Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Today's Links

1--Nailed it!-- Donald Trump on the stock market: 'It's all a big bubble'

"If rates go up, you're going to see something that's not pretty," the billionaire businessman told Fox News during a Tuesday morning phone interview. "It's all a big bubble."...

Trump's call comes as other big Wall Street names like Jeff Gundlach, George Soros and Carl Icahn have warned of looming market dangers. However, the S&P 500 stock market gauge is up 6.7 percent this year

2--Productivity drops again

U.S. nonfarm productivity unexpectedly fell in the second quarter, pointing to sustained weakness that could raise concerns about corporate profits and companies' ability to maintain their recent robust pace of hiring.
The Labor Department said on Tuesday that productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, dropped at a 0.5 percent annual rate in the April-June period. It was the third consecutive quarterly decline.

3--A $400 Billion Influx Squeezes U.S. Bond Market’s Safest Asset

Whatever happens to bill supply, money-market providers are bracing for big redemptions from prime funds. For the biggest institutional prime funds tracked by Crane Data, the weighted average maturity of their holdings fell to a record 18 days last week.
“We expect some fairly large outflows,” said Peter Yi, director of short-term fixed income at Northern Trust Corp., which manages $906 billion. “We don’t want to find ourselves selling credit instruments into a distressed market.”

4--Are Negative Rates Backfiring? Here’s Some Early Evidence--Economists worry that people and businesses are saving more, instead of spending

Recent economic data show consumers are saving more in Germany and Japan, and in Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden, three non-eurozone countries with negative rates, savings are at their highest since 1995, the year the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development started collecting data on those countries. Companies in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Japan also are holding on to more cash....

Some economists and bankers contend that negative rates communicate fear over the growth outlook and the central bank’s ability to manage it.
“People only borrow and spend more when they are confident about the future,” says Andrew Sheets, chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley. MS 0.70 % “But by going negative, into uncharted territory, the policy actually undermines confidence.”

The Bank of England, shaken by June’s surprise vote to leave the European Union, cut interest rates to their lowest in its 322-year history last week but said it was reluctant to go negative. BOE Gov. Mark Carney said he is “not a fan” of a policy that has negative consequences for savers and the financial system. European banks say their profitability has been hit hard by low rates.....

...Low interest rates should encourage consumers and businesses to spend by depressing returns on savings and safe assets such as government bonds. Such spending should create demand for goods, help lift sagging inflation and boost economic growth.

Negative rates aren’t fundamentally different, in their day-to-day effects, for most people. Negative rates mean large commercial banks have to pay to park their money at central banks, which encourages them to lend it out instead. Banks spread those costs in various ways. For the individual or most corporate customers, the effect is to push interest rates paid on deposits, while still positive, even closer to zero.

Negative rates aren’t just aimed at spurring spending. Europe and Japan need weaker currencies to help exports and boost low inflation, and negative rates can help bring that about (Ah ha, so it's not about spending. It's about competitive devaluation the likes of which the G 20 just condemned last month!)

“The signal to the consumer is that something is wrong—it’s a crisis measure,” says Carl Hammer, chief currency strategist at Swedish bank SEB.
Lasse Bohman, a 63-year old newsstand worker from Stockholm, said the concept of negative interest rates is “weird” and makes him want to save more for retirement rather than spend. “I am just going to keep on putting money in the bank,” he says, or “put it under the mattress at home.”

In Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a nation known for thrift, savings as a percentage of disposable household income rose to 9.7% in 2015, according to preliminary data from the OECD. That is the highest rate since 2010, and the OECD expects the savings rate to rise further this year, to 10.4%....

This odd policy of negative interest rates hasn’t motivated us to invest more. On the contrary, it’s a signal that the economic situation isn’t improving,” says Hans-Gerd Wienands, chief financial officer of Messer Group, a German supplier of industrial gases.

5--About A Third Of Bernie Sanders’s Supporters Still Aren’t Backing Hillary Clinton  (What you would expect)

6--20 Months, 90 Bankruptcies In North-American Oil & Gas (Defaults on the rise)

7--How the FED's QE Contributed to Inequality (To the rich, go the spoils)

Gerry Epstein, a Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a fellow of INET, has conducted extensive research which highlights the way the Federal Reserve’s policies in the aftermath of the crisis, and concludes that Wall Street and wealthy Americans are in fact the biggest winners from policies like quantitative easing, while Main Street Americans have seen little improvement in their economic lives. A more broadly based fiscal policy response might have engendered a recovery less skewed toward the haves, rather than the have nots. End result? Inequality is getting worse, people are getting a lot angrier and we get political phenomena like Donald Trump. And the Fed’s political position has likely been compromised....

Epstein maintains in the interview below that these positive impacts were nonetheless swamped by the large dis-equalizing effects of asset price appreciation, which disproportionately benefits the top tier of society. Bankers in particular also experienced statistically significant increases in profitability after controlling for common determinants of bank performance through asset appreciation. And critics, often for good reason, remain legitimately concerned that the Fed is wielding its vast powers in the interests of the banks and not in the interests of the people. Epstein’s research seems to bear out this grievance. After the financial crisis, Americans have perceived that the banks have been bailed out, but a significant proportion of the population is still in serious economic trouble as Professor Epstein highlights in the interview.

8--Jeremy Corbyn Launches Bold, Progressive Plan to Transform U.K.

Corbyn goes on to lament the partial privatization of the nation’s health system and transportation networks while vowing to invest mightily in workers, clean energy, and public infrastructure. Under his leadership, he writes:
Labour will end the rip off, bring the railways into public ownership and invest in new community owned energy.
Whole communities have been left behind as high-skilled and secure jobs have vanished alongside our once great industrial sector.
That’s why Labour has set out a plan for a National Investment Bank that will deliver an extra £500 billion of investment to reverse our decline – channelled through regional investment banks to meet local needs, such as a ‘Bank of the North’.
To rebuild and transform Britain so that no one and nowhere is left behind.
The overall plan is contained in ten pledges which put everyday people at the center of a pro-democracy agenda aimed at a more egalitarian economic vision, an end to war and violence, and a more sustainable energy future

9--Arab monarchies pour in funds to support terrorist militants in Aleppo – report

10--Only solution for Afghanistan - US forces get out’

Sara Flounders: It’s been 15 years of US war in Afghanistan – the longest war in US history and not a day, not a minute of peace or stability. There are hundreds of thousands of US troops who have cycled through Afghanistan and also tens and tens of thousands of NATO, EU forces, even more of contractors and mercenaries. It has been hellish for the people of Afghanistan to have had absolutely no improvement – they are poorer today than 15 years ago when the war started. And for all the US promises that they would modernize and that they would build roads and hospitals and schools; that they would bring democracy and improve the status of women – they have brought nothing but war creating enormous numbers of refugees, of disabled people, of homes that are in ruins.

Afghanistan today is the poorest country in the world - lowest life expectancy. It really is in every way shameful. So for this talk about the Taliban should go into a peace process with the legitimate government – Afghanistan is a country that is occupied. There is not a shred of legitimacy in the government and from the people there is boundless hate. It is a real problem. The only solution for Afghanistan is for US forces to get out. They can bring nothing helpful, progressive, peaceful, or secure to Afghanistan – that is a fact and everybody knows that.

11--Con-man Sanders continues to lure liberals into Camp Hillary

In complete Orwellian fashion Sanders concludes, “During the primaries, my supporters and I began a political revolution to transform America. That revolution continues as Hillary Clinton seeks the White House. It will continue after the election.” Such statements lay bare the actual content of his “political revolution,” which was intended to trap mass anger behind the Democratic Party and con workers and youth into voting for candidates completely beholden to corporate America.....

Even as the corrupt practices revealed in the emails confirm Sanders’ earlier criticism of Clinton, he is ignoring them as he attempts to promote the candidate of Wall Street....

Prior to backing Clinton on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, Sanders responded to booing from his supporters by insisting that “this is the real world we live in.” In the two weeks since he made this comment, the content of Sanders’ “real world” has been even further exposed: it is a world of endless war and political reaction, in which both parties are controlled by the rich, and the American people are offered a “choice” between a fascistic demagogue and a warmonger with the closest ties to Wall Street.
Within this “real world,” Sanders is playing the most duplicitous role in his attempt to gloss over Clinton’s record. Sanders shameless promotion of a virulently pro-war corporate candidate confirms the analysis of the WSWS that the real role of his campaign was to direct anger over inequality back into the safe channel of the Democratic Party.

12--David Rockefeller Is 101

13--When Hillary is elected, the gloves come off:  Washington escalates covert backing for Al Qaeda militias in Aleppo

The encirclement of Washington’s extremist groups inside Aleppo, who have been reduced to a diminishing pocket in the city’s north and western sectors in the face of a redoubled Syrian offensive backed by Russian air power and Iranian ground forces, came as a humiliating reversal for US imperialism. Washington has orchestrated a relentless civil war in Syria since 2011, killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians, without achieving its aim of toppling the Damascus regime and installing a neocolonial puppet government.

During the opening phases of the US-NATO orchestrated war, the anti-Assad militias seized control of large areas of the city, which they sought to utilize as a base of operations and object of plunder. Prior to the outbreak of the war, Aleppo’s population numbered between 1 and 2.5 million, according to varying estimates. Today, some 50,000 civilians are estimated to eke out an existence amid the rubble. The city as a whole has been without electricity and running water for more than a year, and entire neighborhoods are completely razed to the ground.

In recent weeks, with the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrawing support for the rebels in retaliation for Washington’s involvement in the failed July military coup attempt, the American-backed militias have faced the imminent possibility of defeat.....

The cause of the sudden reversal in the fortunes of the anti-government forces, who, if US media reports can be believed, have seized the initiative from the jaws of total defeat, was quietly acknowledged in reports published by the New York Times on Saturday and Monday, titled “Military Success in Syria Gives Putin Upper Hand in US Proxy War” and “Rebel Offensive in Syria Challenges Government Siege of Aleppo.”
As Saturday’s Times piece noted, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been supplying the Al Qaeda-linked militias with virtually unlimited supplies of sophisticated antitank missiles and other weaponry.

The US-backed rebel coalition, which has been dominated by the Al Nusra Front, “would receive new shipments of the antitank weapons as soon as the missiles were used,” according to comments from a rebel commander made in 2015, and quoted by the Times Saturday.
“We ask for ammunition and missiles, and we get more than we ask for,” the anti-Assad commander said.

The shipments of advanced Stinger missile systems, which are capable of destroying, among other things, commercial jetliners during takeoff and landing, as well as military-grade helicopters, have continued up to the present.
In contrast to the Obama administration’s assertions that the shipments were being curtailed and funneled exclusively to “moderate forces,” in reality the CIA has been surging support for the encircled anti-Assad militias in Aleppo, foremost among which are the Al Nusra fighters....

While Kerry was pledging military cooperation with Moscow, along with joint “counterterrorism” operations, the CIA was giving weapons hand over fist to the Al Qaeda-affiliated forces, dumping fuel on a simmering US-Russian proxy conflict with the potential to engulf broad areas of the Middle East and Europe in all-out war.

The downing of a Russian Mi-8 transport helicopter over Syria’s Idlib province Monday, which produced the largest single death toll for Russian forces operating in Syria since Moscow launched its intervention last year, grimly illustrated the lethal dynamics being unleashed by American imperialism’s ever more reckless pursuit of unchallenged hegemony over the strategic Levantine nation.

The US media celebrations of the “rebel” victory cannot be taken at face value, and must be weighed against reports from the Syrian government side, which have presented the scope of the rebel counteroffensive in more modest terms. Whatever the true extent of the rebel advances on the ground, it is already clear that the intensified fighting will serve as the political basis for a major military escalation by Washington....

In an interview with Fox News this weekend, Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, issued bellicose threats against Russia, stating that “the facts raise serious issues about Russian interference in our elections, in our democracy.” Clinton has made clear her intention to pursue a massive escalation of the Syrian war and the broader US war drive against Russia if she wins the White House, saying during last year’s Democratic Party debate, “We have to stand up to his [Putin] bullying and specifically, in Syria.”

While the Obama White House prefers to delay a major escalation until after the elections, the weakness of the American position on the ground is forcing the administration to consider direct strikes against Damascus. Former Obama administration adviser, Dennis Ross, suggested last week that the White House should “begin speaking in a language that Mr. Assad and Mr. Putin can understand,” and employ direct cruise missile and drone strikes against Assad’s military infrastructure.

14--Syrian War Report – August 9, 2016: Stalemate in Battle for Aleppo?

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