by ilene - May 23rd, 2015 4:45 pm
Courtesy of Robert Berke of OilPrice.com
Part 1: The New Silk Road
Beginning with the marvelous tales of Marco Polo’s travels across Eurasia to China, the Silk Road has never ceased to entrance the world. Now, the ancient cities of Samarkand, Baku, Tashkent, and Bukhara are once again firing the world’s imagination.
China is building the world’s greatest economic development and construction project ever undertaken: The New Silk Road. The project aims at no less than a revolutionary change in the economic map of the world. It is also seen by many as the first shot in a battle between east and west for dominance in Eurasia.
The ambitious vision is to resurrect the ancient Silk Road as a modern transit, trade, and economic corridor that runs from Shanghai to Berlin. The 'Road' will traverse China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Germany, extending more than 8,000 miles, creating an economic zone that extends over one third the circumference of the earth.
The plan envisions building high-speed railroads, roads and highways, energy transmission and distributions networks, and fiber optic networks. Cities and ports along the route will be targeted for economic development.
An equally essential part of the plan is a sea-based “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR) component, as ambitious as its land-based project, linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and the Indian Ocean.
When completed, like the ancient Silk Road, it will connect three continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa. The chain of infrastructure projects will create the world's largest economic corridor, covering a population of 4.4 billion and an economic output of $21 trillion.
Politics and Finance:
The idea for reviving the New Silk Road was first announced in 2013 by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. As part of the financing of the plan, in 2014, the Chinese leader also announced the launch of an Asian International Infrastructure Bank (AIIB), providing seed funding for the project, with an initial Chinese contribution of $47 billion.
China has invited the international community of nations to take a major role as bank charter members and partners in the project. Members will be expected to contribute, with additional funding by international funds, including the World Bank, investments from private and public companies,…
Project Bookend: BoE Emails Guardian Top Secret Documents on Brexit, Including PR Notes on How to Deny the Project
by ilene - May 23rd, 2015 12:49 pm
Courtesy of Mish.
Incompetence at Its Finest
Here's a major laugh for a long holiday weekend in the US: Secret Bank of England taskforce investigates financial fallout of Brexit
Bank of England officials are secretly researching the financial shocks that could hit Britain if there is a vote to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum.
The Bank blew its cover on Friday when it accidentally emailed details of the project – including how the bank intended to fend off any inquiries about its work – direct to the Guardian.
According to the confidential email, the press and most staff in Threadneedle Street must be kept in the dark about the work underway, which has been dubbed Project Bookend.
The revelation is likely to embarrass the bank governor, Mark Carney, who has overhauled the central bank’s operations and promised greater transparency over its decision-making.
MPs are now likely to ask whether the Bank intended to inform parliament that a major review of Britain’s prospects outside the EU was being undertaken by the institution that acts as the UK’s main financial regulator. Carney is also likely to come under pressure within the Bank to reveal whether there are other undercover projects underway.
Officials are likely to have kept the project under wraps to avoid entering the highly charged debate around the EU referendum, which has jumped to the top of the political agenda since the Conservatives secured an overall majority. Many business leaders and pro-EU campaigners have warned that “Brexit” would hit British exports and damage the standing of the City of London.
The email indicates that a small group of senior staff are to examine the effect of a Brexit under the authority of Sir Jon Cunliffe, who as deputy director for financial stability has responsibility for monitoring the risk of another market crash.
The email, from Cunliffe’s private secretary to four senior executives, was written on 21 May and forwarded by mistake to a Guardian editor by the Bank’s head of press, Jeremy Harrison.
Secret Agent Man
I offer the following musical tribute in "honor" of secret projects of the Bank of England.
by ilene - May 23rd, 2015 12:23 pm
Courtesy of Mish.
Those living in or near Chicago have the opportunity to hear Senator Rand Paul in a discussion about how to transform Chicago, the state of Illinois and the U.S. with liberty-based public policy solutions.
- Date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 from 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM (CDT)
- Location: The 1871 Center at the Merchandise Mart, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza Chicago, IL 60654.
Cost of the event is $10.
The topic is "Unequal economic opportunity, failing schools and a broken criminal-justice system," as opposed to the Chicago pension crisis that I have been talking about lately.
Senator Paul is reaching out to minorities in inner cities, and that is a good thing.
I am trying to see if they can arrange a live video feed, but the preliminary indication is no.
The Illinois Policy Institute is sponsoring the event. To purchase a ticket or for media queries, please contact Eventbrite at Unleashing the American Dream.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
by ilene - May 23rd, 2015 9:38 am
Courtesy of Marc To Market
The US dollar had a good week. Indeed, the Dollar Index's 3.3% rise was its best weekly performance since last September. After looking rather bleak, the divergence theme struck back with a vengeance.
ECB officials indicated that its sovereign bond buying program was turning more aggressive in the May-June period to get ahead of the summer markets. And not only did officials deny speculation that it could end its program early (before September 2016), but they reminded investors it could extend the program if needed. Remember every country that has adopted QE has had to do more than it initially anticipated.
At the same time, research at two regional Federal Reserves (San Francisco and Philadelphia) emphasized the seasonal distortions that have depressed Q1 GDP, especially since the crisis. Although the Board of Governor's economists has played it down, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will make some changes to better take into account "residual seasonality" when it reports Q2 GDP on July 30.
The US economic data over the course of the week were mixed. For the first time in nearly two months, investors began rewarding the dollar for good economic data rather than punishing it for weaker data. There were three data highlights. First was the out-sized jump (20.2%) in housing starts. The second was the new cyclical low in the four-week moving average of weekly initial jobless claims. Third was the 0.3% rise in core CPI matches the August 2011 gain, which itself was the largest advance since January 2008. The year-over-year rate remained steady at 1.8% rather than slip lower as the consensus expected.
Not only did the dollar gains against all the major and emerging market currencies, but it also finished near its session highs. We caution against putting too much emphasis in the dollar's pre-weekend momentum. The previous week (May 15) the dollar closed on its lows, which was not a helpful indicator of this week's direction, even at the start of the week. Moreover, the US markets are closed Monday for Memorial Day. Nevertheless, a technical case can be made that the dollar's roughly two-month downside correction has ended.
by ilene - May 22nd, 2015 11:22 pm
Financial Markets and Economy
"It would be difficult to overstate the recent downside surprise in global consumer spending," writes JPMorgan Senior Global Economist Joseph Lupton.
Though retail sales in the U.S. have missed expectations for five consecutive months, disappointing consumer spending is far from just a made-in-the-USA story, he observes.
Japan’s foreign investments and assets climbed to a record in 2014, keeping it in front of China and Germany as the world’s top creditor nation.
The reading stretches Japan’s lead as No.1 creditor country to 24 years, with 71 percent more in net assets than China, even after its Asian neighbor surpassed it to become the world’s second-largest economy in 2010.
French telecommunications group Altice SA is talking to several banks about raising debt for a potential bid for Time Warner Cable Inc, the second-largest U.S. cable operator, according to people familiar with the matter.
The talks are an important step for Altice in putting together a bid for Time Warner Cable, which is also being courted by Charter Communications Inc after Comcast Corp abandoned its $45.2 billion offer for Time Warner Cable last month over U.S. antitrust concerns.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG scrapped its dividend this year partly because of charges tied to its pension fund. Investors have been shunning the shares — and those of peers that are likely to follow suit.
An unintended consequence of Mario Draghi’s bond-buying campaign has been an increase in the estimated cost of providing for retired workers. According to an index designed by Citigroup Inc., companies with the biggest pension deficits that have been forced to reduce profit forecasts are trailing the rest of the market by the most since 2013.
by ilene - May 22nd, 2015 8:40 pm
Courtesy of Bill Bonner
A vision of Hell troubles our sleep.
It is the vision of what the United States will be like when the authorities have obliterated almost three millennia of monetary progress and have their boots on our necks.
Here’s Peter Bofinger, a leading German Keynesian economist, in Der Spiegelmagazine:
With today’s technical possibilities, coins and notes are in fact an anachronism. They made payments incredibly difficult, with people wasting all sorts of time at the cashier as they wait for the person ahead of them to dig through their belongings to find some cash, and for the cashier to render change (rather than, for example, waiting for someone to find the right credit card, complete the transaction, and wait for approval)
But the additional time is not the largest benefit of the elimination of cash. It dries out the markets for moonlighting and drug trafficking. Almost a third of the euro cash in circulation consists of 500-euro notes. No one needs those for shopping; light-shy figures use them for their activities. [Also] it would be easier for central banks to impose their monetary policies. At this time, they cannot push interest rates appreciably below zero because the savers would hoard cash. If there is no cash, the zero bound is eliminated.
A Slide Back into Prehistory
It seems to be coming – a dreadful slide back beyond the darkest ages and into the mud and slime of prehistory. Back then, modern “money” had not been invented. Using rudimentary credit and barter systems, you could only trade with people you knew – and on a limited scale. Capitalism was impossible. Progress was unattainable. Wealth couldn’t be accumulated.
Then in India, in about the sixth century B.C., came silver coins – real cash. You didn’t need to know the person you were trading with. You didn’t know his family. Or his motives. Or his balance sheet.
And you didn’t have to keep track of who owed what to whom. You could just settle up – in specie. This made modern commerce and industry possible.
by ilene - May 22nd, 2015 2:33 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Inquiring minds are reading Fed Chair Janet Yellen's Outlook for the Economy speech, delivered today at the Providence, Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
Here are a few snips from what I believe to believe is a way over-optimistic assessment. I provide rebuttals following each statement.
Yellen: The U.S. economy seems well positioned for continued growth. Households are seeing the benefits of the improving jobs situation, and consumer confidence has been solid.
Mish: The economy is not positioned for much, if any, growth. Consumer confidence is not solid, and consumer spending plans have been sinking like a rock. See Consumer Confidence Plunges Below Any Economist's Estimate; Consumers Shock Economists.
Yellen: The drop in oil prices amounts to a sizable boost in household purchasing power. The annual savings in gasoline costs has been estimated at about $700 per household, on average, and savings on heating costs--especially here in the Northeast, where it was so cold this winter--are also large. Given these energy savings on top of the job gains, real disposable income has risen almost 4 percent nationally over the past four quarters. Households and businesses also are benefiting from favorable financial conditions. Borrowing costs are low, supported by the Fed's accommodative monetary policies. And credit availability to both households and small businesses has improved.
Mish: Any savings on energy went up in smoke on rental increases and rising health care costs. See CPI Shows Sharply Rising Medical Costs; Huge Obamacare Hikes Planned.
Yellen: In recent months, as I noted earlier, there has been some softness in the economic data. Recent indicators of both household spending and business investment have slowed, and industrial output has declined. The Commerce Department's initial estimate was that real gross domestic product was nearly flat in the first quarter of 2015. If confirmed by further estimates, my guess is that this apparent slowdown was largely the result of a variety of transitory factors that occurred at the same time, including the unusually cold and snowy winter and the labor disputes at ports on the West Coast, both of which likely disrupted some economic activity. And some of this apparent weakness may just be statistical noise. I therefore expect the
by ilene - May 22nd, 2015 2:26 pm
Courtesy of John Rubino.
This story isn’t actually about Greece, but it begins there.
After the country went functionally bankrupt a few years ago, the solutions proposed by its creditors (mostly European banks and governments) included the impoverishment of its current citizens through cutbacks in wages and pensions, the impoverishment of its future citizens through the borrowing of even more money from the IMF and European Central Bank, and the sale of major state-owned assets to foreign companies to raise cash with which to make upcoming loan payments.
Greek voters, not surprisingly, responded by electing socialists who promised not to do any of those things. But apparently this didn’t work. Newsweek reports that the privatization program, after a brief pause, is back in high gear:
Foreign corporations from countries including Germany, China and Russia are lining up to buy Greek state assets as the country struggles to pay its European creditors.
The sell-off includes major parts of Greece’s infrastructure such as airports, ports, motorways and utilities., The website of the agency leading the government’s privatisation drive details a host of real estate ready to be sold off, with deals listed as either ‘in progress’, ‘rolling ahead’ or ‘completed’.
The move marks a U-turn from the ruling Left-wing Syriza party, who had previously resisted the privatisation programme imposed as part of the conditions attached to Greece’s €245bn bailout from the so-called troika of the IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission.
Notable deals on the table as part of the privatisation drive include the purchase of 51% of Greece’s largest port to the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and a slew of airports popular with tourists to German transport company Fraport AG.
Other assets listed include the 670km Egnatia Motorway which crosses over Northern Greece, million dollar properties in New York, Washington and Belgrade, thermal springs, and and a former US Air Force base in Heraklion, Crete.
Another major sale which is pushing ahead is that 14 of Greece’s 37 regional airports which include those on popular holiday islands Kos, Mykonos and Corfu. Fraport AG, a German transport company have offered €1.2 billion for
by ilene - May 22nd, 2015 12:43 pm
Courtesy of Mish.
The CPI came in exactly in line with the Bloomberg Consensus option today.
It’s the details, not the overall number that is worrying. Medical care and rents have been rising rapidly.
The Fed likes to ignore food and energy costs. They have their chance to prove it.
From Bloomberg …
Pull forward that rate hike is what some of the hawks are thinking after reading today’s consumer price report where a benign looking headline, up only 0.1 percent in April, masks rising pressure through many components.
Excluding food and energy, core prices rose 0.3 percent which doesn’t seem that much but is outside Econoday’s high-end forecast for 0.2 percent. It is also the highest since January 2013. The year-on-year rate for the core is plus 1.8 percent which, after dipping to 1.6 percent earlier in the year, is closing in on the Fed’s general inflation target of 2.0 percent.
Readings showing pressure are outside energy including medical costs (up a very steep 0.7 percent in the month) and education costs (up 0.5 percent). Shelter costs, reflecting rising rents, came in at plus 0.3 percent for the 3rd time in 4 months which is the hottest streak for this reading since way back in late 2006 and early 2007. Also standing out are gains in furniture (up 1.3 percent) and used cars (up 0.6 percent).
Oil prices have been on the rise but not energy costs, at least in the April report which fell a heavy 1.3 percent. Gasoline fell 1.7 percent in the month. Two other readings also showed downward pressure: airfares (minus 1.3 percent) and apparel (minus 0.3 percent). Food costs were flat.
The headline CPI is down 0.2 percent year-on-year which looks downright deflationary. But the lack of pressure is due entirely to energy which is down a very deflationary 19.4 percent year-on-year. Energy prices are bound to firm given the recent move in oil from the high $40s for WTI to $60. That and emerging price pressures through the bulk of the consumer economy raise the risk that inflation may be brewing after all.
The CPI Seasonally Adjusted Numbers from the BLS look even worse.
by ilene - May 22nd, 2015 12:36 pm
To be "fiscally conservative/socially liberal" means overlooking many of the facts that make it impossible to separate social and fiscal issues. The following article discusses why the social and fiscal aspects of any political theory are so tangled that one is often just an unfortunate side of the other and why the relatively innocuous "fiscally conservative/socially liberal" position is inconsistent — a mix of ideas that do not hold up well together.
For a "top down" approach to sorting out the inconsistencies of your economic and political theories (forgetting the "liberal" and "conservative" labels for a moment), explore how the laws define our economic playing field. (E.g. read Stiglitz on Inequality, Wealth, and Growth: Why Capitalism is Failing.)
Thoughts? Please give us yours in the comment section.
It's a popular refrain among "centrists." The truth is that social and fiscal issues are inextricably bound
By Greta Christina, originally published at Alternet (via Salon)
Well, I’m conservative — but I’m not one of those racist, homophobic, dripping-with-hate Tea Party bigots! I’m pro-choice! I’m pro-same-sex-marriage! I’m not a racist! I just want lower taxes, and smaller government, and less government regulation of business. I’m fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.”
How many liberals and progressives have heard this? It’s ridiculously common. Hell, even David Koch of the Koch Brothers has said, “I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.”
And it’s wrong. W-R-O-N-G Wrong.
You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm. That’s true even for the mildest, most generous version of “fiscal conservatism” — low taxes, small government, reduced regulation, a free market. These policies perpetuate human rights abuses. They make life harder for people who already have hard lives. Even if the people supporting these policies don’t intend this, the policies are racist, sexist, classist (obviously), ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise socially retrograde. In many ways, they do more harm than so-called “social policies” that are supposedly separate from economic ones. Here are seven…