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Weekly Commentary: History Rhymes

Weekly Commentary: History Rhymes

President Trump and President Xi are meeting in Osaka as I write. We’ll know much more in the morning. Pre-meeting reports had the two sides agreeing to a “truce.” Heading into the meeting, President Trump said progress was made in Friday trade talk preparations, as he seeks to “even it up” on trade. I’ll assume both sides would prefer to convey a constructive meeting and a positive framework for restarting trade negotiations.

Having attained a head of steam, a positive outcome could provide additional juice to the equities rally. Sovereign bond markets, enjoying even stronger momentum, may have to think twice. Is the market’s 100% probability for a July rate cut justifiable in the event of market exuberance in response to improved prospects for a successful completion of trade negotiations?

There was definitely some push back to market expectations for an imminent start to a rate cut cycle. At least a few Fed officials are not oblivious to the risk of bowing to rate cut pressures:  

June 25 – New York Times (Jeanna Smialek): “Jerome H. Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said… that the central bank is weighing whether an interest-rate cut will be needed as trade risks stir economic uncertainty and inflation lags. But he made clear that the institution considers itself independent from the White House and President Trump, who continues to push publicly for a rate cut. Mr. Powell said the case for a rate cut has strengthened somewhat given that economic ‘crosscurrents have re-emerged, with apparent progress on trade turning to greater uncertainty and with incoming data raising renewed concerns about the strength of the global economy.’ But he stopped short of saying a cut was guaranteed, noting that the Fed would continue to watch economic events unfold and would avoid reacting to short-term issues.”

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

The Coming Sino-American Bust-Up

The Coming Sino-American Bust-Up 

Whether or not US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agree to another truce at the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka, the Sino-American conflict has already entered a dangerous new phase. Though a negotiated settlement or a managed continuation of the status quo are possible, a sharp escalation is now the most likely scenario. 

The nascent Sino-American cold war is the key source of uncertainty in today’s global economy. How the conflict plays out will affect consumer and asset markets of all kinds, as well as the trajectory of inflation, monetary policy, and fiscal conditions around the world. Escalation of the tensions between the world’s two largest economies could well produce a global recession and subsequent financial crisis by 2020, even if the US Federal Reserve and other major central banks pursue aggressive monetary easing.

Much, therefore, depends on whether the dispute does indeed evolve into a persistent state of economic and political conflict. In the short term, a planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28-29 is a key event to watch. A truce could leave tariffs frozen at the current level, while sparing the Chinese technology giant Huawei from the crippling sanctions that Trump has put forward; failure to reach an agreement could set off a progressive escalation, ultimately leading to the balkanization of the entire global economy.

JAW-JAW OR WAR-WAR?
Viewed broadly, there are three scenarios for how the situation might develop between now and the end of 2020, when the United States will hold its next presidential election. One possibility is that Trump and Xi will find a truce or modus vivendi in Osaka, paving the way for a negotiated settlement toward the end of this year.

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – June 19th 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge  – June 19th 2019

“You cannot be serious…”

Check out the new Edition of Property Chronicle: https://vimeo.com/342064460 

Oh dear.. Now I am worried. The only positive I can discern is its International Martini Day – Dukes, here we come..

It was a massive Wowser WTF moment on stocks! Donald Trump says he’s having a meeting with Xi and the stock market goes into the stratosphere! Then XI confirms, and its joy unlimited across markets. New records beckon.… Joy unconfined.. What can possibly go wrong? Softbank head Son telling investors it could be worth $1.8 trillion in a few years? (Note to self – sell stocks.) 

On the other side of the pond, it’s a Wow on Bunds…. Spectacular gains y’day taking the 10-year Bund rate to -0.33% after Mario Draghi talked about immediately lower rates, reopening QE and using all the unused A380s Superjumbos to drop wads of money across Yoorp. Spain bond buyers now get a gnat’s crotchet of positive yields, while Italy is just over 2%! Trump immediately tweets branding Draghi an unfair currency manipulator. Draghi looks at the miserable German ZEW and wonders why Donald doesn’t get on an do his own job… (Good to know Trump is on the ball and watching everything… everything.. (Crashing Minor Chords! Note to self – buy Treasuries and Gold).

Meanwhile, the Tories have found something to rally around… kicking Rory Stewart (which, thinking about it, has to be worth trying)… Last night’s televised debate between the candidates was truly terrible. The only positives I could garner was Boris has been stripped of his personality, and Sajid Javid came across measured and even polite. I’d vote for him, but we will never get the chance because most of us are too sensible, young, clever, to be members of the party… Meanwhile, Corbyn looks likely to accept Labour policy will pivot towards a second referendum….

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

Don’t Believe the Hype – Expect a Worsening of U.S.-China Relations

Don’t Believe the Hype – Expect a Worsening of U.S.-China Relations

If you receive your news via Donald Trump tweet, or courtesy of proclamations by Larry Kudlow, you’d be forgiven for eagerly anticipating a groundbreaking U.S.-China trade deal to be announced imminently, and thinking such a deal will save the global economy from rolling over into a serious downturn as well as pacify geopolitical tensions between the number one and number two economies in the world. However, if you expect these things, I don’t think you’re paying attention.

Before we get a little into the weeds, let me be clear that I have no idea what Trump and Xi will, or will not, announce regarding trade. Trump seems fanatically obsessed with the stock market, and Xi’s been dealing with an economy in a tailspin. It’s certainly possible they come up with some sort of agreement they think will restore confidence in the global economy and convince people the last few months were nothing more than a “glitch.” It’s also important to understand this positive outcome appears to be assumed by the stock market and investors generally. Anything less might be seen as a colossal disappointment.

The purpose of this post is not to predict the outcome of any particular trade negotiation. It could go in a lot of different ways and I have no edge in forecasting it. Rather, the purpose of this post is to express in no uncertain terms the view that U.S.-China relations will deteriorate substantially from here in the years ahead.

For a little background to this perspective, I suggest reading December’s post, Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift?, in which I concluded:

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

Trump’s trade war isn’t about trade anymore — it’s plainly about beating China in the next great war

Trump’s trade war isn’t about trade anymore — it’s plainly about beating China in the next great war

Trump defense bill
President Donald Trump.
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  • President Donald Trump’s trade war with China started with tariffs and talk of trade deficits but quickly moved to addressing deep US national-security concerns about Beijing spying and stealing technology.
  • In 2018, the US’s trade deficit with China ballooned to $344 billion, but China is thought to cost the US as much as $600 billion a year through intellectual-property theft.
  • In the next great war, the country that masters artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the internet of things will essentially bring guided-missile destroyers to a sailboat fight.
  • For this reason, most insiders and China watchers agree that Beijing’s forced technology transfer must end, and Trump is actually having some success on that front.

President Donald Trump’s Thursday chat with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House revealed something that insiders have long known: Trade figures like the deficit are red herrings, and the real fight between China and the US is over the future of tech and, by extension, who will win the next world war. 

While Trump drones on about the trade deficit, his trade war with China also seeks to fundamentally restructure the relationship between the world’s two economic superpowers. 

And the key here isn’t trade stats or even economics broadly, but national security. 

In the next great war, the country that masters artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the internet of things will essentially bring guided-missile destroyers to a sailboat fight.

With that in mind, here’s what the White House said Trump and Liu talked about (emphasis added): 

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

U.S.-China War May Be “Just A Shot Away”

U.S.-China War May Be “Just A Shot Away” 

– “World’s most dangerous hotspot” is in the South China Sea
– Currency and trade wars can lead to shooting wars warns Rickards
– Chinese buildup in South China Sea like ‘preparing for World War III’ says US senator (see news)
– U.S.-China shooting war could be, as Mick Jagger put it, “just a shot away…”


Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks after reviewing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy fleet in the South China Sea on April 12. Xi has urged the PLAN to better prepare for combat, according to state media reports. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)

The World’s Most Dangerous Hotspot

By Jim Rickards for the Daily Reckoning

I have warned repeatedly that currency wars and trade wars can lead to shooting wars. Both history and analysis support this thesis.

Currency wars do not exist all the time; they arise under certain conditions and persist until there is either systemic reform or systemic collapse. The conditions that give rise to currency wars are too much debt and too little growth.

In those circumstances, countries try to steal growth from trading partners by cheapening their currencies to promote exports and create export-related jobs.

The problem with currency wars is that they are zero-sum or negative-sum games. It is true that countries can obtain short-term relief by cheapening their currencies, but sooner than later, their trading partners also cheapen their currencies to regain the export advantage.

This process of tit-for-tat devaluations feeds on itself with the pendulum of short-term trade advantage swinging back and forth and no one getting any further ahead.

After a few years, the futility of currency wars becomes apparent, and countries resort to trade wars. This consists of punitive tariffs, export subsidies and nontariff barriers to trade.

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

Taiwan Holds Live-Fire Military Exercise Amid Fears Of China Invasion 

Taiwan on Thursday conducted live-fire war drills along its west coast amid mounting fears that Chinese President Xi Jinping could use military force to annex the democratic island.

Artillery batteries, self-propelled artillery weapons, attack helicopters, and main battle tanks fired at targets off the west coast city of Taichung, while the island’s air force operated French-made Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter jets.

The war exercise followed a new report from the Pentagon outlining concerns about Beijing’s expanding military might, including a possible invasion of Taiwan.

“China … believes that U.S. military presence … in Asia seeks to constrain China’s rise and interfere with China’s sovereignty, particularly in a Taiwan conflict scenario,” the Pentagon report said.

In a meeting with US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson in Beijing on Tuesday, China’s chief of staff Li Zuocheng warned about foreign forces coming to Taiwan’s help.

The US is Taiwan’s primary source of heavy military hardware and legally bound to respond if China invades the island.

China’s armed forces will “pay any price” to ensure China’s sovereignty, Zuocheng told Richardson at their meeting. China considers Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, as part of Chinese territory.

The trigger for the military drills could have been due to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, recently rejected requests from President Xi for the island to move towards “unification” with China.

Major General Chen Chung-chi, the spokesman for Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the military is updating its exercises to reflect the possibility of an amphibious invasion by China.

“We exercise the way wars are fought … so that we will be capable and confident in the defense of our country,” Chen told journalists in Taipei on Wednesday. “We are ready to face an enemy threat at any time.”

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

Is China Preparing for War?

War with China is on the drawing board of the Pentagon. China has responded to US threats and military deployments in the Indo-Pacific region. President Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for a possible war.

Addressing China’s Central Military Commission, Xi said

“(a)ll military units must correctly understand major national security and development trends, and strengthen their sense of unexpected hardship, crisis and battle.”

“The world is facing a period of major changes never seen in a century, and China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development.”

Xi ordered stepped up military training and exercises, saying China’s armed forces must “prepare for a comprehensive military struggle from a new starting point”, adding:

“Preparation for war and combat must be deepened to ensure an efficient response in times of emergency.”

Days earlier, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily editorial stressed there’s “no time for slackening in war preparation.”

Part of what’s going on is what Xi called his aim for “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan. Beijing considers the island state a breakaway province, reunification inevitable, by force if “democratic consultations” fail to “reach transitional arrangements for the peaceful development of cross-strait ties,” adding:

“Chinese don’t fight Chinese,” while saying his government “makes no promise to renounce the use of force and reserves the option of taking all necessary means” for reunification, stressing no tolerance for “foreign intervention.”

“(O)ne country, two systems” is the way forward, he said, the approach adopted in reunification with Hong Kong and Macau.

Xi’s remarks followed enactment of the US Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA), discussed in a separate article – legislation authorizing funding for Washington’s imperial Indo/Pacific agenda, mainly by its military footprint in a part of the world not its own, the way it operates globally.

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

Some Confucian Calm, Please!

SOME CONFUCIAN CALM, PLEASE!

The United States and China look like two punch-drunk prizefighters squaring off for a major championship fight. They have no good reason to fight and every reason to cooperate now that both their stock markets have been in turmoil.

Six hundred point market swings down and then up look like symptoms of economic nervous breakdown.

Factions in both nations are beating the war drums, putting presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping under growing pressure to be more aggressive.

Trump shoulders much of the blame for having started this unnecessary confrontation by imposing heavy duties on Chinese goods. The US president has turned the old maxim on its head that nations that trade heavily don’t go to war. The US and China, both huge trading partners, appear headed to military clashes, or even full scale war, if their governments don’t come to their senses soon.

Trump was clearly trying to bully China into major trade concessions and better commercial behavior. He is right about this. I’ve done business in China for over 15 years and seen every kind of chicanery, fakery and double-dealing imaginable. China learned from the French that the First Commandment is ‘Thou Shalt Not Import.’

The Japanese are no better. I recall Japanese health authorities telling my pharma firm that all our tablets had to be triangular shaped to make them nearly impossible to swallow.

Theft of technology is indeed rampant, as Trump asserts. But has he looked into CIA and NSA’s techno spying recently? They ransacked the Soviet Union during its last dying days. Much of our postwar missile technology was developed by German scientists spirited off to the USA. After the Sputnik launch in 1957, I recall seeing a German cartoon showing a Soviet and US satellite in orbit next to one another. One whispers to the other, ‘Now that we’re alone, let’s speak German!’

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

President Xi Orders Chinese Army To “Prepare For War”

In just a few short days, China has proved that investors who have been underestimating the geopolitical risks stemming from the simmering tensions between the US and China over the latter’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and paranoia over the fate of Taiwan – a de facto independent state that President Xi Jinping is aggressively seeking to bring under the heel of Beijing – have done so at their own peril.

Earlier this week Xi Jinping, the Chinese emperor for life president provoked an angry rebuke from the island’s pro-independence president when he demanded during a landmark speech earlier this week that Taiwan submit to “reunification” with Beijing.

Xi

And as if tensions between China and the international community weren’t already high enough amid a worsening economic slowdown that’s threatening global economic growth and a tenuous trade “truce” with the US,  in another speech delivered on Friday during a meeting of top officials from China’s Central Military Commission which he leads, Xi took his belligerent rhetoric one step further by issuing his first military command of 2019: that “all military units must correctly understand major national security and development trends, and strengthen their sense of unexpected hardship, crisis and battle.”

China’s armed forces must “prepare for a comprehensive military struggle from a new starting point,” Xi said adding that “preparation for war and combat must be deepened to ensure an efficient response in times of emergency.”

Xi’s order prioritizes training with a focus on combat readiness, drills, troop inspections and resistance exercises.

It applies to all units of the PLA, including troops, academies and armed police, and is designed to “ensure new challenges are met and battles are won,” according to a copy of the guidelines seen during the television report.

In other words, Xi just ordered the Chinese military to prepare for war.

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

 

On The Road to a Post-G20 World

On The Road to a Post-G20 World

The trade war launched by the Trump administration against China may not have been solved by a 2½-hour dinner between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G20 in Buenos Aires on Saturday. But it may have opened a path towards a drastic realignment.

Way beyond the histrionics surrounding the “family pic” – and whose nods and winks signaled surefire geopolitical capital – the G20 walked and talked like a last gasp to “save” the current turbo-capitalist world (dis)order.

The sherpas at the G20 lost sleep for two consecutive nights trying to come up with a final declaration capable of appeasing Trump. As virtually every nation at the G20 supports multilateralism on trade, nobody wanted to upset even more the real Big Boss in Buenos Aires: Xi Jinping.

The climax in any case was the U.S.-China bilateral – which carried the potential, if things went downhill, to derail the global economy.

The White House spin was on immediate negotiations – lasting 90 days – over forced transfers of U.S. technology to China; intellectual property protection; an array of non-tariff barriers; and alleged Chinese cyber “intrusions”. If there’s no deal, Washington will raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent.

Xi and Trump at G20. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Now compare that with the key take away from Beijing, with Wang Yi, the vastly experienced Chinese Foreign Minister, describing the dinner conversation as “friendly and candid.” There were also no specifics on how substantial the allegedly “immediate” Chinese buying of American agricultural, energy and industrial products will be.

Wang, defiant, outspoken, and an expert on Japan, was promoted to state councillor last year, which means the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now has much more clout over other key Chinese institutions.

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

“It Will Be A Cold War”: APEC Summit Ends In Unprecedented Chaos After Dramatic US-China Showdown

One day after vice president Mike Pence and China’s president Xi Jinping clashed after exchanging sharply worded barbs in a showdown between the two superpowers, on Sunday the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit ended in unprecedented chaos and disarray, without agreement on a joint communique for the first time in its history as the escalating rivalry between the United States and China dominated proceedings and reflected escalating trade tensions.

Competition between the United States and China over the Pacific was also thrown into focus with the United States and its Western allies launching a coordinated response to China’s Belt and Road program, Reuters added.

One diplomat told Reuters tension between the U.S. and China, bubbling all week, erupted when the Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, objected during a leaders’ retreat to two paragraphs in a draft document seen by Reuters. One mentioned opposing “unfair trade practices” and reforming the WTO, while another concerned sustainable development.

“These two countries were pushing each other so much that the chair couldn’t see an option to bridge them,” said the unnamed diplomat. “China was angered that the reference to WTO blamed a country for unfair trade practices.

Sunday’s dramatic conclusion was foreshadowed by accusations that Chinese officials had attempted to strong-arm officials in Papua New Guinea, which was hosting the event, into issuing a statement that fitted what Beijing wanted. The Chinese vigorously denied the claims. When asked about the impasse, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was quoted by the South China Morning Postsaying: “You know the two big giants in the room, so what can I say?”

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

“The Real Economic Shock Is Yet To Come” – Trade War Deepens Across Asia 

The last chance to avoid a full-blown 2019 trade war may come later this month when President Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 Buenos Aires summit in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It will be the first-ever G-20 summit to be hosted in South America and could be one of the most significant meetings in quite some time — as both leaders will try to resolve trade disputes.

Right now, the economic impact of the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing seemed to deepen last month as factory activity and export orders dove across Asia, with some analyst warning Reuters that the worst has yet to come.

New data earlier this week showed exporters and factories came under severe pressure, as manufacturing surveys showed some growth in China, but a rapid slowdown in South Korea and Indonesia and a straight out contraction in activity in Malaysia and Taiwan.

Those data points followed weak industrial production numbers from Japan and South Korea on Wednesday.

Much anxiety was seen by computer and human traders on Thursday, as U.S. Treasury bonds fell after data suggested a slowdown has now washed ashore into U.S. manufacturing, construction, and productivity.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity declined to a six-month low of 57.7 points last month from 59.8 in September. A reading above 50 indicates growth in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12% of the U.S. economy.

“You have a tightening of monetary conditions around the world, a slowdown in Chinese demand, and financial market turmoil that affects sentiment and investment decisions,” said Aidan Yao, senior Asia EM economist at AXA Investment Managers.

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

China’s Senior Leadership Prepares For Economic Collision In Spring 2019

China’s senior leadership has just signaled for more stimulus, as its economy and stock market prepares for a possible economic collision in early 2019 from the trade war with the United States.

The Communist Party’s Politburo, a group of 25 people who oversee the Communist Party of China headed by President Xi Jinping, finally admitted on Wednesday that there was “growing downward pressure” on the economy with “profound changes” in the economic environment, Xinhua news agency reported.

This statement from the communist party was a massive shift from three months ago when the Politburo said there had been “noticeable” changes in the economic environment, reported the South China Morning Post.

It is the first time the leadership has shown public concern about China’s rapidly slowing economy since the trade war began earlier this year.

Calls for more stimulus came after disappointing economic data showed the country is headed for turmoil next year. The purchasing manager report showed widespread deterioration across the country could spill over into the rest of the world.

The Politburo said there were “a lot of difficulties with certain enterprises and the emergence of risks accumulated over long periods of time.”

“We need to attach great importance to this situation and be more forward-looking to respond in a timely manner,” the statement said.

“We have to enhance reform and opening up to focus on core problems with targeted solutions … We must get our own things done and firmly seek high-quality growth.”

Officials have already tried a handful accommodative policies, ranging from tax cuts to regulatory support, rather than loading up the ole’ fiscal cannon as seen in prior slowdowns. Bloomberg notes that investors seem unpersuaded by the drip-feed approach with the yuan near decade lows and regional stock markets in correction territories to soon bear markets.

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

The New Global Tinderbox: It’s Not Your Mother’s Cold War

shutterstock_725886793

When it comes to relations between Donald Trump’s America, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Xi Jinping’s China, observers everywhere are starting to talk about a return to an all-too-familiar past. “Now we have a new Cold War,” commented Russia expert Peter Felgenhauer in Moscow after President Trump recently announced plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Trump administration is “launching a new Cold War,” said historian Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal, following a series of anti-Chinese measures approved by the president in October. And many others are already chiming in.

Recent steps by leaders in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing may seem to lend credence to such a “new Cold War” narrative, but in this case history is no guide. Almost two decades into the twenty-first century, what we face is not some mildly updated replica of last century’s Cold War, but a new and potentially even more dangerous global predicament.

The original Cold War, which lasted from the late 1940s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, posed a colossal risk of thermonuclear annihilation. At least after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, however, it also proved a remarkably stable situation in which, despite local conflicts of many sorts, the United States and the Soviet Union both sought to avoid the kinds of direct confrontations that might have triggered a mutual catastrophe. In fact, after confronting the abyss in 1962, the leaders of both superpowers engaged in a complex series of negotiations leading to substantial reductions in their nuclear arsenals and agreements intended to reduce the risk of a future Armageddon.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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