Category: Financial

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Fri Oct 30, 2015 1:51pm EDT

Fed’s Williams says low neutral interest rates a ‘warning sign’

San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams said on Friday that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand.

“I see this as more of a warning, a red flag that there’s something going on here that isn’t in the models, that we maybe don’t understand as well as we think, and we should dig down deep deeper and try to figure this out better,” he said during a panel discussion at the Brookings Institute in Washington.

Williams, who is a voting member of the Fed’s policy-setting panel through the end of the year, has said the central bank should begin to raise interest rates soon but thereafter go at a gradual pace.

He added that the low neutral interest rate had “pretty significant” implications for monetary policy, and put more focus on fiscal policy as a response.

“If we could come up with better fiscal policy, find a way to have the economy grow faster or have a stronger natural rate of interest, then that takes the pressure off of us to try to come up with other ways to do it, like through a large balance sheet or having a higher inflation target,” Williams said. “It also means we don’t have to turn to quantitative easing and other policies as much.”


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Trevor MacInnis petroli car:    Fuel barrels


Matt Clinch

It was a bruising day for Europe’s energy sector Thursday, with the full extent of the pain caused by low oil prices being laid bare in a series of earnings reports.


Anglo–Dutch multinational Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA-GB) reported a loss of $6.1 billion, compared with a gain of $5.3 billion for the same quarter a year ago, a decrease of 70 percent. This included a large $8.2 billion write-off due to a downward revision of its oil and gas price outlook and also a decision to halt projects in Alaska and Canada.

Oswald Clint, senior analyst at Bernstein, called these impairments a “necessary evil” which would allow a “new” Shell to emerge that could focus on natural gas and deep water drilling. James Sparrow, a credit specialist at BNP Paribas. called it a “kitchen sinking” exercise ahead of its merger with BG Group (@BGLFDC16J-GB).

The news didn’t stop there. French major Total (FP-FR) reported a 23 percent drop in third-quarter adjusted net income from the same quarter last year, although CEO Patrick Pouyanne spoke of “resilience” in the face of falling oil prices. Analysts were pleased with the results, too. Sparrow, called the numbers “encouraging” while Oswald noted that it had benefited from not having made any big investments into the U.S. shale sector.



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October 2, 2015 2:18 PM MS

Wall Street

Wall Street
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images


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There Are Not Enough Jobs, And Austerity Is To Blame

The September jobs report is spooking even the optimists.



The especially poor September jobs report reinforces what many economists have been saying for months: The six-year recovery from the Great Recession has been too weak to create enough jobs for America’s growing population, let alone restore significant wage growth. 

Domestic fiscal austerity, not recent global volatility, is primarily to blame for the inadequate job growth, these economists argue.

The U.S. economy created 142,000 jobs in September, bringing average monthly job growth to 198,000 this year — way down from the monthly rate of 260,000 in 2014. Average hourly wages decreased slightly in September, meaning pay has risen just 2.2 percent in the past 12 months. 

In addition, the percentage of the population working or looking for work has dropped to 62.4 percent, the lowest it has been during the Obama presidency. The progressive Economic Policy Institute estimates that we need 2.6 million more jobs to keep up with population growth.


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Time to Trade in Your Jag, Benz, BMW for a Dented Econobox: Days of Rage Are Coming

The resistance will take the form of subverting the signifiers of wealth that exemplify the few who have benefited so greatly while everyone else lost ground.
It’s time to trade in your Jag, Mercedes, BMW (and maybe your Prius, Volvo, Lexus, etc.) before the Days of Rage start. As I’ve explained before ( As the “Prosperity” Tide Recedes, the Ugly Reality of Wealth Inequality Is Exposed), the rage of the masses who have been losing ground while the Financier Oligarchs, the New Nobility and the technocrat class reap immense gains for decades has been suppressed by the dream that they too could join the Upper Caste.
But once the realistic odds of that happening (low) sink in, the Days of Rage will begin. For those still who don’t know the facts of rising inequality, here’s what you need to know.
The top 1% skim 23% of all income:
While the top 5% has enjoyed substantial income gains over the past 45 years, adjusted for inflation, the bottom 90% have lost ground:
The last time there was mass unrest in America was the civil rights/Vietnam War era. The power of the civil rights movement arose from the core injustice of segregation (separate and unequal) and institutionalized racism/bias. This institutionalized injustice drew people from all classes and ethnicities into the streets, where they were promptly beaten by police.

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French Recovery Fades as Manufacturing, Services Contract

Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

An employee removes excess felt from berets inside the factory of 174-year-old… Read More

French manufacturing and services unexpectedly shrank this month, highlighting President Francois Hollande’s struggle to revive the euro area’s second-largest economy.

A Purchasing Managers Index of factory activity dropped to 49.3 from 51.2 in April, while a services gauge fell to 49.2 from 50.4, Markit Economics said today in London. Economists had forecast readings above 50, the level that divides expansion from contraction.

Hollande is grappling with an economy that stagnated in the first quarter as both investment and consumer spending fell. After two years in office, his government has yet to achieve two consecutive quarters of expansion, a performance that has driven jobless claims to an all-time high of 3.3 million and his own popularity to a record low.


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French economy contracts while rest of eurozone keeps expanding

The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Germany.

The strong pace of growth in the eurozone’s private sector eased very slightly this month, with drastic price cuts preventing any further slowdown, surveys showed yesterday.

Slower growth in activity at factories took the shine off an unexpected pickup in the service industry, although the bloc’s recovery appears to be gaining traction.

“This doesn’t change the picture of the eurozone having one of its best growth spells in the past three years. It’s broad-based – with the one exception being France,” said Rob Dobson, senior economist at survey compiler Markit.

Markit’s Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, based on surveys of thousands of companies across the region and seen as a good indicator of growth, edged down to 53.9 from April’s near three-year high of 54.0, matching the forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.


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Eurozone’s 18-month-long recession may be over, economic surveys suggest

French factories

The Osram factory in Molsheim. French factories returned to growth with their strongest performance in 17 months. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Hopes of a recovery in the eurozone were lifted after private sector firms across the region reported a rise in output for the first time in 18 months, leading to predictions that the single currency bloc is on the cusp of exiting recession.

A strong performance by German manufacturers and a halt to the headlong decline in French business activity gave the eurozone a much needed boost after the area slipped into reverse last year.

With the US manufacturing sector expanding at a faster pace in July, the main blot on the global economic recovery was a decline in manufacturing output in China that some economists have warned could force Beijing to renew its stimulus spending or risk a hard landing.

China’s manufacturing sector tempered the eurozone data, slowing to an 11-month low as new orders faltered and the job market darkened.

The flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 47.7 this month from June’s final reading of 48.2, marking a third straight month below the 50 threshold between expansion and contraction for China.

As if to highlight concerns that global growth is slowing, Caterpillar, the US construction and mining business that is considered a bellwether of global business activity, downgraded its forecast for the pace of the global recovery this year and next.

Alexandra Knight, an economist at National Australia Bank, said the weak Chinese PMI posed a problem for countries that relied on exports to China.

“It adds to the concern about the outlook for demand, and brings into question just how strong Chinese commodities demand will be,” she said.


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A diagram showing the organization of the Federal Reserve System


An Irredeemably Bad Deal

Obama, Geithner and the Missing Six Trillion Dollars


Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama’s first Treasury Secretary and chief architect of many of the various and sundry bank bailouts and associated programs carried out during Mr. Obama’s first term in office, recently wrote a book telling his side of ‘the story.’ To be clear, I haven’t read the book and have no intention of doing so. Life is short and the relevant side of the story, the economic consequences of Mr. Geithner’s policies, is the one of interest here. The prevailing storyline in the banker’s ghettoes of New York and London is of an indispensable and functioning financial system saved and a second Great Depression averted through Mr. Geithner’s necessary but unpopular programs to transfer public resources to nominally private corporations— Wall Street banks, in order to save them. Implied is that the travails Wall Street faced in 2008 – 2009 were the result of ‘natural’ forces and that its restoration is substantially related to restoration of ‘the economy.’ Mainstream economists have put forward variations on this latter claim through repeated assertion that ‘the economy,’ as measured by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the official unemployment rate, has ‘recovered’ to pre-recession levels.


Graph (1): Contrary to the view on Wall Street and within the Western economic establishment restoration of Wall Street has not ‘fixed’ the economy. The policies of Mr. Geithner, the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have ‘fixed’ profits, compensation and bonuses for Wall Street. The drop in median income is evidence of ongoing economic Depression for most citizens of the West. Assertions to the contrary by Mr. Geithner, the Obama administration and the ‘eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’ crowd of Western economists are evidence of whose interests they represent. Apparent in the recovery of financial profits without a recovery in household incomes is that Wall Street doesn’t need a functioning economy to earn ‘profits.’



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The Fed Is The Great Deceiver — Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler


Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler

Is the Fed “tapering”? Did the Fed really cut its bond purchases during the three month period November 2013 through January 2014? Apparently not if foreign holders of Treasuries are unloading them.

From November 2013 through January 2014 Belgium with a GDP of $480 billion purchased $141.2 billion of US Treasury bonds. Somehow Belgium came up with enough money to allocate during a 3-month period 29 percent of its annual GDP to the purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Certainly Belgium did not have a budget surplus of $141.2 billion. Was Belgium running a trade surplus during a 3-month period equal to 29 percent of Belgium GDP?

No, Belgium’s trade and current accounts are in deficit.

Did Belgium’s central bank print $141.2 billion worth of euros in order to make the purchase?

No, Belgium is a member of the euro system, and its central bank cannot increase the money supply.

So where did the $141.2 billion come from?

There is only one source. The money came from the US Federal Reserve, and the purchase was laundered through Belgium in order to hide the fact that actual Federal Reserve bond purchases during November 2013 through January 2014 were $112 billion per month.

In other words, during those 3 months there was a sharp rise in bond purchases by the Fed. The Fed’s actual bond purchases for those three months are $27 billion per month above the original $85 billion monthly purchase and $47 billion above the official $65 billion monthly purchase at that time. (In March 2014, official QE was tapered to $55 billion per month and to $45 billion for May.)

Why did the Federal Reserve have to purchase so many bonds above the announced amounts and why did the Fed have to launder and hide the purchase?

Some country or countries, unknown at this time, for reasons we do not know dumped $104 billion in Treasuries in one week.


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Collapse in pay lies behind Britain’s return to work: Self-employed are hidden victims of recession, report warns

The study by the Resolution Foundation think tank reveals the dark side of the sharp growth in self-employment, which has helped the Government to maintain its boast that unemployment is falling as more and more people find work.

Since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of self-employed has risen by 650,000 to 4.5 million. They now represent 15 per cent of the active workforce.

But the new analysis reveals that the average weekly income of someone in self-employment is 20 per cent lower than in 2008.  As a result, a typical self-employed worker now earns 40 per cent than a typical employee.  An Ipsos-Mori survey commissioned as part of the report also found that 27 per cent of those who became self-employed in the past five year do so because they had no other choice – up from 10 per cent five years ago.

Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “Self-employment is often a highly precarious existence which isn’t that well supported by public policy. High levels of self-employment seem likely to be here to stay and policy-makers have some catching up to do.”

The grim truth about pay and living standards in some the regions of the UK has also been highlighted by official EU figures showing that parts of Britain are effectively poorer that countries from  former communist countries in Eastern Europe.

People in Cornwall and the Welsh Valleys are worse off than residents of Estonia and Lithuania, according to Eurostat figures comparing wealth across the EU using a measure known as “purchasing power standards” – which takes into account GDP per person and cost of living.

In addition, Durham and the Tees Valley, in the north east of England, are poorer than those in the wealthiest regions of Bulgaria and Romania, the two most deprived countries in the EU.

By contrast, the Eurostat figures show that London is the richest place in Europe.

According to the Resolution Foundation report, self-employed people are more likely than people in full time employment to complain of being under employed.


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Pension fears for rising number of self-employed

Higher levels of self employment have become a permanent feature of the UK economy as a result of Britain’s ageing workforce and a greater desire for Britons to “work for themselves”.

The Resolution Foundation said the increase in self-employment also presented a “worrying picture of the security and vulnerability of self employed people”, who have traditionally saved less for retirement than employees. Photo: PA

Higher levels of self employment have become a permanent feature of the UK economy as a result of Britain’s ageing workforce and a greater desire for Britons to “work for themselves”.

The number of people who are self employed has grown by 650,000 since the 2008 financial crisis, to 4.5m, meaning one in seven workers is now self employed.

While some of the shift towards self-employment has been caused by cyclical factors, the Resolution Foundation said 73pc of workers had chosen to become self-employed. “The high self-employment numbers are here to stay,” said Laura Gardiner, a senior policy analyst at Resolution Foundation.

The rise in self employment has attracted attention from the Bank of England, where policymakers have argued over whether the increase reflects structural changes in the UK economy or “disguised labour market slack” because many of these workers would prefer to be working full-time.

While the Foundation said there was less slack in the economy caused by self-employment than some policymakers believed, it said underemployment among these workers was “marginally worse than for employees”, representing a reversal of the pre-crisis trend.


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US attorney general says banks under investigation not ‘too big to jail’

Eric Holder announced in video address that Justice Department pursuing criminal investigations of financial institutions

Eric Holder
While Holder did not name any banks, he said he is personally monitoring the ongoing investigations into financial institutions. Photo: Matt Rourke /AP

The US Justice Department is pursuing criminal investigations of financial institutions that could result in action in the coming weeks and months, US attorney general Eric Holder said in a video, adding that no company was “too big to jail.”

The comments, made in a video posted on the Justice Department’s website on Monday, came as federal prosecutors push two banks, BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse AG , to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve investigations into sanctions and tax violations, respectively, according to people familiar with the probes.

While Holder did not name any banks, he said he is personally monitoring the ongoing investigations into financial institutions and is “resolved to seeing them through.”

“I intend to reaffirm the principle that no individual or entity that does harm to our economy is ever above the law,” Holder said in the video. “There is no such thing as ‘too big to jail.'”

French bank BNP Paribas warned last week it faces fines from US authorities in excess of $1.1bn over allegations that it violated US sanctions against Iran and other countries.

The Swiss finance minister met Holder on Friday to discuss a US probe into Swiss banks that allegedly helped Americans evade US taxes, which includes Credit Suisse.

While units of financial institutions have agreed to plead guilty to breaking US criminal laws, such agreements have usually involved foreign subsidiaries who have little contact with US regulators.

Japanese units of UBS AG and Royal Bank of Scotland plc, for example, pleaded guilty in the past two years to resolve criminal charges that their traders manipulated the Libor benchmark interest rate.

A criminal conviction of an entity regulated in the United States could lead authorities to potentially revoke a charter or undertake other punitive measures.


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People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

 U.S. job growth jumps, but shrinking labor force a blemish

WASHINGTON Fri May 2, 2014 4:52pm EDT

(Reuters) – U.S. employers hired workers at the fastest clip in more than two years in April, pointing to a rebound in economic growth after a dreadful winter and keeping the Federal Reserve on track to end bond purchases this year.

The brightening outlook was, however, tempered somewhat by a sharp increase in the number of people dropping out of the labor force, which pushed the unemployment rate to a 5-1/2-year low of 6.3 percent. Wage growth also was stagnant.

Nonfarm payrolls surged 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That was largest gain since January 2012 and beat economists’ expectations for only a 210,000 rise.

“It lends significant legitimacy to the positive tone in the wide array of post-February economic reports, which have all been consistently pointing to a significant pick-up in economic growth momentum this quarter,” said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

March and February’s data was revised to show 36,000 more jobs than previously reported.

U.S. stocks briefly rallied on the report, which was later eclipsed by rising tensions in Ukraine. Stocks ended lower, while safe-haven bids pushed the yield in the 30-year U.S. government bond to its lowest level in more than 10 months.

The dollar was flat against a basket of currencies.

About 806,000 people dropped out of the labor force in April, unwinding the previous months’ gains. That helped to push down the unemployment rate 0.4 percentage point to its lowest level since in September 2008.

The labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or unemployed but looking for a job, also fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 62.8 percent last month, slipping back to a 36-year low touched in December.

Overall, however, the data suggested the economy was gathering strength and led investors to pull forward their bets on when the Fed will start to raise interest rates.

The strong payrolls growth added to upbeat data such as consumer spending and industrial production in suggesting that sputtering growth in the first quarter was an aberration, weighed down by an unusually cold and disruptive winter.


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Discouraged job seekers behind shrinking labor force

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 5, 2013 6:58pm EDT

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

(Reuters) – Americans giving up the hunt for jobs were likely behind a sharp drop in the U.S. workforce last month, a bad sign for an economy that is struggling to achieve a faster growth pace.

The number of working-age Americans counted as part of the labor force — either with a job or looking for one — tumbled by 496,000 in March, the biggest fall since December 2009, the Labor Department said on Friday. That pushed the so-called workforce participation rate to a 34-year low of 63.3 percent.

March marked the second month in a row that the participation rate declined — 626,000 people have dropped from the work force since January.

Friday’s report showed a decline in the number of discouraged job seekers last month after a pop in February, which at first glance might suggest the drop in the workforce was mainly because of shifting demographics.

But a closer look at the underlying numbers raises questions about the notion that retiring baby boomers were the driving force behind the shrinking workforce.

“You have to think that it’s a large part demographics, but demographics are not really going to have such a big effect on month-to-month changes,” said Keith Hall, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

Of the nearly 500,000 people dropping out, just 118,000 were aged 55 and older, meaning more than three-quarters of the increase came from below-retirement-age adults.

Also, the number of people 65 and older counted as part of the workforce actually rose by 27,000, which followed a 72,000 increase in February.

Hall said the sluggish economy was forcing some older Americans to continue working to rebuild retirement nest-eggs that were shattered during the 2007-09 recession.

Indeed, the participation rate for Americans between 55 and 64 years old held steady at a relatively high 65 percent. On the other hand, participation by the 25-29 age group was the lowest since record-keeping started in 1982.

“People are just giving up the search for work. A lot of them would like to work and they aren’t, that is a serious sickness in the economy,” said Peter McHenry, assistant economics professor at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The drop in participation helped to lower the unemployment rate by a tenth of a percentage point to 7.6 percent. If the workforce had not contracted, the jobless rate would have risen two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.9 percent in March.


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