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.
Canadian Finance Minister boasts about Crony Capitalist Bailout of collapsed mortgage lender. But his assumptions might be wrong. ‘Just like I said, a back door bailout in Exchange for something down the line. Very very dirty,’ tweeted Bay Area short-seller Marc Cohodes in response to Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s gloating about the government’s role in the bailout of Home Capital Group. Home Capital Group is Canada’s largest alternative mortgage lender. It focuses on new immigrants and subprime borrowers that have been turned down by the banks. It had been melting down ever since revelations of liar loans surfaced in 2015. Liar loans don’t exist in Canada’s clean housing market. They’re a US thing. By April this year, Home Capital was collapsing as a run on its deposits crushed its funding sources. A very onerous and controversial funding package was arranged in all haste to keep it afloat, as the industry – and as we now know, the Canadian government – worried about contagion. The Canadian housing bubble is sitting on needles, and everyone knows it. On June 22, when Warren Buffett’s rescue of Home Capital Group became known, its shares, after having already soared over the prior days, soared another 27% to C$19, having tripled from their crisis low in late April. But since that propitious day, its shares have fallen nearly 30%.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Jul 24, 2017.
President Trump, as part of his ‘America First’ program, has proposed lowering the US corporate tax rate to 15 percent and to close a myriad of loopholes in an effort to simplify the tax code, and to also encourage the nation’s largest businesses to bring production back home. The proposal represents a tangible shift in the relationship between Washington and big business. In 2014, President Obama’s Treasury Department introduced new measures to crack down on corporate tax inversions, a strategy companies utilized to exploit gaping tax differentials between the United States and other countries. Burger King’s acquisition of Canada’s Tim Hortons, a coffee and doughnut chain, for example, was motivated in large part by Canada’s more hospitable tax environment.
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins reminds readers: Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. IT’S A COMPLICATED WORLD Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 29, 2017.
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. It’s a Complicated World Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action. However, coming to a decisive viewpoint on NAFTA’s success or failure can be difficult to achieve. Over two decades, the economic and political landscape has changed. China has risen and created a surplus of cheap labor, technology has changed massively, and central banks have kept the spigots on with QE and ultra-low interest rates. Deciphering what results have been the direct cause of NAFTA – and what is simply the result of a fast-changing world – is not quite straightforward.
This is a slide used by Bernie Sanders when he proposed making drug imports from Canada to the US legal. The proposal was voted down in the Senate 52-46, with a few key Democrats helping overturn Bernie’s proposed legislation. Among those voting against it was the recipient of big pharma campaign contributions Democratic rising star Cory Booker. Booker used the Big Pharma talking point that ‘the bill did not include provisions requiring the protections of the FDA.’ Oh really? We think that the Canadian government’s regulation of medicine is weaker than in the US? Please, Cory, tell us exactly where they fall down on the job.
As we warned more than 4 years ago in this article here, the criminal banking cartel’s end game involves restricting freedom of speech and curbing any criticism of their criminal banking industry by banning cash and imposing an end game of 100% digital money upon all of us. Now with the benefit of 4 more years, there can be little doubt that indeed, that the banking industry has advanced their war against all of us by accelerating their war on cash, and attempting to disguise this war on cash as a war on corruption. Any logical person would understand the vast irony in such a statement, especially since bankers are leading these false charges of a war on cash as a war on corruption, not only given the fact that the banking industry is the most corrupt industry on the planet, but also given the fact that bankers provide much of the dirty money that feeds global stock markets by laundering tons of dirty money for the world’s most violent drug cartels. Recall that in 2012, HSBC bankers had to pay a $1.9B fine for willingly laundering hundreds of millions, and more likely billions of dollars, of dirty money for the largest and most murderous Mexican drug cartels. Though HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver unconvincingly denied approving of these transactions, any logical person would conclude that it is next to impossible for the CEO of a bank not to know that origin of the source of hundreds of millions of dollars of cash flowing into his bank. In addition to profiting handsomely by conducting business with the largest, most violent drug cartels in the world, such as the Sinaloa drug cartel, HSBC bankers were also convicted of openly conducting business with terrorists linked to Al-Queda, Hezbollah, and Russian mobsters, and for openly moving money for rogue states like North Korea and the Sudan. In fact, Jack Blum, a former US Senate investigative attorney, stated, ‘[HSBC bankers] violated every goddamn law in the book. They took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business.’ Of course HSBC bankers were not the only bankers convicted of laundering huge sums of illicit money and profiting from this illegal act. Wachovia bankers, Standard Chartered bankers, Citibank bankers, Wells Fargo bankers, and dozens of other bankers were also found guilty of these criminal activities as well, exposing the systemic criminal nature of the banking industry.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 29 January 2017.
Here is the latest example of corrupt politicians voting in favor of their own self-interests. Bernie Sanders may be a bit fanatical, yet he has been trying to push a bill through to allow Canada and other countries to import prescription drugs to the U. S., which would significantly decrease the price that consumers have to pay for medication.
The RCMP are now making and enforcing their own version of criminal law in Canada. Good for them. So far civilian compliance with this ‘interpretation’ is zero. Way to go boys! Nothing like pissing off the most upstanding and law-abiding people in the country. Based on this sort of underhanded and unethical behavior I am predicting that the Liberals, assuming they do nothing to discourage it, will not be re-elected. As for the RCMP, the average Joe’s trust and regard for them here drops yearly. They will be lucky if they are not disbanded in my lifetime. I know I for one will be heartbroken when it eventually happens.
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.
The massive wildfires in Alberta earlier this year had a tremendously negative effect upon not just the oil sector but all of Canada. Not surprisingly, Canadian GDP released today was abysmal. Falling 1.6% in Q2, that was the worst quarter since 2009. Fortunately for the Bank of Canada who had been ‘stimulating’ again since last July when it cut the overnight rate by 25 bps to 0.50%, the wildfires give its policies some cover to explain what would have been otherwise already dismal. Pre-report estimates showed that the wildfires were expected to contribute about 1% to 1.1% of the GDP decline. Thus, even without the hellish conflagration across a huge chunk of Alberta’s oil production fields Canadian GDP would still have contracted in Q2. After such an atrocious and devastating year last year, as ‘transitory’ oil prices crashed the Canadian economic margins, 2016 was supposed to be the year to forget all that. Instead, what we find in Canadian GDP is what we find almost everywhere else – unstable growth. From the start of 2015, GDP has contracted in half of the six quarters since; and of the other three, one, Q4 2015, was near zero, leaving just two quarters as significantly positive where even the best was just 2.5%.
More Canadians sour on their Magnificent Housing Bubble. Canadians have been gung-ho about their magnificent housing bubble, feeding it with an endless willingness to pay every higher prices, even as regulators and international institutions issued warnings, as short sellers began circling, as subprime liar-loan scandals made their reappearance, and as a generation was getting priced out of the hottest housing markets in Canada, the metros of Toronto and Vancouver, and as locals came up with an acronym to describe what has fired up the market: HAM – Hot Asian Money. But the Vancouver housing bubble, the hottest even in Canada, hit rough waters in early summer. By July the first serious troubles appeared. Even as apartment prices soared 27% year-over-year and detached house prices 38%, overall sales plunged 19%, while sales of detached homes plummeted 31% [Vancouver Housing Bubble, Meet Pin]. Then on August 2, British Columbia’s notorious 15% transfer tax on home purchases involving foreign investors took effect. Preliminary data indicatethat sales over the first two weeks in August plunged 51% year-over-year, with sales of detached homes down 66%.
This post was published at Wolf Street on August 29, 2016.
We have all heard the incredible stories of housing riches in commodity producing hotspots such as Western Australia and Canada. People have become millionaires simply by leveraging up and holding on to properties. These are the beneficiaries of a global money-printing spree that pre-dates the financial crisis by decades. The road toward such outsized gains in property is not paved with some global savings glut concocted by theoretical economists, but have rather been a process whereby the US leveraged up its economy-wide asset base allowing the Chinese to print ‘dollars’ with abandon. China, being a top-down system favoured fix asset investments as a means to grow their economy; the newly minted ‘dollars’ were thus used to bid on international commodities. That this increased the nominal values of tangibles, especially commodities with a direct Chinese bid, should come as no surprise. However, now that the Chinese economy is trying to move away from a system based on slave labour, foreign direct investment and exports to an overleveraged world, fixed asset investment growth is slowing down. That this has negatively affected Perth and Calgary is clearly visible in property data. However, one stalwart bubble remain resolute in all of this. A bubble like few before it and which will inevitably burst spectacularly with dire consequences for the small community. If you look to the prosperous fringe of northern Europe, you will note a small resource-based economy that has gone completely haywire. A population befuddled by surging commodity prices in a world where monetary policy is a foreign import. Remember the Impossible Trinity; a country cannot have free capital flows, a fixed exchange rate and a sovereign monetary policy all at the same time. While exchange rates were supposedly freely floating, they were in practice partly managed because a too strong exchange rate would crowd out the non-commodity export based part of the economy. Capital was certainly free to flow across the border, but to dampen the effect on the exchange rate the central bank set its monetary policy with diktat from the Eccles Building in Washington DC via Frankfurt. The result of such folly? We present exhibit A, a gargantuan housing bubble equal to none before it.
…….. As the stock market reached its lunatic peak near 2200 in August, the certainty that the Fed is out of dry powder and that the so-called economic recovery is out of runway gave rise to one more desperate pulse of hopium. Namely, that the central banks of the world were about to embark on outright ‘helicopter money’, thereby jolting back to life domestic economies that are sliding into deflation and recession virtually everywhere – – from Japan to South Korea, China, Italy, France, England, Brazil, Canada and most places in-between. That latter area especially includes the United States. Despite Wall Street’s hoary tale that the domestic economy has ‘decoupled’ from the rest of the world, the evidence that the so-called recovery is grinding to a halt is overwhelming. After all, the real GDP growth rate during the year ending in June was a miniscule 1.2%. It reflected the weakest 4-quarter rate since the Great Recession. And even that was made possible only by an unsustainable build-up in business inventories and the shortchanging of inflation by the Washington statistical mills. Had even a semi-honest GDP deflator been used, the US economy would have posted real GDP on the zero-line, at best.
After buying as much crude as they could in the first quarter because of the low price of oil, Asian refiners are starting to cut back on buying crude, as the region is now oversupplied with crude and refined products. A poll by Reuters of 61 economists found that economic growth in China dropped to 6.6 percent in the second quarter, the lowest level in 7 years. Under normal conditions, this time of the year Asian refiners would have boosted utilization rates starting in July in order to meet increased demand for gasoline and diesel, which climbs in the summer season. But because of the crude acquisitions in the first quarter, there is more than enough to meet demand, which is another reason they’re cutting back on runs. A final factor is while oil has pulled back over the last couple of months, it’s still a lot higher from February lows of just over $26 per barrel. That has shrunk margins, which is cutting back on profits for the refineries. Together this has lowered Asian demand, with some companies in the Middle East lowering prices to generate more interest. Combined with an increase in oil rigs in the U. S., this could put pressure on oil prices going forward as shale production slowly ramps up. Consequently, the price of oil will probably remain level, and possibly test the $43 mark or lower. Add to this the increase in oil from Nigeria, Libya and Canada, along with added supply from Iran and Saudi Arabia, and it’s setting up a scenario where supply could exceed demand once again, resulting an increase in inventory. Asian slowdown Most of us are aware Asia, and China in particular, has been experiencing an economic slowdown. The 6.6 percent growth rate in China may be even more optimistic than warranted, but it does confirm the growth trajectory of China is flattening, and with it the rest of Asia.
One of the pillars of oil’s recovery from the lowest price in 12 years may be on the verge of crumbling. China is likely close to filling its strategic petroleum reserves after doubling purchases for it this year as prices plunged, JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts including Ying Wang wrote in a June 29 research note. Stopping shipments for the reserve would wipe out about 15 percent of the country’s imports, according to the bank. Chinese crude imports have risen 16 percent this year, and the country is rivaling the U. S. as the world’s biggest oil purchaser. That demand, along with supply disruptions from Canada to Nigeria, has helped boost oil prices about 80 percent since January. ‘China has taken the opportunity of lower oil prices since early-2015 to accelerate the strategic petroleum reserve builds,’ Wang said in the report. ‘This volume might be close to the capacity limit, in our view, and together with potential teapot utilization pullback and slower-than-expected demand from China could increase near-term risks to global oil prices.’
Back in February 2015, the price of West Texas Intermediate stood at about $52 per barrel, half of its 2014 peak. I argued then that a renewed decline was coming that could drive it below $20, a scenario regarded by oil bulls as unthinkable. But prices did fall further, dropping all the way to a low of $26 in February. Since then, crude rallied to spend several weeks flirting with $50 per barrel, a level not seen since last year. But it won’t last; I’m sticking to my call for prices to decline anew to $10 to $20 per barrel. Recent gains have little to do with the fundamentals that led to the collapse in the first place. Wildfires in the oil-sands region in Canada, output cuts in Nigeria and Venezuela due to political unrest, and hopes that American hydraulic fracturing would run out of steam are the primary causes of the recent spurt. But the world continues to be awash in crude, and American frackers have replaced the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as the world’s swing producers. The once-feared oil cartel is, to my mind, pretty much finished as an effective price enforcer. Even OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, is acknowledging the new reality by quashing recent attempts to freeze output, borrowing from banks and preparing to sell a stake in its Aramco oil company as it tries to find new sources of non-oil revenue.
If you think that a referendum vote on June 23 by UK citizens on whether to withdraw from the European Union (called Brexit, short for British Exit), is simply a proxy on whether the UK should dislodge itself from the edicts of Brussels, think again. It’s morphed into a much broader debate on whether citizens worldwide should surrender their right to a participatory democracy in order to further the interests of multinational corporations, secret trade agreements packed with secret court tribunals, global banking hegemony and central banks attempting to keep all these balls in the air for their one percent overlords. One particular central bank is sure to come under fire today. Members of the British Parliament have been warning Mark Carney, head of the Bank of England (BOE), to not engage in political lobbying on the issue of Brexit, which he is perceived to have been doing for months. Carney is already the subject of skepticism in the U. K. He’s a former Goldman Sachs executive, former Governor of the Bank of Canada and the first foreigner to run the BOE in its 300-year history. (This is reminiscent to many of how Stanley Fischer, head of Israel’s central bank from May 2005 until the end of June 2013 and before that a Citigroup Vice Chairman who was born in Zambia, is now Vice Chairman of the U. S. central bank, the Federal Reserve.)
Corporate Canada is nursing a monumental junk-debt hangover that’s unlikely to let up until the end of the year. Driven by energy and mining industries that leveraged up during the commodity boom, Canadian companies have racked up a record of at least $69.6 billion of high-yield debt, including $61.3 billion of U. S. dollar-denominated bonds, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch data. That’s a 133 percent increase from five years ago, according to Bloomberg calculations. While some commodity prices have rebounded into a bull market, they’re still well off their peaks and issuers are expected to be cautious as they continue to repair their balance sheets and gird for less buoyant times ahead. Canadian high-yield issuance in the U. S. market has totaled just $3.55 billion this year, down 56 percent from last year, and down from a peak of $10.1 billion over the same period in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ‘Issuance dropped off as we’ve gone through this slowdown in commodity pricing, both on the oil-and-gas side and on the mining side,’ Glenn Gibson, global head of credit capital markets at Toronto-Dominion Bank’s TD Securities unit, said by phone from New York. ‘There is a pent-up issuance opportunity that we probably are going to see in the back-end of 2016 or certainly into 2017.’
Jim Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer has long been a proponent of gold, and equally a critic of central planners. He sat down recently for an interview at John Mauldin’s strategic economic conference to discuss his views on gold, and how he struggles to understand those who view gold as an irrelevant curiosity. Grant is always worth a read and/or listen. On his current view regarding gold, Grant’s humor was on display as he described to what degree he was bullish on gold, and that he wouldn’t categorize gold as a hedge against monetary disorder but rather a bet on it. ‘This is not going to be any news, Jim Grant is bullish on gold. The degree I would characterize as ‘very’. I would characterize gold not so much as a hedge against monetary disorder, but as an investment in it. People will say well that’s a hedge against armageddon, no, armageddon doesnt’ happen mostly, but what we are in the midst of is monetary shenanigans, and I see no real chance of being fewer of them, and a great chance there will be more of them.’ Regarding Western central banks having different ideas on whether or not to even own gold, for example the Canada, who recently sold all of its gold reserves, Grant pokes a bit of fun at the monetarist view of the world, and cautions that when Western central banks start to sell gold it’s time to pay attention because that’s a signal of significant distress in the world.