The US Suffered 15 Billion-Dollar-Plus Weather Disasters In 2017

In the year that President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris accord and downplayed global warming as a security threat, the US received a harsh reminder of the perils of the rise in the planet’s temperature: a destructive rash of hurricanes, fires and floods.
According to Bloomberg, the US recorded 15 weather events costing $1 billion or more each through early October, one short of the record 16 in 2011, according to the federal government’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina. And that tally doesn’t include the recent wildfires in southern California, one of which grew to be the largest fire in state history, according to Bloomberg.
Among the most devastating events were hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and wildfires in northern California. The killer storms caused economic losses of more than $210 billion in the U. S. and across the Caribbean, and about $100 billion in insured damages, according to Mark Bove, a senior research scientist with Munich Reinsurance America in Princeton, New Jersey.

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

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 –.

US Dollar Has Worst Year since 2003, Defying the Fed

Where will it go from here?
Today is another down-day for the US dollar, the third in a row, capping a nasty year for the dollar, the worst since 2003. In 2017, the dollar dropped 7% against a broad basket of other currencies, as measured by the Trade Weighted Dollar Index (broad), which includes the Chinese yuan which is pegged to the US dollar. It was worse than the 5.7% drop in 2009, but not as bad the 8.5% plunge in 2003.
Here are the past four years of the dollar as depicted by the Broad Trade Weighted Dollar Index, which tracks 26 foreign currencies. The index is updated weekly, with the last update on December 26, and has not yet captured the declines of past three days:

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 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 –.

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.

Peak Good Times? Stock Market Risk Spikes to New High

Leverage, the great accelerator on the way up and on the way down.
Margin debt is the embodiment of stock market risk. As reported by the New York Stock Exchange today, it jumped 3.5%, or $19.5 billion, in November from October, to a new record of $580.9 billion. After having jumped from one record to the next, it is now up 16% from a year ago.
Even on an inflation-adjusted basis, the surge in margin debt has been breath-taking: The chart by Advisor Perspectives compares margin debt (red line) and the S&P 500 index (blue line), both adjusted for inflation (in today’s dollars). Note how margin debt spiked into March 2000, the month when the dotcom crash began, how it spiked into July 2007, three months before the Financial-Crisis crash began, and how it bottomed out in February 2009, a month before the great stock market rally began:

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 27, 2017.

The Rich Got Richer In 2017… One Trillion Dollars Richer

2017 has been a banner year for the world’s richest individuals.
Pumped by a tidal wave of central-bank driven liquidity and corporate buybacks, equity indexes around the world climbed to all-time highs this year – a phenomenon that has disproportionately benefited the world’s wealthiest, particularly the 500 individuals included in Bloomberg’s billionaires index.
By the end of trading Tuesday, Dec. 26, the 500 billionaires controlled an aggregate $5.3 trillion, a $1.1 trillion increase from their holdings on Dec. 27 2016.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest beneficiary of this Federal Reserve inspired rally was Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, who added a staggering $34.2 billion to his net worth in 2017 as Amazon shares soared above $1,000.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

In An Unexpected Outcome, Trump Tax Reform Blew Up The Treasury Market

Over the past week we have shown on several occasions that there once again appears to be a sharp, sudden dollar-funding liquidity strain in global markets, manifesting itself in a dramatic widening in FX basis swaps, which – in this particular case – has flowed through in the forward discount for USDJPY spiking from around 0.04 yen to around 0.23 yen overnight. As Bloomberg speculated, this discount for buying yen at future dates widened sharply as non-U. S. banks, which typically buy dollars now with sell-back contracts at a future date, scrambled to procure greenbacks for the year-end.
However, as Deutsche Bank’s Masao Muraki explains, this particular dollar funding shortage is more than just the traditional year-end window dressing or some secret bank funding panic.
Instead, the DB strategist observes that the USD funding costs for Japanese insurers and banks to invest in US Treasuries – which have surged reaching a post-financial-crisis high of 2.35% on 15 Dec – are determined by three things, namely (1) the difference in US and Japanese risk-free rates (OIS), (2) the difference in US and Japanese interbank risk premiums (Libor-OIS), and (3) basis swaps, which illustrate the imbalance in currency-hedged US and Japanese investments.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.