Thursday, 14 April 2016

Currency War Resumes.

Baltic Dry Index. 567 +07       Brent Crude 43.62

LIR Gold Target in 2019: $30,000.  Revised due to QE programs.

Brexit odds checker.

Brexit Quote of the Day.
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”

Dodgy Dave Cameron, with apologies to A.A. Milne, and Winnie-the-Pooh

We open today with a surprise easing by Singapore. G-20, IMF and World Bank  meetings or not, China’s slowing economy is slowing everyone else’s. Someone in Singapore thinks it’s like 2008 all over again. This puts the ball back in Japan’s court again. But what will China do? What will the G-20 do? It’s going to be an interest weekend in Washington, District of Crooks.
True, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run, issue additional paper currency, open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artificial boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse soon or late and to bring about a depression
Ludwig von Mises.

Singapore Surprise Spurs Asia-Wide Currency Rout; Kiwi Slides 1%

April 14, 2016 — 1:05 AM BST Updated on April 14, 2016 — 5:20 AM BST
Singapore’s dollar fell the most since November, dragging down other Asia-Pacific currencies, as a surprise easing by the central bank fueled speculation other policy makers in the region will follow suit.

The New Zealand dollar, Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah also weakened after the Monetary Authority of Singapore said it would seek a policy of zero appreciation against an undisclosed basket of currencies, returning to a neutral stance it adopted in the global financial crisis in 2008. Singapore’s central bank cited “a less favorable external environment” in its policy statement, adding to concern the outlook for global growth is worsening.

“Today’s decision by the Monetary Authority of Singapore has put downward pressure on currencies in the Asia-Pacific region," said Hirofumi Suzuki, an economist at the treasury department of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. in Singapore “Some market participants fear a revival of a competitive currency devaluation."
Singapore’s dollar fell 1 percent to S$1.3635 to the U.S. currency as of 12:17 p.m. local time, the biggest drop since Nov. 6. New Zealand’s dollar tumbled 1.1 percent to 68.41 U.S. cents, the ringgit slid 0.8 percent to 3.9028 per dollar and Indonesia’s rupiah weakened 0.5 percent to 13,220.
----The Monetary Authority of Singapore had a policy of modest and gradual appreciation of the city-state’s dollar against its trading basket in the past six years. Growth was stagnant in the first quarter, with gross domestic product posting zero expansion on an annualized basis compared with the fourth quarter, the trade ministry said in a separate report Thursday.

“There’s been a deterioration of economic conditions since the last meeting,” said Philip Wee, senior currency economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore, who correctly predicted that the MAS would ease policy. “If things have already worsened why wait for October to ease?"
Up next, Europe, the continent made for tanks. Right now Germany’s Panzers seem to have Super Mario in their sights. ZIRP and NIRP are wreaking havoc among Germany’s savers.  Super Mario is favouring the feckless over the prudent.  As for Italy, well Italy remains, Italy. We all look forward to seeing how a 5 billion euro bad bank construct is to solve Italy’s 360 billion and rising, bad bank loan problem. A big ask even for the Vatican Bank.

Blaming Draghi Finally Unites Merkel's Fractious Coalition

April 13, 2016 — 1:31 PM BST Updated on
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fractious coalition partners can at last agree on one thing: it’s all Mario Draghi’s fault.
After months of bickering over refugees, the three coalition parties are taking advantage of a lull in the crisis to address widening alarm over dwindling pensions and savings. That’s translated into a slew of criticism of the record-low interest rates set by the European Central Bank under Draghi.

The opening volley was delivered by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who last week laid part of the blame for the rise of the populist Alternative for Germany party at the ECB president’s feet. While his ministry issued a statement respecting the bank’s independence, it defended Schaeuble’s comments as part of a political debate over monetary stimulus. A spokesman said the ECB had no comment on the criticisms.

“Schaeuble is completely right to put our efforts on private pensions up for debate,” Thomas Schaefer, CDU finance minister for the state of Hesse, home region of the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters, said by phone. “Of course this leads to nervousness in the public if you can’t rely on private plans anymore. It’s the right debate to have to say that we need another interest-rate policy in the middle to long term. The ECB is in a position of independence, but that doesn’t mean it’s untouchable.”

Merkel joined the fray on Tuesday, addressing the effects of low interest rates in a closed door meeting with lawmakers from her Christian Democratic Union in Berlin, according to a party official who was present. While she didn’t explicitly mention the ECB or Draghi, the critique taps into German public disgruntlement over the central bank’s perceived whittling away of retirement savings.

Merkel avoiding criticizing Draghi at a press conference on Wednesday, saying that euro-area governments need to do their part to get the ECB to lay off stimulus measures.

----The specter of old-age poverty looms in Germany as almost half of workers who retire in 2030 will receive pensions below the minimum social welfare level, according to public broadcaster WDR, which cited its own projections based on available data. Declining entitlements combined with fewer safe investment opportunities provided by the ECB has emerged as political fodder, particularly for the upstart AfD.

SPD lawmaker Manfred Zoellmer said the ECB debate a “distraction” shielding attempts to counter the rise of the AfD,

Euro-Area Industrial Production Plunges Most in 18 Months

April 13, 2016 — 10:00 AM BST
Data from Eurostat showed output declined 0.8 percent, more than the 0.7 percent economists had forecast in a Bloomberg survey. The decline followed a revised 1.9 percent jump in January, which was the biggest since 2010.
While the latest drop is partly technical, surveys and confidence indicators suggest there may be more weakness ahead. Markit’s manufacturing Purchasing Mangers’ Indexes have slipped in recent months and economic confidence in the 19-nation euro region has fallen to the lowest in more than a year.
Economists at Barclays correctly forecast the February production reading. In a note before the data were published, they said this would bring the first-quarter carryover to 1.1 percent, well above the 0.4 percent industrial growth in the last three months of 2015.
“Nonetheless, recent business surveys point to further weakness in March, as forward-looking indicators continued to nose dive, amid challenging external demand,” economists including Philippe Gudin in Paris said earlier on Wednesday.
In oil news, everyone’s waiting on Doha, but don’t expect too much to change. If Iran doesn’t join in, any production cap by the others merely shifts over time, market share to Iran. Synthetic double options on crude seems to be the right bet on Doha.

Deal or No Deal, Oil Freeze Seen Having Little Impact on Supply

April 14, 2016 — 12:01 AM BST
Oil market watchers see a 50-50 chance that Russia, Saudi Arabia and other major producers will agree to freeze output in Doha on April 17, but either way they don’t anticipate any impact on crude supply because most of the countries are already pumping flat out.

While forty analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg News were evenly split over whether talks in the Qatari capital will succeed in capping production, a majority of those who predicted a deal said it would have no impact on actual flows of oil. Most producers attending the meeting aren’t able to increase production even if they want to, according to Rystad Energy AS and BNP Paribas SA.

----Crude prices have recovered from 12-year lows earlier this year amid speculation producers would make the first significant attempt at coordinating oil output between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and producers outside the group in 15 years. It’s a change of strategy after OPEC decided in November 2014 to fight for market share rather than defend prices by cutting production. Several countries planning to boost production this year, notably Iran and Brazil, have said they won’t join the freeze.

All OPEC members will go to Doha except for Libya, while Iran’s presence remains unclear. Non-OPEC producers Russia, Azerbaijan, Colombia and Oman will also take part. If Iran were to attend, the countries gathering would account for about 55 percent of the world’s crude output, according to BNP Paribas.
There is still one potential hurdle to an agreement. Saudi Arabia, the de-facto OPEC leader, said it would only sign up if regional rival Iran also participated. Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has dismissed as “ridiculous” the notion that it would freeze output just as exports recover after the lifting of nuclear sanctions in January.
-----If a deal is struck it would probably be “meaningless,” said Gareth Lewis-Davies, an analyst at BNP Paribas. For many of the countries involved production in January -- the level proposed for the freeze -- was already “particularly high” and there was no expectation it could be maintained, he said.

Output in Russia, which vies with Saudi Arabia for the title of world’s largest crude producer, was 10.912 million barrels a day last month, narrowly beating the previous high set in January, according to the Energy Ministry’s CDU-TEK unit. Production there will probably taper off this year, according to the French bank and Oslo-based Rystad Energy.

----The biggest gains in output this year will come from Iran and Brazil, according to International Energy Agency estimates, which have said they won’t join the freeze.
We close for the day with the demise of Old King Coal. Will solar and wind power rise to fill King Coal’s shoes? Unlikely, at least anytime soon. King Coal in the short term, is more likely to be replaced by cleaner, though still polluting, natural gas.

Peabody’s bankruptcy may speed up clean energy growth

Published: Apr 13, 2016 2:51 p.m. ET
Peabody Energy Corp.’s bankruptcy filing has fanned hopes among environmentalists that the coal miner’s demise would hasten the transition away from coal and toward clean energy in the U.S.

Peabody BTU, -2.36%  filed for chapter 11 protection on Wednesday, the latest in a string of bankruptcies of coal companies, including other large players such as Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal.

Read more: Peabody Energy files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

As the coal industry fades, there’s more opportunity for clean energy to grow faster, said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“It’s a moment in time where environmental factors and economic factors are perfectly in sync,” he said. By the end of the next decade, coal will likely have been phased out in the U.S. as a source of power generation: “Coal can’t compete.”

Since 2010, more than a third of coal-fueled power plants have been retired or are scheduled to be retired, and the market for coal in the U.S. is shrinking, Brune said. Elsewhere, countries such as China are also actively trying to curb its consumption,

Peabody had warned in March it could go bankrupt. In a statement Wednesday, Chief Executive Glenn Kellow said the company was overwhelmed by a “substantial debt burden amid a historically challenged industry backdrop.” For now, mines and offices will be open, the company said.

Natural gas may have a leg up over other renewables in the race to replace coal

Last year, electricity generation from renewable sources accounted for 13% of total U.S. electricity, with solar the fastest-growing, according to the Energy Information Administration. That share is projected to increase to 18% by 2040. The share of natural gas, however, is expected to grow to 30% by the same year.

But the EIA is expecting coal to remain in the electricity-generation equation for longer.

Coal’s share is seeing declining to 34% in 2040 from 39% in 2013, although the EIA has cautioned its projections are highly dependent on natural gas prices in relation to coal plants and renewables.

The EIA has also forecast that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal-fired generation in the U.S., with 33% of U.S. residents getting their electricity from gas and 32% from coal.
"I see you don't understand, and I must explain it to you. Well, very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city--a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to last, for they thought their city would last for ever."

Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows.

At the Comex silver depositories Wednesday final figures were: Registered 32.45 Moz, Eligible 122.25 Moz, Total 154.70 Moz. 

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
Today, yet more fallout from the Panama Papers. So you really wanted to sell a Picasso?

Panama Papers Provide Rare Glimpse Inside Famously Opaque Art Market

April 12, 20165:18 PM ET
The so-called Panama Papers have shined a light on the hundreds of thousands of shell companies used to circulate assets around the world. One of those assets is fine art, and the leaked papers show how collectors and companies have secretly bought and sold famous works by artists like Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso, among others.
One event the papers illuminate is a famous 1997 Christie's auction featuring paintings from the collection of Victor and Sally Ganz. Some of the world's most important (and richest) collectors attended, and some bid unprecedented amounts of money. The auction is said to have launched the skyrocketing prices for modern art.

Jake Bernstein is a senior reporter with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has the leaked documents. "This was a collection that Victor and Sally Ganz had accumulated over 50 years," he says, "and they had a lot of wonderful pieces — particularly a lot of Picassos — and it was a record sale."

The collection sold for more than $200 million, a terrific profit for the Ganz family — or so it seemed until the Panama Papers were released. According to the papers, the Ganz family had already sold the paintings months earlier to a subsidiary of Christie's for $168 million. That company then sold the collection to another company based on a small island in the South Pacific.

Bernstein says, "We figured out through the data exactly who was behind this offshore company and it turned out to be ... a British billionaire named Joe Lewis who was, at the time, the largest shareholder in Christie's."

The Panama Papers show that both Lewis and Christie's stood to share the profits if the auction brought in more than $168 million, which it did. The deal wasn't illegal, but it was secretive — and the auction's success resulted in an uptick in the price of art that's still in effect today.

Sarah Thornton, author of Seven Days in the Art World, says the Ganz auction occurred before what's called a "third party guarantee" — that's when an auction house will secure the sale of a work for an agreed upon, minimum price with a third party. A collector is more apt to consign a work to an auction house that guarantees it will sell for a minimum price. As for a Christie's shareholder acting as a kind of "third party" back in 1997, Thornton says it certainly explains how such high prices were commanded.
"Back in those days he [Lewis] had multiple reasons to underwrite the Ganz collection before it came up at auction and to guarantee the family a certain sum," she says. "And it gives the whole auction house a different confidence from which to maneuver."
According to Thornton, the leaked documents confirm what art market observers have suspected for a long time: "Auctions are theatrical spectacles with a lot of scaffolding and engineering behind them."
Shell companies are part of that scaffolding. Art buyers and sellers can hide assets, evade taxes and remain anonymous, which brings us to another example from the papers — one centering on Modigliani's Seated Man With a Cane. For years, a Frenchman named Philippe Maestracci has claimed that that work belonged to his grandfather, a Jewish art dealer who fled Paris before the Nazi occupation, leaving his collection behind. The Modigliani was sold at auction in 1996, and Maestracci has been trying to get it back. He believes the buyers were the Nahmads, a billionaire art collecting family. The Nahmads claim the painting was bought by a company called the International Art Center, but according to the Panama Papers, the Nahmads pretty much control the International Art Center.
Brexit Quote of the week.

Cameron: He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.

With apologies to George Bernard Shaw

Solar  & Related Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this new section. Updates as they get reported. Is converting sunlight to usable cheap AC or DC energy mankind’s future from the 21st century onwards? DC? A quantum computer next?

New hybrid inks permit printed, flexible electronics without sintering

Date: April 12, 2016

Source: INM - Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gGmbH

Summary: Research scientists in Germany have combined the benefits of organic and inorganic electronic materials in a new type of hybrid inks. This allows electronic circuits to be applied to paper directly from a pen, for example.
Research scientists at INM have combined the benefits of organic and inorganic electronic materials in a new type of hybrid inks. This allows electronic circuits to be applied to paper directly from a pen, for example.
The electronics of the future will be printed. Flexible circuits can be produced inexpensively on foil or paper using printing processes and permit futuristic designs with curved diodes or input elements. This requires printable electronic materials that can be printed and retain a high level of conductivity during usage in spite of their curved surfaces. Some tried and tested materials include organic, conductive polymers and nanoparticles made of conductive oxides (TCOs). Research scientists at INM -- Leibniz-Institute for New Materials have now combined the benefits of organic and inorganic electronic materials in a new type of hybrid inks. This allows electronic circuits to be applied to paper directly from a pen, for example.
The developers will be demonstrating their results and the possibilities they offer at stand B46 in hall 2 at this year's Hanover Trade Fair as part of the leading trade show Research & Technology which takes place from 25th to 29th April.
To create their hybrid inks, the research scientists coated nanoparticles made of metals with organic, conductive polymers and suspended them in mixtures of water and alcohol. These suspensions can be applied directly on paper or foil using a pen and they dry without any further processing to form electrical circuits.
"Electrically conductive polymers are used in OLEDs, for example, which can also be manufactured on flexible substrates," explains Tobias Kraus, Head of the research group Structure Formation at INM. "The combination of metal and nano-particles that we introduce here combines mechanical flexibility with the robustness of a metal and increases the electrical conductivity."
The developers combine the organic polymers with gold or silver nanoparticles. The organic compounds have three functions: "On the one hand, the compounds serve as ligands, ensuring that the nanoparticles remain suspended in the liquid mixture; any agglomeration of particles would have a negative effect on the printing process. Simultaneously, the organic ligands ensure that the nanoparticles have a good arrangement when drying. Ultimately, the organic compounds act as ´hinges´: if the material is bent, they maintain the electrical conductivity. In a layer of metal particles without the polymer sheath the electrical conductivity would quickly be lost when the material is bent," the material scientist Kraus continues. Due to the combination of both materials, when bent, the electrical conductivity is greater all in all than in a layer that is made purely of conductive polymer or a layer made purely of metal nanoparticles.

“The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost…We conclude that under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.”

Dr. Ben Bernanke. 2002

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished March

DJIA: 17685.09 -18 Down. NASDAQ:  4869.85 +33 Down. SP500: 2059.74 -22 Down. 

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