Goldman Showers Execs With $100 Million In Early Bonuses To Avoid Trump Tax Hit

Goldman Sachs has accelerated nearly $100 million in stock awards to top executives before the end of the year in order to avoid unfavorable changes in the new tax code, according to public filings posted Friday.
The most sweeping overhaul of U. S. tax code in 30 years includes a provision which caps a corporate deduction for executive pay; under current law, corporations can deduct up to $1 million per executive’s base salary, however there’s no cap on deductions for performance-based pay, such as bonuses.
Under the new provisions, both base salary and performance bonuses count towards to $1 million cap – which is why Goldman accelerated $94.8 million in bonuses originally scheduled for January, 2018. By paying the bonuses early, the bank will save money on its own tax bill.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sat, 12/30/2017 –.

The Dreaded ‘Flattening Yield Curve’ Meets QE Unwind

During prior incidents of an ‘inverted’ yield curve, the Fed had no tools to get the market to push up long-term yields. Today it has one: the QE Unwind.
The price of three-month Treasury securities fell and the yield – which moves in the opposite direction – rose, ending the year at 1.39%, after having spiked to 1.47% on December 26, the highest since September 12, 2008. This is in the upper half of the Fed’s new target range for the federal funds rate (1.25% to 1.50%). Back in October 2015, the yield was still at 0%:

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Dec 30, 2017.

The Myth of Insufficient Demand

Following the ideas of Keynes and Friedman, most mainstream economists associate economic growth with increases in the demand for goods and services.
Both Keynes and Friedman felt that The Great Depression of the 1930’s was due to an insufficiency of aggregate demand and thus the way to fix the problem is to boost aggregate demand.
For Keynes, this was achieved by having the federal government borrow more money and spend it when the private sector would not. Friedman advocated that the Federal Reserve pump more money to revive demand.
There is never such a thing as insufficient demand as such, however. An individual’s demand is constrained by his ability to produce goods. The more goods that an individual can produce the more goods he can demand, and thus acquire.
Note that the production of one individual enables him to pay for the production of the other individual. (The more goods an individual produces the more of other goods he can secure for himself. An individual’s demand therefore is constrained by his production of goods).
Note again demand cannot stand by itself and be independent – it is limited by production. Hence, what drives the economy is not demand as such but the production of goods and services.
In this sense, producers and not consumers are the engine of economic growth. Obviously, if he wants to succeed then a producer must produce goods and services in line with what other producers require.
According to James Mill,

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 29, 2017.

California Supreme Court Set For Ruling That Could Cut Pensions For Public Workers

For decades now public pensions have been guided by one universal rule which stipulates that current public employees can not be ‘financially injured’ by having their future benefits reduced. On the other hand, that ‘universal rule’ also necessarily stipulates that taxpayers can be absolutely steamrolled by whatever tax hikes are necessary to fulfill the bloated pension benefits that unions promise themselves. Alas, that one ‘universal rule’ may finally be at risk as the California Supreme Court is currently considering a case which could determine whether taxpayers have an unlimited obligation to simply fork over whatever pension benefits are demanded of them or whether there is some “reasonableness” test that must be applied. Here’s more from VC Star:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

Ron Paul Warns America’s “On The Verge Of Something Like 1989’s Soviet System Collapse”

Ron Paul does not believe the U. S. will break into separate countries, like the Soviet Union did, but expects changes in the U. S. monetary policy, as well as the crumbling of the country’s “overseas empire.”
The godfather of the Tea Party movement and perhaps the most prominent right-leaning libertarian in America, Ron Paul, believes the economic boom the United States experienced under President Trump could be a ‘bit of an illusion.’
Mr. Paul sees inequality, inflation, and debt as real threats that could potentially cause a turmoil.
‘the country’s feeling a lot better, but it’s all on borrowed money’ and that ‘the whole system’s an illusion’ built on corporate, personal, and governmental debt.
‘It’s a bubble economy in many many different ways and it’s going to come unglued,’
In a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, Paul said,
‘We’re on the verge of something like what happened in ’89 when the Soviet system just collapsed. I’m just hoping our system comes apart as gracefully as the Soviet system.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

From Crypto To Qatar – These Were The Best & Worst Assets In 2017

2017 saw global central bank balance sheets explode almost 17% higher (in USD terms) – the biggest annual increase since 2011 – and while correlation is not causation, one can’t help but see a pattern in the chart below…
Global stocks up, Global bonds up, Global commodities up, Financial Conditions easier (despite 3 Fed rate hikes), and Dollar down (most since 2003)…
As we noted earlier, Craig James, chief economist at fund manager CommSec, told Reuters that of the 73 bourses it tracks globally, all but nine have recorded gains in local currency terms this year.
‘For the outlook, the key issue is whether the low growth rates of prices and wages will continue, thus prompting central banks to remain on the monetary policy sidelines,’ said James. ‘Globalization and technological change have been influential in keeping inflation low. In short, consumers can buy goods whenever they want and wherever they are.’
Still, the good times may not last: an State Street index that gauges investor risk appetite by what they actually buy and sell, suffered its six straight monthly fall in December, Reuters reported.
“While the broader economic outlook appears increasingly rosy, as captured by measures of consumer and business confidence, the more cautious nature of investors hints at a concern that markets may have already discounted much of the good news,’ said Michael Metcalfe, State Street’s head of global macro strategy.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

The Hidden-in-Plain-Sight Mechanism of the Super-Wealthy: Money-Laundering 2.0

Financial and political power are two sides of one coin.
We all know the rich are getting richer, and the super-rich are getting super-richer. This reality is illustrated in the chart of income gains, the vast majority of which have flowed to the top .01%–not the top 1%, or the top .1% — to the very tippy top of the wealth-power pyramid:
Though all sorts of reasons have been offered to explain this trend–I’ve described the mechanisms of financialization here for years–two that don’t attract much mainstream media attention are money laundering and control fraud, i.e. changing the rules of what’s legal so what was illegal yesterday is legal today–presto-magico, illegally skimmed wealth is now “legal.”
Correspondent JD recently submitted an excellent summary of the progression from Money Laundering 1.0 to Money Laundering 2.0:
Money laundering 1.0 is making dirty money legal, control fraud is manipulating the ‘legal’ options, and money laundering 2.0 is making sure that ‘legal’ fortunes are not taxed and cannot be clawed back.”
Conventional money laundering works by shifting ill-gotten gains into legitimate banks and/or assets. Ill-gotten gains can be laundered quite easily by buying homes or businesses (in the U. S., Europe, etc.) with cash. The home or enterprises can then be sold and the net is now legit.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on DECEMBER 29, 2017.

Italian Bonds Slide As Market Realizes ECB Has Been The Only Buyer

In an otherwise calm market, Italian bonds have been sold off today, breaking away from the broader bullish sentiment amid the European bond market, with the yield on 10Y BTPs rising as much as 5bps, above 2% for the first time since October 26.
While there has been no specific catalyst, some traders are starting to factor in the potential political confusion that could result after the Italian elections due in just over 2 months. As a reminder, on March 4, voters in eurozone’s third-largest economy will head to the polls amid dwindling support for the ruling pro-EU centre-left Democratic party and rising support for the Eurosceptic opposition.
According to the FT, the likely scenarios after the vote range include a hung parliament, a grand coalition or a populist government with a much more confrontational attitude towards Brussels, including the most troubling outcome: plans to question Italy’s membership of the single currency.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

FinTwit Set To Lose Some Of Its Most Prominent Voices Due To Loss Of Anonymity

(2) The last four years has been a blast, both financially and politically. While I know many of you didn’t always agree with my snarky takes on Trump, Elon, etc., I hope I at least made you consider a different, if not ancient, point-of-view.
— Diogenes (@WallStCynic) December 29, 2017

Financial twitter is set to lose some of its more prominent “anonymous” voices in just a few days. The reason: in a decision that has passed largely under the radar, beginning in 2018, the SEC will require registered investment advisors – i.e. carbon-based asset managers, hedge funders and so on, to disclose any anonymous social media accounts, on their Form ADV.
This goes back to a recently filed amendment to Form ADV, i.e., the “Umbrella Registration” for asset managers, specifically Item 1. I. as described below by K&L Gates:
Recognizing the increasing use of social media by advisers, the SEC has also amended Item 1. I. to request information regarding the registrant’s accounts on publicly available social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Previously, Item 1. I. only asked for information about an adviser’s websites. Now, the registrant must provide, in addition to its website addresses, the addresses of each of its social media pages in Section 1. I. of Schedule D. However, a registrant should not provide the addresses of websites or accounts on publicly available social media platforms where the registrant does not the control the content, nor should it provide the website and social media addresses of its employees’ accounts, regardless of whether the registrant controls the content of such accounts.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

Stock Markets Hyper-Risky 2

The US stock markets enjoyed an extraordinary surge in 2017, shattering all kinds of records. This was fueled by hopes for big tax cuts soon since Republicans regained control of the US government. But such relentless rallying has catapulted complacency, euphoria, and valuations to dangerous bull-slaying extremes. This has left today’s beloved and lofty stock markets hyper-risky, with serious selloffs looming large.
History proves that stock markets are forever cyclical, no trend lasts forever. Great bulls and bears alike eventually run their courses and give up their ghosts. Sooner or later every secular trend yields to extreme sentiment peaking, then the markets inevitably reverse. Popular greed late in bulls, and fear late in bears, ultimately hits unsustainable climaxes. All near-term buyers or sellers are sucked in, killing the trend.
This mighty stock bull born way back in March 2009 has proven exceptional in countless ways. As of mid-December, the flagship S&P 500 broad-market stock index (SPX) has powered 297.6% higher over 8.8 years! Investors take this for granted, but it’s far from normal. That makes this bull the third-largest and second-longest in US stock-market history. And the superior bull specimens vividly highlight market cyclicality.
The SPX’s biggest and longest bull on record soared 417% higher between October 1990 and March 2000. After it peaked in epic bubble-grade euphoria, the SPX soon yielded to a brutal 49% bear market over the next 2.6 years. The SPX wouldn’t decisively power above those bull-topping levels until 12.9 years later in early 2013, thanks to the Fed’s unprecedented QE3 campaign! The greatest bull ended in tears.

This post was published at ZEAL LLC on December 29, 2017.

Global Stocks Set To Close 2017 At All Time Highs, Best Year For The Euro Since 2003

With just a few hours left until the close of the last US trading session of 2017, and most of Asia already in the books, S&P futures are trading just shy of a new all time high as the dollar continued its decline ahead of the New Year holidays.
Indeed, markets were set to end 2017 in a party mood on Friday after a year in which a concerted pick-up in global growth boosted corporate profits and commodity prices, while benign inflation kept central banks from snatching away the monetary punch bowl. As a result, the MSCI world equity index rose another 0.15% as six straight weeks and now 13 straight months of gains left it at yet another all time high.
In total, world stocks haven’t had a down month in 2017, with the index rising 22% in the year adding almost $9 trillion in market cap for the year.
Putting the year in context, emerging markets led the charge with gains of 34%. Hong Kong surged 36%, South Korea was up 22% and India and Poland both rose 27% in local currency terms. Japan’s Nikkei and the S&P 500 are both ahead by almost 20%, while the Dow has risen by a quarter. In Europe, the German DAX gained nearly 14% though the UK FTSE lagged a little with a rise of 7 percent.
Craig James, chief economist at fund manager CommSec, told Reuters that of the 73 bourses it tracks globally, all but nine have recorded gains in local currency terms this year.
‘For the outlook, the key issue is whether the low growth rates of prices and wages will continue, thus prompting central banks to remain on the monetary policy sidelines,’ said James. ‘Globalization and technological change have been influential in keeping inflation low. In short, consumers can buy goods whenever they want and wherever they are.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

MIFiD II Delays…

Talk amongst many traders is that they are so unsure how the new rules and regulations surrounding the implementation of MIFiD II (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive) are to be imposed, that some even said they were keen to extend their holidays until this mess is sorted out. In other words, until they hear that regulators will grant firms a six-month delay for part of the changes about to be implemented for both the company and country, many just do not even know how to conduct business anymore.
The most critical problem surrounding this nightmare is the fact that every trade (with a European Counterpart) will require a LEI (Legal Entity Identifier). This is not such a critical issue for Wall Street Banks since they have already won a 30-month grace period after the SEC requested time to negotiate terms with the EU. Goldman Sachs has installed another of its board members as the top negotiator inside the SEC – Alan Cohen. Goldman Sachs has now three strategic people in the Trump Administration to steer the legislation in their favor both in the USA with restoring Glass Steagall to reduce their competition (Gary Cohen & Steven Mnuchin) and they have now added Alan Cohen, who was their Head of Global Compliance.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 29, 2017.

Despite Being “Caught Red Handed”, China Denies Secretly Selling Oil To North Korea

An official statement from Chinese officials tonight smacks of Obi Wan Kenobi – ‘these are not the secret oil trades you are looking for’.

After being ‘caught RED HANDED’…according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, U. S. recon satellites have photographed around 30 illegal transactions involving Chinese vessels selling oil to North Korea on the West Sea in October. The images allegedly showed large Chinese and North Korean ships transacting in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea. The satellite pictures even showed the names of the ships.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Thu, 12/28/2017 –.

The EU Bad Loan Crisis to Get Much Worse – The Solution = Financial Pandemic

The bad loan (‘non-performing loan’ (NPL)) crisis in Europe is well known and many have been calling for this issue to be addressed. In Italy, the bad loan crisis has reached 21% of GDP. While NPLs dropped to 4.8% of all loans in the EU as a whole during the first quarter of 2017, they remained well above 40% in Greece and Cyprus, at 18.5% in Portugal, and 14.8% in Italy according to the European Banking Authority.
Now comes the bureaucrats with zero experience to save the day – or is that to create a financial pandemic in the EU? The EU Commission (EUC) along with the European Central Bank (ECB), want to ensure that banks promptly sell real estate, stocks, bonds and other assets that serve to collateralize loans according to their Mid-term Review of the Capital Markets Union Action Plan. Member States are required to adopt laws that facilitate the central directive. At this time, any bank cannot just sell a property that secures a loan. The problem is, all loans, whether secured or not, are valued the same.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 29, 2017.

Even the Government Knows the Stock Market Is a Huge Bubble

Last month, we reported on a Bank of America survey that indicated the mainstream has started to acknowledge that the stock market is a big, fat, ugly bubble.
The latest fund-manager survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that a record 48% of investors say the US stock market is overvalued. Meanwhile, 16% of investors say they are taking on above-normal risk. BoA chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett called this ‘an indicator of irrational exuberance.’
Now, even the government has taken notice, acknowledging asset prices are floating in dangerous bubble territory.
The Office of Financial Research (OFR) recently released its 2017 Annual Report. According to its analysis, market risk is flashing red, with stock market valuations at historic highs based on several metrics.

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

Trump Warns China – “No Friendly Solution” If They Keep Cheating On Korean Oil Exports

Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2017

President Trump took aim at President Xi this morning in a very clear tweeted warning that follows US spy satellite evidence that showed China allowing oil exports to North Korea.
Trump exclaimed “caught red-handed” and said he was “very disappointed” by China’s actions. Perhaps more notable is that he explained “there’s no friendly solution” if this continues…
As a reminder, this is what President Trump is upset about, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, U. S. recon satellites have photographed around 30 illegal transactions involving Chinese vessels selling oil to North Korea on the West Sea in October. The images allegedly showed large Chinese and North Korean ships transacting in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea. The satellite pictures even showed the names of the ships.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Thu, 12/28/2017 –.

The Wall Street Journal Does a Hit Piece on Trump’s Vacations

The Wall Street Journal is trying to match The Washington Post for anti-Trump investigative journalism.
Consider this article: President Trump Spent Nearly One-Third of First Year in Office at Trump-Owned Properties. It is a screed on Trump’s time spent vacationing.
It has a subhead: “Unlike his predecessors, president traveled frequently to places he owns but where others pay to stay.” That is because his predecessors did not own several billion dollars’ worth of prime vacation real estate.
Would you rather stay at a Motel 6 or Mir-a-Lago if someone else was picking up the tab? To ask the question is to answer it.
I, for one, applaud the time that he spends vacationing. Any time that a politician spends doing anything other than legislating is time well spent. When they are busy “making things better” by expanding the government, citizens are losers. They lose a little more of their liberty.
Earlier this year, The Washington Examiner reported this.

This post was published at Gary North on December 28, 2017.

NY Gov Rips Trump Tax Bill: “Let’s Pillage The Blue To Give To The Red”

It seems that Trump’s tax plan has officially turned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo into a “trickle down” economics guy.
Apparently unhappy that the new tax legislation will result in higher taxes for the “millionaire, billionaire, private jet owners” of his state who have mortgages over $750,000 and annual property taxes of over $10,000, Cuomo said that the White House’s efforts to “spread the wealth around” are nothing more than an effort to “pillage the blue to give to the red.”
“Look, there’s always politics in crafting of legislation. But, this was an egregious, obnoxious…what the Senate was saying is because we have no Senators from the ‘Blue States’ we don’t care. So let’s pillage the blue to give to the red.”
“That’s never been done in this nation before. That’s partisan politicking over any semblance of good government.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Thu, 12/28/2017 –.

What Has Made America’s Inner Cities Into A Violent Warzone

The stories coming out from Chicago and Baltimore paint an increasingly pessimistic picture: that America’s inner cities are transitioning into a warzone, where violence has returned to levels not seen since the drug wars of the early 1990s.
Take for example Chicago, five men were killed and at least 20 people shot over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend. Last year, 59 people were shot over the same period, leaving 11 dead.
Across the United States, homicides rose about 9% last year with more than one-third of the increase concentrated in Chicago neighborhoods, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Despite the overall deterioration of American inner cities, there was some improvement in areas such as Los Angeles and Washington, D. C., where declines in violent crimes have been in downward trajectories since the 1990s.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Thu, 12/28/2017 –.