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They are now not only fitting out shipping containers with bathrooms and toilets but are also constructing multi storey housing out of them.

The sorry development I have witnessed in housing over 50 odd years is that once upon a time housing was serving the needs of humans. These days housing serves the needs of the banking and political classes.

Gone are the days when I witnessed workers being able to pay off their homes in a decade.

Gone are the days of simple homes but sturdy homes.

Soon too, gone will be the days when parents will be able to leave the family home to their children because they will be forced to borrow against it to pay their bills and survive.

Authored by Joyce Poon, Gavekal Asia Research Director,

In the 16 months since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his bold plan to reflate Japan’s shrinking economy the yen has depreciated by 22% against the dollar, 28% against the euro and 24% against the renminbi. The hope was to stimulate trade and push the current account decisively into the black. Yet the reverse has occurred. Japan’s external position has worsened due to anemic export growth and a spiraling energy import bill: in January it recorded a record monthly trade deficit of ¥2.8trn ($27.4bn). Having eked out a 0.7% current account surplus in 2013, Japan may this year swing into deficit for the first time since 1980. So why is the medicine not working?

The standard response revolves around timing issues: the so called J-curve effect usually means that the boost to exports after a currency devaluation lags the rise in the value of imports by about 12-18 months. In addition, consumers may be busily buying goods ahead of April’s scheduled sales tax increase, temporarily jacking up imports. On a more structural note, there is also the suspicion that exports are not benefitting from the cheaper yen partly because so much production has been pushed offshore.

This may all be true, but there is more to the story than the trade data. After all, a big devaluation has a ricochet effect across the broad economy that changes the outlook for producers, consumers, the government and providers of capital. The transmission mechanism can be thought as working in the following way. Consumers are immediately hit with an implicit “tax” as imported goods cost more, while export-oriented firms get an effective subsidy. In the capital markets, the effect is to lower the value of domestic bonds in foreign currency terms, with the result that yields rise. This means that the cost to the government of financing its deficit rises, forcing a reduction in government spending. As a result of these effects, resources are shifted from the household and government sectors and into the corporate sector. The effect of this resource reallocation should be to boost productivity, which in turn initiates a virtuous circle of rising incomes and ultimately higher consumption.

Unfortunately, Japan defies this textbook paradigm because in addition to devaluing, it is also engaging in massive quantitative easing. This keeps bond yields low, enabling the government to keep financing its deficit at low cost. There is thus no incentive for the government to cut spending— and in fact the consumption tax hike will be offset by even more spending. Furthermore, low bond yields suppress the financial income of household savers.

The end result of all this is that the government bears none of the burden of the adjustment and the household sector bears all of it, through higher import costs and lower financial income. With the household sector’s spending power thus crimped, companies have no incentive to invest in domestically-focused production. Instead, all their investment will be geared toward exports—mercantilism on steroids.

A mercantilist policy can feel like it is working during periods when strong global growth allows excess exports to be absorbed without ruinous price falls. Between 2001 and 2006 the yen devalued by almost 40% on a real effective exchange rate basis and Japan’s current account improved sharply. Japan may not have won back its global competitiveness (its share of the global export pie fell by 1.5 percentage points in the period), but strong external conditions did allow exports to grow 9% a year in dollar terms.

Today, Japanese exporters do not face such benign conditions and any successful mercantilist boost can only come from eating the lunch of rivals.

Since all the leading economies favor policies that support production over consumption, the world is getting more goods than it can absorb. The result is ongoing price declines, which have the effect of deferring the ultimate global recovery.

What this means is that Japan’s ultra-mercantilism is self defeating. In a global environment of weak demand and disinflation any volume increase in its exports will have to be paid for through price reductions. To be sure, in the short term the trade balance is likely to improve somewhat as a result of the J-curve effect taking hold. But in the longer term Japan looks to be entering a cycle where it must run harder just to stand still.

There are a few ways this could all end happily. Japan might embrace a structural reform agenda that boosts productivity, raises wages and pushes up domestic demand. Alternatively, world growth could surprise on the upside, creating a rerun of 2001-06. Energy prices could collapse, closing Japan’s trade deficit and reducing the incentives for mercantilist policy. But we are not holding our breath on any of these possibilities.

Instead, Japan’s most likely path is that the yen keeps falling, the BoJ keeps printing money, and the dollar value of exports stagnates as devaluation and price cuts offset any volume increases. And so, paradoxically, the current account will continue to deteriorate into permanent deficit, despite ultra-mercantilism. At this point the game will have changed in Japan and Abenomics will have manifestly failed to deliver on its stated objectives.

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As was reported earlier, the Turkish premier, embroiled in what increasingly appears a career terminating corruption and embezzlement scandal (it is not exactly clear yet just how involved the CIA is in this particular upcoming government overthrow), blocked Turkey’s access to Twitter last night, hours after vowing to “destroy twitter.” The idiocy of this escalation against dissemination of information in the internet age needs no comment. Well maybe one. This is what we said in our post from this morning: “since Turkey will certainly not stop at just Twitter, here is what is coming next: “Last week, Erdogan said the country could also block Facebook and YouTube.” It now appears that at least half of this threat is about to materialize because moments ago Google just announced that it would not remove a previously uploaded video, one in which Erdogan tells his son to hide money from investigators (one which can be seen here), and which Erdogan demanded be pulled from Google (seemingly unaware that by doing so he simply made sure that everyone saw it). This means that within days, if not hours, Turkey will likely block Google-owned YouTube, if not Google itself.

From the WSJ:

Google Inc. has declined Turkish government requests to remove YouTube videos alleging government corruption, people familiar with the matter said, the latest sign of resistance to a crackdown against social media led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish authorities have in recent weeks asked Google to block the videos from YouTube’s Turkish website, the people familiar with the matter said. But amid a national scandal over corruption allegations, Google refused to comply because it believes the requests to be legally invalid, the people added.

Google’s refusal to remove videos raises the specter that Turkey could move to block access to YouTube within the country, after blocking the microblogging service Twitter Inc. late Thursday night. Both sites have been central conduits for allegations of corruption against Mr. Erdogan’s government and faced public threats of a blackout by Mr. Erdogan. 

Some people within Google had feared a YouTube blackout could be imminent, after the Twitter takedown, the people familiar with the matter said. “We feel an immediate threat,” one of the people said.

Sadly in Erodgan’s berserk regime, this is not only possible but very probable.

Still, one wonders why Google would not relent in this particular case, after recent revelations that the major internet companies have cooperated over the years with the NSA, contrary to their vocal denials in public. Surely, compromising with its principles and ethics would be nothing new to a company which once swore to “do no evil.” Especially since Google realizes quite well by not complying with the government’s demand it is making the overthrow of Erdogan’s regime, violent or otherwise, that much more likely.

Either way, even without Google’s aid it already appeared that Erdogan’s days are numbered when not only the opposition but the figurehead president himself condemned the Twitter blockage.

Opposition politicians decried the move as that of a dictatorship. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who has a largely symbolic role, also came down against the blackout, using Twitter to write that “wholesale shuttering of social media platforms cannot be approved.”

Alas, with the government in full out despotic mode, however one which would work in the 1970s but certainly not in an age of instant information exchange, further escalations of locking out internet provides will certainly accelerate until finally the information and entertainment starved country says enough.

We eagerly look forward to see which particular pro-Western agent is groomed to take Erdogan’s place. After all remember: those Qatari gas pipelines that in a parallel universe, one without Putin, would have already been transporting nat gas under Syria, would enter Europe under Turkey.

Which makes one wonder – just what is the real goal here?

As for Turkey, we urge the population, largely removed from all Machiavellian moves behind the scenes, to catch up on their favorite YouTube clips: they will shortly disappear for good.

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Submitted by Pater Tenebrarum of Acting-Man blog,

Former government advisor Cass Sunstein: still concerned about ‘conspiracy theories’

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Despite the total collapse (flattening) in the Treasury yield curve in the last 2 days, Citi’s FX Technicals group is convinced that we have seen a turn in fixed income that will see significantly higher yields in the years ahead and notably higher yields by this yearend also. Furthermore, they believe this will initially come from the belief in a continued taper, and the curve will initially steepen (2’s versus 5’s and 2’s versus 10’s). This normalization, they add, will be a good thing – QE encourages misallocation of capital and poor business decisions which has a negative feedback loop into the economy – but add (as long as yields do not go too far too fast like last year).

Citi FX Technicals,

We continue to expect a return to test and likely break the trend highs posted in Sept 2013 (2 and 5 year yields) and Jan 2014 (10 and 30 year yields)

2’s versus 5’s chart (One of our favourite charts of all time) making a comeback?

Following the recent 76.4% pullback the 2 year yield is now re-testing the Jan high at 43 basis points.

A close above would suggest gains towards the channel top at 59 basis points quite quickly.

A close above here would suggest that it could revisit the 2011 peak around 88-89 basis points.

US2 year yield minus Fed funds- Has it just become relevant again for the first time in 7 years?

Going back to the start of the Fed PUT era (beginning with Alan Greenspan, the Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen) all policy changes from the cycle low/high in the Fed funds rate have been preceded by a large gap opening up between the 2 year yield and the Fed funds rate ). We believe ending QE and then moving into a more normal interest rate environment that rewards all savers rather than the marginal borrower, that forces businesses to make business decisions, that encourages risk adjusted allocation of capital and more thoughtful Capex decisions is unequivocally positive.

We applaud Janet Yellen’s bold comments yesterday and encourage her to “hold the line”. It’s the right thing to do, not necessarily the easy thing to do. If her Fed does that it may well be the first Fed since Paul Volcker that has had the nerve to do so and we feel sure that it will culminate in a more positive outcome than the 5 ½ years of misguided QE has yielded.

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h/t The Burning Platform via Cagle Post

And as a gentle reminder of why… here is the full breakdown of “young vs old” jobs since the start of the Depression in December 2007: those 55 and older have gained 4.9 million jobs. Those under 55 are still some 3.1 million jobs below their December 2007 level.

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Russia threatened to dump its U.S. treasuries if America imposed sanctions regarding Russia’s action in the Crimea.

Zero Hedge argues that Russia has already done so.

But veteran investor Jim Sinclair argues that Russia has a much scarier financial attack which Russia can use against the U.S.

Specifically, Sinclair says that if Russia accepts payment for oil and gas in any currency other than the dollar – whether it’s gold, the Euro, the Ruble, the Rupee, or anything else – then the U.S. petrodollar system will collapse:

Indeed, one of the main pillars for U.S. power is the petrodollar, and the U.S. is desperate for the dollar to maintain reserve status.  Some wise commentators have argued that recent U.S. wars have really been about keeping the rest of the world on the petrodollar standard.

The theory is that – after Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, which had made the dollar the world’s reserve currency – America salvaged that role by adopting the petrodollar.   Specifically, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil and gas would be priced in dollars, so the rest of the world had to use dollars for most transactions.

But Reuters notes that Russia may be mere months away from signing a bilateral trade deal with China, where China would buy huge quantities of Russian oil and gas.

Zero Hedge argues:

Add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As we noted last year:

The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is less than 40 years.

But what about “reserve currencies”, like the U.S. dollar?

JP Morgan noted last year that “reserve currencies” have a limited shelf-life:

As the table shows, U.S. reserve status has already lasted as long as Portugal and the Netherland’s reigns.  It won’t happen tomorrow, or next week … but the end of the dollar’s rein is coming nonetheless, and China and many other countries are calling for a new reserve currency.

Remember, China is entering into more and more major deals with other countries to settle trades in Yuans, instead of dollars.  This includes the European Union (the world’s largest economy) [and also Russia].

And China is quietly becoming a gold superpower

Given that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil, Saudi Arabia is moving away from the U.S. … and towards China. (Some even argue that the world will switch from the petrodollar to the petroYUAN. We’re not convinced that will happen.)

In any event, a switch to pricing petroleum in anything other than dollars exclusively – whether a single alternative currency, gold, or even a mix of currencies or commodities – would spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

For that reason, Sinclair – no fan of either Russia or Putin – urges American leaders to back away from an economic confrontation with Russia, arguing that the U.S. would be the loser.

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An Audio Interview with Cognitive Dissonance


This interview will be posted on Friday, March 21 at 8 PM EDT

and available for playback any time after

Four years and thirty weeks ago I created an alter ego avatar on by the name of Cognitive Dissonance. My thinking at the time was to craft a safe place to go when commenting on Zero Hedge (ZH) in order to help weather the slings and arrows that were, and still are, the hallmark of Fight Club aka Zero Hedge. In addition Cognitive Dissonance was my mentor of sorts, someone I could speak through, and to, while writing about subjects that were at times as unsettling to me as they were to my readers.

A few months after the birth of Cognitive Dissonance, ZH’s Tyler Durden contacted me and asked if I would like to become a contributing editor. While this was a wonderful opportunity to speak to a wider audience, it also opened me up to the full force of the ZH comment section. I learned a lot about myself during that first year as a ZH contributor, most importantly that I did not need to value myself by what others said about or to me.

Four years and much personal growth later Mrs. Cog and I decided the next step in the evolution of Cognitive Dissonance was to create our own play place, a unique web destination in its own right, and was born on Valentine’s Day, 2014.

Creating ‘Two Ice Floes’ allowed me to expand the range of Cognitive Dissonance’s ‘voice’ while also creating a safe place where others may gather to share their thoughts and experiences. My intention all along was to expose some of ‘my’ background and perspective in order for my readers to better understand Cognitive Dissonance.

The opportunity to do so came quickly when within a week of opening shop an offer was received from Gemini of Time Monk Radio to interview Cognitive Dissonance and the mind behind the avatar. After a week to mull it over and a few deep discussions with Mrs. Cog the offer was accepted and last weekend (Sunday, March 16, 2014) the two hour interview was recorded.

So…….are you interested in hearing the ‘voice’ of Cognitive Dissonance, to sneak a peek into the thinking and mindset behind the anonymous man who is Cognitive Dissonance? If so, please visit Friday evening, March 21st @ 8 PM EDT to access the two hour recorded interview.


Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance Radio Interview

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Submitted by Lance Roberts of STA Wealth Management,

The biggest news this past week was Janet Yellen’s first post-FOMC meeting speech and press conference as the Federal Reserve Chairwoman.  While I have the utmost respect for her accomplishments, every time I hear her speak all I can think of is my white haired, 75-year old grandmother baking cookies in her kitchen.  This week’s “Things To Ponder” covers several disparate takes on what she said, didn’t say and the direction of the Federal Reserve from here.

In order to give these views context, I have included Yellen’s post-meeting news conference.  This is best viewed with a glass of milk and some warm, fresh chocolate-chip cookies….“just like Grandma used to make.”


Quote Of The Day:  “Bull Markets Are Just Like Sex, It Feels Best Just Before It Ends.”  by Barton Biggs

1) Dropping The 6.5% Unemployment Target by Howard Gold via MarketWatch

I have written many times in the past, most recently here, that the 6.5% unemployment target for the Federal Reserve was not a good measure of the true state of employment in the U.S.  Specifically I stated:

“The difference between today, and 1978, is that in 1978 the LFPR was on the rise versus a sharp decline today.  However, as I stated previously in ‘Fed’s Economic Projections – Myth vs Reality’ this leaves the Federal Reserve in a bit of a predicament.


‘The problem that the Fed will eventually face, with respect to their monetary policy decisions, is that effectively the economy could be running at ‘full rates’ of employment but with a very large pool of individuals excluded from the labor force.  Of course, this also explains the continued rise in the number of individuals claiming disability and participating in the nutritional assistance programs.   While the Fed could very well achieve its goal of fostering a ‘full employment’ rate of 6.5%, it certainly does not mean that 93.5% of working age Americans will be gainfully employed.  It could well just be a victory in name only”


This is particularly the case when roughly 1 out of 3 people are no longer counted as part of the work force, 1-out-of-3 individuals are dependent on some sort of social support program, and over 17% of personal incomes are comprised of government transfers.”

Howard points to the Federal Open Market Committee dropping its 6.5% unemployment rate threshold for raising the federal funds rate, a target originally set in December 2012.

“Instead it would look at some ‘qualitative’ measures, ‘including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments,’ the FOMC’s statement said.”

This move shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The official unemployment rate was 6.7% in February and keeping that 6.5% target would have tied the Fed’s hands before it’s even finished tapering.

Yellen must deal with an economy that’s slowly recovering, but leaving a lot of people behind.”

2) Yellen And The Fed Go Dark by Matthew Klein via Bloomberg

This is a very interesting take on a change in how the Fed presents its decisions and is worth reading in its entirety.

“Unless you have a crystal ball that tells you what will happen with wages, this possible new target tells you almost nothing about when rates will be raised.


These developments suggest a desire to turn the clock back to a time when traders had to make bets without Fed hand-holding — even if the Fed still does release its economic projections. A shift toward opacity might be wise. The economy is a complex system that no one fully understands, so it would be foolish to commit to any unbending numerical rule that limits policy makers’ flexibility to react to unforeseen events. That was why former Chairman Alan Greenspan was opposed to formal inflation targets.


An additional benefit of opacity is reduced predictability. Scholars have found that financiers take too much risk when they think they know what will happen in the future, so muddying the waters may be just what’s needed to promote a safer financial system.”

3) Why The Fed Will Stop Tapering by Peter Schiff

“In reality, the Fed will keep manufacturing excuses as to why rates can’t be raised. Whether it’s a cold winter or a hot summer, a geopolitical crisis, or an unexpected sell off in stocks or real estate, the Fed will always find a convenient excuse to postpone tightening. That’s because it has built an economy completely dependent on zero % interest rates. Even the smallest rate shock could be enough to push us into recession. The Fed knows that, and it is hoping to keep the ugly truth hidden.


Although Yellen followed the script on the QE tapering, by decreasing monthly purchases by an additional $10 billion to $55 billion, look for her to abandon her commitment to wind it down to zero just as easily as she has walked back the Fed’s commitment to raise rates once unemployment hits 6.5%. Any additional weaknesses in economic data, or dips in stock or real estate prices, will cause the Fed to call a time out on its tapering plan.”

4) Rising Risks To Fed’s Policy Change By Mohamed El-Erian via CNBC

“Higher uncertainty premiums: The Fed is in the midst of not one but two policy transitions. It is pivoting from reliance on a direct instrument (QE purchases of securities in the marketplace) to an indirect one (forward policy guidance to convince others to devote their balance sheets) — thereby raising effectiveness questions. It is also moving from a readily-observable unemployment threshold to a set of indicators that include qualitative judgments — thereby raising less predictable interpretation questions.


Technical market conditions: Given the impressive multi-year rally, it doesn’t take much these days to convince equity traders to book profits (and it hasn’t taken long for buyers to buy on the dip). Similarly, over-extended front end rates positions can be destabilized in the immediate term even if the Fed is committed to maintaining low rates for long.


Reaction to the interest-rate selloff: With a significant part of the economy sensitive to short and intermediate interest rates, including housing, and with the economic recovery yet to broaden sufficiently, it is not surprising that the stock market would be concerned with a sharp selloff in the shorter-dated rates.


What about the longer-term?


Here, much depends on your assessment of the first factor — namely, Fed policy effectiveness during its policy transition. Unfortunately, there are no tested models, policy playbooks or historical data to confidently guide investors. What is clear, however, is that they will require quite a bit of evidence of ineffectiveness before abandoning their faith in an institution that has significantly supported markets in recent years.”


5) Inside The Madness Of The Stock Market by Jason Zweig

Jason’s articles are always worth reading and this is no exception.  The “madness of crowds” is always relevant and prevalent.  With the financial markets tied to the Federal Reserve, like a “fetus to its mother,” these words of wisdom are worth remembering.

“In a guest essay published in the New York Times on Oct. 29, 1989, called ‘Fear of a Crash Caused the Crash,’ future Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller described a survey he had done of 101 market professionals the Monday and Tuesday after the tumble. Asked whether the drop was driven by ‘a change in the stock market fundamentals’ or ‘psychology and emotion,’ only 19% cited fundamentals; 77% blamed psychology and emotion. Shiller and his colleague William Feltus also asked the professionals if they thought the latest drop could turn into a replay of the 1987 crash; 35% thought it could, while 41% thought other investors thought so.

So, when KAL poked fun at traders overreacting to what others say, he was right on the money.


To this day, says KAL, brokers buying copies of the cartoon (featured above) ‘inevitably’ tell him, ‘It was so funny because it was so true.'”

EXTRA!  The Mysterious Disappearance Of Aircraft Since 1948 via Zero Hedge

The ongoing search for Malaysian Airline Flight 370 has the conspiracy world abuzz with theories ranging from terrorism, government experiments, black holes to alien abduction.  However, what is interesting is that this is not the first time a plane has mysteriously disappeared.  The following info graphic details the last known position of lost large aircraft since 1948. 


Have a great weekend.

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