Friday, May 9, 2014

Today's Links

1--U.S. CREATED a Terrorist Safe Haven In Libya, Washington's blog

The U.S. State Department released its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism on April 30th, stating:

With a weak government possessing very few tools to exert control throughout its territory, Libya has become a terrorist safe haven and its transit routes are used by various terrorist groups, notably in the southwest and northeast.
2---Where Are America's 49 Million Hungry - An Interactive Map, zero hedge

3--The Fed (And Friends) $10 Trillion Visible Hand, zero hedge
10 trillion and a 0.75% average rate for the world...

4---Russia And The Ukraine – The Worrisome Connection To World Oil And Gas Problems, zero hedge

Russia needs the US, because it is having trouble obtaining enough investment capital, because of current low oil prices. It needs to continue relationships with oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, hoping these companies will help provide investment capital. The catch is that they too are having difficulty. Exxon Mobil has reported falling profits for four quarters. The same Exxon article mentions that the company cut capital and exploration costs by 28% as a way of getting income and outgo back into line. So Exxon Mobil is “hurting” as well, for the same reason that Russia is hurting: inadequate oil and gas prices.

To keep income in line with necessary expenditures, Russia has essentially no choice but to insist on higher prices from the country that is a big consumer, but can’t pay its bills–the Ukraine. These higher prices are likely to push the Ukraine’s economy down further, likely making the IMF loan impossible to repay....

There is little chance that the United States is going to be able to help Europe with its natural gas needs in any reasonable timeframe. Our best chance at keeping the global economy “working” for a little longer is to try to keep globalization working as best we can. This will likely require “making nice” to countries we are unhappy with, and putting up with what looks like aggression.

5---Scorched-Earth Monetary Policy in the US, And What Happened in New Zealand , Testosterone Pit

After five years under the Fed’s relentless money-printing and zero-interest-rate regime, the US labor force participation rate has shriveled to 62.8%. You have to go back to February 1978 to see worse. It’s a terrible indictment of the Fed’s policies that kicked in during the Greenspan Fed at the real wage and employment peak in 2000.

This long-term structural decline has befuddled the Fed, at least publically. Various economists and Fed heads have come up with all sorts of hairy excuses for this phenomenon, including demographics – that somehow suddenly changed in 2000? Yet they never once questioned their scorched-earth monetary policy...

Bernanke made it worse when he added, according to Einhorn: “The reason is if you raise interest rates for savers, somebody has to pay that interest. So you don’t create any value in the economy because for every saver there has to be a borrower.”
You don’t want to raise the cost of money for banks, that's what Bernanke was talking about. And you don't want to raise interest rates on hedge funds and private equity funds and other highly leverage speculators

Currently, the Fed requires that banks keep a minimum balance of $80.2 billion at the Fed. Banks can keep up to $88.2 billion at the Fed as part of the “penalty-free band.” In theory, as “penalty-free” implies, there’d be a penalty on balances above $88.2 billion.
But the total balance was $2.66 trillion in April, up from $2.62 trillion in March and from $1.83 trillion a year ago. The balances in excess of the “penalty-free band” have reached $2.57 trillion. The highest ever. The penalty on that?...

an additional tool for the conduct of monetary policy.” A policy whose goal it is to fan reckless speculation, inflate asset bubbles, enrich the banks and those who run them at the expense of savers, and douse the entire neighborhood, namely Wall Street, with free money.
Under this relentless regime, the labor force participation rate has shriveled to 62.8%. You have to go back to February 1978 to see worse. It’s a terrible indictment of the Fed’s policies that favor capital over labor, Wall

7---The Russian Perspective, Nile Bowie, cp

Ukraine was approaching near-bankruptcy when ousted President Viktor Yanukovich decided to reject the EU deal, which would have required painful structural adjustments of the Ukrainian economy and liberalization measures that would have hurt the country’s domestic agricultural and industrial sectors. Yanukovich instead took up Russia’s offer of $15 billion in loans and a sharp discount on natural gas prices...

The American officials discussed who they thought should be in power once Yanukovich was ousted. It is no coincidence that Arseniy Yatsenyuk – handpicked by Nuland for the role of prime minister – now occupies that position in Kiev’s new leadership. The United States has essentially midwifed the new government in Ukraine while turning a blind eye to the abuses committed by ultra-nationalists groups allied to the new regime.
Svoboda and the Right Sector laid the groundwork for the putsch by occupying the Maidan and attacking security forces. Members of these far-right groups openly espouse ethnic hatred against Jews and Russians and promote neo-Nazi ideals; their members wear symbols that include the Celtic cross, which has replaced the swastika for many modern white-power groups associated with the German Nazism.

Gambles starts out by stressing that central banks are working from the wrong model of how lending works and the role it plays in economic expansion. He doesn’t use the term “loanable fund model” but he points out that banks don’t lend out of savings, that banks create credit based on demand for loans. The shorthand is “loans create deposits”. And what is devastating is that the Bank of England has gone on record calling out the “earth is flat” orthodoxy. Here’s Gambles’ layperson-friendly summary:
The findings in question are contained in the BoE’s Quarterly Bulletin. The paper’s introduction states that a “common misconception is that the central bank determines the quantity of loans and deposits in the economy by controlling the quantity of central bank money — the so-called ‘money multiplier’ approach.”
This “misconception” is obviously shared by the world’s policymakers, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan and the People’s Bank of China, not to mention the Bank of England itself, who have persisted with a policy of quantitative easing (QE).
QE is seen by its adherents, such as former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, as both the panacea to heal the post-global financial crisis world and also the factor whose absence was the main cause of the Great Depression. This is in line with their view that central banks create currency for commercial banks to then lend on to borrowers and that this stimulates both asset values and also consumption, which then underpin and fuel the various stages of the expected recovery, encouraging banks to create even more money by lending to both businesses and individuals as a virtuous cycle of expansion unfolds. 
The theory sounds great.
However it has one tiny flaw. It’s nonsense….
(This is HUGE: Interest rate do not impact credit expansion in the way experts think they do!)
…. the elasticity or price sensitivity of demand for credit has long been understood to vary at different points in the economic cycle or, as Minsky recognized, people and businesses are not inclined to borrow money during a downturn purely because it is made cheaper to do so. Consumers also need a feeling of job security and confidence in the economy before taking on additional borrowing commitments…
Ben Bernanke positioned himself as a student of history who had learned from the mistakes of the past. Dr. [Andrea] Terzi [Professor of Economics at Franklin University Switzerland] questions this, “This view that interest rates trigger an effective ‘transmission mechanism’ is one of the Great Faults in monetary management committed during the Great Recession.”
“The reality is that the level of interest rates affects the economy mildly and in an ambiguous way. To state that monetary policy is powerful is an unsubstantiated claim ...

But here’s the part that is the real killer:
It may even be that QE has actually had a negative effect on employment, recovery and economic activity.
This is because the only notable effect QE is having is to raise asset prices. If the so-called wealth effect — of higher stock indices and property markets combined with lower interest rates — has failed to generate a sustained rebound in demand for private borrowing, then the higher asset values can start to depress economic activity. Just think of a property market where unclear job or income prospects make consumers nervous about borrowing but house prices keep going up. The higher prices may act as either a deterrent or a bar to market entry, such as when first time buyers are unable to afford to step onto the property ladder.
This is the exact opposite of the Fed’s beliefs, that the wealth effect encourages people to spend more...
 the post-crisis era, with wealth even more concentrated, we’ve seen bifurcation: the wealthy indeed are spending again, as to some degree are upper income households. But they don’t have as high a propensity to spend as lower income earners. So an asset-price-driven recovery is almost bound to be flaccid.

Right after the end of WWII, the U.S. backed Nazi fighters in Ukraine in an attempt to dislodge Soviet control of that country.
In late September 1947, [George] Kennan urged Forrestal to establish a “guerrilla warfare corps”—a suggestion Forrestal heartily endorsed—although the [Joing Chiefs of Staff] recommended against establishing a “separate guerrilla warfare and corps.” In December, Truman approved secret annex NSC 4-A, authorizing the CIA to conduct covert operations. He had dismantled the OSS’s covert parmilitary operations capabilities in September 1945, but now he brought them back in force. In the summer of 1948, he approved NSC 10/2, which called for “propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” These activities were to be done in a way that would always afford the US government plausible deniability. In August 1948, Truman approved NSC 20, which authorized guerrilla operations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe ….
The U.S. also admits that the U.S. and NATO also used false flag terror attacks to discredit the Soviets.  For example:
  • The CIA admits that it hired Iranians in the 1950′s to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its democratically-elected prime minister
10--US Mortgage Rates Fall To A 7-Month Low, Bus Insider

11---China is not yet number one, VOX

12--Yellen: Housing remains a big concer: Tells Senate recovery remains fragile, HW

13--Cash house sales hit high as smart money retreats, HW

RealtyTrac reported Thursday that the percentage of all-cash buyers has soared in the past year, with 42.7% of all U.S. residential property sales in the first quarter all-cash purchases, up from 37.8% in the previous quarter and up from 19.1% in the first quarter of 2013.
Notably, this is the highest level since RealtyTrac began tracking all-cash purchases in the first quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, institutional investors are walking away from housing....

So who are these cash buyers?
“Strict lending standards combined with low inventory continue to give the advantage to investors and other cash buyers in this housing market,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “The good news is that as institutional investors pull back their purchasing in many markets across the country, there is still strong demand from other cash buyers — including individual investors, second-home buyers and even owner-occupant buyers — to fill the vacuum of demand left by institutional investors.”

14--Privatizing Fannie and Freddie Shifts Profits to Wall Street, not Risk From the Government, Dean Baker

Actually, the government would still be on the hook for 90 percent of the value of privately issued mortgage backed securities (MBS). As a result of the perverse incentives created by the system envisioned under the bill this would likely mean more risk to the taxpayers rather than less. Private investment banks would stand to profit from securitizing bad mortgages. Unlike the years of the housing bubble, when investors stood to lose 100 percent of what they paid for a MBS, investment banks could tell their customers that in a worst case scenario they would only lose 10 percent of their investment with the government picking up the rest of the tab.

For this reason it is hard to see Johnson-Crapo as a "bid to shift the risks of mortgage lending" to the private sector. The most obvious way to accomplish such a shift would be to simply get the government out of the business.
The most obvious effect of Johnson-Crapo is to shift the profits that Fannie and Freddie are now earning to the financial industry. Presumably the bills proponents recognize this fact.

15--More Nonsense on Deflation, Dean Baker

16--US, Kiev puppet regime escalate Ukraine conflict after Russian concessions, wsws-

The rejection by Washington and Kiev of Moscow's attempt at an accommodation exposes the fraud of the presentation of the Ukraine crisis by Western governments and media outlets. The aggressor is not the Kremlin, which is ineffectually seeking to work out a truce that neither the Kiev regime nor its Western backers wants.
Rather, it is Washington and its European allies that have stoked up the situation by installing and encouraging an unpopular, far-right regime in Kiev that is determined to drown internal opposition in blood.
A recent poll by the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center found that only 41 percent of Ukrainians support the Kiev regime. Disapproval ratings are above the national average of 59 percent in the eastern Ukraine, reaching 67 percent. Popular opposition can be expected to grow this month, as the Kiev regime's unpopular 50 percent price increases for natural gas go into effect

17--Ukraine crisis EXCLUSIVE: US and Europe planning to ‘cut off’ Russia’s gas supply, Telegraph


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