One Statistics Professor Was Just Banned By Google: Here Is His Story

Statistics professor Salil Mehta, adjunct professor at Columbia and Georgetown who teaches probability and data science and whose work has appeared on this website on numerous prior occasions, was banned by Google on Friday.
What did Salil do to provoke Google? It is not entirely clear, however what is clear is that his repeated attempts at restoring his email, blog and other Google-linked accounts have so far been rejected with a blanket and uniform statement from the search giant.
Here is what happened, in Salil Mehta’s own words.
Don’t do a googol of evil
Freedom is not free unless corporations who exert a large influence in our lives believe in our well-being. I am a statistics professor and understand that there needs to be reasonable standards to control a large social network and make sure everyone is able to enjoy it freely. Invariably people disagree (we all see this), but some principles, such as simply showing probability and statistics with the sole hope of educating others, should be acceptable and in the middle of the distribution. I am for a higher standard, and a higher purpose. There is great care that I have taken to make sure that people treat one other well, admit faults, and present math and probability education to a wide audience.

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

Banks, Treasury Get Antsy about QE Unwind. Stock & Bond Markets in Denial

‘Let markets clear.’ It’ll be just ‘a financial engineering shock.’ Stock and bond markets are in denial about the effects of the Fed’s forthcoming QE unwind, whose kick-off is getting closer by the day, according to the minutes of the Fed’s July meeting.
‘Several participants’ were fretting how financial conditions had eased since the rate hikes began in earnest last December, instead of tightening. ‘Further increases in equity prices, together with continued low longer-term interest rates, had led to an easing of financial conditions,’ they said. So something needs to be done about it.
And ‘several participants were prepared to announce a starting date for the program at the current meeting’ – so the meeting in July – ‘most preferred to defer that decision until an upcoming meeting.’ So the September meeting. And markets are now expecting the QE unwind to be announced in September.
Since then, short-term Treasury yields have remained relatively stable, reflecting the Fed’s current target range for the federal funds rate of 1% to 1.25%. But long-term rates, which the Fed intends to push up with the QE unwind, have come down further. As a consequence, the yield curve has flattened further, which is the opposite of what the Fed wants to accomplish.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Aug 21, 2017.

Should You Use Leverage With Precious Metals And Mining Stocks?

While I will maintain, until proven wrong by the test of time, that Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies are nothing more than a temporary fad, investing with a long term outlook (20-30 years) gives the investor the best probability of generating life-style changing wealth.
William Powers, of MiningStockEducation.com, invited onto his podcast to discuss using leverage in precious metals and mining stock investing. We discuss greed/fear, using margin with mining stocks, volatility, options, futures and the leveraged ETFs.
The problem for most investors, and the reason many have not made a lot of money – or might have lost money – in the precious metals sector is the inability to invest with a long term perspective. Since 2001, gold has outperformed every asset class. The mining stocks, in general as measured using the HUI index, have outperformed the Dow/Naz since 2001.


This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on August 21, 2017.

“Something Strange Is Going On”: Axiom Stumbles On The Reason Behind The Explosive Industrial Metals Surge

While overnight equity, bond and FX markets traded in a narrow range as a result of scarce mid-summer liquidity, mounting Trump administration and geopolitical concerns and uncertainties ahead of Friday’s Jackson Hole symposium, the same can not be said about the latest “berserker” action in the commodity space in general, and industrial metals in particular, where China’s horde of momentum-chasing speculators were unleashed overnight, sending Zinc to its highest since October 2007 at $3,180.50 a tonne, the bellwether industrial metal, and “doctor”, copper surged to to $6,593 a tonne, its highest since November 2014, while nickel, used in stainless steel production, gained over 2 percent as it reached a 2017 peak.
Additionally, iron ore futures traded in Dalian soared more than 4% fueled by concerns of shortages and before curbs on futures purchases which are touted to come into force in the next few months.

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

Underfunded Pensions Could Spark Wave of ‘Precedent Setting’ Reforms

Underfunded pensions plans are possibly one of the most significant headwinds facing companies and public-sector bodies today.
Despite record high stock markets and a bond bull market that has lasted for many decades, corporate pension plans are still chronically underfunded as fees and poor investment performance have eroded gains. Furthermore, pension trustees have struggled to keep up with funding requirements for over-generous schemes.
Underfunded Pensions Spur Borrowing
According to an analysis by Willis Towers Watson at the beginning of this year, pension plan data for 410 of the Fortune 1000 companies with a defined-benefit pension plan, had an aggregate pension funded status of 80% at the end of 2016. The average pension deficit is $325 billion, up from $308 billion at the end of 2015.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 08/21/2017.

Eclipse Day Begins With S&P Futures Flat While Industrial Metals Soar

As the US awaits its first full solar eclipse since 1918, S&P500 futures, together with Asian and European stocks started off the week off fractionally in the red after the cash index fell to its lowest level in five weeks on Friday, with the “Bannon rally” fading on growing concerns about the US political situation, while tensions ratcheted up again as the US and South Korea began massive military drills and North Korea responded, threatening a ‘merciless strike’ on the US. Markets are looking ahead to this week’s Jackson Hole symposium where Mario Draghi may or may not pre-announce the start of ECB balance sheet tapering.
With overnight markets doing little of note, a quick preview of today’s main event: the full solar eclipse which is the first such event to cross the contiguous United States since 1918. Of the main financial centres there will be a partial eclipse in New York (c70%), Boston (c63%), Chicago (c86%) and LA (c61%). To celebrate, Royal Caribbean’s week long “total-eclipse” cruise offers passengers get the best opportunity to see the event at sea, while Bonnie Tyler has been hired to perform her 1983 classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart” while the skies darken.
Meanwhile, as the US waits to fade to darkness, world stocks struggled at a five and a half week low on Monday, though metals surged in Chinese trading with zinc at its highest in a decade, copper hitting a nearly three-year high and iron ore’s gains in the last two sessions stretching to 5 percent.

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

Buffett Sees Market Crash Coming? His Cash Speaks Louder Than Words

The Sage of Omaha’s adage is ‘it’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.’
Editor: Mark O’Byrne
But for Warren Buffett the current environment doesn’t appear to be offering up any wonderful companies at fair valuations. The situation is so bad that the cash stockpile of Berkshire Hathaway has more than doubled in the last four years, from under $40 billion to $100bn.
The infamous investor is famed for his investment approach of pouncing on companies when they run in to problems and are seemingly undervalued. At the moment though, there aren’t many out there.
The large stockpile is a likely indicator of not only how Buffett negatively views the current market environment but also how he sees the near future and what opportunities it will bring.
Buffett hates cash, he wants to spend it
Buffett has previously stated how much he hates cash, telling investors at the Berkshire AGM that it was a poor way to keep their money.
During the Omaha-based meeting Buffett expressed his frustration with a cash pile that is approaching $100 billion, ‘We shouldn’t use your money that way for long periods… The question is, ‘Are we going to be able to deploy it?”
It may well be the case that Buffett is prepared to pay a dividend, stating that dividends could be paid ‘reasonably soon, even while I am around.’ But this is unlikely.

This post was published at Gold Core on August 21, 2017.

Herbalife Surges After Announcing $600MM Stock Buyback, Failed LBO Transaction

One week after Herbalife stock tumbled following concerns of yet another Chinese crackdown on multi-level marketing scheme, Carl Icahn has struck again, squeezing his nemesis Bill Ackman who continues to be short the name, after Herbalife announced on Monday morning that while the company had tried and failed to pursue an LBO, it has instead entered into a pact with Carl Icahn and unveiled a “self-tender” offer according to which it would pursue a whopping $600 million buyback, equivalent to about 10% of its market cap, purchasing shares at a price between $60 and $68, effectively assuring that the company’s stock price would trade in this narrow range, absent a dramatic adverse development.
Some details on the failed “go private” transaction:
The Company was recently in discussions with a prospective financial investor regarding a potential transaction that could have led to the Company being taken private. While these conversations were formally terminated on August 16, 2017, because these discussions contemplated the possibility of the Company being taken private, the Board of Directors decided to provide tendering shareholders with some protection in the event the Company is taken private within two years resulting in remaining shareholders possibly receiving a higher price than paid in the self-tender.

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

Bad Ideas About Money, Bitcoin, and Gold

Most false or irrational ideas about money are not new. For example, take the idea that government can just fix the price of one monetary asset against another. Some people think that we can have a gold standard by such a decree today. This idea goes back at least as far as the Coinage Act of 1792, when the government fixed 371.25 grains of silver to the same value as 24.75 grains of gold, or a ratio of 15 to 1. This caused problems because the market valued silver a bit lower than that.
So people were happy to bring their silver to the U. S. Mint to be coined. Silver had a higher value as a coin than it did in the market, and it was the opposite for gold. Gresham’s Law teaches us that if two monies must be treated by law as the same value, then the one of lower value will circulate and the one of higher value will be hoarded. This put the fledging America on a de facto silver standard.
Or, bad ideas have their roots in historical precedent but something is lost (or sabotaged) along the way. Back in 1792, there was no question that money meant gold and silver. There was no question that, when you deposited money at a bank, you had a right to get the same amount of money back. However, if each bank had a different unit of deposit, it would be hard to understand if someone said ‘I will pay you ten dollars’. Is that ten Road Runner Bank Dollars or ten Bank of Wile Coyote dollars?
The Coinage Act standardized the unit, but it did not change the rights of depositors or the obligations of banks. However, today, many people think that the government can, post hoc, change the definition of a unit and thereby change the value of everyone’s debt obligations and bank balances (and presumably cause a repricing of every extant asset).

This post was published at GoldSeek on Monday, 21 August 2017.

Global Stocks Down; Jackson Hole Central Bankers Meeting In Focus

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Money Morning. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
(Kitco News) – World stock markets were mostly weaker overnight. U. S. stock indexes are pointing toward narrowly mixed openings when the New York day session begins.
Gold prices are up slightly after pushing to a multi-month high on Friday. Gold bulls remain in firm near-term technical control amid a steep price uptrend in place on the daily bar chart.
The highlight of the trading week will be the annual central bankers meeting held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Thursday through Saturday. Highlights of central bank speakers from around the world include Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. The marketplace will closely examine the Jackson Hole speeches for clues on future monetary policy moves by the world’s major central banks. In recent years the Jackson Hole central bankers confab has significantly moved the markets.
The U. S.-North Korea stand-off regarding North Korea’s nuclear missile program is still near the front burner of the marketplace. The U. S. and South Korea will hold joint military exercises this week, which could prompt an angry reaction from North Korea. This matter has prompted safe-haven moves into gold and U. S. Treasuries, and will likely continue to do so for the near term.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner by Jim Wyckoff ‘ August 21, 2017.

Eclipse Will Be “First Major Test” Of Solar Power’s Role In Energy Grid

The first total solar eclipse in 99 years will be an unprecedented test of an American power grid that has become rapidly reliant on solar energy, according to Bloomberg. Power grids, utilities and generators are bracing for more than 12,000 megawatts of solar power to go offline starting around 9 a.m. in Oregon as the moon blocks out the sun across a 70-mile-wide (113-kilometer) corridor.
The eclipse has arrived at a time when the American power grid is becoming increasingly reliant on solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

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

Ray Dalio’s Gravest Warning Yet: “I Am Tactically Reducing Risk… This Is Broadly Similar To 1937”

Two weeks after Ray Dalio warned in his latest letter to Bridgewater clients that the right trade in the current environment is to buy gold in case “things go badly”, the head of the world’s biggest hedge fund is out with his gravest warning yet, saying that he is “concerned about growing internal and external conflict leading to impaired government efficiency.” In his LinkedIn post, he writes that he “continues to closely watch how conflict is being handled a guide, and I’m not encouraged.’
Echoing a similar warning issued just days ago from perhaps the most prominent name in all of finance, Lord Jacob Rothschild, the head of the world’s biggest hedge fund says that ‘conflicts have now intensified to the point that fighting to the death is probably more likely than reconciliation” and in a stark comparison to the days prior to World War II, observes that “politics will probably play a greater role in affecting markets than we have experienced any time before in our lifetimes but in a manner that is broadly similar to 1937.”
Basically, Ray Dalio just compared the current political environment to the days just prior to the outbreak of World War II. That is probably not a coincidence.

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

Microchips Should Be Used As “Identification Tool”, Says Doctor With 6 Implants

As we’ve reported, at least two companies, one in the US, and one in Sweden, have begun offering their employees optional microchip implants. In theory, the chips make life easier by allowing employees to effortlessly open locked doors and pay for lunch.
In the US, 41 employees at a small Wisconsin technology company voluntarily agreed to be microchipped at a ‘chip party’ thrown at the office. At Epicenter, the Swedish company, employees hold parties for newcomers who take the plunge and become a cyborg.
‘The injections have become so popular that workers at Epicenter hold parties for those willing to get implanted.
‘The biggest benefit I think is convenience,’ said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door by merely waving near it. ‘It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.’


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

The weakest boom ever

[This post is a slightly-modified excerpt from a recent TSI commentary] The US economic boom that followed the bust of 2007-2009 is still in progress. It has been longer than average, but at the same time it has been unusually weak. The weakness is even obvious in the government’s own heavily-manipulated and positively-skewed data. For example, the following chart shows that during the current boom* the year-over-year growth rate of real GDP peaked at only 3.3% and has averaged only about 2.0%. Why has the latest boom been so weak and what does this say about the severity of the coming bust?
***
Before attempting to answer the above question it’s important to explain what is meant by the terms ‘boom’ and ‘bust’.
An economy doesn’t naturally oscillate between boom and bust. The oscillations are related to fractional reserve banking and these days are driven primarily by central banks. When I use the term ‘boom’ in relation to an economy I am therefore not referring to a period of strong and sustainable economic progress, I am referring to a period during which monetary inflation and interest-rate suppression bring about an unsustainable surge in economic activity.
Booms are always followed by and effectively give birth to busts, with each bust wiping out a good portion (sometimes 100%) of the gain achieved during the preceding boom. Putting it another way, once a boom has been set in motion by the central bank a bust becomes an inevitable consequence. The only unknowns are the timing of the bust and how much of the boom-time gain will be erased.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Monday, 21 August 2017.

US Embassy In Russia Halts Issuance Of Non-Immigrant Visas, Moscow Vows “Retaliation In Kind”

The latest escalation in the deteriorating diplomatic relations between the US and Russia was unveiled this morning, when the US embassy in Russia announced it was scaling back its visa services in Russia after Moscow ordered it to sharply cut its diplomatic staff in retaliation over new U. S. sanctions, and would suspend all non-immigrant visa operations in Russia starting August 23, although visa operations will be resumed on September 1, but only in the main embassy building in Moscow.
***
As disclosed in the US embassy statement, “as a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the U. S. Mission, all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning August 23, 2017. Visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale. Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted only at the U. S. Embassy in Moscow…. As of 0900 Moscow time Monday, August 21, the U. S. Mission will begin canceling current nonimmigrant visa appointments countrywide.
The greatly reduced US mission in Russia also said that “the U. S. Embassy in Moscow and three consulates will continue to provide emergency and routine services to American citizens, although hours may change.”

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

SocGen: “It’s All About A Total Eclipse Of The Currency Sun Today…”

According to SocGen’s currency strategist Kit Juckes one main reason why Bitcoin and cryptos in general are doing so well today is because “it’s a feature of the low-inflation era that very few governments or central bankers want a strong currency.” As has been extensively observed over the past decade, “strong currencies depress inflation, at least temporarily, and if their impact on competitiveness is exaggerated, it’s still enough to make them take the blame for jobs being lost to other cheaper-currency producers.”
As Juckes then poetically summarizes, “once upon a time all this was offset by a sense that a strong currency was a sign of national virility, but such superstition is pass. It’s all about a total eclipse of the sun, today.”
Of course, the problem with no-one wanting a strong currency, “is that someone has to lose out. This year, the winner in the FX stakes, (or loser, in a topsy-turvy world where a strong currency is no kind of blessing) is the Mexican peso, reflecting two of the main underlying themes in markets: Trump deflation and the strong current of cash flowing towards emerging markets.” Meanwhile, the strength of the Zloty and Koruna “reflects the fact that the real winners from the European economic recovery aren’t in the euro area but are countries held back by European policies. SEK and NOK both still look like winners.”
So with the general U. S. population fascinated with the first full solar eclipse in 99 years…

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

“The Taps Are Gushing” Hong Kong ATM Withdrawals Surge As Facial Recognition Fears Spread

Amid a crackdown on unauthorized mainland currency outflows by forcing ATM users to undertake facial recognition before cash is dispensed in Macau, Hong Kong ATMs are reportedly being hit by a massive surge in withdrawals from China’s UnionPay bank cards.
***
As The South China Morning Post notes, the mainland has been strengthening regulations since last year when a decline in the value of the yuan led to widespread capital outflows.
Mainland people are allowed to withdraw up to 100,000 yuan (HK$117,000) in cash overseas and remit up to US$50,000 worth of foreign currency offshore annually, according to 2016 foreign exchange regulations.
Users of UnionPay cards can withdraw up to 10,000 yuan per day for each card they hold.
To skirt around the foreign exchange controls, some individuals have been using separate ATM cards to make cash withdrawals, prompting the regulators to crack down on the practice.

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