January to April even though Chinese ports were piled with iron ore. Prices slumped in May.

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Again: world trade is shrinking.

China Shows a Cheap Currency Doesn’t Pack the Same Punch Anymore (BBG)

Chalk up China as another example where a cheapening exchange rate is failing to lift exports. As already seen in Japan in recent years, what textbooks say should happen when a country’s currency falls – its exports gain – isn’t. Bathroom accessories maker Dongguan City XinChen, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, is among those seeing one step forward, two steps back when it comes to the exchange rate. “The support from a weaker yuan is negligible compared to the pressure we face from rising labor and materials costs,” said owner Sandy Chang. “Foreign demand is already down. When growth is slow in our major markets, people just don’t buy.”

That tepid demand – on display in September data that showed China’s exports fell 10% from a year earlier – means factories are yet to get a sustained shot in the arm from a currency that’s weakened 9% against the dollar since August 2015. On a trade-weighted basis, the declines this year have been even more marked, with the yuan down 6.7% versus its 4.1% drop against the dollar in 2016. “China’s not going to get much out of anything from further currency depreciation in a weak global economy,” Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University and former Morgan Stanley non-executive chairman in Asia, said. “You can cut your relative prices through depreciation, but if you don’t have the external demand the impact is going to be limited.”

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Mad Max is here: “Along with chemicals from wood burning, scientists found lead, arsenic and cadmium particles, showing that people are burning painted and treated wood, and also their rubbish, to keep warm.”

Air Quality Worsens In Greece As People Burn Anything To Stay Warm (G.)

Greece’s financial recession is leaving its footprint on the environment. This follows twenty years of huge improvements in Greece’s air pollution. While most European countries struggle with the consequences of failure to control exhaust pollution from diesel vehicles, Greece benefitted from long-standing bans on diesel cars in the two biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. This allowed the country to reap the full benefits of technologies to control petrol exhaust, without these being offset by the poor performance of diesel cars. As a consequence nitrogen dioxide from traffic approximately halved alongside Greek roads between 1996 and 2006, in contrast to the lack of improvement elsewhere in Europe. Lifting the diesel car ban in 2012 and lower taxes on diesel fuel acted as a huge incentive for those struggling with travel costs.

Amongst new car sales diesels leapt from less than 20% (around zero in Thessaloniki) to over 60%, but, so far, economic pressures have reduced traffic volumes averting a possible deterioration in air pollution. However, a tripling in the cost of heating oil brought about larger changes as hard-pressed Greeks have switched to burning wood. Wintertime particle pollution increased by around 30% in Thessaloniki in 2013 and air toxicity worsened on evenings when fires were lit. Analysis of wintertime air in Athens shows that it is not just logs that are being burnt. Along with chemicals from wood burning, scientists found lead, arsenic and cadmium particles, showing that people are burning painted and treated wood, and also their rubbish, to keep warm.

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Greece will get nothing from Obama.

A Parting Gift To Athens From Obama (Kath.)

[..] the key players in the euro area consistently kept the US at arm’s length when it came to dealing with the crisis, particularly in Greece. We should not forget that in February 2010, about three months before Greece’s first bailout was signed, the US Treasury secretary at the time, Timothy Geithner, had warned eurozone state leaders and ministers during a G7 meeting in Canada that they could not make moral hazard the driving force of their crisis strategy. “You can put your foot on the neck of those guys [the Greeks] if that’s what you want to do… but you have to make sure you counteract that with a bit more credible reassurance that you’re going to not allow the crisis to spread beyond Greece,” he said, according to the raw transcripts of his memoirs, which were published under the title “Stress Test.”

“They just wanted to take a bat to them,” added Geithner. “But in taking a bat to them, they were feeding a fare that was in its early stages.” The eurozone was not particularly interested in Washington’s message at the time, and has been similarly unimpressed by the US government’s interventions since. Washington’s position is weakened in European eyes because it does not have “skin in the game,” in other words it does not stand to lose financially or politically from any Greek debt relief, especially as the money owed to the International Monetary Fund, of which the US is the largest member with a 17.5% quota, has “super-senior status” and cannot be restructured.

To see a more recent example of US proposals for a change in approach on Greece not having an impact in the eurozone, we only need to wind back to the end of January 2015 and Obama’s comment in the wake of the SYRIZA-led government’s first election win. “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of a depression,” he told CNN. “At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order to pay off their debts and eliminate some of their deficits,” he added, pointing out that it is difficult to carry out structural reforms when people are seeing their living standards plummet. “Over time, the political system and society cannot sustain it,” he concluded.

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Britain does to its own children, too, what it does to refugee kids. What’s the last you heard Corbyn say about this? Where the f*ck is he?

Creating Child Poverty For A Whole New Generation (G.)

In a little council house in Birkenhead, Steve is panicking over how he’ll find an extra £304 rent money a month. He has just days to magic up an answer. If he can’t, he can guess what will happen. “Eviction. Come the end of November, I won’t have a roof.” As a single parent, Steve won’t be the only one slung out. His four boys, aged from three to eight, would also lose their home and probably be taken from their dad. “I’d be fed to the dogs.” Everything I’ve tried so hard for …” – a snap of his fingers – “Nothing.” It’s not a landlord doing this to Steve; it’s our government. It’s not his rent that’s going up; it’s his housing benefit that’s getting cut. And he’s not the only one; on official figures, almost 500 households in the borough of Wirral face a shortfall of up to £500 a month.

From next Monday 88,000 families across Britain will have their housing benefit slashed. They will no longer have the cash to pay their rent. Among all those whose lives will be turned upside down will be a quarter of a million children. That’s enough kids to fill 350 primary schools, all facing homelessness. Those figures come directly from the Department for Work and Pensions. Plenty dispute them, which is unsurprising since DWP officials keep changing their minds. Some experts believe the number of children at risk could total 500,000. This is the biggest benefit cut that you’ve never heard of. The newspapers will waste gallons of ink on Candice Bake-Off’s lipstick and Cheryl’s apparent baby bump. But about a government policy that could disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives, there is near silence.

So allow me to explain. From next week Theresa May’s government will extend the cap on household benefits. Poor families in London will not be allowed more than £442 a week. Those outside the capital will be cut to £385 a week. In some areas the cuts will be brought in straightaway; in others with a slight delay. But in the end, families above the limit will be hit twice over. First, they will be pushed further into poverty. And, like Steve, their housing benefit will be docked, so they will be left scrabbling just to make the rent and keep a roof above their heads. How those families will manage is anyone’s guess. When Steve opened the letter at the end of July he had a “panic attack”. All that went round his mind was one question: “How the hell am I going to pay this?” Then came what he calls “a depressive state” that lasted nearly two months. Now he bottles it up, for the sake of his boys. “When they’re not around, that’s when I cry. When they’re out at school, when they’re asleep: that’s when I break down.”

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Given their approach to this simple and easy-to-solve non-issue, people like Holland and May should obviously be nowhere near any decision making positions. Perhaps more than anything else, letting children perish for your own petty political reasons says you’re a sociopath.

Calais ‘Jungle’ like ‘Lord of the Flies’, With 1500 Abandoned Children (Ind.)

The Calais ‘Jungle’ has become like ‘Lord of the Flies’, with 1,500 children left unsupervised, sleeping in bare containers and free to roam the adjacent camp site, close to heavy machinery being used to dismantle and remove the wreckage, volunteers have told The Independent. Taps supplying drinking water to the children’s compound have been turned off, and food for the young refugees, who are mostly boys aged between 10 and 17, is not being supplied by the authorities, aid organisations claim. Nobody is allegedly allowed inside the containers except for a handful of security guards, raising serious concerns about the safety of the ‘Jungle’s’ most vulnerable occupants.

A small group of volunteers from three tiny charities told The Independent they are working “round the clock” to distribute bottled water, food, and blankets to the children, in a bid to support them. The task is extremely difficult, they said, because the organisations have only been given about 20 passes between them permitting access to the razed ‘Jungle’ site. Members of the grassroots aid organisations Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais Kitchens, and Little Ashram Kitchen, said they have had to distribute supplies from the roadside by the fenced-off compound. Only French officials can access the restricted container site, volunteers said, but they have not been present on a day to day basis. Volunteer Steve Bedlam told The Independent: “They’ve left them with no support whatsoever. They’ve just left these 1,500 kids since Friday and gone.”

No official organisations are distributing water, Mr Bedlam said, leaving the three volunteer-run organisations sending in thousands of litres everyday. Food is also extremely limited. “There’s running water in the toilets, but the sinks have been turned off,” Mr Bedlam said. “This has been confirmed by several of the kids. When we bring water in a truck it goes crazy. People are grabbing at it, like they want to get six bottles.” A French organisation was supplying one hot meal a day, Mr Bedlam said, but it was not nearly enough food for a teenage boy, leaving the camp occupants reliant on volunteers. Many of the children also had no blankets or shoes, he said, and some unregistered refugees are still sleeping outside in the “freezing cold”. Another volunteer told The Independent she believes there are 12 children in each container, and she said one boy told her he had slept on a table.

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Bless you.

QPR To Bring Over 1,000 Children To UK In Kindertransport-Style Mission (G.)

Queens Park Rangers (QPR), the football club, has offered to help bring refugee children stranded in France to the UK. The Championship club is part of a new plan for more than a thousand refugee children that emerged on Monday night. QPR has put a fleet of coaches on standby to go to France to collect the children. And Hammersmith & Fulham council – QPR’s local council in west London – says it has volunteer social workers ready to travel to France in the next couple of days to assess and support the children. Lord Alf Dubs, who has led plans to bring child refugees to the UK in a Kindertransport-style mercy mission, announced the plan in a letter to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and the French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, on Monday.

In his letter, Dubs writes: “I formally request that the French government allows us to send in coaches and social workers to collect those refugee children that have a right to be here in the UK. We will need assistance with travel documents out of France. We have people arranging the coordination of this.” Dubs added: “I am also writing the British government and hope that this intervention can bring the assistance the refugee children so desperately need. Given the urgency of this matter I should be grateful for a quick response.” The home secretary made a statement to parliament saying that the UK government had only been granted access to the camp by the French authorities and permitted to bring over Dubs-amendment children very recently. They are children with no relatives in the UK but who are deemed eligible to travel to the UK as a result of their vulnerability.

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Sep 232016
 
 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 8:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Harris&Ewing “Slaves reunion DC. Ages: 100, 104, 103; Rev. Simon P. Drew, born free.” 1921

World Trade Grinds Lower, Hits 2014 Levels (WS)
‘When I Think Of Central Banks, I Think Of Alchemists’: Marc Faber (CNBC)
Central Bankers Are The Arsonists That Create The Fire: Bill Fleckenstein (ZH)
Bad Debts In Chinese Banking System 10 Times Higher Than Admitted: Fitch (AEP)
The Coming Wave of Defaults Will Be Devastating (CH Smith)
Time to ‘Be Alarmed’ about Emerging Market Debt: UN (DQ)
The Ted Spread Is Dead, Baby. The Ted Spread Is Dead (WSJ)
UK Councils ‘Building Up Dangerous Levels Of Debt And Risk’ (Ind.)
You’re Not as Rich as You Think (Satyajit Das)
Deutsche Bank Woes Sparks Concern Among German Lawmakers (BBG)
Regulators Expect Monte Dei Paschi To Ask Italy For Help (R.)
How Does A 60% Increase In NYC Homelessness Constitute A Recovery? (ZH)
Pope Francis: Journalism Based On Gossip And Lies Is A Form Of Terrorism (G.)
Indigenous Australians The Oldest Living Culture; It’s In Our Dreamtime (G.)

 

 

Rising health care costs prop up US GDP. We all know that’s not a good thing.

World Trade Grinds Lower, Hits 2014 Levels (WS)

World trade in merchandise is a reflection of the global goods-producing economy. And it just can’t catch a break. The CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, a division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, just released the preliminary data of its Merchandise World Trade Monitor for July. The index fell 1.1% from June to 113.4, the lowest since May 2015 – a level it had first reached on the way up it in September 2014. The chart shows that merchandise world trade isn’t falling off a cliff, as it had done during the financial crisis, when global supply chains suddenly froze up. But it’s on a slow volatile grind lower. And compared to the fanciful growth after the Financial Crisis, it looks outright dismal:

This time – after the big adjustment in values months ago – we have another statistical note. In this data release, the CPB shifted the base year of the series from 2005 to 2010, so the values of the entire index shifted down. Hopefully, the change made the series more representative of reality – because getting a good grip on reality these days is really hard, when entire data systems are carefully designed to conceal more than they reveal (such as the official inflation data). The decline in trade was sharper in the emerging economies than the advanced economies. That makes sense: The US, on whose demand the health of the entire world economy seems to depend, experienced falling imports in July, according to the data.

Data point after data point document that the goods-based economy in the US is in trouble – manufacturing, wholesale, retail… nothing is firing on all or even most cylinders. But the service-based economy is not doing all that badly. Its biggest sector – and the biggest sector overall in the US – healthcare, is doing quite well, actually. Among the health-care companies in the S&P 500, revenues rose 5.2% in the second quarter, year over year, when revenues for all S&P 500 companies fell 3.1%. Revenues rose not because people are getting more health care; they rose because health care has been getting more expensive at a breath-taking pace for many years as the industry has been consolidating into oligopolies and as outrageous prices increases on pharmaceutical products regularly grace the headlines.

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“They were trying to mix all kinds of powders and chemicals to produce essentially gold. And they all failed..”

‘When I Think Of Central Banks, I Think Of Alchemists’: Marc Faber (CNBC)

Central bankers trying to spur growth are like alchemists trying to make gold and they’re just as likely to fail, said Marc Faber, the publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report. “When I think of central banks, I think of alchemists,” Faber, also known as Dr. Doom for his pessimistic views, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday. “They were trying to mix all kinds of powders and chemicals to produce essentially gold. And they all failed,” he said, although he noted that some alchemists did produce other useful chemicals during their ill-fated search for the precious metal. “But the central banks are just mixing water, in other words, paper money, and the results cannot be a favourable outcome in the long run.”

Faber noted that from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, people believed inflation was “forever,” but now the same central banks that were fighting inflation were now fighting deflation. This fight was a mistake, he said, claiming that across Asia, price rises were exceeding income gains. “It’s possible that suddenly inflationary pressures will be there, that central banks should then act but they cannot because the system is so overleveraged,” he said. At the same time, Faber noted that the low and negative interest rates globally were hurting pension funds. “Pension funds, even in these beautiful years of returns, 2009 to today, they have become less funded, they have become more underfunded,” he said. “With interest rates at zero and this low, their portion that’s in bonds is never going to meet the expected returns of 7.5%. It’s physically not possible.”

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Alchemists and arsonists.

Central Bankers Are The Arsonists That Create The Fire: Bill Fleckenstein (ZH)

Having been invited on to CNBC to discuss his views of the market, famous short-seller Bill Fleckenstein explained rather eloquently that QE4 is coming and people will wake up to the fact that central bankers “are the arsonists that create the fire, not the firemen that put it out.” This non-mainstream view was treated with disdain by CNBC host Tim Seymour who slammed Fleckenstein for “missing out” on the “artificial market’s” (because even CNBC now admits that’s what it is) gains. The response was epic. “Don’t be such a jerk… I don’t ask to come on this show, you invited me… and don’t get in my face because I won’t join your party…”

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A $2 trillion black hole.

Bad Debts In Chinese Banking System 10 Times Higher Than Admitted: Fitch (AEP)

Bad debts in the Chinese banking system are ten times higher than officially admitted, and rescue costs could reach a third of GDP within two years if the authorities let the crisis fester, Fitch Ratings has warned. The agency said the rate of non-performing loans (NPLs) has reached between 15pc and 21pc and is rising fast as the country delays serious reform, relying instead on a fresh burst of credit to put off the day of reckoning. It would cost up to $2.1 trillion to clean up this toxic legacy even if the state acted today, and much of this would inevitably land in the lap of the government. “There are already signs of stress that point to NPLs being much higher than official estimates (1.8pc), most obviously the increased frequency with which the banks are writing off or offloading loans,” it said.

The banks have been shuffling losses off their balance sheets through wealth management vehicles or by classifying them as interbank credit, seemingly with the collusion of the regulators. Loans are past 90 days overdue are not always deemed bad debts. “The longer debt grows, the greater the risk of asset quality and liquidity shocks to the banking system,” said Fitch. Capital shortfalls are currently 11pc to 20pc of GDP, but this threatens to hit 33pc in a worst case scenario by the end of 2018. “Defaults in China could lead to mutual credit guarantees in the background pulling other firms into distress. A large increase in real defaults risks triggering a chain of bankruptcies that magnifies the potential for financial instability,” it said.

“Mid-tier banks have the weakest buffers, and are the most vulnerable to funding stress,” said the report, by Jonathan Cornish and Grace Wu. The damage eclipses losses during the global financial crisis in Britain and the US, where the direct costs of bank rescues were roughly 8pc of GDP. It would be closer to the trauma suffered by Ireland, Greece, and Cyprus when their banking systems collapsed, but on a vastly greater scale. The Chinese state has deep pockets but strains are mounting. Public debt has reached 55pc of GDP following the bail-out of local governments. This is now higher than among ‘A’ rated peers, mostly in the developing world. “Pressure on China’s sovereign rating could emerge if general government indebtedness were to rise significantly,” said the Fitch report.

China let rip with a fresh burst of credit growth from the middle of last year after a series of policy errors triggered a recession – with ‘Chinese characteristics’ – in early 2015. It ditched any serious effort to reform the economy and opted for stimulus as usual, cutting interest rates and the reserve requirement ratio. Credit reached 243pc of GDP by the end on last year, double the level in 2008. Banking system assets have grown by $21 trillion over that time, 1.3 times greater than the entire US commercial banking nexus.

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“Defaults mean loans and bonds won’t be paid back. The owners of the bonds and debt (mortgages, auto loans, etc.) will have to absorb massive losses.”

The Coming Wave of Defaults Will Be Devastating (CH Smith)

In an economy based on borrowing, i.e. credit a.k.a. debt, loan defaults and deleveraging (reducing leverage and debt loads) matter. Consider this chart of total credit in the U.S. Note that the relatively tiny decline in total credit in 2008 caused by subprime mortgage defaults (a.k.a. deleveraging) very nearly collapsed not just the U.S. financial system but the entire global financial system. Every credit boom is followed by a credit bust, as uncreditworthy borrowers and highly leveraged speculators inevitably default. Homeowners with 3% down payment mortgages default when one wage earner loses their job, companies that are sliding into bankruptcy default on their bonds, and so on. This is the normal healthy credit cycle.

Bad debt is like dead wood piling up in the forest. Eventually it starts choking off new growth, and Nature’s solution is a conflagration–a raging forest fire that turns all the dead wood into ash. The fire of defaults and deleveraging is the only way to open up new areas for future growth. Unfortunately, central banks have attempted to outlaw the healthy credit cycle. In effect, central banks have piled up dead wood (debt that will never be paid back) to the tops of the trees, and this is one fundamental reason why global growth is stagnant. The central banks put out the default/deleveraging forest fire in 2008 with a tsunami of cheap new credit. Central banks created trillions of dollars, euros, yen and yuan and flooded the major economies with this cheap credit.

They also lowered yields on savings to zero so banks could pocket profits rather than pay depositors interest. This enabled the banks to rebuild their cash and balance sheets – at the expense of everyone with cash, of course. Having unleashed tens of trillions of dollars in new credit since 2008, the central banks have simply increased the likelihood and scale of the coming default conflagration. Now the amount of deadwood that’s piled up is many times greater than it was in 2008. Very few observers explore what happens after defaults start cascading through the system. Defaults mean loans and bonds won’t be paid back. The owners of the bonds and debt (mortgages, auto loans, etc.) will have to absorb massive losses.

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We’ve been alarmed about it for years.

Time to ‘Be Alarmed’ about Emerging Market Debt: UN (DQ)

[..] It was the peak of the emerging market bubble, when the amount of debt that low-income developing economies could have sold to eager investors seemed almost limitless. The main reason for this unprecedented surge in appetite for EM debt was the huge monetary expansion unleashed in many of the world’s major economies, led by the Fed’s QE program. The result was the now-all-too-familiar reality of anemic (at best) yield opportunities in developed markets, prompting investors to seek out much riskier emerging market assets. The moment the Fed turned off the spigot, in mid-2014, the flow of funds began to reverse, according to the report, creating ripe conditions for a “prolonged commodity price shock, steep currency depreciations and worsening growth prospects,” which have “quickly driven up borrowing costs and debt-to-GDP ratios.”

For the first time since the Latin American debt crisis in the second half of the 1980s, aggregate net capital flows entered negative territory. Aggregate outflows reached $656 billion in 2015 and $185 billion in the first quarter of 2016. The capital flight was particularly pronounced in China and other parts of Asia. Note how capital flight heated up in 2014 toward the end of the Fed’s “QE Infinity”.

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More consequences of unbridled manipulation of financial markets.

The Ted Spread Is Dead, Baby. The Ted Spread Is Dead (WSJ)

A measure of stress in financial markets, whose alarm bells heralded the 2008 financial crisis, just hit its highest level in over seven years. But don’t worry. It turns out the so-called Ted Spread might be dead, an unlikely casualty of the recent changes in U.S. money-market regulation. This spread charts the difference between the London interbank offered rate and the yield on three-month U.S. Treasury bills. Libor is a dollar-denominated global gauge of private-sector credit strength, particularly that of banks, and three-month bills measure an ultrasafe bet—the U.S. government’s creditworthiness. Ted stands for Treasury-Eurodollar rate, the Eurodollar being the greenback denominated lending reflected in the Libor rate.

If the difference, or spread, between what banks charge each other increases compared with yields on safe government debt, that reflects an elevated risk of defaults in the private sector that the banking sector lends to. For the past year and a half the spread has been creeping higher, rising from 0.2 of a percentage point at the turn of 2015, to 0.653 of a percentage point on Wednesday. That is the highest it has been since May 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, surpassing other moments of extreme stress, like the euro sovereign-debt crisis around 2011. But there is a problem with that. Looming U.S. regulation of money-market funds has driven Libor higher, meaning that it isn’t quite the indicator that it once was.

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Blair and Cameron’s scorched earth.

UK Councils ‘Building Up Dangerous Levels Of Debt And Risk’ (Ind.)

Cash-strapped local councils are building up dangerous levels of risk and debt as they turn to commercial ventures in a bid to raise funds, credit agencies and campaigners have warned. Moody’s, the credit agency, warned that a series of ambitious plans to boost revenue by setting up businesses could put council tax payers at risk should they run into difficulties. The warning, in a report into local government finance, comes amid mounting evidence that local authorities are increasingly turning to borrowing after a run of tough settlements with central Government. Roshana Arasaratnam, a senior credit officer at Moody’s, said in the wake of the report’s publication:

“Borrowing to invest in commercial projects exposes local authorities to additional credit risk, as the revenues that flow from these projects are inherently uncertain. “Those adopting this strategy also face increased project execution risk, and greater competition from the private sector.” Ms Arasaratnam said such borrowing contrasted sharply with local authorities’ traditional investments in schools, housing and transport which are underpinned by government grants and do not depend on generating revenues from commercial activities. The report highlights a series of business ventures set up by councils, some of which are now on negative credit watch. They include Warrington Borough Council, which in 2015 issued £150m of bonds to support an economic development plan aimed at increasing business rate revenues.

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Paper wealth is not wealth.

You’re Not as Rich as You Think (Satyajit Das)

The idea that the world is awash in savings – one factor driving the theory of secular stagnation – is, on the surface, a persuasive one. Too bad it may not be true. Yes, the postwar generation is wealthier than any before it. But the ultimate value of any investment depends upon being able to convert it into cash and thus generate purchasing power. In fact, the world’s accumulated wealth – around $250 trillion, according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report – is almost certainly incapable of realization at its paper value. The headline number thus vastly overstates the supposed savings glut. Most of these savings are held in two forms: real estate, primarily principal residences, and retirement portfolios that are invested in stocks and bonds.

Both are rising in value. A combination of population growth, higher incomes, increased access to credit, lower rates and, in some cases, limited housing stock have driven up home prices; those who got in early have done especially well. Meanwhile, increased earnings and dividends, driven by economic growth and inflation, have boosted equity values. So have loose monetary policies designed to counteract the Great Recession since 2009. Yet the appreciating value of one’s own home doesn’t automatically translate into purchasing power. A primary residence produces no income. Indeed, maintenance costs, utility bills and property taxes – which often rise along with home prices – mean that houses are cash-flow negative.

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As soon as they understand the magnitude of the numbers, they’ll look the other way.

Deutsche Bank Woes Sparks Concern Among German Lawmakers (BBG)

Deutsche Bank’s finances, weakened by low profitability and mounting legal costs, are raising concern among German politicians after the U.S. sought $14 billion to settle claims related to the sale of mortgage-backed securities. At a closed session of Social Democratic finance lawmakers this week, Deutsche Bank’s woes came up alongside a debate over Basel financial rules, according to two people familiar with the matter. Participants discussed the U.S. fine and the financial reserves at Deutsche Bank’s disposal if it had to cover the full amount, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the meeting on Tuesday was private. While the participants – members of the junior party in Angela Merkel’s government – didn’t reach any conclusions on the likely outcome, the discussion signals that the risks have the attention of Germany’s political establishment.

The German Finance Ministry last week called on the U.S. to ensure a “fair outcome” for Deutsche Bank, citing cases against other banks where the government settled for reduced fines. Pressure on Germany’s biggest lender has increased since German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Bloomberg Television on Feb. 9 that he has “no concerns about Deutsche Bank.” Germany’s biggest bank was already ranked among the worst-capitalized lenders in European stress tests before U.S. authorities demanded $14 billion during initial talks to settle a probe into how it handled mortgage securities during the 2008 financial crisis. The announcement led Deutsche Bank’s riskiest bonds to plunge.

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Never ending story. Because it can’t end well.

Regulators Expect Monte Dei Paschi To Ask Italy For Help (R.)

European regulators expect Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena will have to turn to the government for support, three euro zone officials with knowledge of the matter said, although Rome would strongly resist such a move if bondholders suffered losses. Less than two months after the Tuscan lender announced an emergency plan to raise €5 billion of fresh capital, having come last in a health check of 51 European banks, there is growing concern among European regulators that the cash bid will fall short. While the bank is determined to see through the capital raising, if it were to disappoint, it would be left with a capital hole. Now euro zone authorities are considering whether state support would have to be tapped after what bankers have described as slack interest in the bank’s share offer.

“There is clearly an execution risk to the capital raising,” said one official with knowledge of the rescue attempt, adding that the bank’s value, about one ninth the size of the planned €5 billion cash call, would be a turn-off for investors. That person said a “precautionary recapitalization by the Italian state” could be used to make up any shortfall once attempts to raise fresh cash from investors had concluded in the coming months. [..] Monte dei Paschi faces a considerable challenge in convincing investors to back its third recapitalisation in as many years. Further complicating the picture, a constitutional referendum, expected to be held by early December that could decide the future of Renzi, is likely to push the bank’s fund-raising into next year, the officials say. The bank’s fragile state poses a threat to confidence in other Italian lenders and even to heavily-indebted Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

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There’s 24/7 propaganda and then there’s reality. It’s about air time more than anything else.

How Does A 60% Increase In NYC Homelessness Constitute A Recovery? (ZH)

[..] ..courtesy of data from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, we have a couple of additional charts to add to the list like the one below that shows a ~60% increase in the number of NYC families living in homeless shelters over the past five years. Aside from an increse during the “great recession”, the number of New York City families living in homeless shelter remained fairly constant at around 8,000 from July 2008 through July 2011. That said, over the following 5 years beginning in August 2011 through today, NYC has experienced a nearly 60% increase in the number of families living in homeless shelters to nearly 13,000. Ironically, the increase in homelessness experienced during the “great recession” was just a blip on the radar compared to the past five years as residential rental rates in NYC have soared.

Alternatively, we offer up the following statistics from Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Fiscal 2016 “Mayor’s Management Report” highlighting a 42% increase in applications for “Emergency Rent Assistance” from New York City families at risk of losing their housing. If this is what a “recovery” looks like to Obama we would certainly like to better understand how he would define a recession.

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“..journalism should not be used as a “weapon of destruction against persons and even entire peoples..“

Pope Francis: Journalism Based On Gossip And Lies Is A Form Of Terrorism (G.)

Journalism based on gossip or rumours is a form of “terrorism” and media that stereotype entire populations or foment fear of migrants are acting destructively, Pope Francis has said . The pope, who made his comments in an address to leaders of Italy’s national journalists’ guild, said reporters had to go the extra mile to seek the truth, particularly in an age of round-the-clock news coverage. Spreading rumours is an example of “terrorism, of how you can kill a person with your tongue“, he said. “This is even more true for journalists because their voice can reach everyone and this is a very powerful weapon.“ In Italy, a number of newspapers are highly politicised and are regularly used to discredit those with differing political views, sometimes reporting unsubstantiated rumours about their private lives.

In 2009 several media outlets owned by the family of then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi came under fire from the journalists’ guild over stories questioning the trustworthiness of a magistrate who had ruled against a company owned by the Berlusconi family. The stories were filled with insinuations about the way he dressed, including the colour of his socks, and the way he took walks in the park. The pope, who has often strongly defended the rights of refugees and migrants, said journalism should not be used as a “weapon of destruction against persons and even entire peoples“. “Neither should it foment fear before events like forced migration from war or from hunger,” he added.

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A highly developed culture 10s of 1000s of years before anywhere else on the planet. Ignored as such by Europe and North American bias.

Indigenous Australians The Oldest Living Culture; It’s In Our Dreamtime (G.)

Australia’s Aboriginal people have already been using the tag of “world’s oldest living culture” before given scientific confirmation in a recent study of the DNA of Australia’s Indigenous people. One likely response to the finding from the subjects of the research is a satisfied, “I told you so”. Scientific research often reaffirms what is in an oral history. This has been particularly so in Australia where cultural stories – often referred to as Dreamtime stories – that describe land movements and floods fit in with what later becomes known about seismic and glacial shifts from the geological record. For example, Associate Professor Nick Reid and Professor Patrick D. Nunn have analysed stories from Indigenous coastal communities and have seen a thread of discussions about the rise of tidal waters that occurred between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago.

And these are the newer stories. Other stories collected from around Cairns showed that stories recalled a time when the land covered the area that is now the Great Barrier Reef and stories from the Yorke Peninsula reference a time when there was no Spencer Gulf (it is now 50m below sea level). Reid and Nunn hypothesise that this could make these stories over 12,000 years old. So oral history and observation can reinforce what the science says. Or science can confirm what we’ve been saying all along. For many older Indigenous people, the cultural stories will seem the more trustworthy. There are historic reasons why Indigenous people remain suspicious of science practiced by Europeans, who have not yet countered the legacy of their obsessions with head measuring and blood quantum.

Aboriginal culture and traditions have been often viewed through a Eurocentric gaze that has failed to see the wisdom contained within its values and teachings. Cultural stories were often illustrated for children without looking for deeper meanings and codes. These stories didn’t just tell a tale of how the echidna got its spikes, they contained – like parables in the bible – a set of messages about the importance of sharing resources in a hunter-gatherer society and the consequences of selfishness.

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Jul 252016
 
 July 25, 2016  Posted by at 8:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Theodor Horydczak Sheaffer fountain pen factory, Fort Madison, Iowa 1935

Japan’s Exports Decline for 9th Straight Month, Imports Plunge 18.8% (BBG)
Beware, Oil Bulls: Demand Is About To Fall Off A Cliff (BBG)
Peak Oil ‘Demand’ & The Duelling Narratives Of Energy Inventories (ZH)
What Happens When The Bond Bubble Finally Pops (IceCap)
With Kuroda Under Pressure To Increase Stimulus Again, Dissenters Appear (ZH)
Italy Insists There’s ‘No Banking Problem’ As Stress Tests Loom Large (CNBC)
Brexit Will Cost UK Up To $340 Billion In Lost M&A: Study (CNBC)
“Putin’s Useful Idiot”: Anyone Who Disagrees With The Establishment (ZH)
Leaked DNC Emails Reveal Inner Workings Of Party’s Finance Operation (WaPo)
Facebook Admits To Blocking Wikileaks Links In DNC Email Hack (NYP)
How Can You Join the DNC Class Action Lawsuit? (Heavy)
China Slaps Ban on Internet News Reporting as Crackdown Tightens (BBG)
Turkey Issues Arrest Warrants For 42 Journalists After Coup (AFP)
Refugee Camp Company In Australia ‘Liable For Crimes Against Humanity’ (G.)

 

 

Japan shows the exact same trend as China, huge drops in exports AND imports: world trade is collapsing. Still, Reuters’ comment today: “exports fall less than expected, offer some hope of recovery”

Japan’s Exports Decline for 9th Straight Month, Imports Plunge 18.8% (BBG)

Japan’s exports dropped again in June, with shipments down for a ninth consecutive month, underscoring the continuing challenge of reviving the nation’s economy. Overseas shipments declined 7.4% in June from a year earlier, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday. Imports slid 18.8%, leaving a trade surplus of 692.8 billion yen ($6.5 billion). Japan had a trade surplus of 1.81 trillion yen in the January-June period, the first surplus since the second half-year of 2010.

The weak exports data show that the nation’s economic recovery remains tepid and come before the Bank of Japan meets later this week to consider whether to further expand monetary stimulus. Japan’s growth is at risk as a slowdown in overseas demand and the yen’s surge this year make the nation’s products less attractive overseas and hurt the earnings of exporters. [..] Exports to the U.S. fell 6.5% in June from a year earlier, while shipments to the EU declined 0.4% and sales to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, dropped 10%.

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And this is mostly just the US.

Beware, Oil Bulls: Demand Is About To Fall Off A Cliff (BBG)

Beware, oil bulls: Just as U.S. oil production sinks low enough to drain supplies, demand is about to fall off a cliff. American gasoline consumption typically ebbs in August and September as vacationers return home, and refiners use that dip to shut for seasonal maintenance. Over the past five years, refiners’ thirst for oil has dropped an average of 1.2 million barrels a day from July to October. “People are looking ahead to the fall and are worried,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. “There’s more and more talk of prices going south of $40 and as a result people are going short.” Money managers added the most bets in a year on falling WTI crude prices during the week ended July 19, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data.

That pulled their net-long position to the lowest since March. WTI dropped 4.6% to $44.65 a barrel in the report week and traded at $44.14 at 11:53 a.m. Singapore time on Monday. With weekly Energy Information Administration data showing U.S. gasoline stockpiles at the highest seasonal level since at least 1990, refiners may shut sooner and for longer ahead of the Labor Day holiday in early September, the end of the driving season. “With gasoline supplies the highest since April, refiners may pull some projects forward,” said Tim Evans at Citi Futures Perspective. “This will take more support away the market and add to the broader problem of excess supply.”

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“..oil bulls counting on further declines are fighting history..”

Peak Oil ‘Demand’ & The Duelling Narratives Of Energy Inventories (ZH)

Crude oil inventories in the U.S. have fallen 23.9 million barrels since the end of April, but, as Bloomberg notes, oil bulls counting on further declines are fighting history. Over the past five years refiners’ crude demand has fallen an average of 1.2 million barrels a day from the peak in July to the low in October. “The rough part will be once refineries start going into maintenance,” said Rob Haworth, a senior investment strategist in Seattle at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “We aren’t drawing down inventories very fast and the pressure on prices will increase.”

But, as Alhambra Investment Partner’s jeffrey Snider notes, the significance of crude and gasoline inventory (and price) changes is the difference in narratives and what is supporting them. While there is a direct relationship between the steepness of contango in the oil futures curve and the amount of crude siphoned from the market to storage, it is not an immediate one. When crude prices originally collapsed starting in late 2014, twisting the WTI curve from backwardation to so far permanent contango (of varying degrees), it wasn’t until January 2015 that domestic inventories began their surge. And while oil prices rose through spring, flattening out again the futures curve and drastically reducing that contango, the spike in oil stocks didn’t actually end until almost the end of last April.

Given the “dollar’s” explicit seasonality, combined with the usual intra-year swings of crude itself, it isn’t surprising to find the process repeated almost exactly a year later. This time it happened in two separate events, the latter of which was a near replica of the start to 2015. The futures curve was pressed into deep contango after October 2015, and sure enough oil inventories spiked again in early January 2016. And like last year, though the futures curve would begin to flatten out again starting February 12, oil storage levels continued to build until the end of April.

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“Most investors today have no idea what is happening in the bond market and have exposed themselves to incredible amounts of risk.”

What Happens When The Bond Bubble Finally Pops (IceCap)

The 2008-09 crisis was caused by the private sector. Regardless of the reason or the assigned blame, far too many people and companies borrowed way too much money and when the bubble eventually popped (they always do), millions of people and companies lost an awful lot of money. The one important thing to know from those dark days is that governments were told (by the banks) that in order to save the world they had to save the banks. But what few people realise is that when they saved the banks, two things happened:

1. Tax payers and the most conservative investors from all over the world saved the banks – in other words, many who didn’t take the risk had to bailout those who took excessive risks. 2. The bailout and stimulus programs simply shifted the enormous debt crisis away from the private sector and straight onto the laps of the public sector. In other words, the bubble has shifted away from the PRIVATE sector to the GOVERNMENT sector. And when the government sector has a crisis, it is reflected in the GOVERNMENT BOND MARKET. To put this government bond market crisis into perspective, we offer our Chart 4 which shows a relative comparison to recent crises from the private sector.

To really understand how serious of a problem this is, just know that a mere 1% rise in long-term interest rates, will create losses of approximately $2 Trillion for bond investors. The fun really starts when long-term yields increase by 3%, and then 6% and then 10%. This is the point when certain government bonds simply stop trading altogether, and losses pile up at 50%-75%. When long-term rates decline, it is usually in a gradual trending manner – such as what we are experiencing today. For those of you shaking your heads in disagreement, we kindly suggest you research your history of long-term interest rates.

However, when long-term rates go higher – it is an explosive move. Long-term rates ratchet up VERY quickly making the sudden loss instant, while exponentially increasing the funding cost of the borrower. Most investors today have no idea what is happening in the bond market today and have exposed themselves to incredible amounts of risk. And more importantly, because a global crisis in the government bond market has never occurred in our lifetime – advisors, financial planners and big banks continue the tradition of telling their clients that bonds are safer than stocks. As a result, the most conservative investors in the word remain heavily invested in the bond market and are therefore smack dab in the middle of the riskiest investment they’ll ever see. Chaotic indeed.

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“Not unlike the Fed, it is clear that the BOJ is trapped in its own end game.”

With Kuroda Under Pressure To Increase Stimulus Again, Dissenters Appear (ZH)

With what little credibility it still has, the Bank of Japan is set to meet this week and likely agree on the size of yet another stimulus package for the economy. Prime Minister Abe’s main economic advisor Etsuro Honda recently detailed in an interview that the BOJ should increase its Qualitative and Quantitative Monetary Easing (QQE) program from ¥80 trillion to ¥90 trillion. In addition, there has been growing speculation regarding coordinated fiscal and monetary stimulus. The fiscal stimulus efforts are not expected to be unveiled until August, according to the WSJ. Expectations point to a “multiyear program valued at ¥20 trillion ($188 billion), including direct spending, government loans and public-private financing.”

Perhaps more interesting, this time, Kuroda may have a difficult time convincing the 8 remaining members of the monetary board. As the Journal notes, “other BOJ officials are signaling a reluctance to act, underscoring questions about whether the central bank has reached the limits of its powers to revive Japan’s economy. They note that monetary policy is already extremely accommodative, with bond yields and interest rates at or near record lows, and express doubts that additional easing would make fiscal stimulus much more effective, according to people familiar with the central bank’s thinking.” As core metrics and corporate expectations of inflation plummet, Kuroda’s promise to do “whatever it takes” to reach 2% inflation seems to be under significant threat.

Doing nothing now would “amount to an admission that the BOJ’s monetary policy has reached its limits—it wants to move, but it can’t,” said Yuichi Kodama, chief economist at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance. Not unlike the Fed, it is clear that the BOJ is trapped in its own end game. As Kyle Bass recently told CNBC, “The textbooks aren’t working for the academics … I fear they’re going to have to go into some sort of jubilee where the central bank just forgives the debt that they own…I don’t know what happens to the yield curve then. The unconventional policies aren’t working, so they’re going to have to go to unconventional, unconventional policies next. I don’t know where that takes them.”

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“There is no banking problem in Italy..” There’s only €360 billion in bad loans…

Italy Insists There’s ‘No Banking Problem’ As Stress Tests Loom Large (CNBC)

Top finance officials in Italy have moved to play down the issues the country’s banking industry is facing, just days ahead of crucial stress tests by the ECB. Speaking on the outskirts of a G20 finance leaders meeting in Chengdu, China, Italy’s Finance Minister, Pier Carlo Padoan, told CNBC that the Italian banks “do not need [a] rescue.” “There is no banking problem in Italy, it’s one particular case which is being dealt with … I’m confident this will be successful,” he said Sunday, highlighting issues at Monte dei Paschi (BMPS). That institution is thought to be the weakest link among lenders in the euro zone’s third-largest economy. Italian policymakers and EU officials have been trying to deal with its fragile banking system, bogged down by non-performing loans (NPLs) estimated to total €360 billion.

Reports had suggested that Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, is hoping to bailout the banking sector, which would contravene EU rules. Such a solution would stand in contrast to a bondholder “bail-in,” as Italian households are heavily exposure to the asset class. These reports have since been denied. These problems in Italy have roiled stock markets in the past few weeks, alongside the uncertainty following the British vote to leave the European Union. Shares of BMPS have been particularly volatile. However, Padoan told CNBC that this particular bank had put in place a “very effective restructuring plan” and said there had been a widespread misunderstanding of the whole industry. “(Italian banks are) not more vulnerable than they used to be. They have been strengthening over time due to reforms that have been introduced by the government,” he added.

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It will cost the global economy $1.6 trillion if companies don’t go deeper into debt to buy each other… Completely empty rhetoric.

Brexit Will Cost UK Up To $340 Billion In Lost M&A: Study (CNBC)

The Brexit vote will cost the U.K. up to $338 billion in lost merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity by 2020 and the global economy up to $1.6 trillion, law firm Baker & McKenzie said on Monday. “An active M&A market is all about confidence and credibility,” Michael DeFranco, global chair of M&A at Baker & McKenzie, said in a report. “To restore that confidence the U.K. government will need to get to grips with the enormous challenge of negotiating a new trading relationship with the EU as quickly as practically possible. Otherwise we move into more dangerous territory,” he added. The forecasts above are based on an adverse scenario where Brexit incites growing populism in mainland Europe and undermines EU support among remaining members.

In Baker & McKenzie’s central forecast, Brexit still knocks $239 billion off U.K. M&A activity by 2020 and $409 billion off global volumes. In 2017 alone, U.K. M&A transactions are seen falling by 33%. “In the last few days we have seen evidence that the M&A market in the U.K. won’t come to a crashing halt even if it won’t be at its previous pace,” Tim Gee, London M&A partner at Baker & McKenzie, said. “There are still plenty of buyers and sellers for the right deal at the right price. There are already some clear upsides — global organizations looking to acquire U.K. companies will find that a weaker pound makes U.K. valuations more attractive, although the uncertainty surrounding trade negotiations could deter the more risk averse,” he added.

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Hilarious.

“Putin’s Useful Idiot”: Anyone Who Disagrees With The Establishment (ZH)

This weekend we once again got confirmation that any time the generic narrative spectacularly falls apart, and the “establishment” is caught with its pants down (or, in the case of the DNC, engaging in borderline election fraud leading to what the FT just described as “Democrats in turmoil“) what does it do? Why blame Putin of course, and more specifically his “useful idiots”, and hope the whole thing blows over quickly.

Not convinced? Here is the proof.

 

And of course:

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So sad it’s funny. Hubris rules.

Leaked DNC Emails Reveal Inner Workings Of Party’s Finance Operation (WaPo)

In the rush for big donations to pay for this week’s Democratic convention, a party staffer reached out to Tennessee donor Roy Cockrum in May with a special offer: the chance to attend a roundtable discussion with President Obama. Cockrum, already a major Democratic contributor, was in. He gave an additional $33,400. And eight days later, he was assigned a place across the table from Obama at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Washington, according to a seating chart sent to the White House. The 28-person gathering drew rave reviews from the wealthy party financiers who attended. “Wonderful event yesterday,” New York lawyer Robert Pietrzak wrote to his Democratic National Committee contact. “A lot of foreign policy, starting with my question on China. The President was in great form.”

The details of the high-dollar event were captured in the trove of internal DNC emails released last week by the site WikiLeaks that has riled the party as delegates gather in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton. Internal discussions of the May 18 event with Obama and other aggressive efforts to woo major donors reveal how the drive for big money consumes the political parties as they scramble to keep up in the age of super PACs. The DNC emails show how the party has tried to leverage its greatest weapon — the president — as it entices wealthy backers to bankroll the convention and other needs. At times, DNC staffers used language in their pitches to donors that went beyond what lawyers said was permissible under a White House policy designed to prevent any perception that special interests have access to the president.

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Facebook plays multiple questionable roles these days. This is an ugly one.

Facebook Admits To Blocking Wikileaks Links In DNC Email Hack (NYP)

Facebook admitted Sunday that it had blocked links to the Wikileaks trove of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee. In a Twitter post late Saturday, WikiLeaks accused the social media giant of “censorship” and gave its followers an online workaround, saying “try using https://archive.is.” The WikiLeaks allegation followed a firestorm of controversy that erupted earlier this year when former Facebook workers admitted routinely suppressing conservative news. In response to the WikiLeaks charge, another Twitter user, @SwiftOnSecurity, chimed in that “Facebook has an automated system for detecting spam/malicious links, that sometimes have false positives,” which prompted a response from the company’s chief security officer. “It’s been fixed,” Facebook CSO Alex Stamos tweeted.

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“..retribution for monetary donations to Sanders’ campaign..” That would be some $220 million?!

How Can You Join the DNC Class Action Lawsuit? (Heavy)

With news about the WikiLeaks dump showing the Democratic National Committee working to push Hillary Clinton’s nomination rather than remaining neutral, there may be more evidence than ever for a class action lawsuit that has been filed against the Democratic National Committee. But how can you join the fraud lawsuit? There’s still time and we have all the details below. Here’s what you need to know. So far, thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters and other voters have requested to join DNC class action lawsuit, which is being led by Beck & Lee Trial Lawyers, a civil litigation firm based in Miami. The lawsuit is based on DNC internal emails hacked by Guccifer 2.0 which show the DNC was working behind the scenes to boost Clinton.

These emails show that work starting as early as May 2015, a month after Sanders had entered the race. Jared Beck told US Uncut that Article 5 Section 4 of the Democratic Party charter and bylaws requires the chair of the DNC to stay neutral during the primaries: “In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.”

[..] Beck said there were six claims to the case. The first is fraud against the DNC and Wasserman Schultz, stating that they broke legally binding agreements by strategizing for Clinton. The second is negligent misrepresentation. The third is deceptive conduct by claiming they were remaining neutral when they were not. The fourth is retribution for monetary donations to Sanders’ campaign. The fifth is that the DNC broke its fiduciary duties during the primaries by not holding a fair process. And the sixth is for negligence, claiming that the DNC did not protect donor information from hackers.

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“..can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media..”

China Slaps Ban on Internet News Reporting as Crackdown Tightens (BBG)

China’s top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina and Tencent to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country’s web and information industries. The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com and NetEase, Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency’s Beijing office. The companies have “seriously violated” internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing “huge negative effects,” according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday.

The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle “current-affairs news” operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia’s largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.
The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices. President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.

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China, Turkey, good thing there’s the internet.

Turkey Issues Arrest Warrants For 42 Journalists After Coup (AFP)

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists as part of the investigation into the failed coup aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, television news channels said Monday. Among those targeted by the warrants were prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak who was fired from the pro-government Sabah daily in 2013 for criticising ministers caught up in a corruption scandal, NTV and CNN-Turk said. There was no indication any of the journalists had been detained so far. The government blamed the 2013 corruption scandal on the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who it also accuses of being behind the coup.

The Hurriyet daily said that the warrants – the first to target several members of the press in the crackdown over the failed July 15 coup bid – were issued by the office of Istanbul anti-terror prosecutor Irfan Fidan. The prosecutor said an operation was already in progress to detain the journalists but Ilicak was not found at home in Istanbul and could be holidaying on the Aegean. Provincial police there have been alerted, it said. Erdogan’s government had been under fire even before the coup for restricting press freedoms in Turkey, accusations the authorities strongly deny.

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It’s the government, parliament, all the individuals that make up these institutions, that should be held accountable.

Refugee Camp Company In Australia ‘Liable For Crimes Against Humanity’ (G.)

The company that has taken over the management of Australia’s offshore immigration detention regime has been warned by international law experts that its employees could be liable for crimes against humanity. Spanish infrastructure corporation Ferrovial, which is owned by one of the world’s richest families and the major stakeholder in Heathrow airport, has been warned by professors at Stanford Law School that its directors and employees risk prosecution under international law for supplying services to Australia’s camps on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

“Based on our examination of the facts, it is possible that individual officers at Ferrovial might be exposed to criminal liability for crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute,” said Diala Shamas, a clinical supervising attorney at the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School. “We have raised our concerns with Ferrovial in a private communication to their officers and directors detailing our findings. We have yet to hear back.” Shamas said her colleagues’ findings should be a warning to any company or country seeking to replicate Australia’s refugee policies elsewhere. “One of the things that we and our partners are concerned about is the timing of all of this,” said Shamas, who also worked in conjunction with the Global Legal Action Network.

[..] The NBIA executive director, Shen Narayanasamy, told the Guardian that Ferrovial’s complicity in the abuses on Nauru and Manus was “incredibly cut-and-dried under international law”. “There is no shadow of a doubt that gross human rights violations are occurring, no shadow of a doubt that Ferrovial is complicit,” she said. “The risk to Ferrovial is essentially the annihilation of its reputation. As a company that relies upon contracting with governments for service provision, they put at risk all of their contracts, and all of the future contracts they hope to win. They put at risk all of their ratings, all of their client relationships – people will assess that they are too controversial, too unethical to have a relationship with, and they could see large institutional investors divesting.”

NBIA links the Pacific Ocean camps to the 22 mainly European banks that fund Ferrovial’s activities, and six European and American investment funds that own shares in the company. Twenty-two mainly European banks – many of them household names – have jointly provided Ferrovial with a €1.25bn (£1bn) loan for general corporate purposes. The banks include Barclays, RBS, Santander, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase – as well as Instituto de Crédito Oficial, a bank owned by the Spanish state. The other banks are Banca IMI (Intesa Sanpaolo), Banco Sabadell, Banco Popular Español, Bank of America, Bankinter, BBVA, Crédit Agricole, Deutsche, Mediobanca, Mizuho, Morgan Stanley, Société Générale, and the Royal Bank of Canada.

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Feb 272016
 
 February 27, 2016  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Ben Shahn “Scene in Jackson Square, New Orleans” 1935

World Trade Falls 13.8% In Dollar Terms (FT)
Scepticism Rife Over G20 Move To Calm FX (FT)
G20 To Say World Needs To Look Beyond Ultra-Easy Policy For Growth (Reuters)
As China’s Economic Picture Turns Uglier, Beijing Applies Airbrush (NY Times)
Chinese Accounting Is ‘Highly Questionable’ (CNBC)
China Commodities Industry Resists Cuts Despite Production Glut (BBG)
Yuan Uncertainty Scares Funds Away From China Bond Market (BBG)
Germany Lays the Foundations for a New Eurozone Debt/Banking Crisis (Fazi)
Societe Generale Slashes Forecast For European Stocks (BBG)
Japan Builds $124 Billion Cash Hoard Even as It Cuts Treasuries (BBG)
“Peak Stupidity” – Where We Go From Here (Beversdorf)
Bankers Have Not Learnt The Lessons Of The Great Crash (Tel.)
Bank Of America Preparing Big Layoffs In Investment Banking And Trading (BI)
UBS Accused of Money Laundering in Belgian Tax Case (BBG)
With No Unified Refugee Strategy, Europeans Return to Old Alliances (NY Times)
More Migrants Trapped In Greece As Balkan Countries Enforce Limits (Kath.)
EU Med Countries Oppose Unilateral Actions On Refugee Crisis (AP)

Reality.

World Trade Falls 13.8% In Dollar Terms (FT)

Weaker demand from emerging markets made 2015 the worst year for world trade since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, highlighting rising fears about the health of the global economy. The value of goods that crossed international borders last year fell 13.8% in dollar terms — the first contraction since 2009 — according to the Netherlands Bureau of Economic Policy Analysis’s World Trade Monitor. Much of the slump was due to a slowdown in China and other emerging economies. The new data released on Thursday represent the first snapshot of global trade for 2015. But the figures also come amid growing concerns that 2016 is already shaping up to be more fraught with dangers for the global economy than previously expected.

Those concerns are casting a shadow over a two-day meeting of G20 central bank governors and finance ministers due to start on Friday. Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, was set to warn the gathering that the global economy risked “becoming trapped in a low growth, low inflation, low interest rate equilibrium”. His comments will echo the IMF, which this week warned it was poised to downgrade its forecast for global growth this year, saying the world’s leading economies needed to do more to boost growth. The Baltic Dry index, a measure of global trade in bulk commodities, has been touching historic lows. China, which in 2014 overtook the US as the world’s biggest trading nation, this month reported double-digit falls in both exports and imports in January.

In Brazil, which is now experiencing its worst recession in more than a century, imports from China have collapsed. Exports from China to Brazil of everything from cars to textiles shipped in containers fell 60% in January from a year earlier while the total volume of imports via containers into Latin America’s biggest economy halved, according to Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping company. “What we are seeing right now from China is not only a phenomenon for Brazil; we are seeing the same all over Latin America, declining [Chinese export] volumes into all the markets,” said Antonio Dominguez, managing director for Maersk Line in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. “It has been going on for several quarters but is getting more evident as we move into the year [2016].”

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Currency war Mexican standoff.

Scepticism Rife Over G20 Move To Calm FX (FT)

Scepticism is rife that the G20 gathering of finance ministers will agree to co-ordinate currency policy but there is some belief it could provide a short-term boost to risk appetite. Japan has led calls for the two-day meeting in Shanghai to bring calmness to an unstable market with a broad-based FX strategy, seen by some market commentators as a reprise of the 1985 Plaza Accord that succeeded in weakening a rampant dollar. But those hopes have been knocked back by China and the US, and market expectations have been subdued in the run-up to the G20 meeting that ends with a communique on Saturday. “A grand solution like the Plaza Accord feels far-fetched”, said Peter Rosenstrich at the online bank Swissquote.

“G20 members were ‘too unique’ to agree which currencies were mispriced, while to decide who wins and who loses would be ‘far too complex'” , he said. Some FX strategists are braced for a negative market reaction to the G20 meeting, basing their fears on the experience of previous gatherings. “Our fear is that…there may yet be a sense of despondency, an ‘is that it’ moment, should the G20 be seen to be papering over some rather large cracks in an all too familiar fashion“, said Neil Mellor at BNY Mellon. Market turmoil has driven a sharp rise in the value of the yen against the dollar, causing alarm at the Bank of Japan and jeopardising the government’s Abenomics growth strategy.

Japan’s negative interest rates policy, which came under attack as the G20 meeting began, has failed to reverse the yen’s rise, leading to heightened expectation of unilateral FX intervention by the BoJ. David Bloom, head of FX research at HSBC, said that possibility had been put on hold in the build-up to the G20 meeting, given the potential backlash from other G20 members. “But once that peer pressure passes after the meeting, FX intervention could be back on the table, he warned”. “Any push in USD-JPY towards 110 could be enough to trigger the green light on direct intervention”, said Mr Bloom. The best that can be hoped for from the meeting, said Steven Englander at Citigroup, was a communique that convinced investors that global policymakers are ‘sufficiently on the same page to add to global confidence’.

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A whole lot of nothing. They -make that we- are going to regret this. But the political climate is not there to act.

G20 To Say World Needs To Look Beyond Ultra-Easy Policy For Growth (Reuters)

The world’s top economies are set to declare on Saturday that they need to look beyond ultra-low interest rates and printing money if the global economy is to shake off its torpor, while promising a new focus on structural reform to spark activity. A draft of the communique to be issued by the Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bankers at the end of a two-day meeting in Shanghai reflected myriad concerns and policy frictions that have been exacerbated by economic uncertainty and market turbulence in recent months. “The global recovery continues, but it remains uneven and falls short of our ambition for strong, sustainable and balanced growth,” the leaders said in a draft seen by Reuters. “Monetary policies will continue to support economic activity and ensure price stability … but monetary policy alone cannot lead to balanced growth.”

Geopolitics figured prominently, with the draft noting risks and vulnerabilities had risen against a backdrop that includes the shock of a potential British exit from the European Union, which will be decided in a June 23 referendum, rising numbers of refugees and migrants, and downgraded global growth prospects. But there was no sign of coordinated stimulus spending to spark activity, as some investors had been hoping after the market turmoil that began 2016. Divisions have emerged among major economies over the reliance on debt to drive growth and the use of negative interest rates by some central banks, such as in Japan. Germany had made it clear it was not keen on new stimulus, with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble saying on Friday the debt-financed growth model had reached its limits.

“It is even causing new problems, raising debt, causing bubbles and excessive risk taking, zombifying the economy,” he said. The G20, which spans major industrialized economies such as the United States and Japan to the emerging giants of China and Brazil and smaller economies such as Indonesia and Turkey, reiterated in the communique a commitment to refrain from targeting exchange rates for competitive purposes, including through devaluations. While G20 host China has ruled out another devaluation of the yuan after surprising markets by lowering its exchange rate last August, there still appeared to be concerns that some members may seek a quick fix to domestic woes through a weaker currency.

Japanese finance minister Taro Aso said late on Friday he had urged China to carry out currency reform and map out a mid-term structural reform plan with a timeframe. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also encouraged China on Friday to shift to a more market-oriented exchange rate in “an orderly way” and “refrain from policies that would be destabilizing and create an unfair advantage”.

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“Data disappears when it becomes negative..”

As China’s Economic Picture Turns Uglier, Beijing Applies Airbrush (NY Times)

This month, Chinese banking officials omitted currency data from closely watched economic reports. Weeks earlier, Chinese regulators fined a journalist $23,000 for reposting a message that said a big securities firm had told elite clients to sell stock. Before that, officials pressed two companies to stop releasing early results from a survey of Chinese factories that often moved markets. Chinese leaders are taking increasingly bold steps to stop rising pessimism about turbulent markets and the slowing of the country’s growth. As financial and economic troubles threaten to undermine confidence in the Communist Party, Beijing is tightening the flow of economic information and even criminalizing commentary that officials believe could hurt stocks or the currency.

The effort to control the economic narrative plays into a wide-reaching strategy by President Xi Jinping to solidify support at a time when doubts are swirling about his ability to manage the tumult. The persistence of that tumult was underscored on Thursday by a 6.4% drop in Chinese stocks, which are now down more than a fifth since the beginning of this year alone. The government moved to bolster confidence on Saturday by ousting its top securities regulator, who had been widely accused of contributing to the stock market turmoil. Mr. Xi is also putting pressure on the Chinese media to focus on positive news that reflects well on the party. But the tightly scripted story makes it ever more difficult to get information needed to gauge the extent of the country’s slowdown, analysts say. “Data disappears when it becomes negative,” said Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder of J Capital Research, which analyzes the Chinese economy.

The party’s attitude has raised further questions among executives and economists over whether Chinese policy makers know how to manage a quasi-market economy, the second-largest economy in the world, after that of the United States. Economists have long cast some doubt on Chinese official figures, which show a huge economy that somehow manages to avoid the peaks and valleys that other countries regularly report. In recent years, China made efforts to improve that data by releasing more information more frequently, among other measures. It also gave its financial media greater freedom, even as censors kept a tight leash on political discourse. But the party now sees reports of economic turbulence as a potential threat. The same goes for data. “Many economic indicators are on a downward trend in China, and economic data has become quite sensitive nowadays,” said Yuan Gangming, a researcher at the Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University.

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Analysts are not ging to leave this alone anymore.

Chinese Accounting Is ‘Highly Questionable’ (CNBC)

Financial reporting in China was back in the spotlight again Friday, with one strategist claiming Chinese businesses were using “accounting trickery” to mask underlying credit problems. China looks like it’s heading towards a credit bust, Chris Watling, CEO and chief market strategist at Longview Economics told CNBC on Friday, explaining that cash borrowed by mainland firms is primarily being used to service debts. “We’ve been looking a lot at Chinese accounting recently and it is highly questionable,” he said. The corporate sector is increasing borrowing to pay interest, while instances of fraud and default are on the rise, he added in a note published Thursday. He said there were many examples where operating profit has been high, while cash flow has been negative — a “classic sign” that firms aren’t generating a profit, he added.

Watling highlighted that the balance sheets of commercial banks were particularly worrying. “In an economy which has undergone a credit boom, all of the lending is not necessarily readily apparent from the top level data,” he said. “Accounting trickery is often at work,” Watling claimed. Chinese corporates would reject the accusations, but this isn’t the first time there has been speculation over the accuracy of Chinese figures. Back in September, the state’s statistics bureau announced it would officially change the way it calculated gross domestic product amid skepticism over the credibility of the numbers as the government sought to sooth reaction to China’s economic slowdown. Watling now claims lenders are using tricks like labelling loan collateral as revenue in their balance sheets, rather than as a creditor.

And it may be helping inflate banks’ balance sheets, which in aggregate have increased tenfold in 10 years to over three times gross domestic product at $30 trillion, he said. However, whether this will help lead to a devastating credit bust isn’t clear, Watling explained, saying that while the cracks are starting to show, the economy is managed so differently that normal market rules don’t necessarily apply. A current slowdown in Chinese growth comes at a time when the country’s leadership is stepping up regulation, curbing an overheated credit market and switching an export-focused economy into a consumer-driven one. After double-digit growth for the last decade, investors and officials in China are coming to terms with growth that has fallen below 7%, hitting a 25- year low.

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“China produces more than double the steel of Japan, India, the U.S., and Russia—the four next-largest producers—combined..”

China Commodities Industry Resists Cuts Despite Production Glut (BBG)

China has had an overcapacity problem in its aluminum, chemical, cement, and steel industries for years. Now it’s reaching crisis levels. “The situation has gone so dramatically bad that action has to happen very soon,” said Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, at a press conference in Beijing on Feb. 22, where a chamber report on excess capacity was released. That report’s conclusion: “The Chinese government’s current role in the economy is part of the problem,” while overcapacity has become “an impediment to the party’s reform agenda.” Many of the unneeded mills, smelters, and plants were built or expanded after China’s policymakers unleashed cheap credit during the global financial crisis in 2009. The situation in steel is especially dire.

China produces more than double the steel of Japan, India, the U.S., and Russia—the four next-largest producers—combined, according to the EU Chamber of Commerce. That’s causing trade frictions as China cuts prices. On Feb. 12 the EU announced it would charge antidumping duties of as much as 26.2% on imports of Chinese non-stainless steel. Steel mills are running at about 70% capacity, well below the 80% needed to make the operations profitable. Roughly half of China’s 500 or so steel producers lost money last year as prices fell about 30%, according to Fitch Ratings. Even so, capacity reached 1.17 billion tons, up from 1.15 billion tons the year before. With about one-quarter of China’s steel production coming from Beijing’s neighboring province of Hebei, excess production is a major contributor to the capital’s smoggy skies.

And with average steel prices likely to fall an additional 10% in 2016, fears of spiraling bad debts are growing. A survey released in January by the China Banking Association and consulting firm PwC China found that more than four-fifths of Chinese banks see a heightened risk that loans to industries with overcapacity may sour. [..] China will “actively and steadily push forward industry and resolve excess capacity and inventory,” the People’s Bank of China said on Feb. 16 after a meeting with the National Development and Reform Commission, the banking regulatory commission, and other agencies.

The government may find it hard to achieve that goal. The steel industry will lose as many as 400,000 jobs as excess production is shuttered, Li Xinchuang, head of the China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute, predicted in January. Hebei and the industrial northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning, home to much of China’s steel production, don’t have lots of job-creating companies to absorb unemployed steelworkers. “They are concerned about the possibility of social unrest with workers’ layoffs,” says Peter Markey at consultants Ernst & Young. “As you can see around the world, steelworkers are pretty feisty people when it comes to protests.”

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The big kahuna that should dominate the G20.

Yuan Uncertainty Scares Funds Away From China Bond Market (BBG)

Yield versus yuan. That’s the crux of the investment decision now facing the global funds given more access to China’s bond market. While it offers the highest yields among the world’s major economies, PIMCO and Schroder Investment say exchange-rate risk is damping global demand for Chinese assets. Barclays said this week there’s a growing chance China will announce a sharp, one-time devaluation to change sentiment toward the currency and suggested such a move would need to be in the region of 25% to be effective. “Uncertainty around currency policy remains one of the larger hurdles for foreign investors,” said Rajeev De Mello at Schroder Investment in Singapore. “This should be resolved as the year progresses and would then be a signal to increase investments in Chinese government bonds.”

The People’s Bank of China said Wednesday that most types of overseas financial institutions will no longer require approvals or quotas to invest in the 35 trillion yuan ($5.4 trillion) interbank bond market, which had foreign ownership of less than 2% at the end of January. The nation’s 10-year sovereign yield of 2.87% compares with 1.74% in the U.S., which offers the highest rate among Group of 10 countries, and sub-zero in Japan and Switzerland. The yuan has weakened 5% versus the dollar since a surprise devaluation in August, even as the central bank burnt through more than $400 billion of the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves over the last six months trying to support the exchange rate amid record capital outflows.

China is opening its capital markets to foreign investors to try and draw money as the slowest economic growth in a quarter century drives funds abroad, pressuring the yuan. Freer access will help the nation’s bonds gain entry to global benchmarks, bolstering appetite for the securities as a restructuring of local-government debt spurs record issuance. Uncertainty on the currency is preventing investors from buying onshore assets now, according to Luke Spajic, an emerging markets money manager at Pimco, whose developing-nation currency fund has outperformed 82% of peers during the past five years. “If you buy these bonds, collect coupons, make some profits, how can you take the money out, are there any issues.” Spajic said in an interview in Shanghai on Thursday. “What we want to clarify is how this process works now, given the capital control environment.”

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“.. in the case of a country like Italy, where the banks own around €400 billion of government debt and are already severely undercapitalised, the effects on the banking system would be catastrophic.”

Germany Lays the Foundations for a New Eurozone Debt/Banking Crisis (Fazi)

In recent weeks, Germany has put forward two proposals for the future viability of the EMU that, if approved, would radically alter the nature of the currency union. For the worse. The first proposal, already at the centre of high-level intergovernmental discussions, comes from the German Council of Economic Experts, the country s most influential economic advisory group (sometimes referred to as the ‘five wise men’). It has the backing of the Bundesbank, of the German finance minister Wolfgang Sch‰uble and, it would appear, even of Mario Draghi.

Ostensibly aimed at severing the link between banks and government (just like the banking union) and ensuring long-term debt sustainability , it calls for: (i) removing the exemption from risk-weighting for sovereign exposures, which( essentially means that government bonds would longer be considered a risk-free asset for banks (as they are now under Basel rules), but would be ‘weighted’ according to the ‘sovereign default risk’ of the country in question (as determined by the fraud-prone rating agencies depicted in The Big Short); (ii) putting a cap on the overall risk-weighted sovereign exposure of banks; and (iii) introducing an automatic sovereign insolvency mechanism that would essentially extend to sovereigns the bail-in rule introduced for banks by the banking union, meaning that if a country requires financial assistance from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), for whichever reason, it will have to lengthen sovereign bond maturities (reducing the market value of those bonds and causing severe losses for all bondholders) and, if necessary, impose a nominal ‘haircut’ on private creditors.

The second proposal, initially put forward by Schaeuble and fellow high-ranking member of the CDU party Karl Lamers and revived in recent weeks by the governors of the German and French central banks, Jens Weidmann (Bundesbank) and François Villeroy de Galhau (Banque de France), calls for the creation of a eurozone finance ministry , in connection with an independent fiscal council . At first, both proposals might appear reasonable – even progressive! Isn’t an EU- or EMU-level sovereign debt restructuring mechanism and fiscal authority precisely what many progressives have been advocating for years? As always, the devil is in the detail.

As for the proposed ‘sovereign bail-in’ scheme, it s not hard to see why it would result in the exact opposite of its stated aims. The first effect of it coming into force would be to open up huge holes in the balance sheets of the banks of the riskier countries (at the time of writing, all periphery countries except Ireland have an S&P rating of BBB+ or less), since banks tend to hold a large percentage of their country’s public debt; in the case of a country like Italy, where the banks own around €400 billion of government debt and are already severely undercapitalised, the effects on the banking system would be catastrophic.

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“..in light of the downgraded U.S. economic outlook,..”

Societe Generale Slashes Forecast For European Stocks (BBG)

The biggest bull on European stocks just buckled. Societe Generale, among the few firms that hadn’t cut 2016 estimates in response to global-growth concerns, now has the most bearish forecast. The bank sees the Euro Stoxx 50 Index ending 2016 at 3,000, up just 4.3% from Thursday’s close. It’s a far cry from only two weeks ago. Europe’s equities were at a 2 1/2-year low, yet the bank’s call for an year-end level of 4,000 translated to an almost 50% advance. Societe Generale also cut its estimate for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index to 340, indicating a 4.1% rise from the last close. “We trim our equity market forecasts in light of the downgraded U.S. economic outlook,” strategists led by Roland Kaloyan wrote in a report.

“We nevertheless maintain a positive stance on equities, as the recent correction already prices in this scenario to a certain extent. Equity indices should recover in the second quarter from oversold levels, followed by low single-digit quarterly declines in the second half of the year.” Societe Generale favors French and Italian stocks, citing “improving economic momentum,” while saying weakness in China will likely pressure the DAX Index. Along with the Swiss Market Index, the German benchmark is among the bank’s least-preferred markets in Europe. European equity funds had a third straight week of outflows, according to a Bank of America note on Friday citing EPFR Global data. Societe Generale analysts also expect the U.K. equity market to benefit from “rising Brexit fever.” It now expects the FTSE 100 Index to end the year at 6,400, up 6.4% from yesterday’s closing level.

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The power of the dollar.

Japan Builds $124 Billion Cash Hoard Even as It Cuts Treasuries (BBG)

Japan has stockpiled a record amount of cash at central banks as part of its currency reserves, after selling Treasuries, as policy makers around the world adjust to rising U.S. interest rates and falling bond-market liquidity. Foreign-exchange deposits in the vaults of overseas institutions ballooned to $124.1 billion as of Jan. 31, from $14 billion at the end of 2014, according to data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance. That’s the most based on figures going back to 2000, and accounts for about 10% of the nation’s total reserves. While the figure isn’t broken down, it coincides with a surge in greenbacks held by global central banks at the Fed. Any shift away from Treasuries would protect Japan’s reserves from potential losses as the Fed extends monetary policy tightening and concerns rise over bond-market liquidity.

Dollar holdings kept in cash stand to benefit from higher U.S. interest rates and a stronger currency, even as monetary authorities in Japan and across Europe start charging banks for some deposits. “Everybody’s devaluing their currencies, everywhere across the planet, except the U.S. dollar,” said John Gorman at Nomura, the nation’s biggest brokerage. “People are more comfortable putting their reserves in a currency that’s appreciating rather than a currency that’s depreciating. An official in the office of foreign exchange reserve management in the Ministry of Finance declined to comment on the matter, saying it can affect markets. The increase in Japan’s cash at foreign institutions is a change in the composition of the country’s foreign-exchange reserves. The overall stockpile, the world’s largest after China’s, has fallen almost 3% to $1.19 trillion since it reached a record at the start of 2012.

Japan, America’s largest overseas creditor after China, is cutting its Treasuries position. The stake among both government and private investors dropped 8.8% in 2015, the first sales since 2007, based on the most recent Treasury Department data. The reduction dovetails with a decline in foreign securities in Japan’s foreign exchange reserves. Since November 2014, bond holdings fell $126.4 billion, while deposits rose $116.9 billion. The strategy of selling Treasuries and holding dollars would allow investors to get out of older U.S. government securities that can be difficult to trade and may get even tougher to transact if the Fed raises rates further. Declining liquidity in the Treasury market is driving demand for the newest, easiest-to-sell securities. When policy makers increased benchmark borrowing costs in December, they indicated they will act four more times in 2016. Even so, the Bloomberg U.S. Treasury Bond Index has advanced 3.4% so far in 2016 in a flight from riskier assets.

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Something tells me we can always get stupider.

“Peak Stupidity” – Where We Go From Here (Beversdorf)

A reminder of what the market actually represents is a good place to start.  The stock market is simply an asset with some intrinsic value based on an expectation of future free cash flows to equity holders.  Those cash flows are generated from revenues less costs of the underlying companies that make up the market.  Let’s use the Wilshire 5000 Full Price Cap Index as the proxy market for this discussion as it is the broadest measure of total market cap for US corporations.  It’s level actually represents market capital in billions.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 8.29.51 PM

So the market has put a valuation on those expected future cash flows to equity holders (as of today) at around $19.7T (a 55% increase from Jan of 2012) down from around $22.5T (a 77% increase from Jan of 2012) at the market peak last summer.  So let’s take a look at the growth in cash flows of US corporations over that same period.  We should expect to find a growth pattern in free cash flows similar to the above growth pattern in the overall market valuation (the Wilshire is a statistically large enough sample to be representative of total US corporations).  Let’s have a look…
Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.53.09 AM

The above chart depicts corporate free cash flows (blue line) indexed to 100 in Jan 2012.  It is obtained by taking the BEA’s Net Cash Flow with IVA and CCAdj adding back depreciation and net dividends and subtracting net capex.  (The actual definitions of these can be found here.) What we find is that while the current valuation of expected future free cash flows to equity holders (i.e. market cap of Wilshire) has increased by some 55% since the end of 2011, the actual free cash flows of US corporations have only increased by 4%.

This becomes a very difficult fact to reconcile inside the classroom.  Why would market participants be baking in so much growth when the actual data simply doesn’t support it?

Well there are plenty of potential explanations.  For instance, rarely are investors rational.  While buy low and sell high is rational investing behaviour, often market euphoria comes at the market top right before a major sell off, leading to a buy high and sell low strategy.  Another reason is that the Fed has been providing a free put to all investors for the past 7 years essentially significantly reducing naturally occurring risk factors.  But whatever the reason this dislocation between expected and realized growth begs the question, how long can it last?  So let’s explore this issue.

Below is a longer term growth chart of the Wilshire vs US corporate free cash flows to equity holders both indexed to 1995 (i.e. 1995 = 100).

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 7.31.21 PM

And so over the past 20 years we’ve seen this same type of dislocation three times.  That is, we see expectations of growth far exceeding actual growth of free cash flows to equity holders.  In the previous two dislocations we reached a peak dislocation (peak stupidity) followed by a reversion to reality (epiphany) where expected growth moves back in line with actual growth.

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“Whereas US banking sector assets were worth only 80% of its GDP, Britain’s were worth 500%..”

Bankers Have Not Learnt The Lessons Of The Great Crash (Tel.)

Barack Obama used to talk about the audacity of hope. Mervyn King was Governor of the Bank of England during ‘the biggest financial crisis this country has faced since 1914’. Its lesson, he says, is that we now need ‘the audacity of pessimism’. Only when we fully understand how badly things went wrong – and why they are still wrong today – can we start to put them right. His new book suggests how. I meet Lord King in his modest office at the London School of Economics. Typically, he is just off to the West Midlands for a dinner for famous sons of Wolverhampton. He is a proud provincial boy, not a City slicker. I ask him to recall the moment he first understood the depth of the problem facing the world. Back in September 2007, when he ‘it was already clear that Northern Rock would need support’, King recalls, he was in Basel for a conference.

There was alarm in the United States because ‘sub-prime’ mortgages were collapsing. The central bank supervisors at the conference insisted that sub-prime failure could not bring down the system. But King talked to his friend Stan Fischer, then Governor of the Bank of Israel. They shared their fears: ‘If the only thing that goes wrong is sub-prime, ok. But what else could go wrong? What if the unimaginable happens?’ It did. Over the next two months, says King, he became obsessed with the need for more equity capital in the banking system. The banks resisted at first and ‘The politicians [Gordon Brown’s government] were susceptible to pressure from the banks’. But ‘we limped along till the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers’ in September 2008. Then ‘the banking of the entire industrial world was at risk of collapse’.

Britain – without a proper ‘bank resolution regime’ which, says King, ‘could have solved the problem of Northern Rock in a weekend, without fuss’ – was enormously vulnerable. Whereas US banking sector assets were worth only 80% of its GDP, Britain’s were worth 500%, a terrifying ratio. New Labour, having turned its back on nationalisation, had to revert to it: ‘It must have been galling for them.’ In Mervyn King’s mind, the credit crunch was brought about by something profoundly wrong. Bankers had been encouraged to take enormous risks with the customers’ money, enrich themselves and then dump the losses on the taxpayer. Huge pay increases for senior executives had produced a ‘very unattractive culture when clever people started to say to themselves: “I’m smart, I can make money out of people who don’t understand this”.’

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One by one they fall: “..the firm’s investment-banking revenues are forecast to be down 25% in the first quarter. Markets revenues are down 20% year-on-year..”

Bank Of America Preparing Big Layoffs In Investment Banking And Trading (BI)

Bank of America is preparing for significant job cuts across its global banking and markets business, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Senior executives in the division were tasked with identifying potential job cuts a few weeks ago, and this week were asked to increase their size, according to people familiar with the situation. The cuts are likely to be over 5% of staff, the people said. Some business lines will face deeper cuts than others, and the details haven’t been finalized. Employees could be told of the cuts as soon as March 8, one of the people said, which is weeks sooner than managers were initially expecting. The people didn’t know the reasons the cuts had been pushed forward.

BofA is joining firms across Wall Street in paring back staff amid one of the worst quarters for investment-banking and trading revenues. Business Insider reported on Monday that Deutsche Bank was cutting 75 staff in fixed income, while Morgan Stanley and Barclays have also recently cut staff. Daniel Pinto, CEO of JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank, said on Tuesday that the firm’s investment-banking revenues are forecast to be down 25% in the first quarter. Markets revenues are down 20% year-on-year, Pinto said, speaking at JPMorgan’s Investor Day conference.

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Their shareholders will pay the fine.

UBS Accused of Money Laundering in Belgian Tax Case (BBG)

Belgian authorities accused UBS of money laundering and fiscal fraud over allegations it helped clients evade taxes, citing help from France where the Swiss bank is fighting similar accusations. The investigating judge also accused UBS of illegally approaching Belgian clients directly rather than through its Belgian unit, according to an e-mailed statement Friday from the Brussels prosecutor’s office. UBS said it will continue to defend itself against any unfounded allegations. The probe is continuing and the investigating judge will present his findings to prosecutors at a later date. The accusations are based on strong evidence of guilt uncovered by the investigative magistrate, said Jennifer Vanderputten, a spokeswoman at the prosecutor’s office. UBS will be given the right to access evidence supporting the allegations, she said.

The Belgian prosecutor cited “excellent collaboration” with authorities in France, where UBS is awaiting a decision on whether it will face trial for allegedly helping clients evade taxes. UBS is also accused in France of laundering proceeds from tax evasion. Investigating judges in France wrapped up their formal investigation earlier this month, turning the case over to the national financial prosecutor who will make a recommendation on whether it goes to trial. The bank, which has called the French allegations “unfounded,” was forced to post a bail of 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion). Friday’s decision came after the head of UBS’s Belgium unit was similarly accused in 2014 of money laundering and fiscal fraud as part of the probe. Marcel Bruehwiler was questioned for several hours before being released in June 2014.

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Yeah, like Middle Ages.

With No Unified Refugee Strategy, Europeans Return to Old Alliances (NY Times)

Roughly five weeks ago, Donald Tusk, one of the EU’s most powerful political figures, issued a blunt warning to its 28 countries: Come up with a coherent plan to tackle the refugee crisis within two months, or risk chaos. Surprisingly, given the plodding pace of European Union policy making, three weeks before Mr. Tusk’s deadline, many of Europe’s national leaders are now moving swiftly, announcing tough new border policies and guidelines on asylum — even with three weeks remaining on the deadline set by Mr. Tusk, president of the European Council. The problem is that the leaders are not always adhering to European rules, possibly not sticking to international law and not acting with the unity envisioned by Mr. Tusk. In some cases, they instead seem to be reverting to historical alliances rather than maintaining the EU’s mantra of solidarity.

This week, Austria joined with many of the Balkan countries to approve a tough border policy in what some are wryly calling the return of the Hapsburg Empire. Four former Soviet satellites, led by Poland and Hungary, have become another opposition power bloc. All the while, a call for unity by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is increasingly being ignored, even as she struggles to tamp down on a political revolt at home while searching for a formula to reduce the number of refugees still trying to reach Germany. “We are now entering a situation in which everybody is trying to stop the refugees before they reach their borders,” said Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, a research institute in Sofia, Bulgaria. Mr. Krastev added, “The basic question is, which country turns into a parking lot for refugees?”

For many months, European Union officials, joined by Ms. Merkel, have tried to share the burden by distributing quotas of the refugees already in Greece and Italy to different member states. Many states have balked, and the program is largely paralyzed. European Union leaders also agreed to pay 3 billion euros, roughly $3.3 billion, to aid organizations in Turkey to help stanch the flow of migrants departing the Turkish coast for the Greek islands. But record numbers of migrants keep coming.

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What will this lead to?

More Migrants Trapped In Greece As Balkan Countries Enforce Limits (Kath.)

The European Commission said Friday that it is putting together a humanitarian aid plan for Greece as Balkan countries placed further restrictions on the numbers of refugees and migrants that could cross their territories. As of last night, authorities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) had not allowed any refugees to pass from Greece. Earlier, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia said they would each restrict the number of migrants allowed to enter their territories to 580 per day. The clampdown comes in the wake of Austria last week introducing a daily cap of 80 asylum seekers and saying it would only let 3,200 migrants pass through each day. As border restrictions north of Greece have been stepped up, the number of migrants and refugees stuck in the country has increased.

The government is attempting to stem the flow of migrants to mainland Greece by asking ferry companies to delay crossings from the Aegean islands, but between 2,000 and 3,000 people are arriving in Greece each day. It is estimated that there are currently 20,000 to 25,000 in the country. Some of them are out in the open, having chosen not to remain in transit centers or other temporary shelters provided by Greek authorities. Several thousand have reached the village of Idomeni at the border with FYROM, where conditions were said to be deteriorating last night as a result of bad weather.

The government launched a hotline for people or companies who want to donate items that are in need at the moment, such as non-perishable food, sneakers, towels and plastic cutlery. European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud admitted Friday that due to the changing situation in Greece, Brussels is putting together an “emergency plan” to avert a humanitarian crisis in Greece. Speaking at an economic forum in Delphi yesterday, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned that the upcoming summit between EU members and Turkey on March 7 would be crucial to addressing the growing crisis. “If there is no convergence and agreement on March 7, we will be led to disaster,” the former Greek minister said.

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Is this the bombshell?!: UN’s Peter Sutherland says: “Any country that unilaterally rejects an EU law duly enacted on migration or otherwise cannot remain a member of the Union”

EU Med Countries Oppose Unilateral Actions On Refugee Crisis (AP)

The rift over how to handle Europe’s immigration crisis ripped wide open Friday. As nations along the Balkans migrant route took more unilateral actions to shut down their borders, diplomats from EU nations bordering the Mediterranean rallied around Greece, the epicenter of the crisis. Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides — speaking on behalf of colleagues from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Greece — said decisions on how to deal with the migrant influx that have already been made by the 28-nation bloc cannot be implemented selectively by some countries. “This issue is testing our unity and ability to handle it,” Kasoulides told a news conference after an EU Mediterranean Group meeting. “The EU Med Group are the front-line states and we all share the view that unilateral actions cannot be a solution to this crisis.”

Kasoulides urged EU countries to enact all EU decisions on immigration so there “will be no unfairness to anybody.” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias blasted some European nations for imposing border restrictions on arriving migrants, saying that police chiefs are not allowed to decide to overturn EU decisions. He said Mediterranean colleagues were “unanimous” in their support for Greece’s position on the refugee crisis and that there was “clear criticism to all those who are seeking individual solutions at the expense of other member states.” The Greek government is blaming Austria — a fellow member of Europe’s Schengen Area — for the flare-up in the crisis. Austria imposed strict border restrictions last week, creating a domino effect as those controls were also implemented by Balkan countries further south along the Balkans migration route.

Greece recalled its ambassador to Austria on Thursday and rejected a request to visit Athens by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. The United Nations secretary-general expressed “great concern” Friday at the growing number of border restrictions along the migrant trail through Europe. Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said the U.N. chief is calling on all countries to keep their borders open and says he is “fully aware of the pressures felt by many European countries.” The statement noted in particular the new restrictions in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. Thousands of migrants are pouring into Greece every day and officials fear the country could turn into “a giant refugee camp” if they are unable to move north due to borders closures.

In Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the Mediterranean EU ministers in calling for a unified European approach to tackle the migrant crisis. Merkel, who has said that those fleeing violence deserve protection, said she was encouraged by the recent deployment of NATO ships to the Aegean Sea alongside vessels from the European Union border agency Frontex. “NATO has started to work in collaboration with the Turkish coast guard and Frontex. It is too early to see the effects of this measure. All 28 (EU) member states want to stop illegal immigration,” she said. But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the ships would only be providing a support role. “NATO ships will not do the job of national coastguards in the Aegean. Their mission is not to stop or turn back those trying to cross into Europe,” he wrote.

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