Saturday, November 8, 2014

Today's Links

"Don't blame the mirror if your face is crooked." Russian proverb

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." Mike Tyson

1--Profits at Japanese firms approach all-time high, but not everyone is smiling, JT

Japanese companies are headed toward their highest profits ever, as the falling yen boosts exporters from Toyota Motor Corp. to Uniqlo-operator Fast Retailing Co.
Aggregate net income at 195 of the largest listed companies will expand 10 percent to a record ¥17.5 trillion this fiscal year, based on some analyst estimates. Executives are catching up to such lofty expectations, with Toyota this week raising its profit forecast to an unprecedented ¥2 trillion.

As the earnings season winds down in Japan — almost all companies will have reported results by next week — exporters are emerging as one of the biggest beneficiaries of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies. For investors, the weaker currency is outweighing slumps in wages and local consumption, prompting them to push up the Nikkei 225 average to levels last seen seven years ago....
It is not just the yen, as companies that have expanded overseas and pruned money-losing businesses are also reporting improved profit...

A weaker yen boosts profit by increasing the value of overseas earnings. A depreciating currency can also allow an exporter to compete with global rivals by cutting prices in dollar or euro terms without sacrificing profit margin....

Still, Japanese companies that mainly rely on local demand are unlikely to benefit from the yen’s decline....

In aggregate, the raises have not kept pace with consumer prices, damping economic growth and confidence, just as Abe seeks support to go ahead with a second planned sales tax increase Oct. 1, 2015.

2---Why hasn’t inflation picked up?, WSJ

Several factors are behind the trend. The main problem is that wage growth has fallen behind price increases driven by the BOJ’s aggressive easing, sapping consumers’ purchasing power. The BOJ considers wage growth crucial to achieving its inflation target, but real wages have been sagging, including 2.6% in August year-on-year.

The government and the BOJ hope wage growth will eventually filter through the economy and start a virtuous cycle of higher private spending and increased production and investment. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been talking up measures to promote this, but some economists are skeptical.
Mr. Abe acknowledged the difficulty he was facing during a policy speech he delivered in September, where he said wage gain “can’t yet be said to have reached the corners of our country.”
The April sales tax hike to 8% from 5% has taken the steam out of consumer spending. Average household spending in September fell 5.6% from a year earlier, adding pressure on Mr. Abe to push back a planned national sales tax increase next year to 10% from the current 8%.
The BOJ’s stimulus has also significantly weakened the yen, pushing up import prices. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan has been forced to rely heavily on fossil fuels for 90% of its electricity generation, with natural gas accounting for half of the total. The weaker yen has made energy imports expensive, exacerbating trade deficits and raising concern that it could be a drag on corporate profits.

3--Putin's speech at the Valdai Club - full transcript , Saker

4---The bullying of Hungary – the country that dared to disobey the US and EU, RT

5---Putin: Russia, China close to reaching 2nd mega gas deal, RT

6---Putin's Prepared Remarks at 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, WA Post transcript

7---Death Of The Working Class In 12 Charts, zero hedge
median income



8--Hungary under ‘great pressure’ from US over its energy deals with Russia RT

9--Putin demonized for thwarting neocon plan for global domination, RT

These serial warmongers are particularly angry that Russian foreign policy has thwarted their plans for ‘regime change’ in Syria, a key strategic objective. They’re also angry that Putin clamped down on oligarchs whose role was to help Western plutocrats get control of Russia’s natural resources.

Back in 2000, when he was first elected President, Western elites hoped that Putin would continue the path set by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, a man whose rule was disastrous for ordinary Russians, who saw their living standards plummet and the value of their life savings destroyed, but very good for the Western elites. Yeltsin privatized vast swathes of the economy and acquiesced while NATO destroyed Yugoslavia. Yeltsin was bad news for Russia – but he was hailed as a great ‘democrat’ by the West – and eulogized on his death – which tells us everything we need to know about who benefited most from his rule....

. It was as Seumas Milne notes in his book The Revenge of History “one of two events in 2008 which signalled the end of the New World Order of unchallenged US global and economic power” ( the other was the banking crash). “The former Soviet Republic (Georgia) was a particular favorite of Washington’s neoconservatives” says Milne. “Its forces, armed and trained by the US and Israel, made up the third-largest contingent in the occupation of Iraq…..The short-lived Russian-Georgian conflict marked an international turning point….. Russia had called a halt to a relentless process of US expansion.” .....

Ukraine was where the neocons thought they would get their revenge. The US sponsored regime change in Kiev, an enterprise in which the State Department’s Victoria Nuland the wife of the Project for a New American Century co-founder Robert Kagan played a prominent role, finally enabled the hawks to get what they been dreaming of for over ten years – the sanctioning of Russia. The ‘get tough with Russia’ stance they’ve long been calling for has finally become the official policy of the US and leading EU countries. The demonization of President Putin in the West has become ‘mainstream’.

The neocon plan is for the Russian economy to be weakened by sanctions, which they hope will lead to a reduction in support for Putin and make it easier for them to destabilize the country and bring about a ‘regime change’ in Moscow. They want a compliant stooge in the Kremlin who will surrender all of Russia’s natural resources, and allow them to get rid of President Assad and the Baathists in Syria – an essential prerequisite before any attack on Iran.

At the moment one man is getting in the way of those war plans.
To repeat: “those on the centre-left who have joined the current wave of Putin-bashing ought to consider whose cause they are serving.”
Because Putin is not the problem – it’s the people attacking him who are.

10--Don Quijones: It’s Official – Spain is Unraveling, NC 

11--Matt Taibbi and Alayne Fleischmann Discuss JP Morgan Mortgage Fraud, Eric Holder CoverUp on Democracy Now

12--The Federal Government Now Employs the Fewest People Since 1966 , wsj

Given the grinding budget battles of recent years, it’s almost hard to believe the federal government now employs the fewest people since the mid-1960s. Yet according to Friday’s jobs report, the federal government now employs 2,711,000 people (excluding non-civilian military). Among the economy’s largest job sectors, it was the only one to shrink over the past year.
Not since July 1966 has the federal government’s workforce been so small. (The spikes every decade are the hiring of several hundred thousand temporary workers to conduct the census.) Federal government hiring climbed in the 1960s, moved sideways in the 1970s, climbed to the highest level ever outside of a census in the 1980s, declined in the 1990s and then again held steady for most of the 2000s.
Federal employment initially rose during the recession and climbed further in 2009 and 2010 with the stimulus package (and, again, the especially sharp spike for the census). The federal government has since shed about 200,000 jobs.
But that’s only the raw numbers! As a share of the total workforce, the federal government’s share of civilian employment is the lowest since World War...
The government’s total expenditures are around 34% of GDP,back to their levels of around 2008. But in the late 2000s, at the tail end of the longest economic boom in U.S. history, government spending fell below 30% of GDP. The U.S. is still far from those levels.
There’s no major mystery here. Spending on Medicare, Social Security or unemployment go directly to individuals, not to government workers. The government’s share of the economy remains somewhat above its 32% average since 1960. But the government workforce is dwindling and dwindling.
Another reason government spending as a share of GDP remains high, even though the workforce has shrunk, is that government contractors — who may work primarily or entirely on projects for the federal government — are not counted as federal employees

13--Economy Adds Jobs but We Need to Raise America’s Pay , EPI

14--Democrats Reap What They Sowed, cp-

Graph (1) above: the ongoing conceit by the rich that ‘the economy’ is a system of natural distribution finds more plausible explanation in the trillions in public largesse transferred directly to Wall Street in bailouts, subsidies and guarantees from the Federal government, in the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve that have so boosted the prices of financial assets owned overwhelmingly by the rich and in the abandonment of any pretense that national Democrats care whether the rest of us live or die. Of note is how many more zeros follow the wealth of the 0.01% (left scale) than that of the 90% (right scale). Source: Emmanuel Saez

15--The 6 most unusual and bearish features of the housing recovery oc housing

  • 20-year lows in home ownership
  • 6-year lows in home sales
  • 30-year lows in first-time homebuyer participation
  • 20-year lows in purchase mortgage originations
  • New home construction less than 50% of normal
  • Household formation less than 50% of normal

  • 16--Housing: The smart money bails, wolf street

    This is how the “smart money,” coddled by the Fed and encouraged to do just these sorts of things, has reacted to the recent home prices that it so strenuously inflated: It bailed out.
    This chart shows that the peak of institutional frenzy occurred in Q1 of 2013. After that, institutional investors – defined by RealtyTrac as entities that purchase at least 10 properties per year – started having second thoughts about the new price levels in some of the hottest markets. But other markets hadn’t caught up, and investors shifted their focus to them. The national averages initially covered up much of the drama on the ground.

    17---Mortgage interuptus; investors bail 2, Dr Housing Bubble

    Institutional investors have pulled back from the market for most of 2014:
    Source:  RealtyTrac
    Institutional buying is now at a four year low. If deals are so great, why are they pulling back when they are flush with wealth from a record stock market? This is perfect timing to handoff these high priced properties to debt slaves. The reason sales are so weak is because prices simply don’t make sense for current household budgets and prices were pushed up higher by voracious institutional buying. Now regular buyers need to step up but they can only do so if the FHFA opens up its purse again under its new and rebranded name.



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