Sunday, January 17, 2016

Today's Links

1--Something big has changed

Stock markets around the world are getting crushed. Some markets are down 20%, 30%, 40%, or more, even those where central banks are pursuing a scorched-earth wealth-effect strategy of mega-QE and negative-interest-rate policies. Something big has changed.

 2-- Foreign Central Banks Furiously Dump US Treasuries: Record $47 Billion Sold In First Two Weeks Of 2016

3--Global stocks plunge amid fears of a new financial crisis

 Stock markets in the US and around the world ended the week with massive selloffs, rocked by fears that the slowdown in China and plunging oil and commodity prices will trigger a new financial crisis on the order of the 2007-2008 disaster.....

Since the financial crash of 2008, the world capitalist economy has been propped up by rapid growth in China and a number of emerging market countries and a huge run-up in stock prices, all of which has been engineered on the basis of an immense growth of debt. The Federal Reserve and the central banks of Europe and Asia have pumped trillions of dollars into the financial markets, fueling a further increase in financial parasitism and speculation. This, combined with ruthless austerity against the working class, has formed the basis for an unprecedented enrichment of the world’s rich and super-rich and a further transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top.

But in the US and the other older industrialized countries, there has been a sharp decline in business investment in the productive forces. Instead, the vast profits of banks and corporations have gone largely to parasitic activities such as stock buybacks, dividend increases and mergers and acquisitions....

A measure of the growth of speculation is the fact that since 2009, the US junk bond market has increased by some 80 percent, to $1.3 trillion. The market for energy junk bonds has increased even faster, up 180 percent to more than $200 billion. In recent weeks, as oil and other commodities have continued to fall and China has continued to slow, the junk bond market has shown signs of imploding, with prices dropping sharply and a number of energy junk bond mutual funds collapsing....

 The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production fell 0.4 percent in December, primarily as a result of cutbacks in utilities and mining output, after declining 0.9 percent in November. Industrial production fell at an annual rate of 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.
 Last week, the Institute for Supply Management released its manufacturing index, showing a decline to 48.2 in December, the lowest reading since December 2009. Any number below 50 signals a contraction.

 The New York Fed this week released its Empire State Manufacturing Survey index, showing a decline to minus 19.37 in January from minus 6.21 in December. “Business activity declined for New York manufacturing firms more sharply than at any time since the 2007-2009 recession, according to the January 2016 survey,” the New York Fed said.
 The Commerce Department reported on Friday that US retail sales fell 0.1 percent in December from the previous month. For all of 2015, retail sales rose just 2.1 percent, the weakest reading since 2009, after advancing 3.9 percent in 2014. ...

 The Labor Department released its Producer Price Index, showing a decline of 0.2 percent last month. Pointing to deflationary forces in the US economy, producer prices fell 1.0 percent in 2015, the weakest figure since the series began in 2010.

 4--1937, the tragedy of ignorance

The first tightening in August 1936 did not hurt stock prices or the economy, as is typical.

 The tightening of monetary policy was intensified by currency devaluations by France and Switzerland, which chose not to move in lock-step with the US tightening. The demand for dollars increased. By late 1936, the President and other policy makers became increasingly concerned by gold inflows (which allowed faster money and credit growth).

 The economy remained strong going into early 1937. The stock market was still rising, industrial production remained strong, and inflation had ticked up to around 5%. The second tightening came in March of 1937 and the third one came in May. While neither the Fed nor the Treasury anticipated that the increase in required reserves combined with the sterilization program would push rates higher, the tighter money and reduced liquidity led to a sell-off in bonds, a rise in the short rate, and a sell-off in stocks. Following the second increase in reserves in March 1937, both the short-term rate and the bond yield spiked.

 Stocks also fell that month nearly 10%. They bottomed a year later, in March of 1938, declining more than 50%!

 Or, as Bank of America summarizes it: "The Fed exit strategy completely failed as the money supply immediately contracted; Fed tightening in H1’37 was followed in H2’37 by a severe recession and a 49% collapse in the Dow Jones."
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Are we witnessing the emergence of the first visible cracks in the Syrian rebels' armour ? It may be too early to predict a breakdown in their defensive posture on the ground, in North-Western Syria, but what commentators on SST had been expecting may be about to start and the "snow ball" effect might set in earlier than expected.... As we speak, R+6 troops are moving in on the rebel held town of Salma, North-East of Latakia, in an offensive that has the potential to cause the breakdown of this entire stretch of the front-line.

.... as any first year student of Clausewitz will tell you, defensive warfare only trumps offence if managed properly. The breakthrough of a large attacking force through defensive lines on the other hand can cause for the disruption of the entire strategic balance of power, therefore potentially nullifying any advantage the defending party might have.

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