Saturday, 9 July 2016

Weekend Update 09/07/2016 – America,China, Europe, On Edge.

“Every individual is a potential gold buyer, although he may not need the gold. It may be added to the store of personal wealth, and passed from generation to generation as an object of family wealth. There is no other economic good as marketable as gold.” 

Hans F. Sennholz (Austrian School economist and editor of the 1975 book, Gold is Money).

This weekend we take the time to reflect on what seems to be our increasingly violent and chaotic 21st century world. To reflect on some of the lesser reported reality of 2016.

Up first, Marketwatch with a somewhat surprising Donald Trump lead on a single issue poll. Especially so in the category of younger voters.

Donald Trump has a 10-point lead over Hillary Clinton in this poll

Published: July 8, 2016 8:06 p.m. ET

More Americans see Trump as better for real-estate prices than Hillary Clinton

Despite his multiple professional bankruptcies, some Americans believe billionaire developer Donald Trump might still know more about real estate than his rival Hillary Clinton.

Some 39% of those polled said a Donald Trump presidency would improve U.S. real-estate values more than if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (29%) became commander-in-chief, according to a survey carried out last month of 2,000 Americans by the Harris Poll on behalf of Trulia, a San Francisco-based real-estate research group.

Only 15% of Americans said that real-estate prices would fall under Trump, slightly higher than Clinton’s polling at 13% seeing a real estate decline under her presidency.

“Americans give an overall edge to Trump in our poll when it came to a strong housing market,” the report, released July 7, said.

Notwithstanding most registered Democrats’ antipathy for all things Trump, 47% of those identifying as Democrats said housing prices would rise if the billionaire real-estate developer was elected, compared with just 24% who said the same about Clinton. Independents by a margin of 35% to 25% also saw Trump being better for real-estate prices. Trump owns his largest margin on the issue among younger voters aged 18 to 39, the poll showed, with a 21-point advantage of 49% to 28%.

Next up China and its ever rising gold reserves. Officially China is adding to its gold reserves at just under 6 metric tonnes a year. Along with many others, I suspect that China is adding to its gold reserves at several times that rate.

China gold reserves rise to 58.62 mln fine troy oz at end-June

Thu Jul 7, 2016 4:26am EDT
China's gold reserves stood at 58.62 million fine troy ounces at the end of June, up from 58.14 million at the end of May, the central bank said on Thursday.

China began updating its reserve figures on a monthly basis in June 2015. Prior to that, the reserve figures were not updated regularly.

The Great Incredible Gold Subsidy

---- But by other monetary measures it gets even better. Though the Fed dropped M3, their widest monetary measure, back in 2006, privately-assembled M3 measures are available for use. At the end of December 2015, M3 was estimated at about $18 trillion. Each ounce of gold now covered by $68,702; deduct the present price of the metal and each ounce is carrying a gold subsidy of an incredible $67,402.

The central bankers seem to think that this state of affairs can go on forever, growing like Topsy to the sky. I think the whole system blows up long before then, releasing the gold subsidy — an interesting long term investment, I think. Gold flows from west to Asia’s east in anticipation that the subsidy will one day get released.

In other news, how long can Europe’s problem banks stay afloat? Australia heads into a period of political instability. Russia says to NATO,  who is really threatening whom?

The Problem(s) With Europe's Banks

Record low interest rates, a mountain of bad loans and advances in technology are threatening the operations and profitability of Europe's banks.

July 8, 2016 — 1:16 PM BST Updated on July 8, 2016 — 3:02 PM BST
Europe's banks have been a focal point of investor skittishness since Britons voted to leave the European Union, but reasons to be worried about financial firms pre-date the referendum.

Whether it be the mountain of non-performing loans, the challenge from fintech firms and alternative lenders encroaching on what was once their turf, or rock bottom interest rates eroding margins, the problems facing Europe's lenders are mammoth.

They're so vast that European Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio dedicated more than 8,000 words to the topic on Thursday. In his thinking, Europe's banks are "under siege."

Here are a few of the fronts in the battle:

Low rates

Banks face difficulties in increasing revenues during long periods of low interest rates and low growth. Rock bottom rates are resulting in diminished net interest margins.


It's not just Italian banks that have bad loans. Large institutions across the euro area hold a combined total of nearly 950 billion euros ($1.05 trillion) of NPLs, which is equivalent to about 9 percent of GDP. The loans reduce profitability, consume capital, and tie-up resources.

Progress has been slow in cutting the NPL pile and the weight of 360 billion euros of soured loans in Italy threatens to be Europe's next headache.

Australian PM almost certain victor in election but no celebration

Fri Jul 8, 2016 3:01am EDT
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looked almost certain to retain power after a bruising national election as key independent lawmakers pledged support and marathon vote counting in close-run electorates leaned in his favor on Friday.

Pollsters said a long-delayed victory, albeit a very tight one, was virtually in the bag but the man himself was more circumspect, declining to declare the win until final seats were counted.

Turnbull's gamble in calling an election, ostensibly to clear the Senate of what he saw as obstructive minor parties, backfired badly with a swing to the center-left Labor opposition and a rise in the popularity of minor parties and independents.

The minority government that Turnbull is now expected to lead will no longer have a clear mandate for his center-right Liberal-National coalition's jobs and growth agenda, including a return to budget surplus and a A$50 billion ($37.6 billion) corporate tax break.

"Australians have voted, we respect their decision, there are many lessons in that election for all of us," Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne, reprimanding his industry minister, Christopher Pyne, who appeared to celebrate prematurely when he described the coalition as an "election-winning machine".

----Counting of votes from Saturday's election dragged on into a sixth day, with a rubber stamping of Turnbull's government expected to be still a few days away, but the likelihood of a minority government and an obstructive Senate has already set off alarm bells.

Standard and Poor's cut Australia's credit rating outlook to negative from stable on Thursday, threatening a downgrade of its coveted triple A status, over fears.

"We really want to see them start achieving some of their forecasts," S&P associate director of sovereign and international public finance Anthony Walker told a briefing, noting that the cost of refinancing Australia's debt is up to three times more than it earns in foreign currency.

---- On a projected 66 seats and without support from any of the four independents, Labor is out of the race to form a government but it believes Turnbull could be forced to call another election in a bid to clear the impasse.

Kremlin says NATO talk of Russian threat absurd, short-sighted

Fri Jul 8, 2016 7:22am EDT
The Kremlin said on Friday it regarded NATO's suggestion that Russia posed a threat as absurd, saying it hoped that common sense would prevail at the military alliance's summit in Warsaw.

The Kremlin spoke out after U.S. President Barack Obama urged NATO leaders to stand firm against a resurgent Russia over its 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimea.

Friday's summit is expected to formally agree to deploy four battalions in the Baltic states and eastern Poland, a move the alliance says is meant to deter possible Russian aggression.

"It is absurd to talk about any threat coming from Russia at a time when dozens of people are dying in the center of Europe and when hundreds of people are dying in the Middle East daily," Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters.

"You have to be an absolutely short-sighted organization to twist things in that way," said Peskov, saying Russia hoped common sense and an understanding of the need to avoid confrontation would prevail.

Russia was open for talks and cooperation with NATO, Peskov added, and did not want to cast the alliance as an enemy. But he complained of NATO soldiers and planes operating close to Russia's borders.

"We aren't the ones getting closer to NATO's borders," he said.

We close for the week with some thoughts and observations from Jason in California, on a week of violence in America, and complacency in stocks. All news is back to good news again, although this old dinosaur has his doubts. After the terrible events in Dallas yesterday, hopefully America will pullback from a violent pathway that only leads to disaster.

U.S. Sociopolitical Conflict A Real Risk Yet Markets Remain Unfazed
N. Jason Jencka July 8, 2016 11:03 pm PDT
The shooting deaths of five police officers Thursday evening in Dallas, Texas are further evidence that the United States is mired in a cycle of intolerance that has become increasingly violent, with tragic consequences. The incident in Dallas that saw a total of twelve officers shot by sniper comes less than a month after the June 12th attack on the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida which was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. While each of these events was precipitated by a different form of intolerance (racial in Dallas and sexual in Orlando), the root cause is the same: hateful intolerance that is manifesting as violence and incitements thereof.

In what is a truly unprecedented example of intolerance being amplified by the platform of social media, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh shared the following sentiments on Twitter following the Dallas shootings: “ 3 Dallas Cops Killed, 7 Wounded Watch out Obama. Real America is coming after you”. This is difficult to interpret any other way than as a publicized warning to a sitting President that stops just short of being a direct death threat. Such commentary would be generally unthinkable in a civilized society yet the force of hate has, for the time being, seeming overpowered the instincts of rationality.

It would be expected that such profound “societal” volatility would translate into a meaningful negative reaction in capital markets. In actuality, the opposite has occurred as a markedly positive report showing 287,000 jobs added in June powered the S&P 500 to a brush with all time highs. All the while, the CBOE VIX index plummets lower, 20% below pre-Brexit levels and within 30% of its all time low from January of 2007. This is indicative of a market that has become numb to unrest to a point that borders on apathy. Whether or not this trend continues through the remainder of 2016, including the November elections looks to be among the most consequential issues of 2016.

N. Jason Jencka is presently studying Finance and Economics at Sierra Nevada College, located near the shores of Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada.His interests include the interplay between world markets and the global political sphere, with a focus on developments of both sides of the Atlantic in North America and Europe.In his leisure time he enjoys connecting with those people that have an interesting story to tell and a genuine desire to make an impact in the world.

“If we went back on the gold standard and we adhered to the actual structure of the gold standard as it existed prior to 1913, we’d be fine. Remember that the period 1870 to 1913 was one of the most aggressive periods economically that we’ve had in the United States, and that was a golden period of the gold standard. I’m known as a gold bug and everyone laughs at me, but why do central banks own gold now?” 

Alan Greenspan. June 28, 2016.

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