This post was published at ChrisMartensondotcom
In August 1914, Europe’s major powers threw themselves into war with gleeful abandon. Germany, a rising power with vast aspirations, plowed across Belgium, seeking to checkmate France quickly before Russia could mobilize, thereby averting the prospect of a two-front war. Thousands of young Germans, anticipating a six-week conflict, boarded troop trains singing the optimistic refrain: ‘Ausflug nach Paris. Auf Widersehen auf dem Boulevard.’ (‘Excursion to Paris. See you again on the Boulevard.’)
The French were eager to avenge the loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1870. The British government, leery of Germany’s growing power, mobilized hundreds of thousands of young men to ‘teach the Hun a lesson.’ Across the continent, writes British historian Simon Rees, ‘millions of servicemen, reservists and volunteers … rushed enthusiastically to the banners of war…. The atmosphere was one of holiday rather than conflict.’
Each side expected to be victorious by Christmas. But as December dawned, the antagonists found themselves mired along the Western Front – a static line of trenches running for hundreds of miles through France and Belgium. At some points along the Front, combatants were separated by less than 100 feet. Their crude redoubts were little more than large ditches scooped out of miry, whitish-gray soil. Ill-equipped for winter, soldiers slogged through brackish water that was too cold for human comfort, but too warm to freeze.
The unclaimed territory designated No Man’s Land was littered with the awful residue of war – expended ammunition and the lifeless bodies of those on whom the ammunition had been spent. The mortal remains of many slain soldiers could be found grotesquely woven into barbed wire fences. Villages and homes lay in ruins. Abandoned churches had been appropriated for use as military bases.
This post was published at Mises Canada on DECEMBER 27, 2017.
While the establishment may breathe a sigh of relief looking back at political developments and events in Europe – which was spared some of the supposedly “worst-case scenarios” including a Marine le Pen presidency, a Merkel loss and a Geert Wilders victory – in 2017, any victory laps will have to be indefinitely postponed because as Goldman writes in its “Top of Mind” peek at 2018, Europe’s nationalist and populist tide was just resting, and as Pascal Lamy, the former Chief of Staff to the President of the European Commission admitted earlier this year, “Euroskeptic politicians are largely following the pulse of domestic sentiment. The fact is that the public is less enthusiastic about Europe than it once was.”
Echoing the sentiment by the europhile, Goldman’s Allison Nathan writes that while the Euro area’s most immediate political risks – i.e., populist or euroskeptic parties winning key elections this year – did not materialize, these movements have continued to gain traction.
In the Dutch elections in March, the far-right Party for Freedom performed worse than polls had once predicted, but still increased its share of the vote relative to the 2012 elections. It remains the second-largest party in parliament. In France, concerns about the prospect of Marine Le Pen winning the presidency gave way to optimism over Emmanuel Macron’s reform agenda; nonetheless, Le Pen posted the best-ever showing for her party in a presidential race. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU retained the largest number of seats in the Bundestag, but the far-right Alternative fr Deutschland (AfD) entered it for the first time with 13% of the vote. And elsewhere in Europe, populist parties on various parts of the political spectrum performed well enough to participate in government coalitions; indeed, an anti-establishment candidate in the Czech Republic recently became prime minister Some other observations and lessons from recent European events in the twilight days of 2017:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 26, 2017.
No one else I know can muster as much deep experience and insight into the sprawling, incendiary world of geopolitics as my good friend George Friedman, founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures; and in today’s Outside the Box – part 2 of my 8-part SIC Speaker Series – George brings all his powers to bear to issue quite a declamatory statement on the present and future of the European Union.
George’s argument can be summarized as ‘the center cannot hold.’ With Brexiteers on its western front and unruly right-wingers on its eastern wing in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, the EU is sore beset. But as George notes, the center is quietly debating whether that might not be a good thing:
There has been some talk in the central region of either creating a separate union consisting of Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, or creating a bloc within the existing bloc. The point would be for these countries to stop being responsible for countries not ready to operate at the center’s level of performance. It would mean that southern Europe, with its economic problems, and Eastern Europe, with its distinctly different political culture, could go their own way.
That is what I would call a desperate conversation. Far from ever achieving a ‘United States of Europe,’ the EU members will be lucky (or maybe not so much) if they can retain their economic union. George agrees, and he has concluded that dissolution is inevitable:
This post was published at Mauldin Economics on DECEMBER 20, 2017.
In 1845, during a period when there was a rising tide of protectionism in France, the French economist Frederic Bastiat (pictured above) wrote a famous satirical parable known as ‘The Candlemakers’ Petition.’ In that famed economic fable, Bastiat humorously wrote to the French parliament on behalf of French candlemakers and lantern makers and lobbied the French government to enact protectionist legislation against the unfair competition of a foreign rival – the sun. I’ve taken the liberty of channeling my ‘inner Bastiat’ to revise and modernize ‘The Candlemakers’ Petition’ for today’s protectionist climate that is being advanced by a president the Wall Street Journal referred to as ‘the first authentic protectionist to win the White House since the 1920s.’
Here’s my 2017 version of ‘The Candlemakers’ Petition.’
A PETITION: From the American Lighting Association (a trade association representing the US lighting industry), US lighting and bulb manufacturers including Aero-Tech Light Bulb, American Light Bulb Manufacturing Company, LedRadiant, Morstar Electric, and LED-Green, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (the trade union representing America’s electrical workers).
An Open Letter to President Trump on behalf of the US lighting industry.
You are on the right track when it comes to international trade. You reject abstract economic theories about trade and have no time for the claims that economic abundance and ‘making America great again’ can come from low import prices. For political purposes, you correctly concern yourself with the fate of US producers and US workers, and wisely ignore US consumers. You wish to protect US producers and manufacturers from more efficient foreign rivals, that is, to rightfully reserve the American market for American producers and their American workers to ‘make America great again.’
This post was published at Mises Canada on DECEMBER 19, 2017.
When yesterday we discussed the latest troubles facing embattled retailer Steinhoff, whose bonds are owned by none other than the ECB, we said that while the company’s bonds mature in 2025, its bankruptcy is at most months away. In retrospect, and in light of the latest news, that may have been optimistic, because it now appears that a bankruptcy may be imminent and is at most just weeks away. According to Bloomberg, Steinhoff – which is facing an accounting scandal that led to the recent departure of its CEO and destroyed most of the company’s value – said lenders are starting to cut off support.
The reason why Steinhoff is suddenly facing not only a solvency but liquidity crisis is that the company which owns Conforama in France, Mattress Firm in the U. S. and Poundland in the U. K. isn’t yet able to assess the magnitude of financial irregularities disclosed two weeks ago, it said in a presentation to lenders in London on Tuesday (presentation below). The South African company also said it didn’t know when it would be able to publish audited results for 2017 and 2016, nor whether additional years will need to be restated.
Furthermore, Steinhoff also revealed that it didn’t have ‘detailed visibility’ of the cash flows of individual operating companies. The units rely on the company for working capital and ‘the forecast position for each operating company is evolving daily,’ it said. PricewaterhouseCoopers has been hired to investigate the accounts, while AlixPartners LLP is working on an analysis of the cash flow.
In short, the company is flying blind with no budgeting and no corporate overnight.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.
First it was the Chinese, now it’s the Europeans, as the rest of the world is suddenly very unhappy with the prospect of US tax reform (or maybe it is an unexpectedly strong US economy). As we discussed yesterday, with the historic Trump tax reforms on the verge of passage and the Fed’s dot plot signalling another 7-8 rate hikes (soon to be revised much lower), China is nervous that the capital outflows, which it thought it had bottled up, might be about to return. China is preparing a contingency plan which includes ‘higher interest rates, tighter capital controls and more-frequent currency intervention to keep money at home and support the yuan’.
Amusingly, the Wall Street Journal quoted a Chinese official who described Washington’s tax plan as a ‘gray rhino’. The latter is a combination of an ‘elephant in the room’ and a ‘black swan’, i.e. a high probability threat which people should see coming, but don’t. The focal point of China’s fears is the Yuan, which the authorities have spent so much time and effort stabilising during the last two years. Speaking to the WSJ, the Chinese official sounded a warning: ‘We’ll likely have some tough battles in the first quarter.’
Switching to Europe and five European finance ministers have sent a letter criticising the US for undermining the ‘rules of the game’ and international trade. Notwithstanding Brexit, the signatories included the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, as well as his counterparts in Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Essentially, the European nations are warning the US that it risks starting a trade dispute.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2017.
U. S. equity index futures pointed to early gains and fresh record highs, following Asian markets higher, as European shares were mixed and oil was little changed, although it is unclear if anyone noticed with bitcoin stealing the spotlight, after futures of the cryptocurrency began trading on Cboe Global Markets.
In early trading, European stocks struggled for traction, failing to capitalize on gains for their Asian counterparts after another record close in the U. S. on Friday. On Friday, the S&P 500 index gained 0.6% to a new record after the U. S. added more jobs than forecast in November and the unemployment rate held at an almost 17-year low. In Asia, the Nikkei 225 reclaimed a 26-year high as stocks in Tokyo closed higher although amid tepid volumes. Equities also gained in Hong Kong and China. Most European bonds rose and the euro climbed. Sterling slipped as some of the promises made to clinch a breakthrough Brexit deal last week started to fray.
‘Strong jobs U. S. data is giving investors reason to buy equities,’ said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. ‘The better-than-expected jobs number supports the outlook that there is a synchronized global economic upturn led by the U. S.”
The dollar drifted and Treasuries steadied as investor focus turned from US jobs to this week’s central bank meetings. Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index pared early gains as losses for telecom and utilities shares offset gains for miners and banks. Tech stocks were again pressured, with Dialog Semiconductor -4.1%, AMS -1.9%, and Temenos -1.7% all sliding. Volume on the Stoxx 600 was about 17% lower than 30-day average at this time of day, with trading especially thin in Germany and France.
The dollar dipped 0.1 percent to 93.801 against a basket of major currencies, pulling away from a two-week high hit on Friday.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 11, 2017.
The rationale for creating WeWork, the eco-friendly serviced workspace provider, was simple as co-founder Adam Neumann explained to the New York Daily News.
‘During the economic crises, there were these empty buildings and these people freelancing or starting companies. I knew there was a way to match the two. What separates us, though, is community.’ It wasn’t a bad idea since the company was recently valued at $20 billion. The first WeWork location was established in New York’s fashionable SoHo district (above) in 2010. Only four years later, Wikipedia notes that WeWork was the ‘fastest growing lessee of new office space in New York’. The company currently manages office space in 23 cities across the United States and in 21 other countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, France, Germany and the UK.
WeWork’s growth has been little short of stratospheric, and investors have included heavyweight financial names such as JP Morgan. T. Rowe Price, Goldman, Wellington Management and Softbank. As Bloomberg reports, WeWork is about to repeat its success in New York and other cities by becoming the largest private lessee of office space in London. However, some old-school property developers are predicting that WeWork’s break-neck expansion is ill-timed.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 8, 2017.
Once France was one of ‘the great powers’, dominating Europe and parts of the world in terms of culture and economy. The country’s demise started after the Second World War, though it still played a key role in the creation of the European Union and the euro, which was to prevent Germany from subjugating the rest of the continent.
However, this strategy has failed and Berlin has become Europe’s capital, with France’s importance ever dwindling.
France’s population is slowly being substituted for by people from Africa. Renaud Camus calls it the ‘grand replacement’. Paris, once a European, then a global is slowly turning into an African metropolis. If French elites, whose influence in Europe is fading, want to remain a world power, they can only opt for Africa. Qaddafi, the king of the kings, became a threat to France’s interests on the continent. It were not the Americans that pushed for Qaddafi’s replacement but the French elites.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 1, 2017.
US equity futures continued their push higher into record territory overnight (ES +0.1%), and the VIX is 1.5% lower and back under 10, after yesterday’s blistering surge in US stocks which jumped 1%, the most since Sept. 11, following Powell’s deregulation promise, ahead of today’s 2nd estimate of U. S. Q3 GDP which is expected to be revised up. U. S. Senate Budget Committee sent the tax bull to the full chamber to vote, and on Wednesday Senators are expected to vote to begin debating the bill. It wasn’t just the S&P: MSCI’s all-country world index was at yet another record peak after all four major Wall Street indexes notched up new highs on Tuesday. Finally, completing the trifecta of records, and the biggest mover of the overnight session by far, was bitcoin which topped $10,000 in a buying frenzy which saw it go from $9,000 to $10,000 in one day, and which is on its way to rising above $11,000 just hours later.
In macro, the dollar steadies as interbank traders and hedge funds fade its rally this week; today’s major event will be testimony by outgoing Fed chair Janet Yellen after Powell said there is no sign of an overheating economy; the euro has rallied on strong German regional inflation while pound surges on Brexit bill deal news; yields on 10-year gilts climb amid broad bond weakness; stocks rise while commodities trade mixed.
In Asia, equity markets were mixed for a bulk of the session as the early euphoria from the rally in US somewhat petered out as China woes persisted (recovered in the latter stages of trade). ASX 200 (+0.5%) and Nikkei 225 (+0.5%) traded higher. Korea’s KOSPI was cautious following the missile launch from North Korea, while Shanghai Comp. (+0.1%) and Hang Seng (+-0.2%) initially remained dampened on continued deleveraging and regulatory concerns before paring losses into the latter stages of trade. Notably, China’s PPT emerged again with Chinese stock markets rallied in late trade, with the CSI 300 Index of mainly large-cap stocks paring a drop of as much as 1.3% to close 0.1% lower. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1%, swinging up from a 0.8% loss, with property and materials companies among the biggest gainers on the mainland. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index surged 3.8%, the most since August 2016. The Shenzhen Composite Index was little changed, after a 1.2% decline, while the ChiNext gauge retreated 0.4%, paring a 1.5% loss. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was little changed as of 3 p.m. local time, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell 0.3%Stocks in Europe gained, following equities from the U. S. to Asia higher as optimism over U. S. tax reform and euro-area economic growth overshadowed concerns about North Korea’s latest missile launch. The Stoxx 600 gained 0.8%, reaching a one-week high and testing its 50-DMA. Germany’s DAX, France’s CAC, Milan and Madrid were all up between 0.5 and 0.7% and MSCI’s all-country world index was at yet another record peak after all four major Wall Street indexes notched up new highs on Tuesday. ‘It seems to me markets are still trading on the theory that the glass is half full,’ said fund manager Hermes’ chief economist Neil Williams.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 29, 2017.
Blain’s Morning Porridge – November 27th 2017, submitted by Bill Blain of Mint Partners
Germany – not solved and likely to prove an even larger problem..
‘El castillo, le torre yo soy, le espada que guarda el caudal.
Another massive shopping day – Cyber Monday. Let’s see if the declining footprint into US malls confirms the end of retail and tomorrow belongs to Amazon, Ebay and Tencent? Suspect so… (Personally, I’m furious as I bought a new evening suit recently and picked it up Friday to discover even a proper West-end tailor was having a ‘black Friday sale’. I won’t be going back there again!)
Looks like I got Germany wrong.
My predictions Angela Merkel would find herself trapped into a difficult minority or a convention defying second election look increasing unlikely as she is now threshing out a ‘Grand Coalition’ CDU deal with the SDP. My ‘bad’. The membership of both parties apparently support it. I read a single member of her own party who dared to call for her resignation was subsequently booed down by the mob of enthusiastic Merkelistas.
The market is welcoming the news as far more positive for Germany than the earlier Jamaica Coalition, and positive for Europe as a reinvigorated Merkel will re-engage with Macron’s France to solve Europe’s many problems with sprinklings of German good-fairy dust.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 27, 2017.
During the second half of an interview with MacroVoices host Erik Townsend, Fasanara Capital fund manager Francesco Filia explained how the trillions of dollars in post-crisis asset purchases by central banks have bred a dangerous trend-following mentality that ultimately undermines the stability of markets and leaves stocks and bonds vulnerable to a vicious reversal.
Passive, trend following funds – which account for the bulk of daily flows across financial markets – have only helped exacerbate the situation. But what’s worse is market strategists’ refusal to acknowledge how these flows, which create destabilizing feedback loops, tend to drive trading. Instead, sell-side ‘experts’ employ flimsy fake narratives ex post to explain trading activity. These narratives are often accepted without question or criticism by financial reporters at CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg…the list goes on.
While it’s much easier for strategists and traders to latch on to the narrative of the day during interviews and conversations with clients, Filia posits that both professional and retail investors are ignoring these fundamental trends at their own peril.
There was a moment in the market a couple of years ago where, whenever we saw bad data, the market was rallying, because they were expecting more monetary printing and more interventionism from the side of central banks.
A little bit later, when rates were falling because of deflation, the narrative was chasing yields. So the narrative was not that there is deflation, therefore there will be a recession, therefore there will be a deflationary bust. The narrative was that there will be a deflationary boom. So the narrative was chase yields. So go into bonds even if the yields are low (whenever there is some yields left), go into equity to get some yield, and so make equities more expensive.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 26, 2017.
Back in August, we highlighted a story in the New York Times about a former manager at Target who decided to try day trading with $500,000 he had saved up. Over the following years, he turned that into $13 million by following one simple strategy: Shorting volatility every time it spiked.
As MacroVoices host Erik Townsend points out, that strategy has worked for many retail investors over the past eight years. And in a brief ‘postgame’ interview with the Macro Tourist Kevin Muir following a longer interview with Francesco Filia, a fund manager at Fasanara Capital, the former explains how many investors don’t understand the risks associated with shorting volatility, as well as the possible repercussions if exchanges and brokerages don’t take the appropriate steps to limit this.
Townsend begins the discussion by asking Muir about a chart he created of the VXX – the long-VIX ETF – which, because of the low-volatility environement, has repeatedly split leading to unbelievable wealth destruction.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 25, 2017.
In this week’s MacroVoices podcast, Erik Townsend interviews Francesco Filia, a fund manager at Fasanara Capital. After exchanging pleasantries, Townsend begins the interview by asking Filia, an analysts who’s widely regarded for his research about how post-crisis monetary policy has impacted distorted markets, about the different metrics he uses to determine whether a certain asset is in a bubble.
Filia begins by ticking off a laundry list of metrics that all point to the same conclusion: That today’s market is more overvalued than at any point in recent history – including the run-up to the financial crisis.
Thank you, Erik. I think the equity bubble is quite uncontroversial, is quite unambiguous. There are a lot of different valuation metrics for those that care to look into them. They’ve been valid for over a hundred years of modern financial markets. And this time is no different in that respect. There are the usual metrics that the valuation guys are looking at, like financial assets to disposable income that shows that this market is way more expensive than at any point in history including the big dot com bubble and the Lehman moment in 2007-2008.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 25, 2017.
Earlier this week, we noted that Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy agency had taken baby steps toward recognizing the dangers posed by an aging nuclear storage facility in Chelyabinsk, a town located on Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan, when it officially acknowledged the extraordinary high levels of radiation in the area. Though the government refused to admit culpability, as many believe the radiation leaked out of the Mayak nuclear power plant, which has a history of serious nuclear accidents.
Still, a month after the mysterious radiation cloud was first observed over Europe, Russian authorities have said little other than admitting the spike in radiation – a troubling trend that’s making some locals nervous and angry.
As the Financial Times points out, 76 years after radiation first began seeping from Mayak into the surrounding rivers, lakes and atmosphere, Russian authorities admitted that the nearby town of Argayash was at the center of a radiation cloud containing ‘exceptionally high’ levels of radioactive isotope ruthenium-106, which spread so far west that it reached France.
But residents of the town are demanding more information from authorities, whom they blame for putting the health of locals at risk.
The FT described Argayash is a cynical, mistrustful town. Apparently, decades of being lied to by the government about being down the road from a leaking nuclear plant does that to a place. So too does watching generations of people dying of radiation-related ailments while officials assure them nothing is amiss.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 24, 2017.
Nothing can keep the BTFD spirit at bay in Europe this Thanksgiving morning.
Having started the session on the back-foot after the biggest Chinese stock market tumble in 17 months (the SHCOMP dropped -2.3%, most since June 2016) amid tighter liquidity conditions as a result of today’s Thanksgiving holiday in the US and attempts by regulators to rein in asset management firms and the micro-loan market, the negative sentiment was short-lived however, a slew of blockbuster November Eurozone PMIs, among which the highest output print in 79 months, with the highest employment number in 17 years, helped revive sentiment in Europe – and brought the Eurostoxx back to green on the session. Among the notable composite PMI prints:
France 60.1 vs est. 57.2 Germany 57.6 vs ext. 56.7 Euro zone 57.5 vs est. 56.0 Markit noted this was a multi-year highs seen for all main indicators of output, demand, employment and
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 23, 2017.
Bloomberg reports an astonishing bit of interest rate news from France. Mark Gilbert reports,
French utility Veolia Environnement SA is one of a handful of low-rated borrowers – assessed at BBB or lower by Standard & Poor’s – with fixed-rate debt repayable in three years or longer that trades at yields below zero in euros.
Fleckenstein Capital LLC put it this way,
Yesterday a Parisian BBB-rated company (i.e., quasi junk) issued $500 million in three-year notes yielding -0.026%.
We have been peppered with so many absurdities, nothing seems absurd anymore, although you can be sure when folks look back at this period, they will wonder, “What were they thinking?” and the list of examples will be quite long.
One wonders how this could be. As Guido Hlsmann concluded in his QJAE article ‘The Theory of Interest,’ an acting man earns money interest when his ‘originary interest causes a positive spread between the money proceeds from selling his product and the money expenditure on the related factors of production.’
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 21, 2017.