“Project Fear” Architect Now Thinks Brexit Will Have “Limited Impact” On UK Economy

Lord Macpherson, the UK civil servant dubbed “The Architect of Project Fear,” now believes Brexit’s negative impact on the British economy will be limited if it is handled correctly…
As a reminder, The FT points out, that Lord Macpherson was at the helm of the Treasury when his officials compiled a report suggesting that a post-Brexit, Canada-style trade deal with the EU would ultimately lower UK economic output by 6.2 per cent, costing British households 4,300 a year.
The report, published in April 2016, came out a month after Lord Macpherson ended his decade as permanent secretary at the Treasury and was denounced by Brexiters for what they believe was scaremongering about the economic consequences of Brexit.
Well, he has changed his mind, as economists do when faced with reality.
Macpherson is now a little more upbeat.
“Brexit is a risk but its economic impact should be limited provided [the government] seizes policy opportunity and looks forward not back,” he said in a tweet a few days before Christmas.

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

Consumers Are Smarter than Bureaucrats Think

Despite the name of this government agency, Canada’s Competition Bureau lacks an appreciation of the nature of competition. Moreover, the Bureau’s actions can be seen as an insult to Canadians, as it fails to acknowledge the ability of discriminating consumers to recognize uncompetitive offerings. As the Bureau pretends to be the consumers’ guardian angel, it wastes taxpayers’ dollars on counterproductive activities.
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) operates numerous department stores in Canada. They say they have spent more than US$425,000 and invested more than 6,500 person-hours to produce 37,000 documents in response to the Competition Bureau’s complaint made last February. According to The Canadian Press, the Competition Bureau
is suing Hudson’s Bay Co., alleging that the retailer engaged in deceptive pricing practices for four years …
The Competition Bureau claims HBC misled customers over the prices of mattresses and box springs sold together since at least March 2013 …
‘The regular prices of the sleep sets were so inflated above what the market would bear that sales at the regular price were virtually non-existent,’ reads the filing.
HBC listed a Mount Royal tight top queen sleep set at $1,998 and then a sale price of $788 in 2014, for example, but never sold one at the regular price, the agency says.
So, HBC supposedly ‘engaged in deceptive pricing practices’ which the Bureau defines as misleading customers about prices. Nonsense. The Bureau reveals its own bureaucratic idiocy when it contradicts itself by admitting that no sales were made at the inflated price.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 23, 2017.

Canadian Housing Affordability Hits 27 Year Low

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a 27 year low for Canadian housing affordability. That’s right, real estate across Canada has not been this un affordable since the year 1990 per RBC. Spoiler alert house prices tumbled shortly thereafter.
RBC Bank released their updated Q3 numbers for housing affordability. To no surprise, Vancouver leads the nation in the most unaffordable market to buy a home. Followed by Toronto and then Victoria.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.

Canadian Homeowners Take Out HELOCs To Fund Subprime Purchases

The HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) has been a blessing and a curse for Canadian households. While it has helped spur house prices and simultaneously provided consumers the ability to tap into their new found equity, it has also crippled many Canadian households into a debt trap that seems insurmountable.
Between 2000 and 2010, HELOC balances soared from $35 billion to $186 billion, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, an average annual growth rate of 20%.
As of 2016, HELOC balances sit at $211 billion, a 500% increase since the year 2000. While also pushing Canadian household debt to incomes to record highs of 168%.
Scott Terrio, a debt consultant, says the situation is a full blown ‘extend and pretend’ meaning borrowers are just continuously refinancing or taking on more and more debt in order to sustain their lifestyle. Canadians can extend their debt repayment terms and pretend to live a lifestyle they can’t otherwise obtain.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 21, 2017.

Bank of Canada’s Poloz Is Right to Be Worried

Three possibilities come to mind. By Peter Diekmeyer, Canada, for Sprott Money: Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz cited numerous worries plaguing the economy during his speech to Toronto’s financial elites at the prestigious Canadian Club. However, the title of Poloz’s presentation, ‘Three things keeping me awake at night’ seemed odd, given positive recent Canadian employment, GDP and other data.
Poloz highlighted high personal debts, housing prices, cryptocurrencies and other causes for concern, along with actions that the BoC is taking to alleviate them. His implicit message was (as always) ‘We have things under control.’ But if that’s all true, then Canada’s central bank governor should be sleeping like a baby. So, what is really keeping Mr. Poloz up at night? Three possibilities come to mind.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 17, 2017.

Canada Home Values Hit ‘First Quarterly Decline since Q1 2009’ as Household Debt Binge Hits New High

How exposed are over-indebted household to rising interest rates?
Household debt in Canada rose to a new record of C$2.11 trillion in the third quarter 2017, up 5.2% from a year ago and up 10.7% from two years ago, Statistics Canada said on Thursday in its quarterly report on national balance sheets. Mortgages accounted for 65.6% of the total. Canada’s infamous household-debt-to-disposable income ratio, one of the highest in the world, rose to a breath-taking record of 173.3%.
The ratio means that households, on average, owed C$173.3 for every dollar of after-tax income earned. This chart shows how the indebtedness in relationship to after-tax income has soared since 2001, when Canada’s housing boom took off in earnest:

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 14, 2017.

Canadian Homeowners Take Out HELOCs to Fund Subprime Buyers Unable to get a Mortgage

The Housing & Debt Bubble ascends to the next level of risk.
By Steve Saretsky, Vancouver, Canada, Vancity Condo Guide:
The HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) has been a blessing and a curse for Canadian households. While it has helped spur house prices and simultaneously provided consumers the ability to tap into their new found equity, it has also crippled many Canadian households into a debt trap that seems insurmountable.
Between 2000 and 2010, HELOC balances soared from $35 billion to $186 billion, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, an average annual growth rate of 20%. As of 2016, HELOC balances sit at $211 billion, a 500% increase since the year 2000. While also pushing Canadian household debt to incomes to record highs of 168%.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Steve Saretsky ‘ Dec 13, 2017.

Toronto’s Housing Bubble Is Crushing The Strip Club Industry

Until now, Canada’s soaring housing prices were just another innocent asset bubble spawned by low interest rates and an endless supply of Chinese cash that needed to get laundered. That said, massive bubbles are almost always followed by severe unintended consequences that can have a crippling impact on society as a whole…and in Toronto those unintended consequences are now manifesting themselves in the form of a rapidly deteriorating supply of strip clubs.
As Bloomberg points out today, the soaring value of Toronto real estate has made it all but impossible for strip club owners to turn down multi-million offers from condo developers leaving only a dozen strip clubs in a city whose purple neon lights used to be easily visible from the distant fringes of our solar system.
Condos are killing the Toronto strip club. In a city that once had more than 60 bars with nude dancers, only a dozen remain, the rest replaced by condominiums, restaurants, and housewares stores. Demand for homes downtown and for the retailers that serve them is driving land prices to records, tempting owners of the clubs, most of which are family-run, to sell at a time when business is slowing.
‘Sometimes I feel like the last living dinosaur along Yonge Street,’ says Allen Cooper, the second-generation owner of the famous – or infamous – Zanzibar Tavern. The former divorce lawyer says he has been approached by at least 30 suitors for his property in the past few years but is holding out for a ‘blow my socks off’ offer. ‘I don’t know how many condos we’re going to get, but it seems like just a wall’ of them, Cooper says.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2017.

Would A Leveraged Buyout Help Sears Turnaround Its Business?

Practically since the day he took the reins at Sears, CEO and Chairman Eddie Lampert has been steadily stripping the once mighty retailing behemoth of assets and protecting his hedge fund’s investment as the company continues its steady march toward bankruptcy.
Any customer with the temerity to visit one of the remaining Sears or K-Mart stores will be greeted with the same depressing vision: Shelves that are mostly vacant of the most popular consumer brands, as many of Sears’ suppliers have become wary of working with the company. Displays are unkempt, and even the selection of appliances that were once Sears’ bread and butter has been dramatically reduced.
Back in October, Sears Canada announced its plans to liquidate, leaving behind only this video to remind investors and customers just how bad things got before the plug was pulled.
But despite all of this, Swiss asset manager Memento, a firm that primarily manages assets belonging to Switzerland’s Spadone family, believes the short-selling of Sears’ stock is the most pressing obstacle plaguing the floundering retailer.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 7, 2017.

Get Government out of the Welfare Business

Fighting poverty is a favorite pastime of government because politicians get to portray themselves as champions of the poor. However, the unfortunate few tend to be far fewer in number when aid is extended privately instead of through tax funded programs.
Government Bureaucracies Benefit from Welfare Programs
Coercion is used to acquire the revenue (taxes) to finance welfare programs. As evidenced by the commission it retains prior to redistributing this wealth, government bureaucracies are one of the beneficiaries of these programs, and thus highly incentivized to claim a perpetual need for the programs. I live in Canada, where the number of federal government welfare program employees increased by 43% between 2006 and 2012. Clearly, it serves the interests of politicians and bureaucrats to create (impose) a culture of dependency. As Murray Rothbard wrote in For a New Liberty:
Since welfare families are paid proportionately to the number of their children, the system provides an important subsidy for the production or more children. Furthermore, the people being induced to have more children are precisely those who can afford it least; the result can only be to perpetuate their dependence on welfare, and, in fact, to develop generations who are permanently dependent on the welfare dole.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 4, 2017.

Key Events In The Coming Week: Jobs, Brexit, PMI, IP And More

The first full week of December is shaping up as rather busy, with such Tier 1 data in the US as the payrolls report, durable goods orders and trade balance. We also get UK PMI data and GDP, retail sales across the Euro Area, as well as central bank meetings including Australia RBA and BoC monetary policy meeting.
Key events per RanSquawk
Monday: UK PM May To Meet EU’s Juncker & Barnier Tuesday: UK Services PMI (Nov), RBA MonPol Decision Wednesday: BoC MonPol Decision, Australian GDP (Q3) Friday: US Payrolls Report (Nov), Japan GDP (Q3, 2nd) The week’s main event takes place on Friday with the release of November’s US labour market report. Consensus looks for the headline nonfarm payrolls to show an addition of 188K jobs, slowing from October’s 261K. Average hourly earnings growth is expected to slow to 0.3% M/M from 0.5%, while the unemployment rate and average hours worked are expected to hold steady at 4.1% and 34.4 respectively. Hurricane induced volatility should be absent from the November release, and consensus points to a headline print much more in-keeping with trend rate.
Other key data releases next week include the remaining October services and composite PMIs on Tuesday in Asia, Europe and the US, ISM non-manufacturing in the US on Tuesday, ADP employment report on Wednesday and China trade data on Friday.
Focus will also fall on Wednesday’s Bank of Canada (BoC) interest rate decision, with the majority looking for the Bank to leave its key interest rate unchanged at 1.00%, although 3 of the 31 surveyed by Reuters are looking for a 25bps hike. Following the BoC’s back-to-back rate hikes in Q3, interest rate markets were pricing in a 40-50% chance of a hike at the upcoming decision, that has now pared back to 25% as the BoC has sounded more cautious in recent addresses, highlighting that it expected the economy to slow (GDP growth moderated to 1.7% in Q3 on a Q/Q annualised basis, from 4.3% in Q2) while stressing that it remains data dependant. RBC highlights that ‘the BoC has been focused on the consumer’s reaction to the earlier hikes and is content to wait-and-see for the moment. Wage growth – another key metric for the central bank – has improved in recent employment reports (reaching the highest level of growth since April 2016 in November’s report). Despite its softer tone, the BoC continues to stress that ‘less monetary stimulus will likely be required over time’ and as a result the statement will be scoured for any changes in tone. At the time of writing, markets are pricing a 57.2% chance of a 25bps hike in January, with such a move 91.0% priced by the end of March.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 4, 2017.

Senate Approves Trump’s Tax Reform

The U. S. Senate on Saturday narrowly approved a tax reform, moving Republicans and President Donald Trump a big step closer to their goal of slashing taxes which will create an economic boom in the United States and draw-in capital from around the globe.
This will put tremendous pressure upon Europe, Canada, and even Japan which all tax their economies significantly to the suppression of economic growth. The United States will have the lowest unemployment rate if this passes compared to the lost generation in Europe of high unemployed youth.
Armstrong Economics

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 2, 2017.

Australian Banks – First The Housing Bubble Bursts, Now A Public Inquiry

We keep returning to the subject of Australia and the growing signs that its bubble economy is bursting. Earlier this month, we discussed how the world’s longest-running bull market – 55 years – in Australian house prices appears to have come to an end. We followed this up with ‘Why Australia’s Economy Is A House Of Cards’ in which Matt Barrie and Craig Tindale described how Australia’s three decades long economic expansion had mostly been the result of ‘dumb luck’.
As a whole, the Australian economy has grown through a property bubble inflating on top of a mining bubble, built on top of a commodities bubble, driven by a China bubble.
Last week, in “The Party’s Over For Australia’s $5.6 Trillion Housing Market Frenzy”, we highlighted some scary metrics for Australia’s housing bubble – notably how the value of Australian housing is more than four times gross domestic product – higher than other nations with housing bubbles, e.g. New Zealand, the UK and Canada. Two days ago, we noted the number of Australians optimistic about the year ahead had plunged to a record low.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 30, 2017.

Is The Left Self-Destructing, Or Is Something Else Going On?

The temptation to revel in the implosion of the extreme political Left is high, and it’s understandable. I could go through a long list of insane offenses by the cultural Marxist cult of the church of “social justice,” but I think this latest example summarizes the problem nicely. In this video, teaching assistant Lindsay Shepard at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada is reprimanded and brow beaten by two professors for daring to commit the heresy of showing her students BOTH sides of the debate over transgenderism and pronoun politics.
The zealotry on display here by these professors is indicative of a deep-rooted cancer within the Left. Shepard was not attempting to troll her class with misinformation or subtly manipulate them with propaganda, in fact she wasn’t seeking to pressure them to support either viewpoint. She was not violating anyone’s private property rights to assail them with her arguments, either. Her only goal was to show people in a public space that there are in fact at least two opposing viewpoints on the issue in question. But in a cult it is unacceptable to acknowledge that there are different ways of thinking from the prevailing doctrine. Other beliefs and evidence must be filtered out completely, otherwise, the devout members of the cult might be faced with uncertainty.
If an ideological system is so fragile that it cannot tolerate the slightest hint of legitimate counter-evidence, then something is very wrong with that system. If that system is incapable of arguing its merits using facts and instead relies on the argument of “How dare you!,” the only things that could possibly keep it alive are threats of force and terror.

This post was published at Alt-Market on Thursday, 30 November 2017.

Canadian Households Most Debt-Heavy in the World

Time to get some financial consulting from those who are not paid to sell us debt and risk. Listening to the banks/broker/dealers/auto sellers have dug undisciplined households a very deep hole. Debt weight will continue to hold back our economy, savings, and investment until it is paid down and written off over the coming years and months. In a heavily indebted world, Canada is leading the pack in terms of household debt to GDP. Nothing to be proud of here. This data is at the end of Q4 last year, debt has climbed further in 2017.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 11/29/2017.

As Australia’s Housing Bubble Bursts, Optimism For The Year Ahead Crashes To Record Low

Zero Hedge readers might have noted our increasingly bearish tone on all things Australian – economic that is, since the cricket team just whipped the English in the first test match in Brisbane. The focal point of our concern is the housing market and, earlier this month, we discussed how the world’s longest-running bull market – 55 years – in Australian house prices appears to have come to an end. We followed this up with ‘Why Australia’s Economy Is A House Of Cards’ in which Matt Barrie and Craig Tindale described how Australia’s three decades long economic expansion had mostly been the result of ‘dumb luck’.
As a whole, the Australian economy has grown through a property bubble inflating on top of a mining bubble, built on top of a commodities bubble, driven by a China bubble.
Last week, in “The Party’s Over For Australia’s $5.6 Trillion Housing Market Frenzy”, we highlighted some scary metrics for Australia’s housing bubble cited by Bloomberg. In particular, we showed how the value of Australian housing is more than four times gross domestic product. This is higher than other western nations, like New Zealand, Canada and the UK, which are experiencing their own housing bubbles. The ratio of house values to GDP in the US seems positively tame in comparison.

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

Whose Private-Sector Debt Will Implode Next: US, Canada, China, Eurozone, Japan?

Canadians, fasten your seat-belt. Here are the charts. The Financial Crisis in the US was a consequence of too much debt and too much risk, among numerous other factors, and the whole house of cards came down. Now, after eight years of experimental monetary policies and huge amounts of deficit spending by governments around the globe, public debt has ballooned. Gross national debt in the US just hit $20.5 trillion, or 105% of GDP. But that can’t hold a candle to Japan’s national debt, now at 250% of GDP.
And private-sector debt, which includes household and business debts – how has it fared in the era of easy money?
In the US, total debt to the private non-financial sector has ballooned to $28.5 trillion. That’s up 14% from the $25 trillion at the crazy peak of the Financial Crisis and up 63% from 2004.
In relationship to the economy, private sector debt soared from 147% of GDP in 2004 to 170% of GDP in the first quarter of 2008. Then it all fell apart. Some of this debt blew up and was written off. For a little while consumers and businesses deleveraged just a tiny little bit, before starting to borrow once again.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Nov 22, 2017.

Nebraska Regulators Approve Keystone Pipeline Route Days After South Dakota Leak, Shutdown

TransCanada received its final required pipeline route approval, winning Nebraska’s permission to build its long-delayed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline across the state… just days after a 5,000 barrel spill in South Dakota shut the pipeline.
The decision will almost certainly be challenged in court.
Just a few short days after 210,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in South Dakota, Bloomberg reports that Nebraska’s Public Service Commission voted three to two Monday, removing one of the last hurdles to the Calgary-based company’s construction of the $8 billion, 1,179-mile conduit (1,897-kilometer), which has been on its drawing boards since 2008.
For those who aren’t familiar with the project, the pipeline links Canada’s Alberta oil sands to U. S. refineries. While a portion of the pipeline has been operating, part of it had still not been approved by state regulators… until today’s decision by Nebraska.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 20, 2017.

Canadians Paying Dearly for Their Housing

Another housing study has come to familiar conclusions: Canada boasts the least affordable housing in North America. With a median family income of just under $65,000 a year, it would take 7.5 years for a family to pay off the median-priced home valued at 485K. That’s if they were able to live on air and direct every single dime of income to pay off just their home for 7.5 years.
According to the latest International Housing Affordability Survey, a multiple of 3x income and under is considered affordable, and multiples over 5.1 are considered severely unaffordable. In Vancouver, this multiple is now 17.3 and in the greater Toronto area 7.5x. You can look up comparables on other NA cities at this link.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 11/17/2017.