The Fed will be a New Creature Soon, and No One Knows What It’ll Look Like

Markets are blowing off this uncertainty for now.
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Randal Quarles, President Trump’s first Fed nominee, as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. During his confirmation hearing, Quarles said it was time to roll back some of the regulations that were imposed on banks after they’d imploded and threatened to take down the global financial system. He will become the chief bank regulator at the Fed, filling the slot that Daniel Tarullo left behind when he resigned unexpectedly in April.
Quarles is founder of private investment firm, The Cynosure Group. Fed Governor Jerome Powell is also a Cynosure alumnus. Quarles had been a partner at private equity firm The Carlyle Group and served as undersecretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush. WHIRRRR makes the revolving door.
One down, four more to go.
The Fed’s Board of Governors has seven slots, currently chaired by Janet Yellen. After Quarles’ appointment, potentially four more will need to be filled over the next few months.
The seven board members are part of the policy-setting 12-member Federal Open Markets Committee. The other five members of the FOMC are the president of the New York Fed and on a one-year rotating basis four presidents of the remaining 11 regional Federal Reserve Banks.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Oct 6, 2017.

US DOE Wants to Subsidize Coal Plants though Back Door

‘I don’t think the ham-handedness of this action is fully appreciated.’
Wolf here. This is what Bill Tilles, one of the authors of the article below, wrote in an email about the article. It should see the light of day:
As for the DOE action re subsidizing coal plants, there’s a real dog-bites-man aspect to the story, in addition to being extreme inside baseball. Conservative Republicans, eager to reward coal and nuclear interests, propose new regulations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that aggressively favor coal and nuclear over natural gas to overcome the significant cost advantages that natural gas now has.
To me, the real story is in the 19-page document that the Department of Energy sent to FERC. It was a polemic.
In politics that’s permissible, even expected. But the unusual aspect is that DOE is directing FERC – the agency with real administrative expertise in the area – to make wide-ranging rate changes favorable to coal and nuclear interests based on no additional evidence other than a fake crisis!
You have to think about that for a minute. FERC dockets are voluminous with every imaginable interest group weighing in. And time consuming. These folks in the Trump administration are in effect saying to FERC, ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ records.’ It’s a ginned up crisis. With a predictable, cronyist solution: Hand over money to that special interest. And do it fast, they say, or we’ll all be freezing come winter.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Leonard Hyman and Willian Tilles ‘ Oct 5, 2017.

An Open Letter To The Okaloosa County Commission Pt 2

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
The Okaloosa County Commission is by definition dysfunctional, corrupt or both. Any governmental unit that believes a 47% budget increase over the space of a mere five years is defensible has rocks in their head. That the Commission managed to paint over this by drawing down reserves when the cause was not a one-year hit from an event like a hurricane (which is what reserves are for) ought to be treated as criminal corruption and result in the incarceration of everyone involved.
The “escalating” expenses in the budget this year alone are primarily (1) reserve restoration (that is, paying back what the commission took through gross mismanagement), (2) adding to said reserves (possibly arguably ok), (3) more law enforcement (big shock) and (4) insane health care cost escalations.
If Okaloosa County wishes to improve its economic attractiveness it must address these issues along with the outrageous actions and inactions by the Commission not only over previous years, but on a forward basis.
Like many if not most counties Okaloosa County’s ad-valorem tax revenue almost exclusively goes to the Sheriff’s Office (and related expenditures, such as the county jail.) This is not unusual; there are in fact counties where more than 100% of ad-valorem revenue goes to law enforcement. If you’re wondering why county sheriffs like to write tickets, well, you just figured it out since traffic fines of course offset some of their ad-valorem tax demand.
But in this county, as in other tourist areas, there’s a problem: The majority of services provided by the Sheriff’s Office, most of which are quite-mundane (e.g. traffic accidents, etc) involve and are provided to tourists. The issue is that tourists pay almost zero ad-valorem tax; while if they rent someone’s condo that person does pay the tax they only occupy the building for a tiny part of the year and thus on a pro-rata basis, that is, on a per-capita/year basis, they pay almost nothing.
Yet on a per-capita/year basis tourists form the majority of the Sheriff Department’s load.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-09-23.

PABX Phone System; What It Is and Why It Is Perfect for Businesses

First things first, what is a PABX? It is basically an acronym that stands for Private Automatic Branch Exchange. In layman’s language, a PABX is just a telephone system or a switchboard whose units are used as internal telephone systems in different organizations.
Unlike the older systems that were made up of fixed telephone lines, the PABX system now interconnects with not just telephone lines but also with the internet. This has been made possible after the arrival of VolP (or Voice over Internet Protocol).
Digging deeper, modern PABX phone systems are customarily hybrid in nature, incorporating both old telephone networks and packed switched networks. It is the use of these packed switched networks that enables cheaper and easier connections to reach the entire world. Therefore, if you have a company that has offices around the world, it will be ultimately easier for you to if you enlist the services of a PABX service provider.
Essentially, it is a switching phone system that links a company’s telephone extensions with each other. The switching system also interconnects the same phone extensions with the outside telephone network. The system made up of incredibly complex machines that can be used not only as telephones but also as modems, fax machines, and internal communication devices. Therefore, any modern office could make good use of this hybrid innovation.
The Benefits of PABX System
– It is perfect for businesses -The PABX systems can be used in offices and/or businesses as auto attendants. Basically, the system handles the office calls to the extent that it picks up if there is no one in the office to answer the call. For this reason, the PABX system is highly beneficial, especially in large businesses that get lots of calls.

This post was published at ZenTrader on Sept 21, 2017.

SEC Admits US Public Filing System Was Hacked, “May Have Resulted” In Countless Illegal Profits

Over two years ago, on an otherwise uneventful Thursday in May 2015, shares of Avon Products suddenly jumped 20% leaving investors stunned. The catalyst was quickly discovered: a filing recently uploaded to Edgar, the SEC’s public filings database and purportedly from London-based ‘PTG Capital’, claimed that the “private-equity” firm was bidding to take Avon private. Upon closer inspection, investors noticed a series of glaring, suspicious errors. For one, the document was riddled the spelling mistakes – the firm’s own name, consisting of a three-letter acronym – was repeatedly misspelled. The address listed for the firm was quickly revealed to be fake. And, as it turned out, there was no PTG capital operating in London – or anywhere, for that matter.
Investors quickly concluded that the filing was a hoax, and Avon shares crashed back to earth. US authorities eventually blamed it on a Bulgarian hacker who the agency claimed earned a meager profit of $5,000 for his efforts.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 21, 2017.

So Where Does the Money Go that Mexico Borrows?

Answers emerge. Including offshore private accounts.
Mexico’s public debt-to-GDP of 50% may seem modest by today’s inflated standards, but when it comes to debt, everything is relative, especially if you don’t enjoy the benefits that come from having a reserve-currency-denominated printing press, and if you borrow in a foreign currency that you don’t control.
As the debt load grows, more and more of the States’ financial resources must be used to service it. As El Financiero reports, the cost of servicing Mexico’s debt, despite super-low interest rates globally, has almost doubled in the last five years, and is now higher than it has been at any time since 1990. In fact, according to the Government’s own figures, more state funds will be spent this year on servicing the debt than on all public infrastructure projects put together.
Yet as the government scrimps and scrapes in areas that might actually help to boost economic growth, it’s more than happy to dig deep to fill its own pockets.
A joint investigation by the news website Animal Politico and the NGO Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity has revealed that, amidst all the budget cuts, the Pea Nieto Government has been using a complex web of shell companies to make hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds, originally intended for public causes such as combating poverty or financing public education, completely vanish.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Sep 11, 2017.

State-Level Corruption And Theft

Ever wonder about property taxes, how they’re set, and what they cover?
Specifically, the largest component of most property-tax assessments are for schools.
Virtually every State Constitution calls forth a State duty to provide a free public education.
Ok. Fair enough. I can argue against that quite-easily but so long as it’s present in State Constitutions the law has to be followed in that regard.
But on whom should the funding costs fall?
Answer: Those closest to the output of the program, who thus have every incentive to do something about it if it sucks.
That’s not you, as a common citizen. If the schools suck in your local area you don’t, for the most part, get the direct costs. If you’re a parent at age 18 your offspring are no longer your responsibility. You can throw them out of the house — literally.
Now it’s certainly true that the indirect costs wind up on the citizens — mostly through crime and social dependence.
The direct costs fall on the local employers.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-09-10.

Price gouging and the generous free market

Gary North published members-only articles recently (here and here) discussing how Hurricane Harvey has affected economic life in Houston. He makes an important point about prices and customers that I have not seen elsewhere.
Other things equal we know scarcity or high demand will drive prices higher. Sellers of diamonds are rarely accused of price gouging but when prices for everyday commodities take a big leap in a crisis almost everyone calls it price gouging. It’s an easy call: People are in desperate need of critical commodities, while certain suppliers are charging scalper prices. Conclusion: The suppliers are craven profiteers.
Wikipedia defines price gouging as ‘a pejorative term referring to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent.’ Merriam-Webster says price gouging is ‘charging customers too much money.’ How much is ‘too much’? What is ‘reasonable or fair’?
People don’t know, exactly, but they pass laws against it anyway. The fine for gouging a senior citizen in Texas is $250,000; gouging someone younger is only $20,000. Amazon has algorithms that suspend the accounts of sellers charging high prices relative to other sellers. During Harvey’s onslaught in Houston, a photo on gritpost showed a Best Buy store posting $42.96 for a case of bottled water; Best Buy later issued an apology on behalf of the store.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Sunday, 10 September 2017.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: The Situation In The Markets Is Much Worse Than You Realize

It’s about time that I share with you all a little secret. The situation in the markets is much worse than you realize. While that may sound like someone who has been crying ‘wolf’ for the past several years, in all honesty, the public has no idea just how dire our present situation has become.
The amount of debt, leverage, deceit, corruption, and fraud in the economic markets, financial system, and in the energy industry are off the charts. Unfortunately, the present condition is even much worse when we consider ‘INSIDER INFORMATION.’
What do I mean by insider information… I will explain that in a minute. However, I receive a lot of comments on my site and emails stating that the U. S. Dollar is A-okay and our domestic oil industry will continue pumping out cheap oil for quite some time. They say… ‘No need to worry. Business, as usual, will continue for the next 2-3 decades.’
I really wish that were true. Believe me, when I say this, I am not rooting for a collapse or breakdown of our economic and financial markets. However, the information, data, and facts that I have come across suggest that the U. S. and global economy will hit a brick wall within the next few years.
How I Acquire My Information, Data & Facts
To put out the original information in my articles and reports, I spend a great deal of time researching the internet on official websites, alternative media outlets, and various blogs. Some of the blogs that I read, I find more interesting information in the comment section than in the article. For example, the Peakoilbarrel.com site is visited by a lot of engineers and geologists in the oil and gas industry. Their comments provide important ‘on-hands insight’ in the energy sector not found on the Mainstream Media.

This post was published at SRSrocco Report on SEPTEMBER 9, 2017.

“Class Envy Run Amok” – Fund Manager Asks Trump To Pardon Michael Milken

Twenty-three years after former Drexel Burnham Lambert executive Michael Milken finished a 22-month minimum-security prison sentence, one fund manager is lobbying President Donald Trump to pardon his past convictions, arguing that Milken’s prosecution was an example of anti-banker hysteria run amok.
Wealth-management executive David Bahnsen told Bloomberg that he sent a plea to Trump asking that he pardon Milken, an innovator who is widely lauded in the financial world for helping to popularize junk bonds among a broader set of investors during the 1980s. Bizarrely, Bahnsen says he’s never met the man. Milken pleaded guilty to securities fraud charges in 1992, and was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison, though he only served 22 months.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 1, 2017.

Where Did TINA Go?

A few years ago, TINA was everywhere … she was the life of the party. Whenever people wondered why stocks kept rising, she’d show up and people would scream, TINA!
But I haven’t heard anyone mention her recently … did she take off? Or did she drink so much from the punch bowl that she’s passed out, sleeping somewhere?
Of course, I’m talking about TINA the acronym, not Tina your old drinking buddy. As in, There Is No Alternative … to stocks.
Let’s be clear. Choosing your investments by process of elimination is not the best way to approach things. After all, you shouldn’t invest in something just because everything else looks worse. That investment could also have little intrinsic value and a poor risk to reward ratio.
But TINA is not a way of investing, it’s a narrative … one that’s been with us for years and may be here for a while longer. So far, this narrative has helped investors achieve substantial returns. Will it continue to do so moving forward?

This post was published at FinancialSense on 08/29/2017.

What’s Next For Oil: Interview With Former DOE Chief Of Staff

In this week’s MacroVoices podcast, Erik Townsend and Joe McMonigle, former chief of staff at the US Department of Energy, discuss the state of the global energy market, and OPEC’s rapidly diminishing ability to control oil prices. McMonigle believes investors will be hearing more jawboning from the Saudis, OPEC’s de-facto leader, over the next two weeks as they try to marshal support for extending the cartel’s production-cut agreement past a March 2018 deadline.
Of course, anyone who’s been paying attention knows the cuts have done little to alleviate supply imbalances that have weighed on oil prices for years. In a report published by the International Energy Agency earlier this month, the organization notes that non-compliance among OPEC members, and non-members who also agreed to the cuts those non-members who also agreed to cut oil production, increased again in July. According to the IEA data, non-compliance among the cartel’s members rose to 25 percent in July, the highest level since the agreement was signed in January. Meanwhile, noncompliance for non-members rose to 33%.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 26, 2017.

Diminishing Returns

These two words are the hinge that is swinging American life – and the advanced techno-industrial world, for that matter – toward darkness. They represent an infection in the critical operations of daily life, like a metabolic disease, driving us into disorder and failure. And they are so omnipresent that we’ve failed to even notice the growing failure all around us.
Mostly, these diminishing returns are the results of our over-investments in making complex systems more complex, for instance the replacement of the 37-page Glass-Steagall Act that regulated American banking, with the 848 page Dodd-Frank Act, which was only an outline for over 22,000 pages of subsequent regulatory content – all of it cooked up by banking lobbyists, and none of which replaced the single most important rule in Glass-Steagall, which required the separation of commercial banking from trafficking in securities. Dodd-Frank was a colossal act of misdirection of the public’s attention, an impenetrable smokescreen of legal blather in the service of racketeering.
For Wall Street, Dodd-Frank aggravated the conditions that allow stock indexes to only move in one direction, up, for nine years. During the same period, the American economy of real people and real stuff only went steadily down, including the number of people out of the work force, the incomes of those who still had jobs, the number of people with full-time jobs, the number of people who were able to buy food without government help, or pay for a place to live, or send a kid to college.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on August 21, 2017.

Wall Street’s Latest Plot: Blame the Financial Crash on the French

Wall Street appears to have a plan to get the deregulation it wants by pinning the start of the epic financial crash of 2007-2010 on (wait for it) the French, rather than its own unbridled greed, corruption and toxic manufacture of junk bonds known as subprime debt that it paid to have rated AAA by ethically-challenged and deeply conflicted rating agencies. (The same rating agencies that are getting paid by Wall Street to rate its debt issues today.)
One of the men helping to peddle this narrative is Steve Hanke, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a taxpayer-subsidized nonprofit that was secretly owned by the billionaire Koch brothers for decades.
Hanke’s bio at Cato lists him as a Professor of Applied Economics at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and provides the following titillating background:
‘Prof. Hanke served as a State Counselor to both the Republic of Lithuania in 1994-96 and the Republic of Montenegro in 1999-2003. He was also an Advisor to the Presidents of Bulgaria in 1997-2002, Venezuela in 1995-96, and Indonesia in 1998. He played an important role in establishing new currency regimes in Argentina, Estonia, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ecuador, Lithuania, and Montenegro. Prof. Hanke has also held senior appointments in the governments of many other countries, including Albania, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yugoslavia.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on August 21, 2017.

NAFTA Negotiations Start in Secrecy, despite Fake Promises of Transparency. Lobbying Heats Up

Americans don’t know what’s being negotiated at their expense.
The first round of re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico began on Wednesday and is scheduled to last through Sunday. And the one thing we know about it is this: Despite promises in March by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (USTR) that the negotiations would be transparent, the USTR now considers the documents and negotiations ‘classified’ and they’ll be cloaked in secrecy.
But corporate lobbyists have access. And they’re all over it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this way:
Once again, following the failed model of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the USTR will be keeping the negotiating texts secret, and in an actual regression from the TPP will be holding no public stakeholder events alongside the first round. This may or may not set a precedent for future rounds, that will rotate between the three countries every few weeks thereafter, with a scheduled end date of mid-2018.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Aug 19, 2017.

Police Chief (And Most Of His Department) Quit In Protest Of City Corruption

The majority of the small police department in Slaughter, Louisiana – including the police chief – resigned this week after accusing the mayor of the city of attempting to impose ticket quotas on citizens to increase revenue and turn a profit.
The officers’ resignations followed accusations their assistant chief made against Mayor Robert Jackson in April after residents began complaining of the high volume of tickets they were receiving – tickets that would have increased in number had the police adhered to Jackson’s quotas.
At the time, local outlet WBRZ 2 reported, Assistant Police Chief Bobby Hopson recorded a conversation with Jackson in which the mayor appeared to admit he would pay officers to execute 40 ‘warrants’ each per month.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 30, 2017.

Stockman: This is the Most Hideously Overvalued Market in History

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of The Daily Reckoning. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
David Stockman joined Fox Business on Varney & Co. to discuss why he believes the current markets are setting up investors for a big drop.
Asked for an explanation regarding his call that the S&P 500 faces a 35% fall and whether the market was seeing the start, Stockman fired away at his logic and reasoning. ‘I think it will happen any day. Because we’re a country that’s out of control.’
Varney, quick to draw conclusion noted that the economist had been making such claims for years. Stockman rebutted, ‘I could have said that in February 2000 and the market dropped by sixty percent. I could have said that in November 2007 and the market crashed. I am old enough to remember October 1987.’

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on June 17, 2017.

Goldman Lists Two Conditions For The OPEC Production Cut Extension To Work

Goldman, which has been pushing for higher oil prices with seemingly daily bullish research reports for the past month, and which underwrote the last Saudi Arabian bond issue and is expected to also manage the Aramco IPO (explaining the bank’s conflict of interest), released a note commeting on the latest development in the oil market, which sent the price of crude higher by 3% after Saudi and Russia oil minister agreed to extend the OPEC production cuts by another 9 months through the end of Q1 2018. Specifically, Goldman writes that “today’s announcement will likely further extend the oil price rebound started last week on decent stock draws and low positioning, although the rally so far today has remained modest compared to the move that occurred last year when the OPEC cuts were first announced.”
Even so, Goldman’s oil analyst Damien Courvalin had some caveats. Specifically, he said that for the strategy to work, however, two things have to take place:
compliance needs to remain high and long-term oil prices need to remain low to prevent shale producers from ramping up investment significantly more. In fact, an extension of the cuts should go hand in hand with guidance of future production increases by low cost producers, in our view, with an already notable emphasis by Saudi and others that oil prices will likely remain in a $45-55/bbl long-term range, in line with our forecasts. This leaves us reiterating our 3Q17 $57/bbl Brent price forecast and, with an increasingly likely extension of the cuts, raises our confidence that the oil market will shift into backwardation in 3Q17. His full note below:
Saudi and Russia commit to a 9-month extension of oil production cuts
Saudi Arabia and Russia announced today, May 15, that they had reached an agreement to extend their oil output cuts for another nine months, through Mar-18. This announcement comes ahead of the scheduled May 25 meeting of OPEC members. Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak further pledged in a joint statement “to do whatever it takes” to reduce global inventories to their five-year average. In our view, this commitment to a longer than expected cut by the two largest participants of the output deal significantly increases the likelihood that all participants will agree to such an extension, with the longer duration likely helping to achieve high compliance through 2017.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 15, 2017.

There Is One Way Out of Debt-Serfdom: Fanatic Frugality

Debt is serfdom, capital in all its forms is freedom.
If we accept that our financial system is nothing but a wealth-transfer mechanism from the productive elements of our economy to parasitic, neofeudal rentier-cartels and self-serving state fiefdoms, that raises a question: what do we do about it?
The typical answer seems to be: deny it, ignore it, get distracted by carefully choreographed culture wars or shrug fatalistically and put one’s shoulder to the debt-serf grindstone.
There is another response, one that very few pursue: fanatic frugality in service of financial-political independence. Debt-serfs and dependents of the state have no effective political power, as noted yesterday in It Isn’t What You Earn and Owe, It’s What You Own That Generates Income.
There are only three ways to accumulate productive capital/assets: marry someone with money, inherit money or accumulate capital/savings and invest it in productive assets. (We’ll leave out lobbying the Federal government for a fat contract or tax break, selling derivatives designed to default and the rest of the criminal financial skims and scams used so effectively by the New Nobility financial elites.)

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, MAY 04, 2017.

The Irony of Stable Inflation

In February 2000, the FOMC quietly switched from the CPI to the PCE Deflator as its standard for inflation measurement. There were various technical reasons for doing so, including the CPI’s employment of a geometric mean basis (which was in 2015 finally altered to a Constant Elasticity of Substitution formula). But it was one phrase that in hindsight did the Fed no favors, as it explicitly cited the expected fruits of the PCE Deflator’s methodology which would ‘avoid some of the upward bias associated with the fixed-weight nature of the CPI.’
I am not a conspiracist by any means, but there are times when you have to shake your head as these economists lack even a modicum of self-awareness. The central bank has been given a legal mandate for price stability, so the average American might wonder why that central bank is allowed to choose the measure most inherently stable (and low). At the very least, it seems like a conflict of interest, one among so many.
In that regard, the last five years have been almost fitting. The PCE Deflator has, as expected, avoided the higher beta tendencies of the CPI and in both directions. For that, it has remained stable, alright, but stable below target no matter what the Fed does with its own balance sheet. I hope the irony is not lost on them, especially as it was oil prices that ‘achieved’ what they could not despite considerable expenditure on their part.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on May 1, 2017.