Thursday, February 27, 2014

Extra Links

1---The "Institutional Investor" Housing Bubble Just Burst, zero hedge

the January share of institutional investor purchases represented the lowest monthly level since March 2012 — a 22-month low.

Some other RealtyTrac findings:

Metro areas with big drops in institutional investor share from a year ago included Cape Coral-Fort Myers Fla. (down 70 percent), Memphis, Tenn., (down 64 percent), Tucson, Ariz., (down 59 percent), Tampa, Fla., (down 48 percent), and Jacksonville, Fla., (down 21 percent)....

Many have anticipated that the large institutional investors backed by private equity would start winding down their purchases of homes to rent, and the January sales numbers provide early evidence this is happening,” said Daren Blomquist.

2---UK and US Collected Millions of Webcam Images (Many Nude) ... To Smear or Blackmail the Targets?, zero hedge

Shut down the NSA

3---Analysts Warn of ‘Next Generation’ of Subprime Lenders, MReport

4---Abenomics: As growth slows, Bank of Japan “opens spigot” to the rich, wsws

The Japanese economy slowed markedly in the final quarter of 2013, pointing to an unraveling of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much-vaunted “Abenomics.” Statistics released last week revealed that GDP grew by only 0.3 percent (1.2 percent annualised) for the quarter—less than half the expected 0.7 percent. Overall growth for 2013 was just 1.6 percent. The slowdown reflected weakening exports, private consumption and corporate capital spending.

After coming to office in December 2012, Abe proclaimed that his economic policy, dubbed Abenomics, had three “arrows.” The first was an unprecedented monetary easing policy to double Japan’s monetary base over 21 months, from its initiation in April 2013. As with the US “quantitative easing” program, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) pumps 60 to 70 trillion yen ($US585 to $680 billion) annually into the economy, mainly through government bond-buying. The central bank is aiming to achieve 2 percent inflation and end more than a decade of deflation. The second “arrow” involved a modest stimulus spending program.

The final “arrow” consisted of anti-working class “structural reforms.” These are yet to be announced in detail, but the general aim is to further dismantle job security and undermine wages and working conditions while cutting corporate taxes. At the World Economic Forum last month in Davos, Abe indicated that this was in store when he boasted of carrying out pro-market reforms previously thought impossible. A “new dawn [is]... breaking over Japan,” he declared, promising that “companies ... will find Japan among the most business-friendly places in the world.”...

the banks are not using the money to lend to companies. They are hoarding it and diverting it into stock speculation. Bloomberg noted “growing stockpiles of cash” that the banks “aren’t deploying for loans,” citing data showing “financial institutions’ reserves ... almost tripled over the past year.”
As far as the corporate elite is concerned, these expansionary policies are boosting the international competitiveness of Japanese export industries against their global rivals by lowering the yen, and shifting the economic burden onto the working class through inflation.

The yen declined by some 18 percent in 2013, while Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei index soared 57 percent, its best performance in decades. At the same time, the working class is facing rising prices and falling wages, and will suffer disproportionally from the coming sales tax hike, from 5 to 8 percent starting from April, and 10 percent next year.
Reflecting the BOJ’s inflationary policies, consumer prices were already up last year, for the first time in five years. They rose by 1.6 percent, with fresh food prices soaring by 13.6 percent, and electricity 8.2 percent.

On the other hand, wages fell 0.6 percent in November from a year earlier, the 18th consecutive monthly drop. The Associated Press noted that “Japan’s median household income of 3.8 million yen ($38,700) in 2012 was down from 4.5 million yen in 1997,” and concluded: “Today’s workers are worse off than their parents and their incomes continued to fall in 2013...”
Asked by the Associated Press about Abenomics, retiree Takeshi Onodera commented: “Up to now, it’s all been a minus. I don’t see any signs it’s made a difference. Really, it hasn’t reached us.”

Especially hard hit are non-regular—part-time and temporary workers—who now account for 37 percent of the Japanese workforce. Not only are they paid about a third of what regular employees make, they are most often not covered by health insurance, pensions or unemployment benefits.
What the Associated Press referred to as the “already Spartan social safety net” is also under attack. Welfare benefits were cut 10 percent last August, with further reductions planned.

The sales tax hike—the first since 1997—will also affect economic growth, with economists predicting a 3.9 percent decline in the quarter from April. The tax rise was urged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and pushed through parliament by the previous Democratic Party of Japan government, with support from the now-ruling Liberal Democrats and New Komeito.

The doubling of the sales tax rate will have a major impact on domestic demand, but do little to address the huge public debt, which stands at some 240 percent of GDP. Japan used to be able to balance this through trade surpluses. Since 2012, however, Japan has had record trade deficits. Last year, the deficit swelled to $112 billion, the biggest since comparable data started in 1979.

5---Obama presidency: Only Bush is worse, Pravda

According to another poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos published in late January, 53 percent of the Americans do not approve of Obama, and only 38 percent evaluated Obama positively. A year ago the numbers were the  opposite. Other polls show the same negative trend. Institute Quinnipiac (ratio - 54 - 40 percent), the Associated Press / institute GfK (ratio - 53 - 45 percent); NBC News / Wall Street Journal (ratio - 51-43 percent)....

Policies for creating jobs in the United States. Gallup poll twice in the last five years found extreme dissatisfaction of the Americans with the fact that jobs were leaving the U.S.
6. Surveillance program on citizens by the secret services. 63 percent of respondents told Gallup that total surveillance caused them extreme concern and potentially blamed it on the president, who nevertheless maintained that he was not aware of the scope of the surveillance activity. Secret services are armed with new technologies, including mobile devices allowing to extract information from mobile phones in real time, gather data about thousands of mobile subscribers at the same time, regardless of whether they are objects of a certain investigation or not," USA Today described the situation in the country

The Consumer Financial Freedom and Washington Accountability Act, sponsored by House Financial Services Committee member Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc., went to the floor of the House Thursday afternoon.

The bill would replace the single Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director with a five-member commission appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Supporters say this would ensure that a diversity of viewpoints inform the CFPB’s regulatory and enforcement agenda. It would also conform the bureau’s governance to that of other federal agencies charged with consumer or investor protection.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, took the field first, accusing the CFPB of being unaccountable and out of control. Hensarling talked at length about the expenses the CFPB has been racking up.

“The CFPB has unbridled power to impose rules like the QM rule. According to Federal Reserve reports, one-third of blacks and Hispanics would not be able to get a mortgage,” Hensarling said. “This is designed to make the Bureau more accountable and transparent… We know that this is an agency that was designed to be unique, if not perhaps rogue; it is an agency like no other. Arguably it is the single most powerful and least accountable Federal agency in the history of our nation and thus demands rigorous oversight. The American people deserve better.”

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