Saturday 9 December 2023

Special Update 09/12/2023 Stock Bubble On. No Recession (Yet.)

Baltic Dry Index. 2483 -12            Brent Crude 75.84

Spot Gold 2005                U S 2 Year Yield 4.71 +0.13

“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”

Citigroup’s Chuck Prince wants to keep dancing

By wpcomimportuser1 July 10, 2007

In the stock casinos, bubble on. The Sahm Rule says no US recession for now. But did US unemployment really fall to 3.7 percent, or was that just noise from the end of the US auto strikes?

Wall St Week Ahead Year-end rally in US stocks faces twin tests as Fed, inflation data loom

By Lewis Krauskopf 

NEW YORK, Dec 8 (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve’s last monetary policy meeting of 2023 and a U.S. inflation report in coming days should test a stock market rally that some view as stretched following weeks of gains.

Bets the Fed will begin cutting interest rates sooner than expected have fueled a surge in U.S. equities, which received a tailwind from a rapid decline in Treasury yields. The S&P 500 (.SPX) up nearly 20% in 2023 after a monthly gain in November that was its biggest of the year.


Yet some investors believe the rise in stocks has left markets more vulnerable to reversals if consumer prices do not keep cooling or the Fed is less dovish than expected.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2% this week, marking its sixth-straight weekly increase, the longest such winning streak in about four years. The index stands at its highest closing level since March 2022.

"There is some optimism priced in on earnings and the economy and the Fed, so that has taken us to this level,” said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute (WFII). With the S&P 500 near the top of its trading range, "we think there is a lot more potential for downside than upside."

The WFII has a 2024 price target for the S&P 500 of about 4,700, or about 2% above current levels.

While the Fed is expected to keep rates steady on Wednesday for a third straight meeting, investors will watch for signs from policymakers that confirm the market’s view for rate cuts as early as March 2024. The Fed will also release its summary of economic projections, which will show officials’ rate expectations for next year.

Friday's stronger-than-expected jobs and consumer sentiment data, combined with a rise in yields, bolstered the case for those betting the Fed “could lean more hawkish” next week, said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial.

The federal funds futures market on Friday was pricing in a 46% chance of a cut at the Fed's March meeting, and a nearly 80% chance of a cut in May, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

Many investors believe stocks can continue rising in the weeks and months ahead, with the S&P 500 just 4% from making a fresh all-time high.

Past rate cycles have shown that stocks tend to climb during the period when monetary policy is “on hold.” The S&P 500 has gained an average of 5.1% in periods that the Fed has paused its rate-hiking cycle and before the central bank’s first cut, according to an analysis of nine such periods by ClearBridge Investments.


Wall St Week Ahead Year-end rally in US stocks faces twin tests as Fed, inflation data loom | Reuters

In other news, China deflation. The global economy rolling over?


China’s November consumer prices fall the fastest in 3 years

China’s consumer prices fell the fastest in three years in November, while factory-gate deflation deepened, suggesting heightening deflationary pressure as weak domestic demand casts doubts over the economic recovery.

The consumer price index (CPI) dropped 0.5% both from a year earlier and compared with October, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Saturday.

The falls were deeper than the median 0.1% declines, both year-on-year month-on-month, forecast in a Reuters poll. The year-on-year CPI decline was the steepest since November 2020.

Year-on-year core inflation, excluding food and fuel prices, was 0.6%, the same as October, pointing to a daunting task faced by Chinese authorities to revive demand as deflationary forces persist.

Although consumer prices in the world’s second-biggest economy have been teetering on the edge of deflation in recent months, China’s central bank Governor Pan Gongsheng said last week inflation was expected to be “going upwards.”

The producer price index (PPI) fell 3.0% year-on-year against a 2.6% drop in October, marking the 14th straight month of decline and the quickest since August. Economists had predicted a 2.8% fall in November.

Mixed trade data and manufacturing surveys have kept alive calls for further policy support to shore up growth.

China’s economy has grappled with multiple headwinds this year - including mounting local government debt, an ailing housing market and tepid demand at home and abroad - with consumers tightening their purse strings, wary of uncertainties amid an elusive economic recovery.

Moody’s on Tuesday slapped a downgrade warning on China’s credit rating, saying costs to bail out local governments and state firms and control its property crisis would weigh on the economy.


Inflation in China: November consumer prices fall fastest in 3 years (

Inflation expectations plunge in closely watched University of Michigan survey

Consumer fears over inflation tumbled in December amid declining energy prices and as the impact of interest rate hikes take hold.

In the latest University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey released Friday, the one-year outlook for the inflation rate slid to 3.1%, down sharply from 4.5% in November and the lowest since March 2021. The five-year outlook also moved lower, down to 2.8% from 3.2% the previous month.

Federal Reserve officials consider consumer expectations a key in the way inflation moves, so the switch in sentiment could further convince policymakers to keep interest rates on hold and possibly start cutting in 2024. The University of Michigan survey is one of the more closely watched gauges.


Inflation expectations plunge in closely watched University of Michigan survey (

Back in early November I wrote about a US recession: 

The other signal was the Sahm Rule, on the verge of giving a confirmatory recession signal, depending on the next November US employment rate, due on December 8th. An unemployment rate of 3.9 or higher will trigger a Sahm signal.

Yesterday’s US unemployment rate came in at 3.7% making the three-month average 3.8%, or only 0.4% above the 2023 double low rate of 3.4%. So no signal yet, if at all.  The Sahm Rule triggers at 0.5% over the low, and while recession doesn’t automatically happen, it hasn’t been wrong yet.

But this link is still signalling that the US economy has already slid into recession every time it falls below minus 5 percent.

US - Conference Board Leading Economic Index vs. GDP | MacroMicro

What’s the Sahm rule? Here’s what you need to know about the recession indicator that has Wall Street talking.

The Sahm rule was devised to sniff out a recession long before one is officially declared

More, subscription required.

The Sahm rule: What to know about the recession indicator that has Wall Street talking - MarketWatch

U.S. payrolls rose 199,000 in November, unemployment rate falls to 3.7%

Job creation showed little signs of a letup in November, as payrolls grew even faster than expected and the unemployment rate fell despite signs of a weakening economy.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by a seasonally adjusted 199,000 for the month, slightly better than the 190,000 Dow Jones estimate and ahead of the unrevised October gain of 150,000, the Labor Department reported Friday. The numbers were boosted by sizeable gains in government hiring as well as workers returning from strikes in the auto and entertainment industries.

The unemployment rate declined to 3.7%, compared with the forecast for 3.9%, as the labor force participation rate edged higher to 62.8%. A more encompassing unemployment rate that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time positions for economic reasons fell to 7%, a decline of 0.2 percentage point.

“The job market continues to be resilient after a year of dodging recession fears,” said Daniel Zhao, lead economist at job ratings site Glassdoor. “Really the one concern that we had coming in today’s report was the recent rise in the unemployment rate. So the improvement in unemployment was a welcome relief.”

The department’s survey of households, used to calculate the unemployment rate, showed much more robust job growth of 747,000 and an addition of 532,000 workers to the labor force.

Average hourly earnings, a key inflation indicator, increased by 0.4% for the month and 4% from a year ago. The monthly increase was slightly ahead of the 0.3% estimate, but the yearly rate was in line.

Markets showed mixed reaction to the report, with stock market futures modestly negative while Treasury yields surged.


Jobs report November 2023: U.S. payrolls rose 199,000 unemployment rate falls to 3.7% (

Global Inflation/Stagflation/Recession Watch.   

Given our Magic Money Tree central banksters and our spendthrift politicians,  inflation/recession now needs an entire section of its own.

Japan's Q3 GDP falls faster than first estimates as consumption sags

By Satoshi Sugiyama 

TOKYO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Japan's economy fell faster than first estimated in the third quarter, revised data showed on Friday, as the household sector faced growing headwinds, complicating the central bank's efforts to phase out its accommodative monetary policy.

Consumer and business spending both shrank, driving down third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP). Separate data showed real wages and household spending kept falling in October, as prolonged inflation discouraged shoppers.

"Weakness in personal consumption is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, as real disposable income is likely to extend its decline, which is seen as a factor in sluggish consumption," said Kota Suzuki, an economist at Daiwa Securities.

The economy lost an annualised 2.9% in July-September, the revised Cabinet Office data showed, more than a previously estimated 2.1% contraction and market forecasts for a revised 2.0% decline.

Capital expenditure fell 0.4%, which compared with a preliminary 0.6% decease and a median market forecast for a 0.5% fall.

Private consumption, which makes up more than half of the economy, fell 0.2% in July-September, versus a mostly flat performance in the initial estimate.

External demand shaved 0.1 percentage point off real GDP, in line with the preliminary reading, as service imports outgrew auto exports.

Separate data showed inflation-adjusted real wages dropped 2.3% year-on-year in October to mark a 19th straight month of decline, although slower than the 2.9% fall in September, according to the labour ministry.

Although nominal salaries rose 1.5%, inflation of more than 3% wiped off the wage growth in real terms, which is seen as a gauge of consumers' purchasing power. With income stagnant, household spending decreased 2.5% in October from a year earlier, falling for eight months in a row, internal affairs ministry data showed.

The Bank of Japan has stressed it needs to maintain ultra-low interest rates until sustainable inflation of 2% along with wage hikes comes into view. Next year's wage outlook would be crucial for determining whether prices were on the right track, governor Kazuo Ueda said on Thursday.

Japan's Q3 GDP falls faster than first estimates as consumption sags | Reuters

Covid-19 Corner

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

New fast-growing Covid variant JN.1 identified as random testing begins again

December 7, 2023

A new variant has been identified which could trigger a winter Covid-19 wave as random swab testing is restarted in Britain.

The variant known as JN.1 has been the fastest growing variant for at least eight months according to new analysis by the UK Health Security Agency.

Although Covid infection rates in Britain remain low overall the Office for National Statistics has restarted random testing and early indications are that 1.2% of the population had the virus in the last week of November. Its first winter report published on Thursday shows this was up from 1% the previous week.

Health chiefs are now “closely monitoring” JN.1 which makes up one in 13 cases detected. So few people are testing for Covid-19 now it is impossible to know true infection numbers but samples from hospital patients picked up the new variant on October 27.

The UKHSA has this week designated JN.1 as an official variant named V-23DEC-01 - which means it is formally being tracked. Some 302 UK cases of the strain had been detected as of Monday.

Dr Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the UKHSA, tweeted: “JN.1 has been designated variant V-23DEC-01 due to increasing sequence prevalence in the UK and internationally.” She added: “So JN.1 is the variant with the highest growth advantage since at least 8 months. With variant status, we will closely monitor JN.1. It seems likely we must now add variant pressures to the forecast of a winter Covid-19 wave.”

The UK’s world leading genome sequencing capability means new variants are often identified here first. We are one of a number of countries to have flagged JN.1 with 3,618 cases confirmed globally. It has a L455S mutation in the spike protein which suggests it could be better at escaping immunity. Health experts say being recently vaccinated is the best protection against the virus.


New fast-growing Covid variant JN.1 identified as random testing begins again (

Technology Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section.

Why Graphene Batteries Might Be The Next Big Breakthrough In The EV Industry

After lithium-ion and solid-state batteries, graphene batteries might be the next big thing to happen to EVs, and here's why.

December 7, 2023

While lithium-ion batteries are presently the best option for EVs, their shortcomings have driven the auto industry’s urge to find a technology that can supersede them. As car manufacturers continue to throw research funding at solid-state batteries, graphene has emerged as the next technology that might “revolutionize,” “reinvent,” or “redefine” the battery (depending on which managerial word one prefers). While car-sized graphene batteries are not ready for the road, some auto companies are earnestly trying to make them happen.

  • ---- A Graphene battery contains graphene in its electrodes.
  • Graphene batteries can charge faster and weigh less.
  • Graphene batteries reduce the risk of battery fires.

A graphene battery uses a material called graphene in its electrodes. To step back further, graphene is a form of carbon. (Diamonds, graphite, and charcoal are other forms of carbon.) Graphene is a sheet of carbon that is only one atom thick. When stacked up, these sheets of graphene form graphite, which most people recognize as the stuff in pencils. In other words, if graphite is a deck of cards, graphene is a single card.

To round out the relevant definitions, a battery’s electrode is what sends the electricity out of the battery and into whatever is connected to it. The electrolyte sits in the middle of the battery and stores the energy that will eventually go out through the electrode and into the car (or stereo, or battery-powered toy).

It’s important to note that the graphene in these batteries is going into the electrodes at each end of the battery, not the electrolyte in the middle.

Graphene-based electrodes have shown themselves to be a lot better at conducting electricity than the electrodes currently used in mass-produced lithium-ion batteries. In other words, they are more efficient at getting electricity out of the battery when using it, and also at pushing electricity into the battery when charging. With graphene, the electricity can get into the battery a lot more easily than with previous electrode designs. This leads to the biggest advantage that the average EV purchaser will care about: faster charging.


Why Graphene Batteries Might Be The Next Big Breakthrough In The EV Industry (

This weekend’s music diversion. Another long forgotten English composer. Approx. 9 minutes.

Samuel Arnold (1740-1802) - Overture in F (c.1781)

Samuel Arnold (1740-1802) - Overture in F (c.1781) - YouTube

This weekend’s chess update. Approx. 10 minutes.

Everyone Blunders!

Everyone Blunders! - YouTube

No weekend the math’s update again this week. This week, how crude oil becomes petrol.  Approx.  minutes.



Richard Wittington, an honest dreamer, travels to London “where the streets are paved with gold”. Fairy Bow Bells realises his destiny, and supplies him with an introduction to the leading London bitcoin gambler, Bernie Buymore, a 22 year old dropout from the London School of Economics, who’s fighting extradition to America over an unintended flash crash in shady Chicago.

A Panto for modern times. With apologies to Richard Gauntlett author of pantomime scripts.


Friday 8 December 2023

A US Jobs Recession Trigger?

Baltic Dry Index. 2495 -353         Brent Crude  75.50

Spot Gold 2030                  US 2 Year Yield 4.58 -0.02

Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.

Niccolo Machiavelli.

In the stock casinos, more erratic action. No one seems to know if next year brings a Goldilocks ending, a soft landing, a crash landing, or World War Three.


Well, at least for now, thankfully, no one is yet forecasting World War Three though events in Gaza are increasing the odds with each passing tragic week.


Below, the stock casinos awaiting today’s latest US employment numbers and with them a possible Sahm Rule jobs recession trigger.


Asia markets mixed as Japan’s third-quarter GDP revised downward, India holds rates

UPDATED FRI, DEC 8 2023 12:37 AM EST

Asia-Pacific markets were mixed as Japan’s third-quarter GDP was revised downward in a surprise move, while India’s central bank held its benchmark lending rate steady.

Japan’s third-quarter GDP was revised downward to a 0.7% fall quarter-on-quarter, a sharper slide compared with the 0.5% decline estimated earlier. Economists had forecast that the revised figure would be unchanged at 0.5%

The Reserve Bank of India held its repo rate at 6.5%, in line with a Reuters poll of 64 economists that unanimously forecast the bank would keep its benchmark policy rate steady.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3% and ended at 7,194.9, reversing earlier losses.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.91% after the GDP data release, while the Topix fell 1.73%.

South Korea’s Kospi climbed 1.02% and the small-cap Kosdaq advanced 1.91%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rebounded, up 0.17%, while the mainland Chinese CSI 300 gained 0.48%

Overnight in the U.S., all three major indexes gained ground as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 broke three-day losing streaks, ahead of Friday’s all-important jobs report.

The S&P 500 climbed 0.8%, while the blue-chip Dow added 0.17%. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.37% as technology stocks outperformed.

Google-parent Alphabet gained more than 5% as traders cheered the company’s launch of its Gemini artificial intelligence model. Nvidia and AMD also added more than 2% and 9%, respectively

Asia stock markets today: Japan trade, Q3 GDP, U.S. jobs (


Yen soars, Nikkei slides as rate hikes loom over Japan

By Tom Westbrook 

SINGAPORE, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Japanese markets were reeling on Friday, with the Nikkei heading for its biggest weekly drop since October, bonds battered and the yen surging toward its largest weekly gain for five months as investors rushed out of bets on Japanese rates staying low.

Beyond Japan MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares ex Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) rose 0.5% and Treasuries sold slightly. The Nikkei (.N225) was down 1.6% for a weekly drop of 3.3%.

Other moves were more modest as traders wait on U.S. labour data due later in the day.

The yen leapt more than 2% on Thursday and was well supported on Friday, though kept below an overnight four-month peak of 141.6 per dollar to trade at 143.39.

Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda told parliament on Thursday the central bank faces an "even more challenging" year ahead before discussing options for exiting its ultra-easy settings, which traders took as a sign of change in the offing.

The BOJ is due to set policy rates on Dec. 19.

"This may prove to be too soon for large steps to be unveiled, but... we believe it is a matter of when, not if, the BOJ jettisons its negative interest rate regime," said Corpay currency strategist Peter Dragicevich.

"This eventual turn and the capital flow implications... underpins our forecasts looking for the 'undervalued' yen to strengthen over the next year. This is also one of the pillars behind our outlook for the dollar to weaken."


Yen soars, Nikkei slides as rate hikes loom over Japan | Reuters

Stock futures are little changed ahead of key November jobs report: Live updates

UPDATED FRI, DEC 8 2023 12:38 AM EST

Stock futures were little changed Friday morning as investors looked ahead to Friday’s jobs report.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked higher by 6 points, or 0.02%. S&P 500 futures inched down by 0.04%, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 0.13%.

In regular trading, the Dow advanced 62.95 points, or 0.17%, while the S&P 500 climbed 0.8%. Both snapped three-day losing streaks. The Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.37%.

The Dow’s 0.4% week-to-date loss and the S&P 500 0.2% decline put both averages on track to break their 5-week win streak. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq climbed back into positive territory for the week. It’s currently higher by 0.2%, and if it stays in the green, it could post a sixth straight winning week.

Investors have been focused on jobs data, with several reports sprinkled throughout the week leading up to Friday’s finale: the big November nonfarm payrolls report. Initial jobless claims reported on Thursday came in at 220,000, while continuing claims came in at 1.861 million.

“The market is clinging to each data point to see if the economy can continue with this Goldilocks scenario where the labor market cools just enough to take pressure off wages but not tip the market in the recession,” Stephanie Lang, chief investment officer at Homrich Berg, told CNBC.

“Today’s continuing claims help support recent data points of a softening but resilient labor market, and tomorrow will be telling to see if the November job reports can support a similar narrative,” she added.

Earlier in the week, investors also got private payrolls data that showed employers added fewer positions than economists forecasted, and job openings data that showed a decline to the lowest level since March 2021.

Investors are also looking forward to the University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment data for December, which is scheduled to be released at 10 a.m. ET Friday.

Stock market today: Live updates (


Market bets for 2024 thrown into chaos by US recession conundrum

By Naomi Rovnick 

LONDON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Investment banks and asset managers have wildly varying stock market and currency calls for 2024, reflecting deep division over whether the U.S. economy will enter a long-heralded recession and drag the world with it.

The lack of consensus among forecasters is a stark contrast to a year ago, when most predicted a U.S. recession and rapid rate cuts that failed to materialise. The world's largest economy expanded by 5.2% in the third quarter of this year.

The divisions this year have produced a scattergram of projections for the U.S. interest rate path and how global assets that are influenced by the Federal Reserve's actions will perform.

Market participants are therefore bracing for a bumpy start to the new year after a strong rally last month for both stocks and bonds based on a short-term consensus that inflation and interest rates are on a firm downward path.


"Whether the U.S. has a hard landing or a soft landing will dominate the market," said Sonja Laud, chief investment officer at Legal & General Investment Management.

"The narrative isn't clear yet," she added, noting that if current interest rate forecasts "were to shift significantly that creates significant volatility" .

Options trading data shows that investors are becoming increasingly interested in protecting their portfolios from heightened stock market volatility ahead.

Economists polled by Reuters predict 1.2% U.S. GDP growth for 2024 on average.

But while forecasters are united that the Fed's most aggressive rate hiking cycle in decades will cause a slowdown, they are split on whether 2024 will also include a couple of quarters of economic contraction that may prompt rate cuts and weaken the dollar.

Amundi, Europe's largest asset manager, now expects a U.S. recession in the first half of 2024, meaning the group is negative on the dollar and likes emerging market assets.


---- Morgan Stanley, however, sees no recession and reckons the Fed may keep rates high well into next year. It views the dollar index rising to 111 points from 104 currently, the euro dropping to $1 and the yen recovering only moderately to 142 per dollar.


---- Deutsche Bank predicts a mild U.S. recession in the first half of 2024 and a whopping 175 basis points of rate cuts, with lower borrowing costs driving the S&P 500 share index (.SPX) to 5,100 points. The S&P 500 has gained 19% this year to 4,567.

JP Morgan views a recession as possible and the S&P finishing the year at 4,200, while Goldman Sachs sees only limited recession risk.

Equity analysts' estimates of S&P 500 earnings are currently the most dispersed since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Blackrock Investment Institute (BII).

LGIM, which manages roughly $1.5 trillion of assets, is underweight equities and expects a U.S. downturn, Laud said.


Market bets for 2024 thrown into chaos by US recession conundrum | Reuters

Global Inflation/Stagflation/Recession Watch.

Given our Magic Money Tree central banksters and our spendthrift politicians, inflation now needs an entire section of its own.

House prices rise again – but London properties still down on last year


The average price of a home rose by 0.5 per cent in November,  following a rise of 1.2 per cent the prior month, according to the latest reading from Halifax.

On an annual basis, house prices fell by 1.0 per cent compared to a 3.1 per cent fall in October. The cost of a home is also £40k above pre-pandemic levels. 

In the UK the typical cost of a property now sits at £283k, around £1,300 more than last month. 

London has retained the top spot for the highest average house price in Britain, at £524k. However, prices in the capital have now fallen by 3.8 per cent on an annual basis. 

Kim Kinnaird, director at Halifax Mortgages, said that despite the wider economic headwinds, property prices have held up better than expected, as a shortage of supply has improved pricing. 

In the last year, many sellers have put off placing their homes on the market because of high mortgage rates offset by surging inflation. 

She said: “The resilience seen in house prices during 2023 continues to be underpinned by a shortage of properties available, rather than any significant strengthening of buyer demand. 

“That said, recent figures for mortgage approvals suggest a slight uptick in activity levels, which is likely as a result of an improving picture on affordability for homebuyers.”

She added: “Other pressures – like inflation, the broader cost of living, overall employment rates and affordability – mean we expect to see downward pressure on house prices into next year.”


House prices rise again - but London properties still down on last year (

Bank of England: Economy resilient but full force of interest rates yet to come


The UK economy has weathered the worst of a rapid interest rate tightening cycle this year but the full force of hikes is yet to filter through to smaller and highly-leveraged businesses, the Bank of England warned today.

In its Financial Stability Report today, Threadneedle Street’s Financial Policy Committee said higher interest rates continue to put some firms and households “under pressure” but UK corporates in particular were expected to remain “broadly resilient to higher interest rates and weak growth”.

“In aggregate, UK corporates’ ability to service their debts has improved due to strong earnings growth,” the Financial Policy Committee said.

“But the full impact of higher financing costs has not yet passed through to all corporate borrowers and will be felt unevenly, with some smaller or highly leveraged UK firms likely to remain under pressure.”

Insolvencies among firms have risen over the past three months but remain “low”, the Bank added.

The amount of outstanding UK corporate debt relative to corporate earnings has continued to fall since its recent peak during the covid pandemic.

The latest data covering the period between April and June this year shows that corporate debt to earnings ratio stood at 276 per cent, down from 345 per cent at its peak during the pandemic in 2020, a figure that has come into sharper relief in recent years as interest rates jumped.

The share of corporates at higher risk has also slumped below the heights seen in 2020 its pandemic peak. However, pressure was still likely to be piled on firms in sectors particularly exposed to economic swings, like retail and the property market, according the the Bank of England’s analysis.

While the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee has paused its rate hiking cycle and opted to hold rates at 5.25 per cent in its past two meetings, households are likely to come under further strain as rates stay higher for longer in the UK.

Some five million households face paying an extra £240 a month on their mortgage bill by the end of 2026 as the last cheap fixed-rate loans come to an end, the Bank of England warned

The Bank published its quarterly assessment of financial risks to the economy today in which it laid out a list of threats still lingering over the UK.

The threat of the so-called shadow banking sector to the UK economy has heightened this year even as traditional UK lenders look to have weathered the worst of economic turmoil.


Bank of England: Economy resilient but full force of interest rates yet to come (

Milton Friedman once put it, if you’re spending your own money on yourself, you care about price and quality. If you’re spending someone else’s money on yourself, you only care about quality. If you’re spending your own money on someone else, you care only about price. And if you’re spending someone else’s money on someone else, you don’t care about either.

Covid-19 Corner

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

Video approx. 3 minutes. The BBC still promoting flawed vaccines. Information or disinformation?


Covid: Why do some vaccines protect you for longer than others?

A measles vaccine can protect you for a lifetime. Tetanus gives you about 10 years of cover, while flu vaccines need updating every year. When it comes to Covid-19, we’re still not sure exactly how long protection from the vaccine lasts.

BBC Health and Disinformation Reporter Rachel Schraer explains why.

Covid: Why do some vaccines protect you for longer than others? - BBC News

21st century adage: Is that true, or did you hear it on the BBC?

Technology Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, among other things, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported.

Google's new Gemini AI beats GPT and human experts across 57 subjects

Loz Blain  December 06, 202

Google has unveiled its awesome next-gen Gemini AI, claiming it outperforms OpenAI's GPT-4 – as well as human experts – on nearly all major tests. It understands images, video and audio as well as text and code, and will gain other senses over time.

With a score of 90.0% on the MMLU (massive multitask language understanding) test, it's the first model to outperform human experts (89.8%), as well as GPT-4 (86.4%) in a range of knowledge and problem solving tasks across a range of 57 subjects including math, physics, history, law, medicine and ethics. That's experts, not the average human.

Gemini is multimodal from the ground up – meaning that its original training data set contained a ton of other media in addition to text. Thus, you could say it's as fluent in visual and auditory "understanding" as it is with text. Where other language models have tended to "think" in textual terms when looking at video and images, Gemini retains all the tone and nuance of the original video, audio and image sources.

While the video below is a slick product demo, and thus should be taken with a large grain of salt, it's worth watching to give you a sense of what this multimodality really means.

----What's the upshot here? Well, AIs are being trained with wider and wider sensory datasets, to mimic the processes by which humans learn to interact with the world. With next-level visual and auditory understanding, Gemini's perception and reasoning take a step forward. Once this thing lands in Google devices – beginning with the next Pixel phones – it'll be able to help with all sorts of daily tasks.

And as Google Deepmind CEO Demis Hassabis tells Wired, this will soon extend into the next logical sensory realm: touch and tactile feedback. Google is already a major player in AI robotics, but embedding a super-knowledgeable model like Gemini with the ability to understand the world through touch will take robotics – humanoid and otherwise – into uncharted territory.

The demo video here uses a pretty lightweight use case: planning a kid's birthday party. But you can see the extraordinary power it encapsulates, and imagine how it might create graphical user interfaces for nearly any task you could imagine. This is the sort of thing only AI can do; it's like having a web app programmer sitting right next to you, but capable of working hundreds of times faster.

And as with any AI tool, it's super interactive; if it's not giving you exactly what you want, you can just tell it, and it'll adjust itself to fit your desires, or engage in a conversation about the best way to proceed. Stunning stuff, and a glimpse into how our interactions with technology are fundamentally shifting.


Google's new Gemini AI beats GPT and human experts across 57 subjects (

Another weekend and man’s inhumanity to man is on full display in the Gaza Ghetto. Or rather, man’s inhumanity to Gaza’s women and children. A modern day version of the Roman’s destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, with both sides claiming to be in the right.

But not to worry, President Biden, the leader of the free world, says it’s OK and he approves of it.  Nothing good for the west comes from this, I suspect. Have a great weekend everyone.

In war, truth is the first casualty.