Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A Bond Debacle Looms

Baltic Dry Index. 643 +30      Brent Crude 49.35

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

Today, America and Europe. Abandon hope all ye who enter either. Up first America, and yet another red flag waving and klaxon blaring. The stock market bubble is long in the tooth, and a hurricane is on the way. Food price inflation is starting to return, and now energy inflation looks set to join it. For the Fedster’s that presents a terrible dilemma. Do nothing and hope no one in the bond market notices rising inflation. Start normalising US interest rates ending NIRP and ZIRP, setting off a stampede out of the Great Stock Bubble. In stock bubbles, getting out early always beats getting carried out last. Not quite the right time to start playing Russian Roulette with Saudi Arabia.

There can be few fields of human endeavour in which history counts for so little as in the world of finance. Past experience, to the extent that it is part of memory at all, is dismissed as the primitive refuge of those who do not have the insight to appreciate the incredible wonders of the present.

John Kenneth Galbraith.

Third Time This Century—-The Fed Induced Net Worth Bubble Is At Unsustainable High

by Contributor • 
I published the graph below in a recent essay titled, Why the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy Failed, but the graph deserves special attention because of what it seems to imply for the economy going forward. The graph shows household net worth (wealth) as a percent of personal disposable income. Household net worth as a percent of disposable income increased dramatically in the mid-1990s. Its collapse precipitated the 2000 recession. It increased even more dramatically during the subsequent expansion only to collapse again, precipitating the 2007 – 2009 recession.
Once again, household net worth has increased dramatically. Since the end of 2012 it has increasing by nearly 100 percentage points to 640% of disposable income. This is scary; not just because it is an incredibly large rise in wealth in a short period of time, but because it happened twice before with very bad consequences.

The first rise in household wealth ended because of the bursting of what is known as the bubble. It is called the bubble because the NASDAQ composite index rose dramatically in the mid-to-late 1990s only to fall even more dramatically beginning in 2000Q1. The graph below shows that the rise and fall of household net worth was accompanied by the rise and fall of the NASDAQ.

The NASDAQ and household net worth reached their respective peaks at exactly the same time, 2000Q1, after which they both fell precipitously. Household net worth recovered quickly during the expansion, but the NASDAQ didn’t. Indeed, the NASDAQ didn’t reach its 2000Q1 level again until 2014Q3. In contrast, household wealth as a percent of disposable income rose quickly, increasing by 125 percentage points from 2002Q3 to 2006Q4 before declining even more precipitously.

The large increase in household wealth was largely driven by an equally large and, as it turned out, unsustainable rise in house prices, as shown in the graph below. Not surprisingly, house prices and household net worth both peaked in 2006Q4.

By 2015Q1, household wealth had surpassed its 2006Q4 peak. This time the rise in wealth was fueled by both equity and house prices. The relevant question is: Is the 100 percentage point rise in household net worth sustainable, or will house and equity prices fall dramatically again?

The latter answer seems most likely. One reason is behavior of household net worth has been unusual since the mid-1990s. The graph below shows the level of household net worth over the period 1952Q1 to 2015Q4. The graph also shows a quadratic trend line estimated over the period 1952Q1 to 1994Q4 and extrapolated to 2015Q4.
During the entire period from 1952Q1 to 1994Q4, household net worth tracks the trend line very closely. Since 1995Q1, however, household net worth has been consistently above the trend line and the gap has been getting progressively larger. Such behavior would be a concern in any circumstance, but it is particularly troubling because we know that the previous two boom cycles were followed by busts. The recent rise in household net worth has not been accompanied by a correspondingly large increase in output or the price level. Hence, it too does not appear to be supported by economic fundamentals—it appears to be unsustainable.
My guess is that if the Fed tries to do nothing as food and energy inflation starts to return, we will see the rise of a new generation of bond vigilantes, though this time they won’t be human, but computer algo vigilantes. At the first sign of downside risk tripping the algos, all will stampede for the exit. So will any HFT bond algos try to fake that trip in the summer ahead? Something about bears and trees come to mind. But then again, it all might be moot, if the Saudis jump the gun. Suddenly US Treasuries don't look quite so safe anymore.
"In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension."

John Kenneth Galbraith.

The Tiny Cayman Island Holding $265 Billion in Treasuries

May 17, 2016 — 6:24 PM BST Updated on May 17, 2016 — 8:15 PM BST
A Caribbean financial center favored by hedge funds is now the third-biggest foreign owner of U.S. government debt.

The Cayman Islands, where more hedge funds are domiciled than anywhere else in the world, held $265 billion of Treasuries as of March, up 31 percent from a year earlier, according to data the U.S. Treasury Department released Monday. It was the first time that the U.S. released details of bond holdings among OPEC and Caribbean countries, and it came in response to a Freedom-of-Information Act request submitted by Bloomberg News.

The stockpile makes the British territory, an offshore tax haven with about 60,000 residents, the largest holder after China and Japan. Those nations, the world’s second- and third-biggest economies, each own more than $1 trillion of Treasuries.

The surge in ownership of U.S. debt for the Caribbean getaway shows that hedge funds are joining more traditional mutual fund managers in buying Treasuries amid lackluster returns in other assets, with many global stock indexes posting losses in 2016. Negative bond yields in Europe and Japan are also pushing asset managers into the $13.4 trillion Treasuries market, which is on pace to gain for a third consecutive year.

“Most hedge funds are using Treasuries as a way to park assets without taking a lot of risk,” said Donald Steinbrugge, managing partner of hedge-fund consulting firm Agecroft Partners in Richmond, Virginia.
About 60 percent of the world’s hedge-fund assets are domiciled in the Cayman Islands, according to a 2014 report by consulting firm Oliver Wyman & Co.

Senate passes bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia

Tue May 17, 2016 4:05pm EDT
The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia's government for damages, setting up a potential showdown with the White House, which has threatened a veto.

The Saudis, who deny responsibility for the 2001 attacks, strongly object to the bill. They had said they might sell up to $750 billion in U.S. securities and other American assets in retaliation if it became law.

The "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act," or JASTA, passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote. It must next be taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives, where the Judiciary Committee intends to hold a hearing on the measure in the near future, a committee aide said.

If it became law, JASTA would remove the sovereign immunity, preventing lawsuits against governments, for countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. It would allow survivors of the attacks, and relatives of those killed in the attacks, to seek damages from other countries.

In this case, it would allow lawsuits to proceed in federal court in New York as lawyers try to prove that the Saudis were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
We close with EUSSR news. Brexit or not, the whole wealth and jobs destroying failing project is increasingly a wreck. Time to head for the lifeboats.

In central banking as in diplomacy, style, conservative tailoring, and an easy association with the affluent count greatly and results far much less.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Spain Dares Europe’s Budget Police to Start First Ever Sanctions

May 18, 2016 — 4:00 AM BST
Spain’s caretaker government may be about to learn just how far its European Union budget masters can be pushed.

EU commissioners meet Wednesday to discuss taking action after Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy breached his country’s budget limit for a fourth successive year. They face an awkward decision, with the commission’s number crunchers recommending measures against Spain as the country prepares for its second election in six months, according to three people familiar with the EU executive’s analysis.

If they follow the advice of their staff, the commissioners will rule that Spain has failed to deliver effective action to correct its deficit, despite repeated warnings, opening the door for sanctions including the politically toxic return of EU inspectors to Madrid and even a fine. The group may be persuaded to postpone a decision though, to avoid interfering with the vote, one of the people said.

The deficit meeting falls at a delicate moment, with Rajoy clinging to power after losing his parliamentary majority in December -- despite the last-minute tax cuts that saw Spain overshoot its deficit target by almost 1 percent of output. A negative assessment has to be approved by EU finance ministers before the commission proposes a penalty.

“The commission has to find the balance between enforcing the rules while avoiding jumping into the middle of the election campaign,” said Nick Greenwood, a Madrid-based analyst at Analistas Financieros Internacionales. “Spain has repeatedly missed the targets.”

The commission’s budget analysts consider they have little choice but to take action against Spain if they are to maintain the credibility of their rules, the people said. The EU has already relaxed Spain’s targets three times since 2009.

Deutsche Bank Faces Fresh Investor Ire a Year After Shakeup

May 18, 2016 — 12:30 AM BST
Deutsche Bank AG investors expressed their frustration with management at the company’s annual meeting a year ago. Weeks later, co-Chief Executive Officer Anshu Jain was gone.
Now it’s Chairman Paul Achleitner and Jain’s replacement, John Cryan, who are set to feel the displeasure of shareholders when they gather in Frankfurt on Thursday. With revenue plunging and the need for capital mounting, some investors worry it may be just a matter of time of before they’re asked to stump up and buy new stock.

“The mood’s going to be bad, maybe even worse than at last year’s meeting,” said Klaus Nieding, vice president of DSW, a German firm that advises shareholders on company proposals.

Deutsche Bank shares dropped by almost half in the past year -- erasing close to 20 billion euros ($22.6 billion) in market value -- as plans to bolster capital and slash costs failed to revive confidence and profits shriveled across the industry. For Achleitner, a supervisory board dispute in April raised questions about his commitment to rooting out misconduct at Germany’s largest bank.

----Achleitner, 59, and Cryan, 55, declined to comment for this story through a spokesman.

Cryan, a British citizen who chaired the audit committee of the supervisory board before becoming co-CEO, has been outspoken about the company’s shortcomings, criticizing excessive pay, spiraling legal costs and outdated technology.

He suspended the dividend to bolster capital and pledged to shed about 9,000 jobs, or almost 10 percent of the workforce, and shrink the investment bank by scaling back the debt-trading empire built by Jain. While some investors applauded the cost reductions as long overdue, others expressed concern the cutting would eat too deeply into sales, especially during a trading slump.

----An official at a top-20 Deutsche Bank shareholder said his firm backs Cryan, but questions whether he can turn the bank around given the weaker revenue picture and a potentially demoralized staff. A fund manager at one of the lender’s 10 largest investors said he was disappointed by previous attempts to push down costs and wants to see Cryan make progress on that front. Both asked for anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly.

“We need to move into the world of showing progress,” said Barrington Pitt Miller, an analyst with Janus Capital Group Inc., one of Deutsche Bank’s 50 biggest shareholders.

It’s hard to see how Cryan can overhaul the business without raising more capital, while it’s also not clear investors would be willing to provide it if asked, Berenberg analyst James Chappell said in a note Monday. Saying the bank faces “insurmountable headwinds,” he cut his rating to sell from hold and lowered his share price target to 9 euros, or 38 percent below Tuesday’s closing level of 14.41 euros.
"Those entrapped by the herd instinct are drowned in the deluges of history. But there are always the few who observe, reason, and take precautions, and thus escape the flood. For these few gold has been the asset of last resort."

Antony C. Sutton
At the Comex silver depositories Tuesday final figures were: Registered 30.28 Moz, Eligible 123.18 Moz, Total 153.46 Moz. 

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
As the Great Nixonian Error of fiat money, communist money, gets more and more unstable and dysfunctional as it nears the final curtain, more and more interest in gold is surfacing again.
"Gold would have value if for no other reason than that it enables a citizen to fashion his financial escape from the state."

William F. Rickenbacker

Make America Gold Again: Calls for Everyone's Favorite Standard Are Back

May 17, 2016 — 10:00 AM BST
When times are tough, new economic theories get a better hearing. Maybe some old ones, too.

The gold standard is one of the oldest ideas about money, but the hardest of hard-money hawks sense an opening to breathe new life into it. Decades ago, the amount of cash circulating in a country was often limited by the stash of bullion held in its coffers. Especially since 2008, developed-world policy has headed in the exact opposite direction, expanding the powers of central banks to stoke growth. Helicopter drops of money, potentially the next new thing, would be a giant leap further.

For those in the U.S. who see much risk and little benefit in the current course, gold is still a rallying point. And their audience may be growing.

“The fringe has become the mainstream,” said Jesse Hurwitz, a U.S. economist at Barclays Capital in New York. He sees the gold standard as a bad idea but “something we’ll increasingly talk about.”

Of course, full restoration of the system that reigned in the U.S. for a century through the 1970s is almost inconceivable. Even many gold bugs say it can’t be done, and there’s near-unanimity among economists that it shouldn’t be attempted: the U.S. would be in much worse shape, they say, with a Federal Reserve stripped of its ability to freely tinker with the money supply.

But the backdrop to this well-rehearsed debate is changing. Rumbling discontent with the economy has left the establishment under siege, and you can’t get more establishment than the Fed. So, in a curious twist, it’s becoming easier for supporters of hard money -- historically a policy favored by the rich -- to give the idea a populist slant. The money conjured up by central bankers after the crisis, the argument goes, all went to bankers, leaving most Americans no better off. It’s time to tie the Fed’s hands, if not to gold, then at least to something.

“We don’t need to be a slave to history,” said George Selgin, director of the Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives at the Cato Institute in Washington. The gold standard is “like Humpty Dumpty,” he said, hard to put back together. But “we can think about having a monetary system that isn’t completely arbitrary, where it isn’t just a matter of discretion, people sitting in a room 13 times a year doing whatever.”

----The proponents of gold or some other fixed monetary rule are more likely to be found in the Republican Party, and what they object to is the very idea of money creation by fiat, not just its distributional effect. Still, there’s some overlap.
Ted Cruz, in one of the early candidate debates last year, said the Fed “should get out of the business of trying to juice our economy and simply be focused on sound money and monetary stability, ideally tied to gold.”

Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers’, who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and it does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

J. M. Keynes.

Brexit The Animated Movie.

Brexit Quote of the week.
BBC "the propaganda arm of the EU."
Martin Durkin. Brexit Filmmaker.

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?

Self-healing, flexible electronic material restores functions after many breaks

Date: May 16, 2016

Source: Penn State

Summary: Electronic materials have been a major stumbling block for the advance of flexible electronics because existing materials do not function well after breaking and healing. A new electronic material created by an international team, however, can heal all its functions automatically even after breaking multiple times. This material could improve the durability of wearable electronics.
Electronic materials have been a major stumbling block for the advance of flexible electronics because existing materials do not function well after breaking and healing. A new electronic material created by an international team, however, can heal all its functions automatically even after breaking multiple times. This material could improve the durability of wearable electronics.
"Wearable and bendable electronics are subject to mechanical deformation over time, which could destroy or break them," said Qing Wang, professor of materials science and engineering, Penn State. "We wanted to find an electronic material that would repair itself to restore all of its functionality, and do so after multiple breaks."
Self-healable materials are those that, after withstanding physical deformation such as being cut in half, naturally repair themselves with little to no external influence.
In the past, researchers have been able to create self-healable materials that can restore one function after breaking, but restoring a suite of functions is critical for creating effective wearable electronics. For example, if a dielectric material retains its electrical resistivity after self-healing but not its thermal conductivity, that could put electronics at risk of overheating.
The material that Wang and his team created restores all properties needed for use as a dielectric in wearable electronics -- mechanical strength, breakdown strength to protect against surges, electrical resistivity, thermal conductivity and dielectric, or insulating, properties. They published their findings online in Advanced Functional Materials.
Most self-healable materials are soft or "gum-like," said Wang, but the material he and his colleagues created is very tough in comparison. His team added boron nitride nanosheets to a base material of plastic polymer. Like graphene, boron nitride nanosheets are two dimensional, but instead of conducting electricity like graphene they resist and insulate against it.
"Most research into self-healable electronic materials has focused on electrical conductivity but dielectrics have been overlooked," said Wang. "We need conducting elements in circuits but we also need insulation and protection for microelectronics."
The material is able to self-heal because boron nitride nanosheets connect to one another with hydrogen bonding groups functionalized onto their surface. When two pieces are placed in close proximity, the electrostatic attraction naturally occurring between both bonding elements draws them close together. When the hydrogen bond is restored, the two pieces are "healed." Depending on the percentage of boron nitride nanosheets added to the polymer, this self-healing may require additional heat or pressure, but some forms of the new material can self-heal at room temperature when placed next to each other.

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished April

DJIA: 17773.64-19 Down. NASDAQ:  4775.36 +11 Down. SP500: 2065.30 -21 Down. 

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