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So China’s Authorities Crack Down on Housing Speculation?

So China’s Authorities Crack Down on Housing Speculation?

Who’s Behind China’s Wild House Price Bubble? State-Owned Property Developers, Funded by State-Owned Banks.

Beijing’s municipal government summoned representatives of state-owned property developers on Monday and told them to stop hyping the already overheated housing market, according to the portal, Chinese Real Estate Business (CREB), cited by Reuters.

State-owned property developers, funded by state-owned banks, have been a major force in inflating home prices as they bid aggressively for land to gain market share. According to CREB, state-owned developers bid for nearly half of the most expensive land in China during the first five months of 2016. And that trend has continued. But after the meeting with the municipal government of Beijing, these firms may be forced “to change their land strategy.”

Telling state-owned developers to stop hyping, as CREB put it, “operational and market activities” would be the latest effort to crack down on property speculation gone wild in China. It would come on top of the numerous other ways local and central authorities have tried to curb this speculation, without success so far.

Today, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that new home prices in 70 cities surged 11.3% in March year-over-year. It was the 18th month in a row of year-over-year gains. Prices jumped 19% in Beijing and 16.8% in Shanghai (chart by Trading Economics):

On a monthly basis, new home prices rose 0.6%, the fastest in four months, up from 0.3% in February. Of the 70 cities in the index, 62 experienced a month-to-month price gain, up from 56 cities in February, once again defying expectations of a slowdown. Prices jumped the most in Haikou (2.6%), Sanya (2.5%), and Guangzhou 2.3%), followed by other second- and third-tier cities, to which the speculative fire has been spreading.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World Out Of Whack: Iceland, You Won’t Believe It

World Out Of Whack: Iceland, You Won’t Believe It

The developed world is going to hell and probably deserves it. Today, I’m going to show you what should have been done both during and post the GFC. That it wasn’t, and now almost certainly won’t, is a problem for us all but that’s a story for another day.

Today, we look to Iceland and marvel at what they managed to accomplish both leading into the GFC and then coming out of it, and then we scratch our heads at the latest news just out from their central bank.

On with it then…

It was over a decade ago now when I very nearly took a flight to Reykjavik but at the last minute opted instead to go to Copenhagen, which I regret since I’m told it’s like Scotland on steroids (sounds like a blast). What clinched the decision in the end was that a scotch was about 3 times the price in Reykjavik, and since I was heading out for a wild boys week this was important in our considerations, though I’m told that in the land of fire and ice the women are indeed unbelievable.

Its history is that of an arctic backwater reliant on fishing fishing, energy, aluminium smelting, and tourism. A place with hardy living conditions and hardier people.

Between the late 90’s and 2008 they, however, went through what can only be described as a stratospheric rise from this backwater specialising in fishing to one which specialised in global finance.

Using the Irish financial model as a blueprint, Iceland decided to revamp its economy repositioning itself in the international community as a low-tax jurisdiction for foreign finance and investment.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gary Cohn Backs Reinstating Glass-Steagal, Breaking Up Big Banks

Gary Cohn Backs Reinstating Glass-Steagal, Breaking Up Big Banks

In an unexpected statement made by the former COO of Goldman Sachs and current director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary Cohn told a private meeting with lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday evening that he could support legislation breaking up the largest U.S. banks – a development that could provide support to congressional efforts to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law – and impact if not so much his former employer, Goldman Sachs, whose depository business is relatively modest, then certainly the balance sheets of some of Goldman’s biggest competitors including JPM and BofA.

According to Bloomberg, Cohn said he generally favors banking going back to how it was “when firms like Goldman focused on trading and underwriting securities, and companies such as Citigroup Inc. primarily issued loans.”

What Cohn may not have mentioned is that with rates as low as they are, issuing loans – i.e., profiting from the Net Interest Margin spread – remains far less profitable than trading and underwriting securities in a world in which virtually every “developed world” central banker is either directly spawned from Goldman, or is advised by an ex-Goldman employee,

The remarks surprised some senators and congressional aides who attended the Wednesday meeting, as they didn’t expect a former top Wall Street executive to speak favorably of proposals that would force banks to dramatically rethink how they do business.

Yet Cohn’s comments echo what Trump and Republican lawmakers have previously said about wanting to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that kept bricks-and-mortar lending separate from investment banking for more than six decades.

As Bloomberg further notes, Wednesday’s Capitol Hill meeting with Cohn was arranged by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, and included lawmakers from both political parties and their staffs. The discussion covered a wide range of topics, including financial regulations and overhauling the tax code, the people said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Multiple Bubbles Are Going to Bring America to Its Knees: “The Warning Signs Are There”

Multiple Bubbles Are Going to Bring America to Its Knees: “The Warning Signs Are There”

bubbles3

If you’ve been paying attention to the ongoing degradation of the American economy since the last financial crisis, you’re probably flabbergasted by the fact that our economy has managed to make it this far without imploding. I know I am. I find myself shocked with every year that passes without incident.

The warning signs are there for anyone willing to see, and they are flashing red. Even cursory research into the numbers underlying our system will tell you that we’re on an unsustainable financial path. It’s simple math. And yet the system has proven far more durable than most people thought.

The only reasonable explanation I can think of, is that the system is being held up by wishful thinking and willful ignorance. If every single person knew how unsustainable our economy is, it would self-destruct within hours. People would pull their money out of the banks, the bonds, and the stock market, and buy whatever real assets they could while their money is still worth something. It would be the first of many dominoes to fall before the entire financial system collapses.

But most people don’t want to think about that possibility. They want the relative peace and prosperity of the current system to continue, so they ignore the facts or try to avoid them as much as possible. They keep their money right where it is and cross their fingers instead. In other words, the only thing propping up the system is undeserved confidence.

Unfortunately, confidence can’t keep an unsustainable system running forever. Nothing can. And our particular system is brimming with economic bubbles that aren’t going to stay inflated for much longer.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Economies Run On Housing Bubbles

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Rene Magritte Memory 1948
We are witnessing the demise of the world’s two largest economic power blocks, the US and EU. Given deteriorating economic conditions on both sides of the Atlantic, which have been playing out for many years but were so far largely kept hidden from view by unprecedented issuance of debt, the demise should come as no surprise.

The debt levels are not just unprecedented, they would until recently have been unimaginable. When the conditions for today’s debt orgasm were first created in the second half of the 20th century, people had yet to wrap their minds around the opportunities and possibilities that were coming on offer. Once they did, they ran with it like so many lemmings.

The reason why economies are now faltering invites an interesting discussion. Energy availability certainly plays a role, or rather the energy cost of energy, but we might want to reserve a relatively larger role for the idea, and the subsequent practice, of trying to run entire societies on debt (instead of labor and resources).

It almost looks as if the cost of energy, or of anything at all really, doesn’t play a role anymore, if and when you can borrow basically any sum of money at ultra low rates. Sometimes you wonder why people didn’t think of that before; how rich could former generations have been, or at least felt?

The reason why is that there was no need for it; things were already getting better all the time, albeit for a briefer period of time than most assume, and there was less ‘want’. Not that people wouldn’t have wanted as much as we do today, they just didn’t know yet what it was they should want. The things to want were as unimaginable as the debt that could have bought them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s Why Italy’s Banking Crisis Has Gone Off the Radar

Here’s Why Italy’s Banking Crisis Has Gone Off the Radar

Just how many banks are insolvent? Turns out, a lot! But elections are coming up.

For a country that is on the brink of a gargantuan public bailout of its toxic-loan riddled banking sector, or failing that, a full-blown financial crisis that could bring down the European financial system, things are eerily quiet in Italy these days. It’s almost as if the more serious the crisis gets, the less we hear about it — otherwise, investors and voters might get spooked. And elections are coming up.

But an article published in the financial section of Italian daily Il Sole lays out just how serious the situation has become. According to new research by Italian investment bank Mediobanca, 114 of the close to 500 banks in Italy have “Texas Ratios” of over 100%. The Texas Ratio, or TR, is calculated by dividing the total value of a bank’s non-performing loans by its tangible book value plus reserves — or as American money manager Steve Eisman put it, “all the bad stuff divided by the money you have to pay for all the bad stuff.”

If the TR is over 100%, the bank doesn’t have enough money “pay for all the bad stuff.” Hence, banks tend to fail when the ratio surpasses 100%. In Italy there are 114 of them. Of them, 24 have ratios of over 200%.

Granted, many of the banks in question are small local or regional savings banks with tens or hundreds of millions of euros in assets. These are not systemically important institutions and can be resolved without causing disturbances to the broader system. But the list also includes many of Italy’s biggest banks which certainly are systemically important to Italy, some of which have Texas Ratios of over 200%. Top of the list, predictably, is Monte dei Paschi di Siena, with €169 billion in assets and a TR of 269%.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Banks Are Evil

Barandash Karandashich/Shutterstock

Banks Are Evil

It’s time to get painfully honest about this 

I don’t talk to my classmates from business school anymore, many of whom went to work in the financial industry.

Why?

Because, through the lens we use here at PeakProsperity.com to look at the world, I’ve increasingly come to see the financial industry — with the big banks at its core — as the root cause of injustice in today’s society. I can no longer separate any personal affections I might have for my fellow alumni from the evil that their companies perpetrate.

And I’m choosing that word deliberately: Evil.

In my opinion, it’s long past time we be brutally honest about the banks. Their influence and reach has metastasized to the point where we now live under a captive system. From our retirement accounts, to our homes, to the laws we live under — the banks control it all. And they run the system for their benefit, not ours.

While the banks spent much of the past century consolidating their power, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Actin 1999 emboldened them to accelerate their efforts. Since then, the key trends in the financial industry have been to dismantle regulation and defang those responsible for enforcing it, to manipulate market prices (an ambition tremendously helped by the rise of high-frequency trading algorithms), and to push downside risk onto “muppets” and taxpayers.

Oh, and of course, this hasn’t hurt either: having the ability to print up trillions in thin-air money and then get first-at-the-trough access to it. Don’t forget, the Federal Reserve is made up of and run by — drum roll, please — the banks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why No One’s Going to Drain this Swamp

Why No One’s Going to Drain this Swamp

The Financial Sector threw $2 Billion at Congress during the Election. Biggest Spenders? Not the Banks.

The Financial Sector – whose products, risk-taking, and shenanigans blew up the sector and everything around it during the Financial Crisis – has finally gotten the memo in a serious way: During the past election cycle (2015-2016), it doused the members of the US Congress with a record amount of money to “influence decision making” and get what they want: deregulation, handouts, and subsidies.

So how much? Over $2 billion.

That’s over $3.7 million per sitting member of Congress, according to a report released today by Americans for Financial Reform. The $2 billion tab fell into two categories:

  • Campaign contributions by companies, trade associations, and individuals associated with the financial sector: $1.104 billion. This was “almost twice that of any other specific business sector.”
  • Lobbying expenses by 460 financial sector entities: $898 million

“The financial sector is by far the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties, and the third largest spender on lobbying,” the report explains, based on data by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which tracks campaign contributions reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and lobbying expenditures reported to the Senate Office of Public Records.

This “Financial Sector” includes commercial banks, S&Ls, credit unions, finance and credit companies, securities and investment firms, accountants, and “miscellaneous finance.”

But actual amounts are much higher:

  • Entities often report this data “many months late”; contributions and lobbying expenses reported after February 8 are not included in the report.
  • “Financial Sector,” as defined by the CRP, excludes some trade associations and companies with a “very substantial financial interests,” such as the US Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies extensively on financial issues, and the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) which lobbies on policy regarding auto loans.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is it Safe to Store Gold in a Safe Deposit Box?

QUESTION:  Martin,
Love your blog, especially your historical perspective.
You recently responded to a viewer that we should take precious metals out of safety deposit boxes. Is there a reason for this? To my understanding the bail-in rules for banks in N.america put deposits and bonds at risk only?
Thanks.

1933 Bank HolidayANSWER:  The contents of a safe deposit boxes are not covered by FDIC insurance. Never store a passport or any document you might need to get a hold of in emergency in a safe deposit box. The government can simply close all banks as they did in 1933 in a “Banking Holiday”. At 1:00 a.m. on Monday, March 6, President Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2039 ordering the suspension of all banking transactions, effective immediately. He had taken the oath of office only thirty-six hours earlier.

From March 6 to March 10, banking transactions were suspended across the nation except for making change. Roosevelt presented the new Congress with the EMERGENCY BANKING ACT at this time. The law empowered the President through the TREASURY DEPARTMENT to reopen banks that were solvent and assist those that were not. The House allowed only forty minutes of debate before passing the law unanimously, and the Senate soon followed with overwhelming support.

Banks were divided into four categories. Surprisingly, slightly over half the nation’s banks were deemed first category and fit to reopen. On the Sunday evening before the banks reopened, Roosevelt addressed the nation through one of his signature “FIRESIDE CHATS.” Roosevelt assured sixty million radio listeners that the crisis was over and the nation’s banks were secure. The bank run was over. On June 16, 1933, Roosevelt signed the GLASS-STEAGALL BANKING REFORM ACT, and also created the FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION.  Keep in mind the the government can close all banks for there is precedent. Whatever you have in a safe deposit box can also be seized and inspected.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Well-Kept Open Secret: Washington Is Behind India’s Brutal Experiment of Abolishing Most Cash

A Well-Kept Open Secret: Washington Is Behind India’s Brutal Experiment of Abolishing Most Cash

By Norbert Haering, a German financial journalist, blogger and PhD economist, who received the 2007 getAbstract Best Business Book award and the 2014 prize of the German Keynes Society for economic journalism. His best-selling book (in German) “The abolition of cash and the consequences” was published in 2016. Originally published on norberthaering.de (http://norberthaering.de/en/home/27-german/news/745-washington-s-role-in-india). Republished with permission of the author.

In early November, without warning, the Indian government declared the two largest denomination bills invalid, abolishing over 80 percent of circulating cash by value. Amidst all the commotion and outrage this caused, nobody seems to have taken note of the decisive role that Washington played in this. That is surprising, as Washington’s role has been disguised only very superficially.

U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the strategic partnership with India a priority of his foreign policy. China needs to be reined in. In the context of this partnership, the US government’s development agency USAID has negotiated cooperation agreements with the Indian ministry of finance. One of these has the declared goal to push back the use of cash in favor of digital payments in India and globally.

On November 8, Indian prime minster Narendra Modi announced that the two largest denominations of banknotes could not be used for payments any more with almost immediate effect. Owners could only recoup their value by putting them into a bank account before the short grace period expired at year end, which many people and businesses did not manage to do, due to long lines in front of banks. The amount of cash that banks were allowed to pay out to individual customers was severely restricted. Almost half of Indians have no bank account and many do not even have a bank nearby.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Italian Banking Crisis: No Free Lunch – Or Is There?

The Italian Banking Crisis: No Free Lunch – Or Is There?

It has been called “a bigger risk than Brexit”– the Italian banking crisis that could take down the eurozone. Handwringing officials say “there is no free lunch” and “no magic bullet.” But UK Prof. Richard Werner says the magic bullet is just being ignored. 

On December 4, 2016, Italian voters rejected a referendum to amend their constitution to give the government more power, and the Italian prime minister resigned. The resulting chaos has pushed Italy’s already-troubled banks into bankruptcy. First on the chopping block is the 500 year old Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA (BMP), the oldest surviving bank in the world and the third largest bank in Italy. The concern is that its loss could trigger the collapse of other banks and even of the eurozone itself.

There seems little doubt that BMP and other insolvent banks will be rescued. The biggest banks are always rescued, no matter how negligent or corrupt, because in our existing system, banks create the money we use in trade. Virtually the entire money supply is now created by banks when they make loans, as the Bank of England has acknowledged. When the banks collapse, economies collapse, because bank-created money is the grease that oils the wheels of production.

So the Italian banks will no doubt be rescued. The question is, how? Normally, distressed banks can raise cash by selling their non-performing loans (NPLs) to other investors at a discount; but recovery on the mountain of Italian bad debts is so doubtful that foreign investors are unlikely to bite. In the past, bankrupt too-big-to-fail banks have sometimes been nationalized. That discourages “moral hazard” – rewarding banks for bad behavior – but it’s at the cost of imposing the bad debts on the government. Further, new EU rules require a “bail in” before a government bailout, something the Italian government is desperate to avoid.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

UBS Warns: Spain’s “Most Italian Bank” Runs Out of Options

UBS Warns: Spain’s “Most Italian Bank” Runs Out of Options

The bank-bailout business rages on.

During the first week of 2017, Spain’s “most Italian bank”, Banco Popular, got off to a flying start as its stock outperformed all other major Spanish banks. By Jan 5th its shares had even crossed the €1-line for the first time in nearly a month. But Popular’s New Year fairy tale was not made to last.

Its upward momentum, if that’s the right term, was brought to a halt by a bombshell report from UBS that concludes that Popular’s stock, which already lost three-quarters of its value last year and is down over 90% since 2008, is still overvalued by 20%. In less than an hour, Popular’s shares were back under a euro. That’s life in the penny-stock lane.

According to the report, Popular has a provision deficit of €1.9 billion. In other words, it has nonperforming loans and other toxic assets on its books whose losses would amount to €1.9 billion. But it has not yet booked (or “recognized”) those losses. If it did finally recognize those losses, it could end up with a €2.4 billion capital gap. That’s the equivalent of roughly 60% of its current market cap.

The UBS analysts acknowledged that their previous forecast of the bank’s capacity to absorb loss provisions had been “too optimistic”, with the new estimates showing a lower coverage ratio (46% compared to the previous 50%) and capital ratio (10% instead of 10.8%).

UBS also poured cold water on the idea of Banco Popular further expanding its bad-debt provisions, since doing so would “permanently depress” its profitability, limiting its capacity to create new capital and increasing its regulatory risk. This is bad news for a bank that continues to drown in its own toxic soup eight years after the burst of Spain’s mind-boggling real estate bubble.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who Exactly Benefits from Italy’s Ballooning Bank Bailout?

Who Exactly Benefits from Italy’s Ballooning Bank Bailout?

Italy’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is not insolvent, according to the ECB; it just has “serious liquidity issues.” It’s a line that has already been heard a thousand times, in countless tongues, since some of the world’s largest banks became the world’s biggest public welfare recipients.

In order to address its “liquidity” issues, Monte dei Paschi (MPS) is about to receive a bailout. The Italian Treasury has said it may have to put up around €6.6 billion of taxpayer funds (current or future) to salvage the lender, including €2 billion to compensate around 40,000 retail bond holders.

The rest will come from the forced conversion of the bank’s subordinated bonds into shares. According to the ECB, the total amount needed could reach €8.8 billion, 75% more than the balance sheet shortfall originally estimated by MPS and its thwarted (but nonetheless handsomely rewarded) private-sector rescuers, JP Morgan Chase and Mediobanca.

All these events conform to a well established script. The moment the “competent” authorities (in this case, the ECB and the European Commission) agree that public funds will be needed to prop up an ostensibly private financial institution that is not too big to fail but nonetheless cannot be allowed to fail, the bailout costs inevitably soar.

And this is just the beginning. According to Italy’s Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, the Italian government has already authorized a €20-billion fund to support Italy’s crumbling banking sector, with up to eight regional banks lining up for state handouts. In addition, MPS plans to issue €15 billion of new debt to “restore liquidity” and “boost investor confidence,” as several Italian newspapers reported on today. That debt will be guaranteed by the government and its hapless taxpayers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

China Moves Forward with Its De-Dollarization Strategy

China Moves Forward with Its De-Dollarization Strategy 

The world monetary order is changing. Slowly but steadily, global trade and currency markets are becoming less dollar-centric. Formerly marginal currencies such as the Chinese yuan now stand to become serious competitors to U.S. dollar dominance.

Could gold also begin to emerge as a leading currency in world trade? Over time, it certainly could. But the more immediate implications for gold’s monetary role center on its increasing accumulation by central banks such as China’s.

As of October 1st, the Chinese yuan has entered the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket of top-tier currencies. It now shares SDR status with the U.S. dollar, euro, British pound, and Japanese yen.

Before the yuan officially becomes an SDR currency, the World Bank intends to sell $2.8 billion in SDR bonds in Chinese markets. The rollout of SDR bonds in China began August 31st. According to Reuters, China’s promotion of SDR bonds “is part of a wider push in China to… boost demand for Chinese yuan and diminish reliance on the U.S. dollar in global reserves.”

King Dollar won’t be dethroned overnight. But the place of prominence the U.S. dollar enjoys as the world’s reserve currency will indeed diminish over time.

Yuan’s Inclusion in the SDR Currency Basket: Merely a Part of China’s De-Dollarization Strategy

China and Russia have mutual geostrategic interests in helping to promote de-dollarization. Toward that end, the two powers are engaging in bilateral trade deals that bypass the dollar. Annual bilateral trade between China and Russia has surged from $16 billion in 2003 to nearly $100 billion today. When China hosted the G20 summit in September, it will make Russian President Vladimir Putin its premier guest of honor.

U.S. officials are none too pleased. They fear Putin aims to expand his global reach by forging stronger ties with China.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Should the Fed Raise Interest Rates?

Should the Fed Raise Interest Rates?

For some time now the Fed has been hinting that it will moderate its interventions–monetizing government debt by printing money to buy government bonds and now quantitative easing by printing money to buy corporate bonds–in order to drive down the interest rate to unprecedented low levels. The Keynesian theory behind these interventions is that lower interest rates will spur lending, which in turn will spur spending. In the Keynesian mindset spending is all important–not saving, not being frugal, not living within one’s own means–no, spend, spend, spend. The Keynesians running all the world’s banks firmly believe that it is their duty that spending not diminish one cent, even if this means going massively into debt. Keynes himself famously said that government should borrow money to pay people to dig holes in the ground and then pay them again to fill them back up.

To Austrian school economist like myself, this is childish, shallow, and ultimately dangerous thinking. Austrians understand that economic prosperity depends first of all upon savings, not spending. Savings is funneled by the capital markets into productive, wealth generating enterprises. Gratuitous spending is simply consumption. Now, there is nothing wrong with consumption…as long as one has actually produced something to be consumed. Printed money is not the same as capital accumulation. Or, as Austrian school economist Frank Shostak explains, goods and services are the “means” of exchange and money is merely the “medium” of exchange. Expanding the means of exchange through increased production–which requires increased capital, which itself requires increased savings–is a hallmark of a prosperous society. Increasing the medium of exchange out of thin air, as is current central bank policy, is the hallmark of a declining society that has decided to eat its seed corn.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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