Tax Strike? IRS Has Received 13% Fewer Returns This Year

The (Tax Refund) Check Is Not In The Mail
No one likes paying taxes, but this year Americans are taking things to extremes. Through last Friday, the IRS had received 13.3% fewer returns than the same period last year. And it seems like we’re not even really interested in starting the process: visits to IRS.gov are down 16.2%. All this means tax refunds – an important piece of disposable/savable income for many Americans – are down 14.4% versus last year. What’s going on?
A few explanations. First, the IRS has not been able to issue refunds to filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, which last year totaled 27 million returns. That will start to be fixed next week and may encourage more filings. Also at issue: the 100% increase in Obamacare penalties to $695/adult and $348/child, something that concerns many filers.
Lastly, there seems to be some broad confusion about President Trump’s campaign promise of lower individual taxes and eliminating Obamacare and its penalties. The upshot: tax refunds add $250 billion to US consumer liquidity from February – May. This year’s payment cycle will be harder to predict and likely make an accurate read on the US economy more difficult for the next few months.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 28, 2017.

So What Are We Going to Do with the Retail Malls?

The Painstaking Relentless Collapse of Brick-and-Mortar Retail.
‘Our fourth quarter results reflect the impact of rapidly-changing consumer behavior, which drove very strong digital growth but unexpected softness in our stores,’ lamented Target CEO Brian Cornell this morning in the earnings release.
‘Unexpected’ is a hilarious choice of words. Because we, mere outsiders, have been vivisecting the now structural brick-and-mortar retail quagmire for a long time, and no deterioration is ‘unexpected.’
Target’s revenues in the fourth quarter fell 4.3% year-over-year to $20.7 billion. Revenues for the whole year dropped 5.8% to $69.5 billion. Down from $69.8 billion in fiscal 2011. That makes for six years of sales stagnation.
Net income plunged 43% to $817 million for the quarter, and 19% for the year to $2.7 billion. But at least, Target is still making money – unlike other retailers, many of which are either already in bankruptcy or are slithering toward it.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Feb 28, 2017.

FEB 28/GOLD AND SILVER WHACKED IN THE ACCESS MARKET AGAIN/GOLD/SILVER EQUITY SHARES ALSO WHACKED/ NO MOVEMENT OF GOLD FROM THE FRBNY/TROUBLE AT GREEK BANKS AS CITIZENS THERE REMOVE THEIR DEPOSITS…

Gold at (1:30 am est) $1252.60 down $4.80
silver was : $18.42: UP 7 CENTS
Access market prices:
Gold: $1248.50
Silver: $18.31
For comex gold:
MARCH/
NOTICES FILINGS FOR FEBRUARY CONTRACT MONTH: 1 NOTICE(S) FOR 100 OZ. TOTAL NOTICES SO FAR: 1 FOR 100 OZ (0.003 TONNES)
For silver:
For silver: MARCH
349 NOTICES FILED FOR 1,745,000 OZ/
For two weeks now, gold/silver equity shares have been whacked by our banker friends even though silver and gold metal have been on a tear for the past 8 weeks. To me, it seems that the equity shares are being hit trying to convince holders of real metal to sell their physical. I strongly believe that the comex has very little real gold/silver to serve gold/silver longs.
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK/GOLD MOVEMENT REPORT
In January reported that the total amount gold inventory at the FRBNY was 7,841 million dollars worth of gold valued at 42.21 dollars per oz.
In February: the total amount of gold inventory at the FRBNY remains at 7,841 million dollars valued at 42.21 dollar per oz
Thus movement is zero.
Let us have a look at the data for today

This post was published at Harvey Organ Blog on February 28, 2017.

Bond Yield “Regime Line” Being Tested

The 10-Year U. S. Treasury Yield is testing the ‘ultra low-rate’ bounds again.
A month ago, we noted the significance of the post-election spike in bond yields. Of course, yields have been in a secular decline since topping out in the early 1980’s. However, since 2007, just prior to the financial crisis, yields experienced an acceleration to the downside. This acceleration marked what we considered a new regime for bond yields: an ‘ultra low-rate’ regime. For nearly 10 years, this ultra-low rate regime in the 10-Year U. S. Treasury Yield (TNX) was contained by a Down trendline stemming from the 2007 peak in yields. The post-election move sent the TNX breaking above that trendline. Thus, while yields still remained well within the 30-plus year secular downtrend, the breakout, we surmised, signified the end of the ultra low-rate regime.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 28, 2017.

7 RUSSIAN OFFICIALS MURDERED OR FOUND DEAD SINCE ELECTION DAY

Russian diplomats seem to be an endangered species, as seven officials have been found dead under mysterious or unexplained circumstances just since Election Day, and – although any link remains as yet unprovable – the deaths certainly provoke a number of questions.
1. Sergei Krivov:
First is the perplexing case of Sergei Krivov – disputably a consular duty commander at the Russian Consulate in Manhattan – died on November 8, Election Day, under perhaps the most problematic circumstances of any of the deaths listed.
Found unconscious and unresponsive on the floor inside the consulate, Krivov suffered blunt force trauma to the head – initially reported as received in a fall from the roof of the building – and passed away before emergency services could reach the scene.
Consular officials quickly backtracked that Krivov died after plunging over the building, instead insisting he’d suffered a heart attack – but the diplomat’s lack of paper trails and ambiguity from officials about his career position make the death appear to be far from ordinary.
‘That position is no ordinary security guard,’ reported BuzzFeed on Krivov’s ambiguous role at the consulate. ‘According to other public Russian-language descriptions of the duty commander position, Krivov would have been in charge of, among other things, ‘prevention of sabotage’ and suppression of ‘attempts of secret intrusion’ into the consulate.’

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on FEBRUARY 28, 2017.

NY Teamsters Pension Becomes First To Run Out Of Money As Expert Warns “Pension Tsunami” Is Coming

The New York Teamsters Road Carriers Local 707 Pension Fund has won the unfortunate award for “First Pension to Officially Run Out of Money.” According to the New York Daily News, and a host of angry former truck drivers who’ve had their pension benefits slashed, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) has officially been forced to step in and take over payments to retirees of the Local 707, albeit at a much lower rate.
Teamsters Local 707’s pension fund is the first to officially bottom out financially – which happened this month.
‘I had a union job for 30 years,’ Chmil said. ‘We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.’
‘It’s a nightmare, it has just devastated all of our lives. I’ve gone from having $48,000 a year to less than half that,’ said Chmil, one of five Local 707 retirees who agreed to share their stories with the Daily News last week.
‘I don’t want other people to have to go through this. We need everyone to wake up and do something; that’s why we’re talking,’ said Ray Narvaez.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 28, 2017.

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts – Mardi Gras – Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler

“Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give it to you. So do not let your heart be troubled – do not let it be afraid.”
John 14:27
“Let us feel what we really are – sinners attempting great things. Let us simply obey God’s will, whatever may come. He can turn all things to our eternal good. Easter day is preceded by the forty days of Lent, to show us that they only who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
J. H. Newman
Another interesting day in The Recovery as the US Dollar remained steady at the close, gold was hit in a series of little cheap shots, stocks were weak, and the VIX rose once again.
The Donald speaks to the professional politocrats in Washington this evening.
Snapchat IPO should be getting its final pricing tomorrow, and be out trading on March 2. I hear the voice of a fat lady singing.
There was a serious problem with Amazon’s cloud computing services today, that caused problems across a wide range of platforms on the East coast of the US. I had trouble getting my email from this site today for most of the afternoon.

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 28 FEBRUARY 2017.

Last Time We Saw Credit Seize Up We Were In A Recession, It’s Happening Now – Episode 1216a

The following video was published by X22Report on Feb 28, 2017
Greeks continue to take their currency out of the banks. Target stores sales are declining. A new gas tax is going to hit 20 states. GM is now pushing incentives like they did prior to 2008. Auto delinquencies are rising quickly. The retail apocalypse has begun and many retailers are going to get hit. Case Shiller reports housing prices are now leveling off in the 20 cities. Credit markets are starting to look like 2008, they are now stagnating and will be freezing up. Marc Faber says the markets are going to crash.

The 2016 Nobel Prizes in Economics Go to those Who Pushed Criminogenic Policies

How has the Swedish Central Bank’s committee that awards prizes in Economics in honor of Nobel responded to the field’s abject failures regarding the recent financial crisis and the Great Recession? A lesser group would display humility, acknowledge its failures, and promise a fundamental rethink of the field. Neoclassical economists, however, are made of sterner stuff. The committee’s response is to praise the discipline for its theoretical advances and proposed policies related to finance, regulation, and corporate governance. Eugene Fama, Jean Tirole, Oliver Hart, and Bengt Holmstrm exemplify this pattern. This series of articles discusses the joint award in 2016 to Hart and Holmstrm. In this introduction to the series, I outline the major errors that I will address in this series.
The major errors fall into several categories. The awards, and the committee’s explanation for the awards, give us the ability to look at how the committee thinks of economics. The committee’s message is one of complacency. Economics is progressing brilliantly and now understands the key things that can go wrong in the economy and has developed optimal solutions to those problems. Given economists’ catastrophic policy proposals and predictive failures that were central to the financial crisis that is an extraordinary claim. At least one of two things must be true. Either CEOs are churlishly refusing to implement these wondrous policies, or those policies are disastrous rather than wondrous. This question never occurs to the committee. The committee is not aware of the paradox that at the same time (according to the committee’s fairy tales) economists were ‘taming the large corporation’ and creating ‘optimal’ CEO compensation contracts and governance that supposedly tame the CEO, the real world was going in the opposite direction. The policies pushed by the 2016 Laureates helped create the criminogenic environment that produced unprecedented levels of elite CEO frauds that hyper-inflated multiple bubbles, drove the global financial crisis, and produced the Great Recession.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on February 27, 2017.

Nervous Retailers Launch Ad Slamming Border Adjustment Tax

How do you know America’s retailers are nervous? They make an ad. And while usually it is meant to “incept” consumers to have a strong desire for a particular product or service, in this case the object of the ad is something every retailer across the US hates with a passion: the Border-Adjustment Tax, or BAT.
The proposed BAT, which House Republicans are looking to institute as a way to offset the loss of federal revenue from Trump’s proposed tax cuts, and to support domestic manufacturing, is loved by US exporters but hated by the retail industry because it raises taxes on imports (while encouraging exports). As a result, on Tuesday morning, the US National Retail Federation, launch the following commercial which is meant to explain the fundamental dilemma faced by retailers – and ultimately consumers – should BAT pass: consumers everywhere like low prices, while the benefits of supporting domestic manufacturing are concentrated in one industry. Rising import taxes will force retailers to pass through prices to consumers which would lead to less end demand, reduced consumption and even more carnage among the US retail sector (which as the latest results from Target demonstrate, is already in pain).


This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 28, 2017.

Norway Wealth Fund Gains $53 Billion in 2016 On Trump Rally

After previously announcing plans to withdraw at least $15 billion to fund 2017 budget deficits, the $860 billion Norwegian sovereign wealth fund announced last December that it would change it’s portfolio allocations to try to make up for the withdrawals. The change would eventually result in 75% of the fund’s capital being allocated to global equities, up from the previous 60% allocation…you know, because equities never go down so more is always better.
Now it seems that, at least for now, that bet has paid off to the tune of about $53 billion or 6.9% of the fund’s AUM. Meanwhile, the fund’s CEO, Yngve Slyngstad, attributed the gain to the Trump rally saying that “after the presidential election in the U. S., markets priced in higher growth and inflation in the global economy.” Per Bloomberg:
The $900 billion Government Pension Fund Global returned 6.9 percent in 2016, after rising 2.7 percent the previous year, the Oslo-based investor said on Tuesday. Stocks gained 8.7 percent, bonds rose 4.3 percent, and real estate investment grew 0.8 percent.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 28, 2017.

Trump’s Speech, Europe Elections, and Political Soapbox Opera

I said Father Washington, you’re all mixed up
Collecting sinners in an old tin cup
Well, spare a listen for a restless fool
There’s something missing when I read your rules
Supertramp
A Soapbox Opera
Doris has passed, other storms may be brewing, but is spring approaching? Metaphorically, this is what investors have been wondering as the reflation trade gathered steam. The economic outlook undoubtedly looks bright with macro data that is generally (and sometimes surprisingly) strong in the major regions, including the UK. Inflation is rising, but not yet to worrying levels. Global earnings growth has turned positive for the first time in a while. And consumer and business confidence have been rising to multi-year highs. So what about those storms?
Check out Pettis: Capital Flooding Into US as Global Trade Environment Deteriorates
As has been the case for much of the past decade or so, these involve political events. First, on March 15 Dutch voters are going to elect a new government. Although polls are fluctuating, the populist Freedom Party (PVV), headed by Geert Wilders, has a high probability of becoming the largest party in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, the fact that almost all other parties refuse to enter into a coalition with them will likely prevent the PVV from governing. On the other hand, trying to establish a majority government between other, but smaller, parties could become troublesome for this small but increasingly Eurosceptic country.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 02/28/2017.

Yellen and Trump Speeches Highly Anticipated by Investors

Investors will have much to mull over this week as Donald Trump gives his first address to Congress, and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks Friday. After that, the FOMC goes into their blackout period in anticipation of their March 14-15 policy meeting.
Tuesday night, Donald Trump will give his first State of the Union address to Congress, which is expected to touch on immigration, tax cuts, regulation, Obamacare, trade agreements, defense, and homeland security. Investors are hoping Trump will lay out more specifics on his tax plan and trade policy.
Gold investors are waiting on more clarity from Trump as well, with prices holding steady Monday at a 3.5 month high, according to Reuters. ‘Since the beginning of the year, the gold price has always been on the rise,’ said Jiang Shu, chief analyst at Shandong Gold Group. ‘This will draw more and more momentum traders into the market.’

This post was published at Schiffgold on FEBRUARY 28, 2017.

Cooking the Books: Saudi Aramco IPO Overvalued by 500%?

The most hyped IPO ever – but what will buyers actually get?
The world’s most valuable oil company, Saudi Aramco, is approaching its first IPO in 2018, as the government of Saudi Arabia prepares to sell off portions of the company in order fill a sovereign wealth fund crucial to the country’s transition away from an oil-based economy.
Saudi Aramco is worth $2 trillion, according to Riyadh, and its five percent initial offering could yield $200 billion. This would be the largest IPO in history, blowing away the offering of China’s Alibaba in 2014.
The problem, however, is that the company itself may not be worth as much as the Saudi government claims. Recent reports and growing skepticism regarding Aramco’s actual worth have cast some doubts on whether the world’s largest IPO will be as earth-shattering as originally thought.
The original estimate offered by Saudi Arabia, which placed Saudi Aramco’s worth at around $2 trillion, was based on a valuation of Saudi Arabia’s oil proven reserves, 261 billion barrels. Multiplying at $8 per barrel, those reserves alone are worth $2.088 trillion. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made that original estimate, it garnered some skepticism: how could any company be worth such an astronomic sum?

This post was published at Wolf Street on Feb 28, 2017.