Market Talk- December 15, 2017

Asia drifted with prices for core all closing around -0.5% lower for the day. Volumes were light but the lack of conviction as well as year end book-squaring were the key discussion topics. The Dollars decline did not help Exporters within the Nikkei, but that has been an issue for a few days this week. However, late in the US trading day, we have seen a reversal of these declines with the DXY clawing back some earlier losses and is happy playing high 112’s against the Yen. Stocks had opened weak and did well to recover into positive territory at one stage probably the result of a good Tankan print. However, that was lost again at the cash close. Late in US trading we see futures back up but lets see how cash opens again on Monday. The Hang Seng suffered most with a little over 1% decline. This was due mainly to property and financials trading heavy.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 15, 2017.

“Suspense Mounts” – Timing Of Tax-Reform Votes In Limbo As More Senators Get Cold Feet

With Bloomberg writing this morning that “Mystery, Suspense Mount” two days after President Donald Trump told the American public that Congress was ‘just days away’ on tax reform, two more senators – including one-time Trump rival – Marco Rubio appear to be getting cold feet – much to the market’s chagrin. Yesterday afternoon, stocks dropped and the VIX jumped above 10 as Rubio and Utah’s Mike Lee said they had reservations about the draft bill being put together by the conference committee.
Worries about the bill’s impact on the deficit have persisted, and if anything, they only intensified after the Treasury Department released a laughable one-page report about the tax plan’s impact on GDP and revenue that was widely ridiculed.
As the fast-moving Republican tax package has evolved, it has tilted increasingly toward benefiting businesses and wealthy taxpayers, a trend that aides were saying privately is a growing concern for some lawmakers. Provisions for offsetting the revenue costs of last-minute changes also were becoming worrisomely unclear, they said.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 15, 2017.

AlphaZero for President

From KurzweilAI:
Demis Hassabis, the founder and CEO of DeepMind, announced at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NIPS 2017) last week that DeepMind’s new AlphaZero program achieved a superhuman level of play in chess within 24 hours.
The program started from random play, given no domain knowledge except the game rules, according to an arXiv paper by DeepMind researchers published Dec. 5.
‘It doesn’t play like a human, and it doesn’t play like a program,’ said Hassabis, an expert chess player himself. ‘It plays in a third, almost alien, way. It’s like chess from another dimension.’
I started programming IBM machines in the late 60s, and at the time there was talk about the possibility of a computer someday beating a competent human at chess. Though the first programs stumbled along like children learning to walk, slowly, over the years, they improved, thanks in part to Moore’s Law and the genius of certain computer scientists. In February 1977 Chess 4.6, the only computer entry, won the 84th Minnesota Open against competitors just under Master level; it later defeated the US chess champion. [source] In 1988, Deep Thought became the first computer to defeat a grandmaster in a tournament. IBM bought Deep Thought, pumped it up and renamed it Deep Blue, and beat World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Friday, 15 December 2017.

Mark Yusko Hits a Four-Bagger

My friend Mark Yusko, founder and chief investment officer of Morgan Creek Capital Management, is a phenomenon; and when you read his third-quarter letter, excerpted in today’s Outside the Box, you’ll see what I mean. His missive (a 72-pager!), has two main parts: a ‘Letter to Fellow Investors’ and Morgan Creek’s ‘Third Quarter Market Review and Outlook.’
Now, I could subject you to the latter, but the former is a heck of a lot more fun. It’s an amazing disquisition that takes us deep into the weeds on the subjects of Isaac Newton, Yogi Berra, and Willy Wonka. As you savor Mark’s encyclopedic knowledge and obvious love of baseball (and just about everything else), you may begin to understand why he’s such an effective hedge fund manager. Energy like this is hard to top!
And of course, Mark isn’t just spouting off; he’s calling on the aforenamed greats (among others) to help us ‘solve the puzzle’ of today’s increasingly screwball market. As he says,
As we stand here today in November examining the data, Darkness did not Fall and Gravity did not Rule on the equity markets, so what do we make of these results? Has the Universal Law of Gravity (valuation) been repealed? Have the global Central Banks finally discovered Babson’s anti-gravity machine, or is QE the symbol for the new element Upsidasium?
Let’s look back over the past year and see if we can call on a few heavyweights to help us with these questions and then we’ll introduce a couple of new characters to our serial to help us solve the puzzle.

This post was published at Mauldin Economics on DECEMBER 13, 2017.

The best tax incentive in the world

In a move almost destined to prove that laws and policies have absolutely zero meaning, the European Union released a list of ‘tax havens’ last week… with a massive, giant, highly conspicuous omission.
The blacklist contains the names of the usual suspects – Panama, United Arab Emirates, etc., along with a few additions like Mongolia and Marshall Islands.
But, again, conspicuously missing from this list is far and away the biggest tax haven in the world – none other than the United States of America.
It’s hard for US taxpayers to imagine the Land of the Free being a tax haven.
Americans are taxed heavily on ALL of their income, no matter where in the world they live.
Americans are taxed when they earn, when they save, when they spend and when they die.

This post was published at Sovereign Man on December 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.

RAND PAUL: ‘I CANNOT VOTE TO ADD MORE TO THE ALREADY MASSIVE $20 TRILLION DEBT’

Senator Rand Paul said Tuesday that he cannot vote to add more to the national debt. The lawmaker wrote in a post on Twitter that ‘I promised Kentucky to vote against reckless, deficit spending and I will do just that.’
Rand Paul may be one of the few fiscally conservative Republicans in politics today. Paul’s tweet didn’t suggest he would oppose the GOP tax bill due to deficit concerns.
I cannot in good conscience vote to add more to the already massive $20 trillion debt. I promised Kentucky to vote against reckless, deficit spending and I will do just that. pic.twitter.com/BUYqm91mli
– Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 12, 2017
The lawmaker clarified in a follow-up tweet that tax cuts ‘are never the problem.’

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on DECEMBER 12, 2017.

Senate Tax Debacle: Certain Pass-Through Entities Face Marginal Tax Rates Over 100% Under Current Bill

As the House and Senate continue to try to reconcile their two versions of a tax plan, the taxing structure for pass-through entities (s-corps, LLC’s, etc.) continues to be somewhat controversial, if not completely nonsensical. As we pointed out last week, the Senate bill somewhat randomly chose to exclude pass-through entities organized as family trusts from tax cuts which would ultimately leave them on the hook for much larger tax bills due to the elimination of other deductions. It’s unclear whether this bizarre exclusion was just an oversight or an intentional political hit on an easy target that no one in Washington DC would dare defend publicly: rich families organized as trusts.
Now, a new note from the Tax Policy Center lays out some scenarios whereby the marginal tax rate for high-income pass-through entities could soar to over 100%. Of course, while two rational people can debate the impact of a ~40% tax rate on a person’s desire to work, we’re almost certain that a taxing structure that takes more than 100% of your marginal income will be a slight disincentive. Here’s an example of how it works from the Wall Street Journal:
Consider, for example, a married, self-employed New Jersey lawyer with three children and earnings of about $615,000. Getting $100 more in business income would force the lawyer to pay $105.45 in federal and state taxes, according to calculations by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation. That is more than double the marginal tax rate that household faces today.
If the New Jersey lawyer’s stay-at-home spouse wanted a job, the first $100 of the spouse’s wages would require $107.79 in taxes. And the tax rates for similarly situated residents of California and New York City would be even higher, the Tax Foundation found. Analyses by the Tax Policy Center, which is run by a former Obama administration official, find similar results, with federal marginal rates as high as 85%, and those don’t include items such as state taxes, self-employment taxes or the phase-out of child tax credits.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 11, 2017.

Amazon UK Drivers Reportedly Forced To Urinate In Bottles To Hit 200 Packages A Day Quota

Amazon delivery drivers in the UK are asked to deliver up to 200 packages a day while earning less than minimum wage for agencies contracted by Amazon. The drivers reportedly have to keep schedules so tight they are forced to skip rest breaks and urinate in bottles, according to an investigation by UK’s Sunday Mirror. The report comes weeks after the newspaper reported on brutal work conditions at an Amazon UK warehouses. “If the drivers return to the Amazon depot without having made enough attempts to deliver parcels, or if they can’t work for any reason, they risk having their pay cut, being fined or denied future shifts,” reports the Mirror.
***
The allegations surfaced after investigative reporter Dan Warburton spent a day with an Amazon delivery driver so he could experience the “impossible” schedules that often exceed their 11 hour shifts – a limit mandated by UK law.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 11, 2017.

Weekend Reading: Recession Risk Hidden In Tax Bill

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,
Since the election, equity bulls have been pinning their hopes on ‘tax cuts’ as the needed injection to support currently elevated stock prices. Stocks have advanced sharply since the election on these expectations, and while earnings have recovered, primarily due to the rise in oil prices, whatever economic growth was to come from tax reform has likely already been priced in.
For some background on our views, both Michael Lebowitz and I have been discussing the tax bills as they are currently proposed since May of this year.
The Spurious Math Of A Tax Cut Rally Corporate Tax Cuts – The Seen & Unseen 3-Myths About Tax Cuts Bull Trap: The False Promise Of Tax Cuts The Conundrum Of Debt, Tax Cuts & The Economy Tax Cuts – The Economic Cure-All Buy The Rumor – Sell The News
We are currently in the second longest economic expansion since WWII. While Republican lawmakers are betting on jump-starting economic growth, the problem becomes the length of the current liquidity-driven expansion. All economic cycles end, and we are already closer to the end of the current expansion than not.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 8, 2017.

What’s The Best Company To Work For Where You Live?

With unemployment in the US purportedly reaching its lowest level in 17 years (that is, according to the Department of Labor’s flawed household survey) employees who once would’ve been too fearful to leave their jobs are now actively looking for opportunities. With that in mind, many have probably wondered what’s the best company to work for where they live?
Well, HowMuch.com gathered data compiled by Forbes into an infographic to try and map out the best and largest employers in every country.
Forbes recently released a ranking of the best companies in the world using a variety of different perks and benefits, like the quality of food served to employees, parental leave policies or whether companies allow their employees to nap while on the job.
HowMuch mapped these companies by paying attention to their market capitalization to get a feel for how large an organization needs to be to afford such high-quality benefits. One company therefore represents each country, color-coded by market cap. Red countries have an employer worth over $100 billion, and dark blue countries boast relatively small employers under $10 billion.

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

Here’s Why Trump’s Lawyer Is Denying that Deutsche Bank Got a Subpoena

A lawyer who is part of President Donald Trump’s legal defense team, Jay Sekulow, has denied the news reports that Deutsche Bank has received a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office for banking records related to Trump and his family members.
In a statement to Reuters, Sekulow stated:
‘We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false. No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.’
But in the same article that relayed that statement from Sekulow, Reuters’ reporters Arno Schuetze and Karen Freifeld undercut the credibility of Sekulow’s statement by writing the following:
‘A U. S. federal investigator probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U. S. presidential election asked Deutsche Bank for data on accounts held by President Donald Trump and his family, a person close to the matter said on Tuesday, but Trump’s lawyer denied any such subpoena had been issued.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on December 7, 2017.

What Is Money? (Yes, We’re Talking About Bitcoin)

Good ideas don’t require force. That describes the Internet, mobile telephony and cryptocurrencies.
What is money? We all assume we know, because money is a commonplace feature of everyday life. Money is what we earn and exchange for goods and services. Everyone thinks the money they’re familiar with is the only possible system of money – until they run across an entirely different system of money. Then they realize money is a social construct, a confluence of social consensus and political force– what we agree to use as money, and what our government mandates we use as money under threat of punishment. We assume that our monetary system is much like a Law of Nature: since it’s ubiquitous, it must be the only possible system. But there are no financial Laws of Nature for money. In the past, notched sticks served as money. In other non-Western cultures, giant stone disks (rai, a traditional form of money on the island of Yap) and even salt served as money.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 06, 2017.

House Set To Vote On Stopgap Spending Bill Tomorrow

Update (5:30 pm ET): House Republicans are moving ahead with a plan to avoid a shutdown after the House Rules Committee approved a rule change that will allow Republicans to bring a two-week stopgap plan up for a floor vote Thursday, allowing the senate until end-of-day Friday to avoid a shutdown. The plan helped Speaker Paul Ryan override conservative GOP lawmakers who were pressing for a longer extension to get more leverage over Democrats and the Senate.
The decision on a stopgap bill with a Dec. 22 end-date came after Ryan and his leadership team held discussions on overall budget strategy with the leaders of the restive House Freedom Caucus. A formal check of how members would vote on the Dec. 22 deadline came back showing widespread support, said Representative Dennis Ross, a member of the vote-whipping team.
The Freedom Caucus will discuss the stopgap at a meeting tonight, according to a House Republican aide. Votes from the group’s three-dozen members may not be needed if Democrats support the stopgap plan.
As part of the talks, the Freedom Caucus has sought and Republican leaders are weighing a plan to attach the House’s fiscal year 2018 defense spending bill to a second resolution to keep the government funded after Dec. 22, according to Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who leads the House Armed Services Committee, according to Bloomberg.
* * *
Update: After Trump once again raised the prospect of a shutdown while speaking with reporters following a cabinet meeting today, Nancy Pelosi had a few choice words for the president…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 6, 2017.

Serially Charged Deutsche Bank Gets a Subpoena from Mueller

If Deutsche Bank is trying to remove itself from scandalous headlines, it’s not doing a very good job at it.
The German language newspaper, Handelsblatt, reported yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed bank records from Deutsche Bank relating to President Trump and his family members. Handelsblatt writes that ‘The former real-estate baron has done billions of dollars’ worth of business with Deutsche Bank over the past two decades, and First Lady Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are also clients.’ The central focus of the Mueller probe is the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia.
On May 23 of this year, Congresswoman Maxine Walters and other House Democrats sent John Cryan, CEO of Deutsche Bank, a letter regarding its ties to the Trump family and Russia. The letter began:
‘We write seeking information relating to two internal reviews reportedly conducted by Deutsche Bank (‘Bank’): one regarding its 2011 Russian mirror trading scandal and the other regarding its review of the personal accounts of President Donald Trump and his family members held at the Bank. What is troubling is that the Bank to our knowledge has thus far refused to disclose or publicly comment on the results of either of its internal reviews. As a result, there is no transparency regarding who participated in, or benefited from, the Russian mirror trading scheme that allowed $10 billion to flow out of Russia. Likewise, Congress remains in the dark on whether loans Deutsche Bank made to President Trump were guaranteed by the Russian Government, or were in any way connected to Russia. It is critical that you provide this Committee with the information necessary to assess the scope, findings and conclusions of your internal reviews.
‘Deutsche Bank’s failure to put adequate anti-money laundering controls in place to prevent a group of traders from improperly and secretly transferring more than $10 billion out of Russia is concerning. According to press reports, this scheme was carried out by traders in Russia who converted rubles into dollars through security trades that lacked any legitimate economic rationale. The settlement agreements reached between the Bank and the New York Department of Financial Services as well as the U. K. Financial Conduct Authority raise questions about the particular Russian individuals involved in the scheme, where their money went, and who may have benefited from the vast sums transferred out of Russia. Moreover, around the same time, Deutsche Bank was involved in an elaborate scheme known as ‘The Russian Laundromat,’ ‘The Global Laundromat,’ or ‘The Moldovan Scheme,’ in which $20 billion in funds of criminal origin from Russia were processed through dozens of financial institutions.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on December 5, 2017.

How The U.S. Dictatorship Works

Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,
A recent article in the Washington Post described how the current US tax-‘reform’ bill is being shaped; and it describes, basically (at least as far as tax-law changes are concerned), the operation of a US dictatorship by the super-rich.
***
First of all, however: there is no longer any realistic question as regards whether the US in recent decades has been a dictatorship, or instead a democracy. According to the only scientific analysis of the relevant data, that has been done in order to determine whether the US is a dictatorship or a democracy, the US is definitely a dictatorship that’s perpetrated by the extremely richest, against the public-at-large; in other words: the US Government functions as an aristocracy, otherwise referred-to as an oligarchy, or a plutocracy, or a kleptocracy; but, in any case, and by whatever name, it’s ruled by a tiny number of the extremely wealthiest and their agents, on behalf of those few super-rich, against the concerns and interests and needs of the public (everyone else). So: instead of being rule by the public (the ‘demos’ is the Greek term for it), it’s rule on behalf of a tiny dictatorial class, of extreme wealth – by whatever name we might happen to label this ruling class.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 5, 2017.

The U.S. Government Creates and Exacerbates the Nuclear Threat

The whole situation is a ‘Catch 22’ scenario: damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. The problem: we’re American citizens and this is our country. The concurrent problem? It is our country that caused this predicament to occur with North Korea…in a pattern of American imperialism that has been going on actively for about a hundred years. The problem is twofold:
1. North Korea can strike the U. S. with an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack and/or nuclear missiles, yet:
2. The United States government, through the current and prior two administrations has set the stage for this…as either:
A purposefully-created ‘threat’ to give America a ‘bogeyman’/Emmanuel Goldstein to focus on in a ‘Two-Minutes Hate’ drill…keep the ‘threat level’ alive, or A threat of insignificance grown and nurtured for the express purpose of taking down the country…while reaping profits and power for the oligarchy all along. There is an American oligarchy. The oligarchy is not only made up of business and industrial magnates, but of politicos and religious leaders. The business magnates need the lawmakers and politicos to give them ‘carte blanche’ with tax breaks and incentives such as government contracts. The system needs the general populace (or the ‘proletariat’) to pay taxes and ‘grunt’ out spending on consumer goods and services that keeps the whole thing intact. As in the movie ‘THX-1138,’ there must be periods to pay the utilities, pay for the food, pay taxes on gasoline, taxes on property, taxes on consumer goods, yearly tax increases, and insurances…health, automobile, homeowner…required insurances…

This post was published at shtfplan on December 4th, 2017.

GOP Releases All 479 Pages Of The Tax Reform Bill – “Vote-A-Rama” Begins

The Senate tax bill is headed for a potentially unlimited series of decisions on possible amendments – known as ‘vote-a-rama’ – as the full text of the revised bill has just been released.
As Bloomberg reports, it’s unclear how long that process might take, though we do note that unlike Obamacare, Senators will at least get to see what’s in the bill before they vote on it.
Democrats could spend hours offering numerous amendments meant to highlight any flaws they believe the bill contains.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 1, 2017.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Being An Idiot

Authored by MN Gordon via EconomicPrism.com,
There are many things that could be said about the GOP tax bill. But one thing is certain. It has been a great show.
Obviously, the time for real solutions to the debt problem that’s ailing the United States came and went many decades ago. Instead of addressing the Country’s mounting insolvency, lawmakers chose the expedient without exception. They kicked the can from yesterday to today.
Presently, there are no good options left to fix the mathematics bearing down on us all. Hence, in the degenerate stage of an overburdened nation-state, style over substance is what counts. Without question, Congress and President Trump played their parts to push the bill with much bravura.
On Tuesday, for example, President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan held a White House meeting with two empty chairs. Apparently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t want to participate in a ‘show meeting.’ Thus, they made a spectacle of themselves and ditched the meeting.
Indeed, their absence was all part of the show. Moreover, the entire episode was show; nothing more. At the time of this writing (Thursday night), the show continues on. The last we heard, the Senate vote had been delayed until Friday. By the time you read this it may be a done deal – or maybe not.
Regardless, the tax bill is all quite meaningless when you have a fiat currency that’s been stretched out like silly putty. No doubt, this has propagated immense financial speculation while outrunning actual economic growth. The effect has manifested in strange and unexpected ways.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 1, 2017.

Minimum Wage Laws Have Many Victims

Minimum wage laws are often put forward as regulations that help everyone. If anyone is hurt, it is wealthy capitalists who can afford to lose a little money. Unfortunately, this is rarely the reality. In order to decode the impact of minimum wage laws, one has to examine the effects on multiple levels, examining both the seen and the unseen consequences. Increases in wages have to be paid for somehow, and given the interdependent relationship of a market, there are three major players who are impacted by minimum wages: employers, employees, and the consumers.
1. Employers Employers are faced with the increased costs of the factors of production without any corresponding increase in value. Although minimum wages are argued by pointing at multinational companies and the profits they are raking in, MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart are not the only ones paying minimum wages. Indeed, they are the least affected, since their enormous profits enable them to cope with the increase in wages.
It is the small emerging businesses that are harmed the most, the local businesses that provide employment in their neighborhood to people who would have otherwise remained unemployed. Minimum wages punish small time entrepreneurs by decreased profits – especially when profit margins are razor thin, as is usually the case. This fact helps to deter entrepreneurs from opening businesses, and this is doubly unfortunate when we consider the fact that minimum wages are often a legislative reaction to an excess labor supply in the first place. When wages are low is precisely the time when we need new entrepreneurs the most.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 1, 2017.