Conflicts of interest exist in almost every business model…just ask the former AIG execs who bought trillions of dollars worth of mortgage CDO risk that they were told was worthy of a AAA rating. But when you read a car review to help figure out which set of wheels you’re going to buy next, you would probably prefer that the writer of that review not be receiving payments, cash or otherwise, directly from the company producing the vehicle he’s reviewing, right? Unfortunately, that’s not so much the case when it comes to Tesla. While it’s no surprise that the writers of Electrek are big Tesla cheerleaders, as Jack Baruth of TTAC points out today, what may be surprising is just how much those writers receive from Tesla via their very generous referral program in return for their perpetually rosy commentary.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 29, 2017.
Barack Obama is funding the anti-Trump movement through a series of backdoor deals and policies. Wall Street may be surprised to learn that it is also helping bankroll the anti-Trump ‘resistance’ whether they wanted to or not. Wall Street is fighting policies which would heavily favor it, including corporate tax cuts and the repeal of Obama-era banking and health-care regulations. We have the Obama administration to thank for the harsh anti-Trump movement by far left groups, according to an article by the New York Post. The Obama administration’s massive shakedown of Big Banks over the mortgage crisis included unprecedented back-door funding for dozens of Democratic activist groups who were not even victims of the crisis. At least three liberal nonprofit organizations the Justice Department approved to receive funds from multibillion-dollar mortgage settlements were instrumental in killing the ObamaCare repeal bill and are now lobbying against GOP tax reform, as well as efforts to rein in illegal immigration. An estimated $640 million has been diverted into what critics say is an improper, if not unconstitutional, ‘slush fund’ fed from government settlements with JPMorgan Chase and Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., according to congressional sources. The payola is potentially earmarked for third-party interest groups approved by the Justice Department and HUD without requiring any proof of how the funds will be spent. Many of the recipients so far are radical leftist organizations who solicited the settlement cash from the administration even though they were not parties to the lawsuits, records show. ‘During the Obama administration, groups committed to ‘revolutionary social change’ sent proposals and met with high-level HUD and Justice Department officials to try to get their pieces of the settlement pie,’ Cause of Action Institute vice president Julie Smith told The Post. -New York Post
This post was published at shtfplan on September 25th, 2017.
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.
Dr. Per Bylund’s recently published article poignantly states one of the core problems in the Chinese economy and its the state-manipulated Keynesian foundation. I do agree with his opinion. And if we dig deeper into the exact situation of Chinese economy, we will find that it’s a typical failing of the Keynesian, cronyist system. By using the perspective of Austrian business cycle theory, lets take a look at China’s real estate industry, which is suffering more and more painfully from artificial credit issued by China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBC). During the 2008 global economic crisis, China’s central government issued the famous RMB 4 Trillion Stimulus Package Plan (equaling to $586 billion). Since 2009, the Chinese real estate economy has already suffered from three small economic cycles. As it is becoming more difficult for real estate companies to live on artificial prosperity, the duration of every business cycle has become shorter than the previous one. We also see more and more ghost cities because of the economic boom in every sub-economic cycle. There were at least 12 ghost cities founded in 2013, and the number of them jumped to at least 50 in 2017! Bankruptcy is happening more frequently among Chinese real estate enterprises. Since 2016, at least three real estate companies – with a combined debt of at least RMB 763 million – have gone bankrupt. The story of bankruptcy is continuing, with one of the biggest real-estate-driven enterprises, Wanda Group, facing financing problems. If Wanda no longer has access to cheap debt, it might not be able to refinance or roll over all its debt again. If Wanda has to face bankruptcy, it could possibly accelerate an end of the the current Chinese boom. The data from the Chinese local governments is also not optimistic; their debt levels have reached almost RMB 25 trillion (US$ 4 trillion) at the end of 2014. In 2015, even the PBC admitted in one of its annual reports saying that China’s financial system is facing higher instability and uncertainty.
In Germany, Martin Schultz wants to give refugees the right to vote. So if he cannot win with Germans, he wants to give the right to vote to refugees to win by bribing them. The German politicians are now giving them apartments they are constructing that cost about 3 million each. The construction costs actually come out to about 1600 per square meter and since each apartment is about 470 square meters, the cost to build one apartment is more than 3 million. It is stunning that Merkel was so fearful of inflation that she would not yield to Greece and saw fit to impoverish the people to pay for the political corruption of their politicians. Yet building dwellings for refugees without language and job skills that cost 3 million each is some how not inflationary.
The biggest banks on Wall Street, both foreign and domestic, have been repeatedly charged with rigging and colluding in markets from New York to London to Japan. Thus, it is natural to ask, have the big banks formed a cartel to rig the prices of their own stocks? This time last year, Wall Street banks were in a slow, endless bleed. The Federal Reserve had raised interest rates for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis on December 16, 2015 with strong hints that more rate hikes would be coming in 2016. Bank stocks never do well in a rising interest rate environment because their dividend yield has to compete with rising yields on bonds. Money gravitates out of dividend paying stocks into bonds and/or into hard assets like real estate based on the view that it will appreciate from inflationary forces. This is classic market thinking 101. Bizarrely, to explain the current run up in bank stock prices, market pundits are shoving their way onto business news shows to explain to the gullible public that bank stocks like rising interest rates because the banks will be able to charge more on loans. That rationale pales in comparison to the negative impact of outflows from stocks into bonds (if and when interest rates actually do materially rise) and the negative impact of banks taking higher reserves for loan losses because their already shaky loan clients can’t pay loans on time because of rising rates. That is also classic market thinking 101. Big bank stocks also like calm and certainty – as does the stock market in general. At the risk of understatement, since Donald Trump took the Oath of Office on January 20, those qualities don’t readily come to mind in describing the state of the union. Prior to the cravenly corrupt market rigging that led to the epic financial crash in 2008 (we’re talking about the rating agencies being paid by Wall Street to deliver triple-A ratings to junk mortgage securitizations and banks knowingly issuing mortgage pools in which they had inside knowledge that they would fail) the previous episode of that level of corruption occurred in the late 1920s and also led to an epic financial crash in 1929. The U. S. only avoided a Great Depression following 2008 because the Federal Reserve, on its own, secretly funneled $16 trillion in almost zero interest rate loans to Wall Street banks and their foreign cousins. (Because the Fed did this without the knowledge of Congress or the public, this was effectively another form of market rigging. Had the rest of us known this was happening, we also could have made easy bets on the direction of the stock market.)
Although multi-billionaire hedge fund tycoon and international political pot-stirrer George Soros lost big with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the victory of the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, he stands to lose further ground, politically and financially, as the winds of political change sweep across the globe. Soros, who fancies himself as the master of placing short put options on stocks, often cleaning up to the tune of billions of dollars in the process when the stock values collapse, has been dealt a few financial body blows. Recently, the Dutch securities market regulator AFM accidentally revealed on line all of Soros’s short trades since 2012. Soros’s trades were revealed on AFM’s website and were removed after the regulator realized the error. However, the Soros data had already been captured by automatic data capturing software programs operated by intelligence agencies and brokerage firms that routinely scour the Internet looking for such mistakes. Among the bank shares targeted by Soros was the Ing Groep NV, a major institution and important element of the Dutch economy. After campaigning against Brexit, Soros bet against the stock of Deutsche Bank AG, which he believed would fall in value after Britain voted to leave the EU. Deutsche Bank stock fell 14 percent and Soros cleaned up. But Soros’s celebration was temporary. With Trump’s election, Soros lost a whopping $1 billion in stock speculation. Surrounded by his fellow financial manipulators, Soros explained his recent losses while attending the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Soros’s mega-wealthy cronies placed their own bets against smaller Dutch firms. Those firms included Ordina, an information technology firm; Advanced Metallurgical Group; and the real estate group Wereldhave N. V.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 29, 2017.
When former Chinese Politburo member Zhou Yongkang was arrested in 2014 on corruption charges, the scale of his ill-gotten gains was astounding, totalling some $16 billion. When sums that large are involved, most of the assets have to be invested in financial instruments and real estate. But the list of physical currency found in his homes is revealing: 152.7 million Chinese yuan (valued at the time at $24.5 million), 662,000…10,000…55,000 Swiss francs — and US$275 million. The former head of China’s internal security services and one of the 10 most powerful men in China apparently preferred to keep his “petty cash” mainly in U.S. dollars. He’s not alone. China lost around $1 trillion to capital flight in 2015, before clamping down hard at the beginning of 2016. Much of this money leaves China via fake invoicing in Hong Kong, where the local currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Illicit outflows are also facilitated by casinos in the Philippines, South Korea, and on remote Pacific islands, all of which operate primarily in dollars. Predictions of the dollar’s demise and eventual replacement by the Chinese yuan, are a staple of global economic punditry, but they have little basis in reality. Of course China has become an important component of the global economy, accounting for more than 15 percent of global gross domestic product. But when Chinese people themselves prefer to hold dollars, there is little chance that the Chinese yuan will ever replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s key currency.
As the mainstream media continues to blast Trump with allegations of conflicts of interest related to his many real estate holdings around the world, at least one conflict they won’t have to worry about anymore is his holdings of public stocks. Per the Washington Post, a Trump spokesman told the press yesterday that Trump unloaded all of his public shares back in June. Then, in what was supposed to be an interview congratulating Trump for his Time Person of the Year award, Matt Lauer of the Today Show decided to grill the president-elect on his public stock holdings and why he decided to sell. “Well I’ve never been a big person for the stock market, frankly. But, over the years I bought stocks. And, I bought them when they were low and I saw what was going on with interest rates were so low that it almost seemed like it was easy to predict what was going to happen with the stock market.” When pressed on why he chose June to dump all his shares, Trump responded simply that he felt “like I was very much going to be winning.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 7, 2016.
Donald Trump hasn’t yet made the move from Trump Tower to America’s most expensive public housing, but he was able to come through with one campaign promise this week by announcing a deal with Indiana-based Carrier Air Conditioning that will keep almost 1,000 jobs in the state. As reported, the deal seems largely focused on the State of Indiana offering millions in tax breaks and an understanding that the Trump administration will push for regulatory and corporate tax relief at the Federal level. While the jobs Carrier will be keeping in the US only makes up about a third of the jobs the company had planned to move to Mexico, the underlying deal seems to reflect a larger commitment to addressing the corporate tax and regulatory burdens that have long held back the American economy. While some have described Trump’s approach as crony capitalism, if the terms of the deal really are limited to tax relief, such claims are baseless. While it is true that tax breaks for specific companies are less ideal than across-the-board cuts (or outright abolishment) of business taxes, they should not be confused with taxpayer subsidies. As Matthew McCaffrey wrote last year defending tax credits for video game companies: Decades ago, economists like Mises and Rothbard were already arguing that tax breaks are not economically or ethically equivalent to receiving subsidies. Simply put, being permitted to keep your income is not the same as taking it from competitors. Exemptions and loopholes do not forcibly redistribute wealth; taxes and subsidies do, thereby benefiting some producers at the expense of others.
For a long time, I’ve advocated that the world’s governments should default on their debt. I recognize that this is an outrageous-sounding proposal. However, the debts accumulated by the governments of the U.S., Japan, Europe and dozens of other countries constitute a gigantic mortgage on the next two or three generations, as yet unborn. Savings are proof that a person, or a country, has been living below their means. Debt, on the other hand, is evidence that the world has been living above its means. And the amount of government debt and liabilities in the world is in the hundreds of trillions and growing rapidly, even with essentially zero percent interest rates. This brings up several questions: Will future generations be able to repay it? Will they be willing to? And, if so, should they? My answers are: No, no and no. The ‘should they’ is one moral question that should be confronted. But I’ll go further. There’s another reason government debt should be defaulted on: to punish the people stupid enough, or unethical enough, to lend governments the money they’ve used to do all the destructive things they do. I know it’s most unlikely you’ve ever previously heard this view. And I recognize there would be many unpleasant domino-like effects on today’s over-leveraged and unstable financial system. It’s just that, when a structure is about to collapse, it’s better to have a controlled demolition, rather than waiting for it to collapse unpredictably. That said, governments will perversely keep propping up the house of cards, and building it higher, pushing the nasty consequences further into the future, with compound interest. With that in mind, a few words on the euro, the E.U. and the European Central Bank are in order.
Too big to fail is about to get tested once again. Deutsche Bank – Germany’s largest, and in many ways the embodiment of the global financial system – as you may have heard, is in a spot of bother. The U. S. government is considering imposing a fine of around $14 billion on the bank for selling faulty mortgage-backed securities in the run up to the financial crisis. That’s on top of the fact that Deutsche and other European banks have been struggling with negative interest rates, which are squeezing profits. In all, Deutsche Bank’s DB 6.79% market cap has now shrunk to nearly its proposed fine, provoking fears that the bank might have to be helped out the German government, or be wiped out. So far, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that there will be no bailouts for Deutsche Bank. But while Germany says it won’t stop a Deutsche bank failure, how worried should the U. S., and investors, be about it? Ultimately, the new regulations put in place since 2008 to contain Too-Big-To-Fail banks should mean that there will be no direct impact on the average American. But here are a few reasons why you should still keep an eye on it. Too Big to Fail was always a bit of a misnomer. What really makes a bank a risk to the financial system as a whole is the degree to which it is interconnected with other institutions, i.e., its ability to spark chain reactions of non-payment if it should ever default. By this measure, Deutsche is frighteningly indispensable. It’s a counterparty to virtually every major bank in the world, in virtually all asset classes. This illustration from an IMF report in June gives you some idea. This is why I argued yesterday that the German government, which together with the European Central Bank is responsible for supervising Deutsche, would be highly unlikely to let it fail in a disorderly manner la Lehman Brothers.
This year is seen going down as the worst since 2011 for China’s stock investors as the memory of last summer’s rout lingers and speculative buying switches to the housing market. The Shanghai Composite Index will end the year at 3,075, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg poll of 10 strategists and fund managers. That implies a 13 percent drop over the 12-month period, the steepest in five years, and a gain of 2.9 percent from Wednesday’s close. Fading prospects for monetary easing, a slowing economy and the risk of higher U. S. borrowing costs spurring yuan weakness were among factors weighing on the nation’s shares, the survey showed. Turnover on the world’s second-largest stock market has collapsed to a two-year low as China’s army of investors, unnerved by 2015′s plunge in equity values, charged into other assets. After a frenzied bet on commodities futures soured, they have set their sights on a bigger target – property. With new home prices now jumping the most in six years, analysts are scaling back projections for interest-rate cuts. ‘The property market and the stock market are like a seesaw,’ said Li Lifeng, a strategist at Sinolink Securities Co. in Shanghai. ‘If the ‘fever’ in the property market doesn’t cool down, funds will flow from equities into real estate.’ Small-cap technology stocks are the least preferred by analysts in the survey because of stretched valuations, while building companies are favored thanks to government efforts to boost infrastructure investment.
Here’s the latest uncertainty facing China’s currency: sky high house prices. A runaway boom in the largest cities will push investors to look for cheaper alternatives overseas, draining money out of China and putting downward pressure on the yuan in the process, according to analysis by Harrison Hu, Chief Greater China Economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. in Singapore. An ‘enlarged differential between domestic and foreign asset prices will lead to capital outflows and depreciation, until parity is restored,’ Hu wrote in a note. He said that the 30 percent year-on-year price gain in Tier 1 and leading Tier 2 cities implies a 25 percent rise in dollar terms, which far outpaces the 5 percent gain in major U. S. cities. That ratio is here in red:
The horror stories that continue to spill out about what Wall Street banks are doing behind their cloistered walls have blurred the actual function of Wall Street: to efficiently allocate capital so that new industries can be born and thrive in America, creating new jobs and a rising standard of living for all of our fellow citizens. In the same week that the U. S. Senate Banking committee was taking testimony that one of the biggest Wall Street banks, Wells Fargo, was opening two million unauthorized customer accounts over at least a four-year span in order to generate fees and meet daily sales quotas, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that just 68 new companies had been listed for public trading this year, a drop of 51 percent from the 138 companies that had gone public by this time last year. Let’s recap what the public has learned over the past eight years about the Wall Street banking model from hell. (1) The greatest housing collapse since the Great Depression resulted from Wall Street banks muzzling their internal whistleblowers who wrote memos to management and shouted from the rafters that the banks’ mortgage loan departments were ignoring their own compliance rules and buying up tens of thousands of mortgages with wildly overstated incomes by the mortgage holder. (2) The banks then knowingly bundled these toxic mortgages into pools and paid the ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, to assign triple-A ratings to the offerings (called securitizations). (3) The banks knew these toxic mortgages would fail but they sold them to their customers as sound investments. (4) The banks also used their insider knowledge that the mortgages were going to fail to place bets (short sales) and reap billions of dollars in profits as the U. S. housing market collapsed and families were thrown into the streets. Last December, ‘The Big Short’ movie began to play in theatres across America, allowing millions of people to see how the unchecked, insidious greed of Wall Street had destroyed the nation’s economy along with the reputation of Wall Street, the ratings agencies and the revolving door regulators. (See video below.) The movie was based on real-life people on Wall Street and adapted from the book by the same title by author Michael Lewis, an authoritative source through his previous career on Wall Street.
Over the years, the ‘wealth effect’ has been taken as a core component of monetary policy. Central bankers will not admit it, of course, but particularly stock prices are a central element of their strategy. It almost has to be that way given that the modern version of econometrics applies rational expectations theory as a literal condition. Since expectations form the basis of orthodox understanding about how an economy works and why it changes, the biggest effects, economists believe, of any policy are achieved when they impact consumer, financial, or business expectations the most. So it is with record stock prices. By the nature of the Great Recession in terms of its depth (not that it was actually a recession), monetary policy was hugely constrained in how it might respond. As then-former Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote in November 2010 explaining why QE2 was in his viewnecessary: This approach eased financial conditions in the past and, so far, looks to be effective again. Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate the most recent action. Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.
China’s attempts to slow runaway home-price growth in major cities are showing little sign of success, stoking the threat of a housing bubble that could destabilize the economy. New home prices rose the most in six years in August, jumping 1.2 percent from July, according to Bloomberg calculations based on government data. Home prices rose in 64 of 70 cities tracked by the government, up from 51 the previous month. Shanghai prices surged a record 4.4 percent for a year-on-year gain of 31 percent, while Beijing’s climbed 24 percent from a year earlier. The gains suggest moves by city governments to cool surging home prices over the past six months are doing little to damp demand from investors looking for alternatives to stocks and overseas property. That may prove to be a challenge for central government policy makers on how to respond without choking off growth in the world’s second-largest economy by squeezing credit. ‘The more immediate risk of a sudden and steep downturn in the economy comes from the threatened bursting of the property market bubble,’ Pauline Loong, managing director at research firm Asia-analytica in Hong Kong, wrote in a Sept. 14 report. ‘And bubble it is. The real question for investors is when and what will pop the bubble?’
Housing in major cities in China has seen price hikes over the last year that resemble the famous Dutch ‘Tulip Fever’ bubble of 1637, according to new research by economic consultancy firm Longview Economics. ‘I think what’s going on in China is troubling … some of the valuations there are really quite extraordinary,’ Chris Watling, the CEO of Longview Economics, told CNBC Thursday. ‘We’ve double checked these numbers about seven times, because I found them quite hard to believe.’ The firm’s research found that only San Jose in the Silicon Valley is more expensive than Shenzhen. The Chinese city has seen prices rise 76 percent since the start of 2015, with the acceleration beginning in April 2015 as the country’s stock market was nearing its peak. The situation in Beijing and Shanghai is similar, albeit less extreme, the company states.
China’s surging credit in August boosted property sales while barely moving the dial on private investment, underscoring the challenge for policy makers striving to support growth while reining in debt risks. Aggregate financing jumped to 1.47 trillion yuan in August ($220 billion), helping fuel a 39 percent jump in property sales by value in the first eight months. Medium and long-term new loans, mostly mortgages, climbed 528.6 billion yuan. Private investment in fixed assets, meanwhile, stalled at 2.1 percent for a second straight month in the January through August period, matching a record low. Months after an unidentified ‘authoritative person’ told the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper that China must face up to risks associated with soaring debt levels, policy makers are grappling with how to do that without growth slipping below a target of at least 6.5 percent. At the same time, there’s scant evidence of progress on pledges to rein in excess capacity in industries from steel to cement that are at the center of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to restructure the economy.
A tax on foreign homebuyers in Vancouver cut luxury purchases in Canada’s priciest housing market by more than half last month, according to a brokerage report. Meanwhile, high-end sales in Toronto surged. Transactions in Vancouver of at least C$1 million ($759,000) slid 65 percent from a year earlier to 95 units in August, the month that a 15 percent transfer tax on deals by non-Canadian homebuyers took effect, according to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. At the same time, luxury-home sales in Toronto and its suburbs doubled to 1,459 units, the high-end brokerage said. The housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver are heading in separate directions after at least a decade of similar growth. Vancouver’s tax, which took effect Aug. 2, was implemented by the British Columbia government to cool prices in the city after they doubled in the past 10 years.