Saturday, 12 March 2016

Weekend Update 12/03/2016 – What, Me Worry?

Brexit Countdown Clock.

Brexit Quote of the Day.
Cameron: I could never learn to like him, except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight.

With apologies to Mark Twain.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred. (EU millions.)
"Forward, the Juncker Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" Draghi said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred. (EU millions.)

With apologies.

High on hopium again, drunk on the IEA declaration that the bottom is in in the oil markets, our global stock gamblers are flying through global casinos again, once also known as stock markets. Dragged unwillingly along in the 600 million, because until GB votes for Brexit, were still trapped in the Juncker Brigade, from my view of things bringing up the rear, there are cannon to right of us, cannon to left of us, cannon in front of us, getting ready to volley and thunder.  It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad negative interest rate world I’m in, and in my judgement it’s all about to get worse as 2016 rolls on into summer.

In Europe, apart from Brexit, Spain hasn’t got a government at all, with Catalonia setting out the break free from the rest of Spain. Portugal now has a government setting out to undo the previous government austerity programs. Italy has an unfolding banking crisis about to get very much worse ahead as the EUSSR implements German ordered banking reform. Germany itself, awash in sex-starved, single male moslem migrants it no longer wants, is now suffering a right wing backlash. Just how much of a backlash and just how right wing, we will likely learn after tomorrow’s regional German elections. Greece, don’t ask. In addition to all the other epic plagues they’ve undergone, they’ve now been voted the EUSSR’s migrant prison, after all the sane nations of the EUSSR erected migrant barriers in response to Mad Merkel’s Migrant Madness.

Across the Atlantic in America, the election campaign gets more bizarre with each passing week. The latest development being a clash of mobs in Chicago intended to stop “The Donald” movement by force. 1930 Germany comes to mind, if it continues. In the other camp, buoyed up by masses of “super delegates” that the other candidate has no hope of ever getting, the rig seems to be in for the lady that may run for President under indictment for breaching the Espionage Act! Adding fuel to the fire, President Obama just came out and blamed Prime Minister Cameron for the mess all the bombing and Gadhafi’s murder generated in Libya. Even if it were true, which it isn’t, what does he expect Mr Cameron to do about it. The Royal Navy’s carriers haven't been finished yet, but even if they were, the F-35s on order, don’t yet work properly. In fact they work so poorly, Australia just cancelled its order for them.

We open with the “good news” so far.

S&P 500, Dow rally to highest finish of 2016

Published: Mar 11, 2016 4:27 p.m. ET
The S&P 500 and Dow industrials rose sharply to close at their 2016 highs Friday, while all three main indexes posted their fourth straight weekly gain in a rally largely fueled by a rebound in oil prices.

The S&P 500 SPX, +1.64% rose 32.62 points, or 1.6%, to 2,022.19 and recorded a 1.1% gain over the week. On Friday the S&P 500’s banking sector was up 2.7%, while the energy sector gained 2.2%, tracking crude oil.

Oil futures CLJ6, +1.72% rebounded from losses in the previous session and gained 7% over the week. Friday’s gains followed comments from the International Energy Agency that prices might have bottomed out. Goldman Sachs GS, +1.93% analysts have also turned less downbeat on oil, saying “price lows may have been set.”

“This is a reaction to a rise in oil and the comments [from the International Energy Agency] that prices bottomed, with a tailwind from the ECB decision,” said Kristina Hooper, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global Investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.28%  gained 218.18 points, or 1.3%, to end at 17,213.31 and gained 1.1% over the week. Among the blue-chip companies, 28 finished higher on Friday.

The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +1.85%  advanced 86.31 points, or 1.9%, to 4,748.47 and recorded a 0.7% weekly gain.

The rally comes a day after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi delivered a larger-than-expected stimulus plan Thursday, but also indicated that policy makers aren’t likely to further cut interest rates—sending a mixed signal that deflated an initial rally after the announcement, sending global markets sharply lower.

On Friday, the market regained its optimism off oil but also reassessed the ECB measures, viewing them as positive for banking stocks, said Paul Nolte, a portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management.
Stocks could extend gains into next week if oil remains firm.

“The probability of such, I think, is over 65%, given the changing sentiment regarding strong gasoline demand,” said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management.

Oil prices may have ‘bottomed out’, says IEA

11 March 2016 • 1:43pm
The rout in oil prices may be over after crude stabilised at its highest level in three months on signs that supply is finally tightening and producers may be curbing output.

The International Energy Agency cautioned that the 40pc increase in crude prices from the market’s nadir of $28 a barrel in mid-January should not “be taken as a definitive sign that the worst is necessarily over”.

But the agency added: “Even so, there are signs that prices might have bottomed out.”

Brent crude is up to $40 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, is not far behind at $38.

Oil producers could take comfort from an expected narrowing of supply in the second half of the year, which should help the market to balance by next year, the IEA suggested.

“For prices there may be light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel, but we cannot be precisely sure when in 2017 the oil market will achieve the much-desired balance,” the IEA said.

The good news over, here come the canons getting ready to volley and thunder. 

The Sea Island Conspiracy

Thursday - March 10, 2016 at 8:03 pm
Over the long weekend before the Mississippi and Michigan primaries, the sky above Sea Island was black with corporate jets. 

Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Napster’s Sean Parker, Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk, and other members of the super-rich were jetting in to the exclusive Georgia resort, ostensibly to participate in the annual World Forum of the American Enterprise Institute.

Among the advertised topics of discussion: “Millennials: How Much Do They Matter and What Do They Want?”

That was the cover story.
As revealed by the Huffington Post, Sea Island last weekend was host to a secret conclave at the Cloisters where oligarchs colluded with Beltway elites to reverse the democratic decisions of millions of voters and abort the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Among the journalists at Sea Island were Rich Lowry of National Review, which just devoted an entire issue to the topic: “Against Trump,” and Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the Trumphobic New York Times.

Bush guru Karl Rove of FOX News was on hand, as were Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham, dispatched by Trump in New Hampshire and a berserker on the subject of the Donald.

So, too, was William Kristol, editor of the rabidly anti-Trump Weekly Standard, who reported back to comrades: “The key task now, to … paraphrase Karl Marx, is less to understand Trump than to stop him.”

Kristol earlier tweeted that the Sea Island conclave is “off the record, so please do consider my tweets from there off the record.”

Redeeming itself for relegating Trump to its entertainment pages, the Huffington Post did the nation a service in lifting the rug on “something rotten in the state.”

What we see at Sea Island is that, despite all their babble about bringing the blessings of “democracy” to the world’s benighted, AEI, Neocon Central, believes less in democracy than in perpetual control of the American nation by the ruling Beltway elites.

If an outsider like Trump imperils that control, democracy be damned. The elites will come together to bring him down, because, behind party ties, they are soul brothers in the pursuit of power.


Oil rally is too little, too late for cash-strapped producers

Published: Mar 11, 2016 2:51 p.m. ET
RBC estimates fiscal break-even for OPEC members at $98.83 a barrel
Brent crude—the global benchmark—is poised for its third week of gains, but the rally will still fall short of providing immediate relief for battered sovereign-wealth funds dependent on crude, according to RBC.

“Even if the recent uptick in oil is sustained, the vast majority of sovereign producers are facing difficult outlooks for the rest of 2016,” said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, in a report Friday.

The roughly 70% decline in oil prices since their 2014 peak has forced OPEC members to tighten their belts by cutting spending, mobilizing foreign-exchange reserves and seeking loans. This in turn has put their credit ratings at risk of downgrades, according to Croft.

Moody’s Investors Service last week placed ratings of several countries on review for possible downgrades, citing a prolonged slide in oil prices, including Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Lowered sovereign credit ratings can make it more expensive for a country to borrow funds, further exacerbating their financial positions.

Many of the oil-dependent economies have had to dip into their sovereign-wealth funds to make up for fiscal deficits and such withdrawals are expected to accelerate if oil prices don't significantly recover.

Sovereign-wealth funds are typically financed by surpluses in a country’s balance of payments, foreign exchange reserves, and commodity exports. Of the approximately 70 sovereign-wealth funds in operation, slightly more than half are funded by oil receipts.

----Assets under management at these funds—estimated at $7.1 trillion—have stagnated since 2014 when crude began its plunge.

“With the prolonged nature of the current price environment, the potential call on these funds to cover fiscal deficits could be as high as $236.5 billion this year, as much as 56% of which stems from OPEC sovereigns,” Croft said.

The fiscal break-even point for members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is $98.83 a barrel, said the RBC strategist.

China able to project 'substantial offensive power' from Spratlys in months: U.S.

Fri Mar 11, 2016 4:19am EST
China will be able to project "substantial offensive military power" from artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea's disputed Spratly Islands within months, the director of U.S. national intelligence said.

In a Feb. 23 letter to John McCain, chair of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, James Clapper said Chinese land reclamation and construction work in the Spratlys had established infrastructure needed "to project military capabilities in the South China Sea beyond that which is required for point defense of its outposts."

"Based on the pace and scope of construction at these outposts, China will be able to deploy a range of offensive and defensive military capabilities and support increased PLAN and CCG presence beginning in 2016," Clapper said in the letter released this week, using acronyms for the Chinese navy and coastguard.
"Once these facilities are completed by the end of 2016 or early 2017, China will have significant capacity to quickly project substantial offensive military power to the region," Clapper added.

The United States has voiced concerns about China's assertive pursuit of territory in the South China Sea. The sea is one of the world's busiest trade routes and regional countries have rival claims, creating a potential flashpoint.

Asked about Clapper's comments on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China has merely been exercising its right of self-defense.

"China has made appropriate and reasonable defense deployment construction that is within the range of China's sovereignty," Hong told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

"China urges the relevant country to not talk excitedly with wild gestures on this issue."

Charges, threat of jail cast Brazil's Lula in familiar role: martyr

Fri Mar 11, 2016 5:10pm EST
Criminal charges and a request by prosecutors to jail Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are putting the former Brazilian president and leftist icon back in a role he has long relished: that of the martyr.

The 70-year-old former metalworker, still a hero to blue-collar Brazilians because of an economic boom that created millions of jobs during his two terms as president, has known since his days as a union leader how to cast himself as the victim of an oppressive elite, galvanizing the working class behind him.

Last week, after federal police took him into custody briefly for questions about a far-reaching graft probe around Brazil's state-run oil company, Lula said he "felt like a prisoner" and urged leftist organizations, from landless peasants to labor unions, to rally.

"Summon me," he said, asking them to show support. "I am going to travel this country."

For the beleaguered government of President Dilma Rousseff, Lula's successor and protégée, any traction Lula gets could provide relief at a time when it is crippled by impeachment proceedings, an economy that shrunk by 3.8 percent last year and a corruption scandal that is drawing ever closer to her inner circle.

"This is a paralyzed government that needs any help it can get," says Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper, a São Paulo business school. "Even if Lula himself has lost some support, he still knows how to mobilize the party militants. The government will hitch a ride on that."

---- Federal prosecutors say they believe Lula accepted illicit payments and favors connected to the giant kickback scandal around Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil company. In a separate, but related investigation, state prosecutors in São Paulo, Brazil's industrial capital and the cradle of Lula's Workers' Party, have charged him with crimes including fraud and money laundering.

Lula has denied any wrongdoing.

The widening scandal, and the allegations against him, have eroded the popularity of Brazil's first working-class president, who enjoyed approval ratings of nearly 90 percent when he left office at the end of 2010. In a recent Datafolha poll simulating the presidential election in 2018, when Lula could attempt to return as the Workers' Party candidate, he had 20 percent of the vote, slightly less than the centrist candidate who heads the chief opposition party.

On Thursday, the state prosecutors asked a judge to jail Lula, pending further legal proceedings. The move was criticized as slipshod by many jurists, who argue that a world-famous leader poses virtually no flight risk.

ECB package can't solve economic problems in Europe: Merkel ally

Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:34am EST
A senior lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said on Thursday the European Central Bank's package of rate cuts would not tackle the euro zone's economic woes, but could cause the property market to overheat.

"The ECB package cannot and will not solve the economic problems in Europe," said Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy parliamentary floor leader of Merkel's conservative bloc.

The ECB measures would come to nothing as long as governments were not willing to push ahead with structural reforms, he said, adding: "There is also the risk of bubbles forming, for example on the real estate market."

A spokesman for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble declined to comment on the ECB's latest decision, saying the central bank's monetary policy is independent.

Italian left and right feud over poisonous city vote campaigns

Fri Mar 11, 2016 9:40am EST
Italy's main left and right-wing parties have succumbed to savage in-fighting ahead of municipal elections slated for June, with fierce divisions in both blocs pointing to a possible shake up in national politics.

Leftist veterans in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's ruling Democratic Party (PD) are openly warning of a schism, while allies of former conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi are in revolt over his leadership.

Disputes over who should stand as mayoral candidates have flared across the country, but the old, established blocs have both run into particular problems in Rome, where the previous center-left mayor was forced out following an expenses scandal.

The PD held a primary vote last weekend to select its candidate, duly picking an ally of Renzi. But turnout was down almost 60 percent on the last such ballot in 2013, giving party dissidents ammunition against a prime minister they accuse of moving the PD into center-right territory.

"The PD has fallen into the hands of an arrogant, self-centered group," former leftist prime minister Massimo D'Alema told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Friday in an angry interview that sent shockwaves through a party he helped create.

"Lots of voters are abandoning us ... No one can rule out that in the end someone will transform this unhappiness into a new party," he added, hinting at the creation of a leftist force that could bleed votes from the PD at parliamentary elections slated for 2018.

Renzi loyalists hit back, condemning D'Alema for saying he would not back the PD candidate in Rome. "He has knifed his own party," said Ernesto Carbone, a senior PD politician.

Any center-right glee over the PD bust up has been tempered by internal woes, with the largest party on the right -- the anti-euro Northern League -- in open rebellion against Berlusconi's choice for Rome mayor, Guido Bertolaso.

The League originally backed the decision, but took a swift U-turn when Bertolaso, who stands trial later this year for allegedly rigging public work contracts, told an interviewer he had once voted for the center-left in the capital.

Berlusconi has refused to abandon his man and has denounced League leader Matteo Salvini as "utterly unreliable".

Banks Failing in Italy a “Leaning Tower” to EU Collapse
The Italian banking system is a “leaning tower” that truly could completely collapse at literally any moment.  
And as Italy’s banks begin to go down like dominoes, it is going to set off financial panic all over Europe unlike anything we have ever seen before. Michael Snyder is a former Washington, DC attorney who now focuses his attention as a ‘Economic Watchman’, seeking out the signs and markers in the world financial system, and how they relate to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  He is the author of The Economic Collapse Blog.

Mr. Snyder appears on the March 10th, 2016 edition of ‘TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles’, and offers the following comments in relation to his appearance on the program:
I wrote about the troubles in Italy back in January, but since that time the crisis has escalated.  At this point, Italian banking stocks have declined a whopping 28 percent since the beginning of 2016, and when you look at some of the biggest Italian banks the numbers become even more frightening.  On Monday, shares of Monte dei Paschi were down 4.7 percent, and they have now plummeted 56 percent since the start of the year.  Shares of Carige were down 8 percent, and they have now plunged a total of 58 percent since the start of the year.  This is what a financial crisis looks like, and just like we are seeing in South America, the problems in Italy appear to be significantly accelerating.

So what makes Italy so important?

Well, we all saw how difficult it was for the rest of Europe to come up with a plan to rescue Greece.  But Greece is relatively small – they only have the 44th largest economy in the world.

The Italian economy is far larger.  Italy has the 8th largest economy in the world, and their government debt to GDP ratio is currently sitting at about 132 percent.

There is no way that Europe has the resources or the ability to handle a full meltdown of the Italian financial system.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  Italian banks are absolutely drowning in non-performing loans, and as Jeffrey Moore has noted, this potentially represents “the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system”…

While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred. (EU millions.)

Brexit Thought of the Week.

“Cameron: He’s like a shiver waiting for a spine.”

With apologies to Paul Keating.

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