Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Worry, Worry, Worry.

Baltic Dry Index. 1033 +54   Brent Crude 55.58

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

“What me worry?”

Mad Magazine.

Mad magazine might not be worried but the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is.  91 months in to the third longest, but weakest US recovery on record, and the OECD thinks that the global economy is vulnerable to a new recession, or at the very least, a below average slow expansion.  And they haven’t even picked up on the coming robot revolution that’s about to threaten jobs from manufacturing, to transport, to the medical sector.

Below, the OECD starts to worry. Panic, I suppose comes next. As the old joke goes, it’s not a panic if you’re first.

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

OECD Sees Lots to Worry About in the Global Economic Outlook

by Mark Deen
7 March 2017, 10:00 GMT 7 March 2017, 11:12 GMT
The global economy may not be strong enough to withstand risks from increased trade barriers, overblown stock markets or potential currency volatility, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

While forecasting a pickup in growth this year and next, it said the pace is still too slow and warned there’s much that could derail it. The OECD expects global expansion to reach 3.3 percent this year, up from 3 percent in 2016, and pick up again in 2018. But the pace will remain short of its average in the two decades before the financial crisis because of weak investment and productivity gains.

“We have acceleration but I’m concerned about this really soft foundation to the recovery,” OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann said in an interview. “We still have this slow, sluggish productivity growth and persistent inequality. Put those together and it’s hard to see the robust consumption and investment profile you need to really get things going.”

Though not named in the report, some of the concerns are related to the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, including his threats to impose tariffs on nations he deems to have an unfair advantage, The OECD also said there’s a “disconnect” between equity valuations and the outlook for the real economy, with the market performance partly linked to anticipation of a Trump stimulus package.

“We think the dynamic response to increased protectionism could be really quick, so we have a pretty significant downward bias on what it could mean for growth,” Mann said. “What we mean by that is the way businesses will respond by raising prices and cutting trade flows.”

German Factory Orders Slump Most Since 2009 on Investment

by Piotr Skolimowski
7 March 2017, 07:00 GMT 7 March 2017, 07:44 GMT
German factory orders plunged at the steepest pace in eight years as demand for investment goods weakened.

Orders, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, fell 7.4 percent from December, when they increased 5.2 percent, data from the Economy Ministry in Berlin showed on Tuesday. That’s the biggest drop since January 2009. The typically volatile reading compares with a median estimate for a 2.5 percent decline in a Bloomberg survey. Orders were down 0.8 percent from a year earlier.

The report breaks a string of data that had pointed to a buildup in momentum and serves as a reminder that Europe’s largest economy isn’t fully insulated against risks. Last month, the Bundesbank predicted growth would pickup at the start of 2017, supported by domestic demand and a stronger global outlook.

---- Domestic factory orders fell 10.5 percent in January from the previous month, led by a 16.8 percent slump in demand for investment goods, according to the report. Export orders were down 4.9 percent. The ministry said demand for big-ticket items was markedly below average.
“The weak start to the year should be manageable,” the ministry said. “Business confidence in manufacturing is significantly brighter than the long-term average, so that a revival in manufacturing can still be expected.”

Brazil Economy Contracts More Than Expected in Fourth Quarter

by David Biller
7 March 2017, 12:16 GMT
Brazil’s economy shrank for an eighth successive quarter in the final months of 2016, capping a disastrous year in which the nation faced its worst recession on record and impeached its president.
Gross domestic product contracted 0.9 percent in the final three months of 2016, its biggest decline in a year, after a revised 0.7 percent drop the previous quarter, the national statistics institute said Tuesday. That was worse than the median estimate for a 0.5 percent decline from 46 economists Bloomberg surveyed, and lower than all but four of their estimates. For the full year Brazil contracted 3.6 percent.
Amid the biggest bribery scandal in the nation’s history, Brazil’s economic and political crisis has decimated both investment and consumption while unemployment has now reached record levels. Still, the economy finally appears to be nearing a turning point as President Michel Temer wins investor praise for efforts to shore up Brazil’s finances and boost private sector activity. While this year’s growth estimates remain tepid, confidence has risen as the budget deficit has dropped, the currency has gained and inflation has plunged.

Greek Firms Have Found a Way to Dodge Payroll Charges

by Sotiris Nikas and Antonis Galanopoulos
7 March 2017, 02:03 GMT
When Maria’s employer, a large communications company in Athens, gave her additional tasks at one of its new units, it told her she wouldn’t be paid for the work in euros.

“I was informed that this extra payment of 150 euros per month would be in coupons that I can use in supermarkets,” said the 45-year-old, declining to provide her last name for fear of losing her job.

Payments in kind are among practices companies are using in Greece as they seek to cap payroll costs, undermining efforts to balance the books of the country’s cash-strapped social security system. As creditors push the government to boost its budget surplus, companies avoiding payroll charges and effectively expanding the shadow economy are making the task harder. By some estimates, the so-called black market already accounts for as much as a quarter of Greece’s economy.

“Such practices help companies to avoid social contributions, but the burden for the economy is huge,” said Panos Tsakloglou, a professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business. “Less contributions for pensions means more budget transfers to them which then leads to more austerity measures to meet fiscal targets, measures that will probably hit pensioners.”

Greek officials have been meeting in Athens with representatives of the euro area and International Monetary Fund to set out the policies the country must undertake to unlock more bailout loans. The government foresees an accord in March or early April, but the scale of pending issues raises concerns they may be politically hard to sell at home. Greece has agreed to target for a budget surplus before interest payments equal to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product for 2018, which could mean more belt-tightening.

OECD Raises U.K. Growth Forecast Citing Forceful BOE Stimulus

by Lucy Meakin and Mark Deen
7 March 2017, 10:00 GMT
The OECD revised up its forecast for U.K. growth for the second time as the economy proves unexpectedly resilient in the face of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development increased its 2017 growth projection to 1.6 percent from 1.2 percent, citing the success of Bank of England stimulus and an easing of fiscal austerity in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The U.K.’s economic fortitude after June’s shock referendum result has so far belied warnings from bodies including the OECD, International Monetary Fund and World Bank and led some pro-Brexit campaigners to criticize their initial forecasts as scaremongering.

“We have to remember the extent to which there was an explicit very forceful policy response by the Bank of England and a change in fiscal stance by the government,” said OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann. “We have revised up the U.K. a lot -- look how effective monetary and fiscal policy were.”

Even so, the OECD left its 2018 growth prediction unchanged at 1 percent. It said rising inflation looks set to weigh on consumers and business investment will slow amid uncertainty about Britain’s trading relationship with the EU after Brexit.

 "The great merit of gold is precisely that it is scarce; that its quantity is limited by nature; that it is costly to discover, to mine, and to process; and that it cannot be created by political fiat or caprice."

Henry Hazlitt

At the Comex silver depositories Tuesday final figures were: Registered 35.46 Moz, Eligible 152.82 Moz, Total 188.28 Moz. 

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
Today, yet another warning from the dry sages at the B.I.S. in Basel.

Politics 'tightening grip' on financial market behavior: BIS

Mon Mar 6, 2017 | 6:05am EST
Investors are focusing more on politics and have become more selective in what they buy, the Bank for International Settlements said on Monday in its latest signal that markets may be breaking free from a dependence on central bank support.
The BIS said in its quarterly report that there had been increased discrimination across asset classes, regions and sectors, in contrast to the cross-asset "herd behavior" that has characterized recent years.
"Politics tightened its grip over financial markets in the past quarter, reasserting its supremacy over economics," the head of the BIS' monetary and economic department, Claudio Borio, said.
The BIS, often referred to as the "central banks' central bank", acts as a forum for the world's major monetary authorities. Its commentaries on global markets and economics give an insight into policymakers' thinking.
Borio called the drop in correlation between asset classes a "precipitous" one. Donald Trump's U.S. presidential election win had triggered so-called reflation trades that have seen Wall Street surge and both the dollar and U.S. government bond yields stay high.
"It was as if, after an unexpectedly rich meal, investors had to take their time to digest it. As a result, central banks once more stepped back from the limelight."
The report also touched on the political uncertainty in Europe, where upcoming French, Dutch, German and potentially Italian elections are influencing sentiment.
Euro zone government bond spreads, such as those between France and Germany, have widened. This has also drawn attention to the growing imbalances between weaker and stronger euro zone members in the European Central Bank's TARGET2 payment system.
However, the BIS found that the latter had more to do with the mechanical effect of ECB's large-scale asset purchases and that there was no such relationship with credit default swap spreads that investors buy as a protection against default.
Research by two BIS economists, meanwhile, struck a note of caution about the degree to which consumer-led growth was driving key economies like Canada, China, France, India, Italy, South Africa, Britain and the United States.
"Consumption-led expansions tend to be significantly weaker than when growth is driven by other components of aggregate demand, often because of the build-up of imbalances."
It can also be a sign that growth is likely slow in the future, particularly if consumption-led growth goes hand in hand with rising debt.

BIS Quarterly Review, March 2017 - media briefing

6 March 2017
Claudio Borio's remarks | Hyun Song Shin's remarks

“This sucker could go down.”

President George W. Bush. September 2008.

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?

Space energy technology restored to make power stations more efficient

Scientists use graphene to reinvent abandoned heat energy converter technology

Date: March 6, 2017

Source: Elsevier

Summary: Satellite-powering technology that was abandoned decades ago has been reinvented to potentially work with traditional power stations to help them convert heat to electricity more efficiently, meaning we would need less fossil fuel to burn for power. A new study presents a prototype energy converter, which uses graphene instead of metal, making it almost seven times more efficient.

The researchers behind the study, led by Prof. Roger Howe at Stanford University, say new materials could reignite the field of thermionic energy conversion, improving the way we produce electricity and reducing the impact the process has on the environment.
Energy is one of the most challenging problems society faces today, with an estimated 1.2 billion people having no access to electricity. Thermal energy is one of the most abundant, cheap and widely used energy sources in the world, but it is harvested using old technology: more than 80 percent of the electricity generated in the US comes from mechanical heat engines and turbines based on the 19th century technology that can only be used in large power stations.
Alternatively, the thermionic energy convertor (TEC) can convert heat to electricity more efficiently without the need for big, expensive equipment through the phenomenon of thermionic emission. TECs were first developed in the 1950s for use in space programs, but scientists had not managed to make TECs efficient enough to apply to industrial electricity production. Now, with modern materials and approaches, it is possible to improve their efficiency significantly.
The TEC is composed of two electrodes, namely the emitter and collector, separated by a small vacuum gap. The researchers tested a prototype TEC made using a single sheet of carbon atoms -- graphene -- instead of tungsten as the collector material. They found the new material improved the efficiency of the TEC, making it 6.7 times more efficient at converting heat into electricity at 1000?C
"TEC technology is very exciting. With improvement in the efficiency, we expect to see an enormous market for it," commented lead author Dr. Hongyuan Yuan from Stanford University. "TECs could not only help make power stations more efficient, and therefore have a lower environmental impact, but they could be also applied in distributed systems like solar cells. In the future, we envisage it being possible to generate 1-2 kW of electricity from water boilers, which could partially power your house."
Existing TEC technology faces two obstacles: a high loss of energy at the anode surface, which leads to reduced output voltage, and high electrical barriers against electrons moving in the gap between the collector and the emitter, which results in reduced output current. For the first time, the new prototype tackles both of these problems simultaneously. The findings of the study reveal an electronic efficiency in energy conversion of 9.8 percent -- by far the highest efficiency at 1000?C.
The technology is not yet ready for use in power stations or people's homes -- the prototype works in a vacuum chamber but not in a normal setting. The researchers are now working on a vacuum packaged TEC to test the reliability and efficiency of the technology in real applications.
"This prototype is just the first step -- there is a lot more to do," said Dr. Yuan. "But our results so far are promising and reflect a happy marriage between modern materials science and an old-fashioned energy technology, which provides a route for re-sparking the field of thermionic energy conversion." 

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished February

DJIA: 20,812  +133 Up. NASDAQ:  5,825 +120 Up. SP500: 2,364 +115 Up.

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