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 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.

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 –.

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.

What Happens When A Russiagate Skeptic Debates A Professional Russiagater

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,
Have you ever wondered why mainstream media outlets, despite being so fond of dramatic panel debates on other hot-button issues, never have critics of the Russiagate narrative on to debate those who advance it? Well, in a recent Real News interview we received an extremely clear answer to that question, and it was so epic it deserves its own article.
Real News host and producer Aaron Mat has recently emerged as one of the most articulate critics of the establishment Russia narrative and the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory, and has published in The Nation some of the clearest arguments against both that I’ve yet seen. Luke Harding is a journalist for The Guardian where he has been writing prolifically in promotion of the Russiagate narrative, and is the author of New York Times bestseller Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.
In theory, it would be hard to find two journalists more qualified to debate each side of this important issue. In practice, it was a one-sided thrashing that The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill accurately described as ‘brutal’.
The term Gish gallop, named after a Young Earth creationist who was notoriously fond of employing it, refers to a fallacious debate tactic in which a bunch of individually weak arguments are strung together in rapid-fire succession in order to create the illusion of a solid argument and overwhelm the opposition’s ability to refute them all in the time allotted. Throughout the discussion the Gish gallop appeared to be the only tool that Luke Harding brought to the table, firing out a deluge of feeble and unsubstantiated arguments only to be stopped over and over again by Mat who kept pointing out when Harding was making a false or fallacious claim.


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

I’m in Awe of How Far the Scams & Stupidities around ‘Blockchain Stocks’ are Going

This can happen only during the very late stage of a bubble. It just doesn’t let up. UBI Blockchain Internet, a Hong Kong outfit whose shares trade in the US [UBIA], filed with the SEC to sell an additional 72.3 million shares owned by its executives. In other words, it isn’t selling the shares to raise money for corporate purposes, but to allow its executives, including CEO Tony Liu, to bail out.
This is happening after the company – which sports zero revenues and a disconnected phone number in its SEC filings – managed to get its shares to spike briefly by over 1,100%, pushing its market capitalization to $8 billion.
UBI Blockchain didn’t do an IPO. Instead, in October 2016, it acquired a publicly traded shell company registered in Las Vegas, called ‘JA Energy.’ It then changed the name and ticker symbol to what they’re now.
Over the six trading days starting on December 11, 2017, its shares soared over 1,100%, from $7.20 to $87 on December 18, as the word ‘blockchain’ in its name and sufficient hype and speculator-idiocy took hold. By December 21, shares had plunged 67% to $29. They closed on Wednesday at $38.50. At this price, it still has a ludicrous market cap of $3.64 billion.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 28, 2017.

Squeezing The Consumer From Both Sides

The Federal Reserve raised the Federal Funds rate on December 13, 2017, marking the fifth increase over the last two years. Even with interest rates remaining at historically low levels, the Fed’s actions are resulting in greater interest expense for short-term and floating rate borrowers. The effect of this was evident in last week’s Producer Price Inflation (PPI) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Within the report was the following commentary:
‘About half of the November rise in the index for final demand services can be traced to prices for loan services (partial), which increased 3.1 percent.’
While there are many ways in which higher interest rates affect economic activity, the focus of this article is the effect on the consumer. With personal consumption representing about 70% of economic activity, higher interest rates can be a cost or a benefit depending on whether you are a borrower or a saver. For borrowers, as the interest expense of new and existing loans rises, some consumption is typically sacrificed as a higher percentage of budgets are allocated to meeting interest expense. On the flip side, for those with savings, higher interest rates generate more wealth and thus provide a marginal boost to consumption as they have more money to spend.

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

The Great Recession 10 Years Later: Lessons We Still Have To Learn

Ten years ago this month, a recession began in the U. S. that would metastasize into a full-fledged financial crisis. A decade is plenty of time to reflect on what we have learned, what we have fixed, and what remains to be done. High on the agenda should be the utter unpreparedness for what came along.
The memoirs of key decision-makers convey sincere intentions and in some cases, very adroit maneuvering. But common to them all are apologies that today strike one as rather lame.
‘I was surprised by the sudden crisis,’ wrote George W. Bush, ‘My focus had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies. … We were blindsided by a financial crisis that had been more than a decade in the making.’
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed wrote, ‘Clearly, many of us at the Fed, including me, underestimated the extent of the housing bubble and the risks it posed.’ He cited psychological factors rather than low interest rates, a ‘tidal wave of foreign money,’ and complacency among decision-makers.

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

The Fed Plays the Economy Like an Accordion

We talk a lot about how central banks serve as the primary force driving the business cycle. When a recession hits, central banks like the Federal Reserve drive interest rates down and launch quantitative easing to stimulate the economy. Once the recovery takes hold, the Fed tightens its monetary policy, raising interest rates and ending QE. When the recovery appears to be in full swing, the central bank shrinks its balance sheet. This sparks the next recession and the cycle repeats itself.
This is a layman’s explanation of the business cycle. But how do the maneuverings of central banks actually impact the economy? How does this work?
The Yield Curve Accordion Theory is one way to visually grasp exactly what the Fed and other central banks are doing. Westminster College assistant professor of economics Hal W. Snarr explained this theory in a recent Mises Wire article.
The yield curve (a plot of interest rates versus the maturities of securities of equal credit quality) is a handy economic and investment tool. It generally slopes upward because investors expect higher returns when their money is tied up for long periods. When the economy is growing robustly, it tends to steepen as more firms break ground on long-term investment projects. For example, firms may decide to build new factories when the economy is rosy. Since these projects take years to complete, firms issue long-term bonds to finance the construction. This increases the supply of long-term bonds along downward-sloping demand, which pushes long-term bond prices down and yields up. The black dots along the black line in the figure below gives the 2004 yield curve. It slopes upward because a robust recovery was underway.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

2007 All Over Again, Part 7: Borrowers Start Scamming Desperate Lenders

One of the hallmarks of late-stage bubbles is a shift of power from lenders to borrowers. As asset prices soar and interest rates plunge it becomes harder to generate a decent yield on bonds and other fixed income securities, so people with money to lend (like pension funds and bond mutual funds) are forced to accept ever-less-favorable and therefore far-more-risky terms.
Recall the liar loans that were popular towards the end of the 2000s housing bubble and you get the idea. Lenders were so desperate for paper to feed the securitization machine that they literally stopped asking mortgage borrowers to prove that they could cover the interest.
Here we go again, but this time in the market for leveraged buyout loans:
Yield-Starved Investors Giving In to the Demands of Bond Sellers
(Wall Street Journal) – Demand for leveraged loans is allowing private-equity firms to water down legal safeguards for investors Hellman & Friedman LLC and other investors sought last month to borrow money in the bond market to finance a takeover.
The U. S. private-equity firm offered a yield of about 3%, but few of the protections once considered routine.
Still, the investors bought.

This post was published at DollarCollapse on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

To Avoid Liquidation Panic, HNA Assures Deutsche Shareholders It’s A “Long-Term Investor”

The notoriously acquisitive Chinese conglomerate HNA – which recently had a sharp falling out with Beijing resulting in a margin call “shocksave” – is facing a serious cash crunch in 2018 as nearly a quarter of its $100 billion in debt – a large chunk of which was accumulated during a multi-year buying spree that saw it become a major shareholder in Deutsche Bank, Hilton Worldwide and a large portfolio of international holdings – comes due.
But even as the company resorted to loaning out shares and entering into arcane derivative financing agreements to finance its debt-service payments, it is quickly finding that traditional avenues of financing are disappearing or becoming too costly.
Despite being one of China’s largest conglomerates, HNA has been shut out of stock and bond markets as lenders worry about its outsized debt load, forcing the company to pledge some of its core holdings as collateral for short-term loans, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
This has forced the conglomerate to explore other options. To wit, the bank recently pledged some of its Deutsche Bank shares to UBS as collateral for a loan worth roughly $117. It also executed an options strategy known as a collar. This strategy involves purchasing out-of-the-money puts to protect against a large drop in the stock while simultaneously selling out-of-the money calls to offset the cost of the puts.
On Dec. 20, HNA’s unit entered into a new series of collar transactions with Swiss bank UBS Group AG, and pledged its Deutsche Bank shares to UBS in exchange for a total of 2.36 billion euros (US$2.8 billion) in net financing. It also has a margin loan from UBS and ICBC Standard Chartered PLC. In all, the new total amount of financing was about 99 million euros (US$117.6 million) higher than what was disclosed in a similar filing in May.

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

Europe’s Runaway Train Towards Full Digitization Of Money & Labor

Authored by Peter Koenig via The Saker blog,
The other day I was in a shopping mall looking for an ATM to get some cash. There was no ATM. A week ago, there was still a branch office of a local bank – no more, gone. A Starbucks will replace the space left empty by the bank. I asked around – there will be no more cash automats in this mall – and this pattern is repeated over and over throughout Switzerland and throughout western Europe. Cash machines gradually but ever so faster disappear, not only from shopping malls, also from street corners. Will Switzerland become the first country fully running on digital money?
***
This new cashless money model is progressively but brutally introduced to the Swiss and Europeans at large – as they are not told what’s really happening behind the scene. If anything, the populace is being told that paying will become much easier. You just swipe your card – and bingo. No more signatures, no more looking for cash machines – your bank account is directly charged for whatever small or large amount you are spending. And naturally and gradually a ‘small fee’ will be introduced by the banks. And you are powerless, as a cash alternative will have been wiped out.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 26, 2017.

THE U.S. SHALE OIL INDUSTRY: Swindling & Stealing Energy To Stay Alive

While the U. S. Shale Energy Industry continues to borrow money to produce uneconomical oil and gas, there is another important phenomenon that is not understood by the analyst community. The critical factor overlooked by the media is the fact that the U. S. shale industry is swindling and stealing energy from other areas to stay alive. Let me explain.
First, let’s take a look at some interesting graphs done by the Bloomberg Gadfly. The first chart below shows how the U. S. shale industry continues to burn through investor cash regardless of $100 or $50 oil prices:

This post was published at SRSrocco Report on DECEMBER 26, 2017.

Stockman: US Fiscal Path Will Rattle the Rafters of the Casino

As we’ve reported, the US government is spending money like a drunken sailor. But nobody really seems to care.
Since Nov. 8, the US national debt has risen $1 trillion. Meanwhile, the Russell 2000 (a small-cap stock market index) has risen by 30%. Former Reagan budget director David Stockman said this makes no sense in a rational world, and he thinks the FY 2019 is going to sink the casino.
In a rational world operating with honest financial markets those two results would not be found in even remotely the same zip code; and especially not in month #102 of a tired economic expansion and at the inception of an epochal pivot by the Fed to QT (quantitative tightening) on a scale never before imagined.’
Stockman is referring to economic tightening recently launched by the Federal Reserve. It’s not only the increasing interest rates. By next April the Fed will be shrinking its balance sheet at an annual rate of $360 billion and by $600 billion per year as of next October. By the end of 2020, the Fed will have dumped $2 trillion of bonds from its books. Stockman puts this into perspective.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 26, 2017.

Star Wars For The Splitting Soul Of America

Via GEFIRA,
The last episode of the successful movie – Star Wars – is actually a lot less about the stars in space and much more about culture and class. Most importantly, it reflects the dangerously growing disenfranchisement of the race-and-gender obsessed liberal upper class and everyone else.
The movie finally came out, the money started flowing and eventually the reviews arrived. The result? On the primary review sites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes the critics loved it, the public did not, which left many wondering why.
Some explanations came out already: the good results are scientific, the bad ones are there because of internet trolls. Nope, there’s nothing scientific about subjective opinions, even if they (allegedly) represent the majority of those who express them. Science is, or should be, objective.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 26, 2017.

Christmas Tree Protectionism

Whether it’s for cheap steel or cheap tires, Americans are supposed to be afraid of trade with China because it provides us with products we want at low prices. But to the damage allegedly inflicted on our economy by those who would save us money, must we now add…artificial Christmas trees?
According to a November 27 story in Breitbart News, Chinese companies dominate the domestic market, and their fake trees are ‘driving’ Christmas tree-growers in Oregon out of business. The number of fake trees sold in the U. S. ‘more than doubled’ from 2010 to 2016 (my wife and I contributed to that statistic, purchasing our beloved tree in 2014) while the number of Christmas trees cut and sold dropped by twenty-six percent. The number of ‘active growers’ dropped by thirty percent. All of which is supposed to alarm us.
There’s no reason to be concerned. Demand for real trees is declining in favor of artificial trees because more consumers prefer their convenience, quality, and price. Breitbart claims this is a ‘vicious cycle,’ but it’s just a reflection of consumer desire.
Consumers in the U. S. are buying fake trees because they are cheaper, and because they believe fake trees to be healthier and safer. In a market economy we each decide to the best of our ability which products and services we require; that’s an important part of life in a free society. Oregon tree-growers will suffer the ill-effects of this trend, but players in the market voluntarily take that risk (for which they rightly deserve any reward). Consumers save money, which can then be spent on other things we desire, and our homes have fewer allergens. Perhaps even fewer fires.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 26, 2017.

Yes, governments CAN go bankrupt. And no, it’s NOT impossible…

[Editor’s Note: As we’re coming up on the end of the year, we thought it would be appropriate to republish some of our most popular articles. Today’s was originally published on March 13, 2017] In the year 1517, one of the most important innovations in financial history was invented in Amsterdam: the government bond.
It was a pretty revolutionary concept.
Governments had been borrowing money for thousands of years… quite often at the point of a sword.
Italian city-states like Venice and Florence had been famously demanding ‘forced loans’ from their wealthy citizens for centuries.

This post was published at Sovereign Man on December 26, 2017.

The Yield Curve Accordion Theory

The yield curve (a plot of interest rates versus the maturities of securities of equal credit quality) is a handy economic and investment tool. It generally slopes upward because investors expect higher returns when their money is tied up for long periods. When the economy is growing robustly, it tends to steepen as more firms break ground on long-term investment projects. For example, firms may decide to build new factories when the economy is rosy. Since these projects take years to complete, firms issue long-term bonds to finance the construction. This increases the supply of long-term bonds along downward-sloping demand, which pushes long-term bond prices down and yields up. The black dots along the black line in the figure below gives the 2004 yield curve. It slopes upward because a robust recovery was underway.
***
Yield curves flatten out when investors believe a recession is looming. This results from the demand for long-term bonds rising as investor confidence wanes. As demand shifts out along upward sloping supply, long-term bond prices rise and yields fall. On the other end of the yield curve, short-term bond rates rise. This is a result of investors demanding fewer short-term securities and more long-term securities. In response, suppliers of short-term securities lower prices to attract investors. The black dots along the red line in the above figure gives the 2007 yield curve. It is flat because the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was just around the bend.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 26, 2017.