Monday, 29 August 2016

Crash Season Approaches.

Baltic Dry Index. 720 +02        Brent Crude 49.31

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

In any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.

John Kenneth Galbraith.
We are in the last week of the traditional summer season, and a G-20 Great Leader’s summit approaches in China September 4th and 5th.  After summer comes the traditional autumn stock market crash season, although this being a US Presidential election year, the stock market prevailing wisdom is that the Fed will do whatever it takes to prevent any crash from happening before that vote in early November. But there are red flags flying all over the place.
Below, two more red flags get raised as the Fed’s talking chair said Friday that she was all out of ideas.

World’s Biggest Pension Fund Loses $52 Billion in Stock Rout

August 26, 2016 — 7:30 AM BST Updated on August 26, 2016 — 8:16 AM BST
The world’s biggest pension fund posted a $52 billion loss last quarter as stocks tumbled and the yen surged, wiping out all investment gains since it overhauled its strategy by boosting shares and cutting bonds.

Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund lost 3.9 percent, or 5.2 trillion yen ($52 billion), in the three months ended June 30, reducing assets to 129.7 trillion yen, it said in Tokyo on Friday. That erases a 4.1 trillion yen investing return for the previous six quarters starting October 2014, the month it decided to put half its assets into equities.

The quarterly decline follows a 5.3 trillion yen loss in the fiscal year through March, the worst annual performance since the global financial crisis. After benefiting from a surge in Japanese equities and a weaker yen earlier in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term, GPIF has posted losses as domestic stocks tumble and gains in the currency reduce the value of overseas assets. Still, for Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd., that’s no reason to veer from the current approach.

“Since its investments are tied to market moves, it’s natural that this would happen and there’s no point looking at it with a short-term view,” said Ayako Sera, a Tokyo-based market strategist at the bank. “GPIF is so big that its losses look huge even though the fluctuations in its investments just mirror the market.”
The fund’s Japanese shares sank 7.4 percent in the period as the benchmark Topix index lost 7.5 percent. More than 80 percent of GPIF’s local equity investments are passive. Overseas stocks lost 7.8 percent, while foreign debt fell 8 percent, as the yen surged 9.1 percent against the dollar. The only asset class to post a profit was domestic bonds, which rose in value as the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rates sent yields lower.
----GPIF held 21 percent of investments in local stocks at the end of June, and 39 percent in domestic bonds. Overseas equities made up 21 percent of assets, while foreign debt accounted for 13 percent. Alternative investments were 0.05 percent of holdings, down from 0.06 percent at the end of March. GPIF targets allocations of 25 percent each for Japanese and overseas stocks, 35 percent for local bonds and 15 percent for foreign debt.

Biggest Wealth Fund Warns Outflows Are Affecting Risk Strategy

August 28, 2016 — 11:01 PM BST
Norway’s $890 billion sovereign wealth fund is acknowledging that rising withdrawals by the government could hamper its quest to manage more risk and generate greater returns as it takes on more and more negative yielding securities.

The net outflows are “relevant for how we think about the risk-bearing capacity of the fund,” Egil Matsen, the deputy governor at Norway’s central bank who’s in charge of oversight of the fund, said in an interview Friday while attending a central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

“Say you have a decline in the equity market, and these returns have been partly funding the government,” he said. “Do you want variations in international financial markets to have a direct impact on fiscal policy?”

The fund, set up to safeguard Norway’s oil wealth, has long acted as a backstop for global equity markets because it could measure risk in terms of decades. It has so far shrugged off the withdrawals, which started this year and reached 45 billion kroner ($5.4 billion) in the first half, saying income from bonds, real estate and stock dividends more than cover the outflows.

Matsen’s comments come as the government meets this week to set the parameters for next year’s budget. Prime Minister Erna Solberg has come under fire from the opposition, economists and even its support parties for her rising use of oil money, estimated to reach 205.6 billion kroner this year.

That is still well within a self-imposed 4 percent limit of the fund’s value. But that fiscal rule is being questioned as the fund faces years of diminished returns and has warned it will be difficult to live up to the target of a 4 percent return after inflation and costs.

“As the older bonds come to maturity and are reinvested, a big chunk of that will be reinvested in bonds with very low or even negative yields,” said Matsen. “That’s just a matter of fact that will affect the return of the fund going forward.”

A lack of inflows means the fund can’t as easily shift into new assets without selling off part of its portfolio. For now, it has been reducing its bond holdings but it is also looking at a new model which could include trimming its stock portfolio.

Central Bankers Spurn Call for Radical Approach at Jackson Hole

August 28, 2016 — 6:02 PM BST
Central bankers aren’t retreating from the fight against low inflation, although they’re wary of launching a fresh assault on any daring new fronts.

Faced with disappointing growth after years of ultra-low interest rates, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her peers who met this weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, re-affirmed their belief in power of monetary policy to stop economies from slipping into deflation. They were less keen on academic proposals that included the abolition of cash, raising their inflation targets, or keeping permanently large balance sheets.

Yellen, in her keynote address at the Kansas City Fed’s annual mountain retreat, said that additional tools remain “subjects for research” and were not being actively considered. Policy makers from Europe and Japan echoed her caution, while reaffirming that they stand ready to boost stimulus if fiscal action proves insufficient to spur growth and inflation.

Central bankers in advanced economies are struggling with low inflation, low productivity and weak levels of investment. For now, however, they’re being cautious in what they’re signaling about the future and are keeping more activist options at arm’s length.

We close with not quite a red flag from Europe, though what happens next in the German economy could quickly alter that European flag from pink to red. To this old dinosaur commodities trader, the risks from remaining in the market for the next three months aren’t worth the potential reward.

Draghi’s Silence Puts Numbers in Spotlight Ahead of ECB Meeting

August 29, 2016 — 12:01 AM BST
Mario Draghi is letting the numbers do the talking.

After five weeks of silence, the European Central Bank president is leaving it largely to a raft of economic data to fine-tune policy expectations ahead of the Governing Council’s next meeting on Sept. 8. Reports covering inflation to business confidence and unemployment in the coming days may signal whether more stimulus is needed to sustain the recovery and revive price growth amid potential fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

----Draghi didn’t attend this year’s gathering of central bankers and economists at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the weekend, where Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the case to raise U.S. interest rates is getting stronger.

Two years ago, he used the same event to flag a major policy shift that ultimately saw the introduction of quantitative easing. Now, the ECB president is deferring judgment of the euro area’s economic prospects before fresh staff projections are published. Draghi’s analysis of the risks attached to them may shed light on his plans for monetary policy in the months to come.

While his commitment to use all instruments to bring inflation closer to the ECB’s goal is undisputed, Executive Board member Benoit Coeure warned last Tuesday of side effects of ever increasing stimulus. The ECB’s chief economist, Peter Praet, and Governing Council members Francois Villeroy de Galhau and Ewald Nowotny are all scheduled to speak this week.

The most awaited piece of data in the coming days is probably inflation.

Consumer prices are barely rising despite 1.2 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) of bond purchases and a negative deposit rate, and policy makers agreed at their July 20-21 meeting that no clear upward trend in inflation was yet visible.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the rate rose to 0.3 percent in August from 0.2 percent the previous month. That would be the highest since January but still far from the ECB’s goal of just below 2 percent.
----Industry and consumer confidence data out on Tuesday will show how well the economy is holding up two months after the U.K. referendum. Private-sector activity unexpectedly picked up in August, driven by an improvement in services, according to surveys by IHS Markit.

But the tide can turn quickly. In Germany, where second-quarter earnings at blue-chip firms beat estimates by more than 10 percent, business sentiment has plunged the most in four years, with executives warning that Brexit and other political crises may damp orders. With an expansion of 0.4 percent, the nation drove euro-area economic growth in the April-June period.
In both France and Italy, growth ground to a halt in the quarter. Manufacturing in the region’s second-largest economy has shrunk for six months and tourism is suffering from a series of terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, Italian banks are struggling to dispose of non-performing loans, and a vote on political reform expected in November has the potential to topple Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government.
Even in Spain, where growth rates have been among the strongest in the region as investment and job creation tick up, risks remain. Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is facing a confidence vote on Wednesday to secure a second term that, if lost, could put the nation on track for a third election.

“There are risks related to the geopolitical situation in a number of countries,” said Aline Schuiling, a senior economist at ABN Amro Bank NV in Amsterdam, adding that the ECB will probably lower its growth forecast for next year. “The risks to inflation also seem to be skewed to the downside.”

“It is difficult not to marvel at the imagination which was implicit in this gargantuan insanity. If there must be madness something may be said for having it on a heroic scale."

John Kenneth Galbraith. The Great Crash: 1929.
At the Comex silver depositories Friday final figures were: Registered 27.45 Moz, Eligible 133.38 Moz, Total 160.83 Moz. 

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
With an Apple IPhone a day, Big Brother and Israel can seriously watch and track you.

Activist Discovers IPhone Spyware, Sparking Security Update

August 26, 2016 — 6:38 AM BST
Ajman, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The suspicious text message that appeared on Ahmed Mansoor's iPhone promised to reveal details about torture in the United Arab Emirates' prisons. All Mansoor had to do was click the link.
Mansoor, a human rights activist, didn't take the bait. Instead, he reported it to Citizen Lab, an internet watchdog, setting off a chain reaction that in two weeks exposed a secretive Israeli cyberespionage firm, defanged a powerful new piece of eavesdropping software and gave millions of iPhone users across the world an extra boost to their digital security.
----Hidden behind the link in the text message was a highly targeted form of spyware crafted to take advantage of three previously undisclosed weaknesses in Apple's mobile operating system.
Two reports issued Thursday, one by Lookout, a San Francisco mobile security company, and another by Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, outlined how the program could completely compromise a device at the tap of a finger. If Mansoor had touched the link, he would have given his hackers free reign to eavesdrop on calls, harvest messages, activate his camera and drain the phone's trove of personal data.
Apple Inc. issued a fix for the vulnerabilities Thursday, just ahead of the reports' release, working at a blistering pace for which the Cupertino, California-based company was widely praised.
Arie van Deursen, a professor of software engineering at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said the reports were disturbing. Forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski described the malicious program targeting Mansoor as a "serious piece of spyware."
A soft-spoken man who dresses in traditional white robes, Mansoor has repeatedly drawn the ire of authorities in the United Arab Emirates, calling for a free press and democratic freedoms. He is one of the country's few human rights defenders with an international profile, close links to foreign media and a network of sources. Mansoor's work has, at various times, cost him his job, his passport and even his liberty.
Online, Mansoor repeatedly found himself in the crosshairs of electronic eavesdropping operations. Even before the first rogue text message pinged across his phone on Aug. 10, Mansoor already had weathered attacks from two separate brands of commercial spyware.
When he shared the suspicious text with Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak, they realized he'd been targeted by a third.
Citizen Lab and Lookout both fingered a secretive Israeli firm, NSO Group, as the author of the spyware. Citizen Lab said that past targeting of Mansoor by the United Arab Emirates' government suggested that it was likely behind the latest hacking attempt as well.
Executives at the company declined to comment, and a visit to NSO's address in Herzliya showed that the firm had recently vacated its old headquarters — a move recent enough that the building still bore its logo.
In a statement released Thursday, which stopped short of acknowledging that the spyware was its own, the NSO Group said its mission was to provide "authorized governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime."
The company said it couldn't comment on specific cases.
Marczak said he and fellow-researcher John Scott-Railton turned to Lookout for help to pick apart the malicious program, a process which Murray compared to "defusing a bomb."
"It is amazing the level they've gone through to avoid detection," Murray said of the software's makers. "They have a hair-trigger self-destruct."
----The apparent discovery of Israeli-made spyware being used to target a dissident in the United Arab Emirates raises awkward questions for both countries. The use of Israeli technology to police its own citizens is an uncomfortable strategy for an Arab country with no formal diplomatic ties to the Jewish state. And Israeli complicity in a cyberattack on an Arab dissident would seem to run counter to the country's self-description as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East.
There are awkward questions, too, for Francisco Partners, the private equity firm which owns the NSO Group. Francisco is only an hour's drive from the headquarters of Apple, whose products the cybersecurity firm is accused of hacking.
Messages left with Francisco partners' offices in London and San Francisco went unreturned. Israeli and Emirati authorities did not return calls seeking comment.
Attorney Eitay Mack, who advocates for more transparency in Israeli arms exports, said his country's sales of surveillance software are not closely policed.
He also noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated warmer ties with Arab Gulf states.
"Israel is looking for allies," Mack said. "And when Israel finds allies, it does not ask too many questions."

Apple fixes security flaw after UAE dissident's iPhone targeted

Fri Aug 26, 2016 5:22am EDT
Apple Inc issued a patch on Thursday to fix a dangerous security flaw in iPhones and iPads after researchers discovered that a prominent United Arab Emirates dissident's phone had been targeted with a previously unknown method of hacking.
The thwarted attack on the human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor, used a text message that invited him to click on a web link. Instead of clicking, he forwarded the message to researchers at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.
The hack is the first known case of software that can remotely take over a fully up-to-date iPhone 6.
Experts at Citizen Lab worked with security company Lookout and determined that the link would have installed a program taking advantage of a three flaws that Apple and others were not aware of. The researchers disclosed their findings on Thursday.
"Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements," Citizen Lab wrote in a report released on Thursday.
The researchers said they had alerted Apple a week and a half ago, and the company developed a fix and distributed it as an automatic update to iPhone 6 owners.
---- NSO marketing material says that it also has capabilities for Android and BlackBerry devices. No version of the software has been exposed, indicating it remains effective.
----It also said a Mexican journalist and a minority party politician in Kenya had been targeted with NSO software and that domain names set up for other attacks referred to entities in Uzbekistan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other nations, suggesting that other targets lived in those nations.

Solar  & Related Update.

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

Interface engineering for stable perovskite solar cells

Date: August 24, 2016

Source: Graphene Flagship

Summary: The lifetime of perovskite solar cells is significantly enhanced by using few-layer MoS2 flakes as an active buffer interface layer. Researchers show that interface engineering with layered materials is important for boosting solar cell performance.
The lifetime of perovskite solar cells is significantly enhanced by using few-layer MoS2 flakes as an active buffer interface layer. Researchers from the Graphene Flagship show that interface engineering with layered materials is important for boosting solar cell performance.
Researchers from the Graphene Flagship, working at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) and the University of Rome Tor Vergata, have significantly enhanced the stability of perovskite solar cells (PSCs) by including few-layer molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) flakes as an active buffer layer in the cell design. These PSCs retain 93% of the initial light conversion efficiency after 550 h, compared to only 66% for cells without the MoS2 buffer layer. This represents an important step towards viable PSCs, especially as the addition of the MoS2 interface layer is compatible with low-cost solution processing techniques.
MoS2 is a semiconductor material that has a layered structure, and can be exfoliated into few-layer flakes. In this research, 200-600 nm wide flakes of few-layer MoS2 were added into the solar cell device as a buffer layer in between the photoactive perovskite and hole-collecting layers, delivering high stability and increased photovoltaic performance. Published in Advanced Energy Materials Volume 6 Issue 16, this research exemplifies the use of layered materials in interface engineering to boost performance of stacked heterostructure devices.
The unprecedented growth in energy usage in recent years, as well as the environmental issues arising from the use of more traditional power generation sources, means that finding highly efficient, environmentally friendly methods of generating and storing energy is of paramount importance. "The Graphene Flagship is investing significantly in the development of technologies based on graphene and layered crystals for both energy conversion and storage," says Dr Vittorio Pellegrini (IIT), Chair of the Graphene Flagship Executive Board, and co-author of the article. "This work is a further demonstration of the great potential of layered materials for next-generation organic photovoltaic cells," he adds.
----"Perovskite solar cells have demonstrated great promise for high performance and high efficiency in just a few years of research. However, the stability of such photovoltaic devices has to be tackled if this technology is to be commercialized in the near future," says Dr Francesco Bonaccorso (IIT), co-author of this research, explaining the motivation behind the study. "The exploitation of layered crystals could be a valuable route to boost both the efficiency and the stability of PSCs."

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished July

DJIA: 18432  +03 Up NASDAQ:  5162 +10 Up. SP500: 2173 +01 Up.

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