“Corker Kickback” Scandal Grows As Orrin Hatch Suddenly ‘Misremembers’ When Provision Was Added

Late last week, the GOP tax reform legislation looked to be a done deal after Senator Corker (R-TN) – who has publicly feuded with President Trump and famously compared the West Wing to an “adult daycare center” – announced he would support the tax bill after previously voting against it.
Then, Corker’s sudden change of heart took another surprising turn when it was discovered over the weekend that it came only after new language was inserted that could be worth roughly $1 million to him personally…language which has since been dubbed the “Corker Kickback“.
Now, adding to a scandal that Democrats will undoubtedly attempt to leverage in their last minute efforts to block tax reform, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) admits that he drafted the controversial language that helped flip Corker to a ‘yes’ vote, but his memory is a little more ‘fuzzy’ when it comes to recalling whether or not the provision was already incorporated in previous versions of the bill. Despite Hatch’s insistence that a similar provision was passed in the House version of the GOP’s tax bill, tax experts interviewed by the International Business Times say that’s simply not true:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

LFIN Crashes After-Hours When CEO Admits “We Don’t Deserve This Market Cap”

Update: Much to his credit, Venkat Meenavalli, the CEO of LongFin ventured onto CNBC’s FastMoney tonight to explain the exponential rise and somewhat shady acquisition strategy of his company.
Amid an increasingly rapid eruption of words – “I’m a shadow-banking guy” – and rising volume, Meenavalli seemed to struggle to convince the Fast Money skeptics that what he did was above-board, initially attempting to blindside Brian Kelly by arrogantly claiming “you don’t understand.” However, once it became clear that Kelly not only ‘understood’ but saw the glaring inconsistencies, the LongFin CEO backed away and admitted “we don’t deserve this market cap.”
The result is evident…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

2017 Has Been The Best Year For The Stock Market EVER

We have never seen a better year for stocks in all of U. S. history. Just five days after Donald Trump entered the White House, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit the 20,000 mark for the first time ever. On Monday, the Dow closed at 24,792.20, and there doesn’t seem to be any end to the rally in sight. Overall, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up more than 5,000 points so far in 2017, and that absolutely shatters all of the old records. Previously, the most that the Dow had risen in a single year was 3,472 points in 2013.
Yes, I know that it may seem odd for a website that continually chronicles our ongoing ‘economic collapse’ to be talking about a boom in stock market prices. But of course there has not been a corresponding economic boom to match the rise in stock prices. This artificial stock market bubble has been created by unprecedented central bank intervention, and every previous stock market bubble in our history has ended with a horrible crash.
But for the moment, it is certainly appropriate to be in awe of what has transpired in the financial markets in 2017. Never before have we seen the Dow close at a record high 70 times in a single year, and we still have almost two weeks to go.
Stocks have risen every single month in 2017, and that is the very first time that has ever happened as well. No matter how much bad news has come out, stock prices have just kept climbing and climbing and climbing.
Since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory last November, the Dow is up a whopping 34 percent.
34 percent!

This post was published at The Economic Collapse Blog on December 18th, 2017.

Deadly Train Derailment Likely Caused By Object “Placed On The Tracks”: AP

Update: As we mentioned lower in the boss, Monday’s deadly Amtrak train derailment in Washington state appears to have been caused by an object on the railway, according to a government official briefed on the crash.
The Associated Press reported that officials arrived at this conclusion following a brief investigation.
A preliminary investigation suggests maintenance problems are unlikely to blame because the incident took place on brand-new tracks, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
At least six people were killed and the death toll is expected to rise, the official said.
The Amtrak 501 plunged off an overpass onto I-5 near Lacey, Washington, sometime before 7:45 a.m., during its inaugural run between Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.
During an afternoon briefing on his national security strategy, President Trump expressed ‘our deepest sympathies and most heartfelt prayers for the victims,’ adding: ‘We are closely monitoring the situation and coordinating with local authorities.’
To be sure, this is still a preliminary finding. At a press conference Monday, representatives from the NTSB said the investigation is ongoing…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Wall Street Bonuses Set To Shrink Again This Year

Bankers were thrilled last year when Wall Street bonuses climbed for the first time in years after falling more than 15% in 2015. But unfortunately, even with equity markets around the world at record highs in 2017, volatility across asset class plunged this year – with the Dow seeing its least volatile year on record by some measures – has plunged, decimating bonus pools across asset classes, Bloomberg said.
As bank earnings have portended, a drop in trading revenue across asset classes over the past year will likely lead to cutbacks in the bonus pool for equity and fixed income traders.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Taxes, Balance Of Payments, & The USDollar Paradox

Investors were finally treated yesterday to some of the most important compromise provisions to come out of the House-Senate conference on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Among them were:
21% corporate rate Reduction of the top wage rate to 37% 20% deduction on pass-through income Full corporate expensing of capital investments for the next five years Repealed corporate AMT Mandatory one-time tax on corporate cash held overseas (taxed at 15%) and foreign-domiciled PP&E purchased with foreign earnings taxed at 10% $10K deduction on individual state, local, and property taxes Mortgage interest deduction on the first $750K of a mortgage Doubling of the estate tax exemption Lower individual rates are temporary and will be phased out over time Net, net, this tax reform bill could a few very notable things from a macroeconomic and balance of payments perspective if economic agents obey the incentives.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Goldman Finds Tax Reform Will Greatly Benefit The Big Banks

It’s not just the ultra rich, as well as a dazed and confused Bob Corker who is set to reap a $1+ million windfall from the passage of a tax bill which he opposed until just days ago, who will benefit from the passage of tax reform: according to Goldman Sachs among the biggest beneficiaries from the GOP tax cuts are, drumroll, the big banks. In an analysis from Goldman’s Richard Ramsden, the FDIC-insured hedge fund writes that based on its “preliminary analysis of the current tax bill under consideration by Congress, our EPS estimates for our coverage would increase by 13% on average if the US statutory rate were to be reduced to the proposed 21%, all else being equal.”
proposed tax changes (e.g., the base erosion tax, the DTA
and deemed repatriation), as well as the prospect of the bill itself
changing from the current proposal.
This is shown in the table below:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Billionaire Tycoon Will Be Next President Of Chile

Newly elected president Piera shares breakfast with president Bachelet and Min. of National Affairs Mario Fernandez, discussing transition of power. pic.twitter.com/0jC6H7116z
— SantiagoTimes (@SantiagoTimes) December 18, 2017

A billionaire who has been described as one of the world’s wealthiest politicians just won his second non-consecutive term as president of Chile when he defeated his center-left opponent in what observers are calling a landslide victory in Sunday’s election.
As the Washington Post reported, Sebastin Piera, of the right-leaning National Renovation party and conservative Let’s Go Chile coalition, defeated center-left candidate Alejandro Guillier, of the ruling New Majority coalition, by 9 percentage points, turning the current government out of office. Piera previously governed Chile between 2009 and 2014. Turnout increased between yesterday’s vote and a Nov. 19 runoff, as large numbers of conservative voters showed up at the polls, while leftists stayed home.
Guillier conceded and congratulated his opponent on his win and his return to the presidency after a four-year gap, according to the BBC.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

ESPN President Quits Due To “Substance Addiction”

Amid plummeting ratings, mass job cuts, and constant #resistance, ESPN President John Skipper has finally called it quits from running the so-called sports channel.
Here is Skipper’s statement:
Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN. I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger.
I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

‘Twas The Week Before Christmas: US Dollar Swaptions Dive To Lowest Point Since 2005 As US Treasury 30Y-2Y Curve Lowest Since Sept 2007

Twas the night week before Christmas, when all through the (financial) house
Not a creature trader was stirring, not even a mouse;
With the exception being traders sending 2Y30Y Swaptions down to their lowest level since 2005. Not to mention sending the 2Y30Y Treasury curve down to 86 basis points, the lowest since September 2007.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 18, 2017.

Key Events In The Last Week Before Christmas

It might be the last full week before Christmas – with both newsflow and trading volumes set to slide substantially – but there’s still a few interesting events and data releases to look forward to next week. Among the relatively sparse data releases schedule, we get US GDP, core PCE, housing and durable goods orders in the US, as well as CPI and GDP across Euro area and UK PMI. After last week’s central bank deluge, there are a handful of leftover DM central bank meetings include the BOJ and Riksbank, with rates expected to remain on hold for both. In Emerging markets, there will be monetary policy meetings in Czech Republic, Hungary, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Perhaps the most significant will be in China when on Monday the three-day Central Economic Work Conference kicks off. This event will see Party leaders discuss economic policies for the next year and the market will probably be most interested in the GDP growth target. Deutsche Bank economists have noted that it will be interesting to see if the government will change the tone on its growth target by lowering it explicitly from 6.5% to 6% or fine-tuning the wording to reflect more tolerance for slower growth.
Away from this, tax reform in the US will once again be a topic for markets to keep an eye on with final votes on the Republican legislation in the Senate (possibly Monday or Tuesday) and House (possibly Tuesday or Wednesday) tentatively scheduled. Also worth flagging in the US is Friday’s release of the November personal income and spending reports and the Fed’s preferred inflation measure – the core PCE print. Current market expectations are for a modest +0.1% mom rise in the core PCE which translates into a one-tenth uptick in the YoY rate to +1.5%.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Economic Stimulus Alive and Kicking in EU

Janet Yellen and company pretty much followed the script during last week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, raising interest rates another .25 percent and signaling three rate hikes in 2018.
We tend to focus primarily on Federal Reserve actions, but it’s important to remember the Fed isn’t the only central bank game in town. While it nudges interest rates slowly upward, the European Central Bank is standing pat on economic stimulus. And there’s no indication that is going to change in the near future.
With its latest rate hike, the Federal Reserve has pushed the Federal Fund Rate to 1.5%. That’s the highest we’ve seen since 2008. Even at that, we’re still well below the 5.25% peak hit during the last expansion.
Meanwhile, ECB chair Mario Draghi announced back in October that quantitative easing would live on in the EU.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 18, 2017.

Homebuilder Optimism Soars To Highest Since 1999… There’s Just One Thing

Homebuilder sentiment is at an 18-year high because crypto-hodlers can afford homes now
— Mark Constantine (@vexmark) December 18, 2017

And so it appears that America’s homebuilders – cock-a-hoop over tax reform (which caps the mortgage interest deduction?) – aren’t concerned about affordability, about rising rates, and stagnant incomes. In fact they have not been this optimistic since December 1999.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

The View From 2017’s Bridge: What Clive Hale Learned This Year

Authored by Clive Hale via The View From The Bridge blog,
As long time readers will know we do not put much credence in end of year forecasts; nor in fact forecasts in general; the Fed and the Met Office being stand out examples.
As an alternative to what is going to happen in 2018 (“Markets will fluctuate”…attrubuted to J. P. Morgan) we have put together some memorable quotes we have picked up dutring the course of 2017.
Firstly the reality about forecasting –
“Forecasts are financial candy. Forecasts give people who hate the feeling of uncertainty something emotionally soothing.” Thomac Vician Jnr student of Ed Seykota.
And equally damning is this – The Illusion of Certainty
“Many of us smile at old fashioned fortune tellers. But when the soothsayers work with computer algorithms rather than tarot cards, we take their predictions seriously and are prepared to pay for them.” – Gerd Gigerenzer
“Our industry is full of people who got famous for being right once in a row.” Howard Marks
And then we have forecasts with added hubris for good measure…
“Inflation is not where we want it to be or where it should be” Mario Draghi

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Rising Interest Rates Starting To Bite

We have long held that interest rates have been so low (especially real rates) that it will take some time to reach a level for them to really matter and impact markets. The 2-year yield crossing over the S&P500 dividend yield this past week for the first time in the last ten years is unlikely to slow the momentum driving risk markets. Nevertheless, they are getting closer to the zip code – after two years since the tightening cycle began – where they will begin to impact fundamental valuations (what is the fundamental value of Bitcoin?) and the relative pricing of risk assets. Keep it on your radar.
Long-term rates are so utterly distorted by the central banks we are not sure if the markets even pay attention anymore. Pancaking of the yield curve? Not the signal it used to be. Meh!

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Greece Is The Patsy For Europe’s Failure (And The Ordeal Is Far From Over)

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,
I feel kind of sorry this has become such a long essay. But I still left out so much. You know by now I care a lot about Greece, and it’s high time for another look, and another update, and another chance for people to understand what is happening to the country, and why. To understand that hardly any of it is because the Greeks had so much debt and all of that narrative.
The truth is, Greece was set up to be a patsy for the failure of Europe’s financial system, and is now being groomed simultaneously as a tourist attraction to benefit foreign investors who buy Greek assets for pennies on the dollar, and as an internment camp for refugees and migrants that Europe’s ‘leaders’ view as a threat to their political careers more than anything else.
I would almost say: here we go again, but in reality we never stopped going. It’s just that Greece’s 15 minutes of fame may be long gone, but its ordeal is far from over. If you read through this, you will understand why that is. The EU is deliberately, and without any economic justification, destroying one of its own member states, destroying its entire economy.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Let Them Eat (Yellow)Cake – Where The Uranium Comes From

Uranium is in high demand, as it is used as fuel in nuclear power plants around the world. Statista’s Dyfed Loesche notes that according to the German Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources BGR, Kazakhstan is the biggest producer of the radioactive metal. The central Asian country produced around 24,600 metric tons of the substance in 2016. This is a share of close to 40 percent of the worldwide production.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.