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History's Biggest "Butterfly Effect" Occurred On This Day

Zerohedge - 4 hours 52 min ago

Via Global Macro Monitor,

The butterfly effect is the concept that small causes can have large effects. Initially, it was used with weather prediction but later the term became a metaphor used in and out of science.

 

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name, coined by Edward Lorenz for the effect which had been known long before, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.  — Wikipedia

On this day in history, June 28, 1914, the driver for Archduke Franz Ferdinand,  nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire,  made a wrong turn onto Franzjosefstrasse in Sarajevo.

Just hours earlier, Franz Ferdinand narrowly escaped assassination as a bomb bounced off  his car as he and his wife,  Sophie,  traveled from the local train station to the city’s civic city.   Rather than making the wrong turn onto Franz Josef  Street, the car was supposed to travel on the river expressway allowing for a higher speed ensuring the Archduke’s safety.

Yet, somehow, the driver made a fatal mistake and tuned onto Franz Josef Street.

The 19-year-old anarchist and Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, who was part of a small group who had traveled to Sarajevo to kill the Archduke,  and a cohort of the earlier bomb thrower, was on his way home thinking the plot had failed.   He stopped for a sandwich on Franz Josef Street.

Seeing the driver of the Archduke’s car trying to back up onto the river expressway, Princi seized the opportunity and fired into the car, shooting Franz Ferdinand and Sophie at point-blank range,  killing both.

That small wrong turn,  a minor perturbation to the initial conditions, or deviation from the original plan,  set off the chain events that led to World War I.

Stumbling Into The Great War

Fearing Russian support of Serbia, Franz Josef would not retaliate by invading Serbia unless he was assured he had the backing of Germany.   It is uncertain as to whether the Kaiser gave Franz Josef Germany’s unequivocal support.   Russia, fearing Germany would intervene, mobilized its troops forcing Germany’s hand.

The great European powers thus stumbled into a war they didn’t want through complicated entanglements and alliances, and miscalculation.  Russia backing Serbia;  France aligned with Russia,  Germany backing the Austro-Hungarian Empire;  and Britian, who really didn’t have a dog in the fight except her economic interests, aligned with France and Russia.

Later the U.S. would enter the war due to Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare threatening American merchant ships and the Kaiser floating the idea of an alliance with Mexico in the famous Zimmerman Telegram, which was intercepted by the British.

Of course, some will argue that Great War in Europe was inevitable

The great Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, the man most responsible for the unification of Germany in 1871, was quoted as saying at the end of his life that “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.” It went as he predicted.  – History.com

Nevertheless,  maybe the course of history would have been different if not for that wrong turn on June 28, 1914, which created the humongous butterfly effect, which we still experience the consequences this very day.

The botched Treaty of Versailles  sowed the seeds the for World II.  The War contributed to the Russian revolution and Cold War.  The redrawing of borders in the Middle East after the War created the conditions for the instability and breakdown to tribalism the region experiences today.

A map marked with crude chinagraph-pencil in the second decade of the 20th Century shows the ambition – and folly – of the 100-year old British-French plan that helped create the modern-day Middle East.

 

Straight lines make uncomplicated borders. Most probably that was the reason why most of the lines that Mark Sykes, representing the British government, and Francois Georges-Picot, from the French government, agreed upon in 1916 were straight ones.  — BBC News

If Franz Ferdinand had not been murdered on this day in history,  that conflict between the Serbs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire may have been contained to just the Balkans.   Maybe.

The butterfly effect

Think how many small events, decisions, mistakes, one small turn, or “minor perturbations” in plans have had enormous consequences in your own personal life... or the nation's?

With tweets, headlines, fake news, false flags, and markets as fragile as they've ever been, one wonders which 'butterflies wings' will start the ball rolling towards chaos this time...

Shrinkflation – Real Inflation Much Higher Than Reported

Zerohedge - 5 hours 3 min ago
  • Shrinkflation - Real inflation much higher than reported and realised
  • Shrinkflation is taking hold in consumer sector
  • Important consumer, financial, monetary and economic issue being largely ignored by financial analysts, financial advisers, economists, central banks and the media.
  • Food becoming more expensive as consumers get less for price paid
  • A form of stealth inflation, few can avoid it
  • Brexit is the scapegoat for shrinkflation by the media and companies
  • Consumers blame retailers rather than central banks
  • Gold hedge has doubled in value since 2007 

Editor: Mark O'Byrne

Shrinkflation: no one left untouched

600 new words entered our official lexicon this week as the Oxford English Dictionary announced the latest new additions to their online records.

One of the words reportedly up for consideration was shrinkflation. It did not make the final cut and as a result continues to be defined by the authority as ‘portmanteau, made from combining shrink: ‘to become or make smaller in size’, with the economic sense of inflation: ‘a general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money’.

In order for a word to be accepted into the OED it must have been in use for at least five years. But the latest list suggests that this isn’t the case and exceptions can be made. The inclusion of ‘superbrat’, a word which is usually associated with the behaviour of John McEnroe in the 1970s, actually dates back to the the 1950s.


Yet, shrinkflation continues to elude the world’s authority on the English language. This seems bizarre to us given both the word and the phenomenon and something consumers have been experiencing for a number of years.

Although it is understandable in the context of an important consumer, financial and economic issue which is being largely ignored by financial analysts, financial advisers, economists and the media.

We first covered the shrinkflation phenomenon back in 2014 when we reported how  Dr. Philippa Malmgren had highlighted this ‘shrinkflation’ trend in a new book.

Shrinkflation: a new phenomenon?

As we mentioned last week, shrinkflation is a phenomenon that is not unique to the current financial crisis. In 1916 The Seattle Star ran a front-page story on the issue, ‘“[Inspectors] went from bakery to bakery Thursday checking up on the bread situation…And here is what they found: ten-cent loaves of bread have shrunk from 32 ounces to 22 ounces, and standard 5-cent loaves, that used to weigh 16 ounces, now average 11 ounces.”

Search Graph for Shrinkflation (Google)

Granted, back in 1916 the word ‘shrinkflation’ was not in use but it had a place firmly in the economy. Use of the word shrinkflation has been picking up pace since at least 2012. We can see this by the examining the search history for the phrase on Google.

You can clearly see a peak in the search for the term in November 2016. It was at this point when news of the newly designed Toblerone hit the British newspapers. Mondelez, Toblerone’s manufacturers had announced they would be reducing the bars from 170 grams to 150 grams in the UK which would affect the shape.

Mondelez’s justification for the change was due to an uptick in ‘many ingredients’ prices’, the company specifically blamed the drop of the euro against the Swiss franc in January, and an increase in cocoa prices over the last three years.

Cocoa Prices - Money Week

It’s not just Toblerone fans who are feeling the pinch on chocolate bars. Creme Eggs and Quality Street (other British high street favourites) have been shrinking, with price remaining the same.

Other household items and food prices have also been affected.

Brexit is the scapegoat

Even though we can go back nearly 100 years to witness shrinkflation and see evidence of it in our household items and online searches, it is only in the last year that manufacturers and the media have managed to find a reason for its existence.

Brexit is being blamed - as it is being blamed for a number of woes being experienced in the UK at present.

Brexit seems to be bearing the brunt of the blame for the recent shrinkages, thanks to the impact of the referendum of the price of sterling. You don’t need to have a PhD in economics to understand the effect this has on prices.

12 months since the vote sterling is still weak, it is 15% down against the US dollar, and 14% against the euro. Things are expected to get worse, with HSBC analysts expecting the pound to hit parity with the euro by the end of the year.

There is little doubt that a weak currency will impact the cost of raw goods and materials which make up chocolate bars and other items. However shrinkflation existed even when the pound was strong.

No sign of easing up

In 2015 the Irish Times reported on this very topic and referred to a 2014 Which? survey:

Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle Chips were reduced in size from 750g to 700g, while a box of Surf with Essential Oils washing powder fell in size from 2kg to 1.61kg. In 2014 there was 750g of mixed vegetables in a Birds Eye Select bag; today it is 690g. Cif Actifizz Multi-Purpose Lemon Spray and Domestos Spray Bleach Multipurpose Cleaner were reduced in size from 750ml last year to 700ml today…

‘The shrinkage does not end there. In previous years, Which? has recorded one- litre tubs of Carte D’Or ice cream turning into 900ml tubs, while a litre of Innocent smoothies became 900ml. Magnum ice creams, which used to be 360ml, are now 330ml, and the size of a bar of Imperial Leather soap fell from 125g to 100g, a reduction of 20 per cent…

‘The list goes on. A packet of 48 Persil washing tablets turned into a packet of 40, a decline of 16.6 per cent, while 56 Pampers Baby Wipes used to be a packet of 63, an 11.1 per cent reduction.’

This was well before the EU referendum. It was impossible to blame a weak currency, instead this was and remains all about the impact of real inflation on consumer prices. This is despite having been told for years that inflation was very low.

UK Inflation Expectations (FT)

Inflation expectations are relatively low amongst households in the UK, EU and U.S.

Only now are we beginning to see both officials and individuals wake up to the presence of inflation in the UK. In May consumer prices accelerated faster than BoE expectations. They hit a four-year high of 2.9% and are expected to exceed 3% in the coming months.

In the UK, there are some concerns and dissent has increased in the BoE’s monetary policy committee (MPC) over the suitability of its record low interest rate policy in regard to rising inflationary pressures. It has been some time since we have seen any sign of concern regarding inflationary issues, from members of the MPC.

Meanwhile in households it looks like it has taken the appearance of a chocolate bar to drive the message home that businesses are experiencing price pressures. Unfortunately this has merely come out as anger towards companies rather than the central banks and governments who are ultimately responsible for this inflationary issue.

Unjust for consumers or time to take responsibility?

Which? magazine and consumer action groups have tried to bring retailers to account for what are considered to be misleading practices.

In Ireland, the Consumer Association’s Chief Executive stated

“I don’t know if we can say consumers are being deliberately misled but they are being put in a position where it becomes very difficult to make informed decisions."

“I think the worst example of this is the widespread shrinking of products. The content gets smaller but the price and the packaging stays the same. These are price increases by stealth, and by any measure inflation of this nature is abnormal in the current environment. I think they are appalling.”

As we have seen with quantitative easing, bank bailouts and the overall financial crisis consumers seem to be relatively disinterested in fighting back against these practices that ultimately cost them more.

A YouGov survey found that 46 per cent those polled would prefer to pay more for an item than see it shrink. Yet 36 per cent said they'd be satisfied if the pack got smaller, but the price stayed the same.

The same survey run by YouGov Portion Sizes and Health found that firms risk losing over a third of their customer base if they cut pack sizes by 15 per cent.

While there is uproar on Facebook pages about this topic, the concerns of some consumers are not being voiced by politicians, economists, central bankers or the media.

Depite the zeitgeist of the moment, this isn’t about retailers taking advantage of consumers. Shrinkflation is a very serious byproduct of a practice which has been going on for many years now.

Shrinkflation is just inflation in stealth mode and is the consequence of currency debasement on a scale that the world has never seen before.

It brings the economy’s problems literally to the kitchen table.

We are finally at a point where those who have so far been apparently untouched by the financial crisis i.e. the middle classes who still have jobs, they have seen their homes increase in value and they still go abroad twice a year, are beginning to see their cost of living increase.

As are the working classes, pensioners and those on low salaries or fixed incomes.

They will soon recognise that no one is left unharmed by the monetary and economic policies which followed the financial crisis.

Easy monetary policy is wealth ignorant. It gives little regard to how you spend your money and where you hold your cash. That’s why savers have to make room for those real assets which cannot be shrunk down and magicked away.

Investments such as gold and silver by their very nature are immune to the shrinkflation effect and are an important hedge against it.

Next time you’re considering that bar of Toblerone at the supermarket checkout, just imagine how much is missing compared to when you would have bought with the proceeds of your first payslip.

Then consider how much a bar of gold would have changed since then, the fact is that it hasn't. You would still have the same sized bar, with the same gold content and it is worth a lot more now.

Gold in USD - 10 Years

Gold is twice the price it was before the crisis in 2007. While many household goods and products are higher in price or the same price but a much smaller size.

Shrinkflation is happening and real inflation is much higher than is being reported or people realise.

Your purchasing power and your wealth can be preserved from the ravages of shrinkflation, just don’t expect it to happen courtesy of central banks and governments.

News and Commentary

Gold prices firm on weaker dollar, equities (Reuters)

Ransomware virus hits computer servers across Europe (Bloomberg)

Not another financial crisis in ‘our lifetimes’: Fed’s Yellen (Reuters)

UK consumer confidence plunges after May's election flop (Reuters)

75% of London homes now selling below asking price (City A.M. )

Markets Have Nothing Left to Fear But Fearlessness Itself (Reuters)

Real reason central bankers don’t want to raise interest rates (Moneyweek)

Brexit One Year Later, in Five Charts (Goldseek)

London's Palladium Market's Metal Shortage, Structure, and Irregular Appearance (Safe Haven)

Why Institutional Investors Are Buying Gold Again (Goldseek)

Gold Summer Doldrums (Investing.com)

Gold Prices (LBMA AM)

28 Jun: USD 1,251.60, GBP 976.25 & EUR 1,101.91 per ounce
27 Jun: USD 1,250.40, GBP 980.31 & EUR 1,111.36 per ounce
26 Jun: USD 1,240.85, GBP 975.56 & EUR 1,109.32 per ounce
23 Jun: USD 1,256.30, GBP 987.70 & EUR 1,125.27 per ounce
22 Jun: USD 1,251.40, GBP 988.36 & EUR 1,120.13 per ounce
21 Jun: USD 1,247.05, GBP 989.04 & EUR 1,118.98 per ounce
20 Jun: USD 1,246.50, GBP 981.99 & EUR 1,117.24 per ounce

Silver Prices (LBMA)

28 Jun: USD 16.78, GBP 13.08 & EUR 14.78 per ounce
27 Jun: USD 16.66, GBP 13.07 & EUR 14.79 per ounce
26 Jun: USD 16.53, GBP 12.98 & EUR 14.79 per ounce
23 Jun: USD 16.71, GBP 13.12 & EUR 14.97 per ounce
22 Jun: USD 16.58, GBP 13.09 & EUR 14.85 per ounce
21 Jun: USD 16.51, GBP 13.03 & EUR 14.81 per ounce
20 Jun: USD 16.59, GBP 13.10 & EUR 14.88 per ounce


Recent Market Updates

- Goldman, Citi Turn Positive On Gold – Despite “Mysterious” Flash Crash
- Worst Crash In Our Lifetime Coming – Jim Rogers
- Go for Gold – Win a beautiful Gold Sovereign coin
- Only Gold Lasts Forever
- Your Future Wealth Depends on what You Decide to Keep and Invest in Now
- Inflation is no longer in stealth mode
- James Rickards: Gold Will Start Heading Higher On “Dwindling” Supply
- Billionaires Invest In Gold
- Brexit and UK election impact UK housing
- In Gold we Trust: Must See Gold Charts and Research
- Pension Funds, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Central Banks “Stock Up” on Gold “Amid Uncertainty”
- 4 Charts Show Gold May Be Heading Much Higher
- Gold in Pounds Surges 1.5% To £1,001/oz – UK Political Turmoil Likely

Important Guides

For your perusal, below are our most popular guides in 2017:

Essential Guide To Storing Gold In Switzerland

Essential Guide To Storing Gold In Singapore

Essential Guide to Tax Free Gold Sovereigns (UK)

Please share our research with family, friends and colleagues who you think would benefit from being informed by it.

Banks Rush To Announce Dividend, Buyback Plans After All Pass Fed's Stress Test, COF Needs To Resubmit Plan

Zerohedge - 5 hours 18 min ago

One week after the Fed found that all 33 US major banks have passed the stress test and would survive even a surge in the VIX to 70, moments ago the Fed released the details of the second part of the stress test - the capital distribution to shareholders - where as expected, it also had no complaints to any bank's capital plans except to advise Capital One, the troubled credit card lender with the rising bad loan problem, to resubmit its plan.

Discussing Capital On, the Fed said "the firm’s capital plan did not appropriately take into account the potential impact of the risks in one of its most material businesses. Further, the firm’s internal controls functions, including independent risk management, did not identify these material weaknesses in the firm’s capital planning practices. Therefore, senior management was not in a position to provide the firm’s board of directors with a reliable assessment upon which to determine the reasonableness of the capital plan."

The Fed also said if Capital One doesn’t satisfactorily address these weaknesses by Dec. 28, then the Fed expects to object to Capital One’s resubmitted capital plan and it may restrict the firm’s capital distributions.

COF stock is sliding as a result:

Analysts estimated before Wednesday’s results that the tests would open the way for banks to boost dividends and share buybacks by as much as half. That would translate to about $30 billion more cash in shareholders’ pockets according to Bloomberg. The lenders typically start announcing their next dividends and total potential payouts within minutes after the central bank’s report.

Still, as Bloomberg adds, Wednesday’s results show that banks across the industry have more room to raise dividends after stockpiling capital in the wake of 2008’s financial crisis - but also after the Fed softened how aggressively it measures their ability to withstand severe shocks. This year, authorities dropped one of the toughest components, the so-called qualitative review, for all but the biggest banks.

The industry is counting on a further relaxation of rules as President Donald Trump appoints more business-friendly board members to the Fed, shifting the balance of power from regulators to shareholders. Earlier this month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recommended that stress tests be performed every other year and that banks maintaining a sufficiently high level of capital be exempt from exams.

Broadly, “the Fed is going easy on the banks this time around when it comes to capital,” Nejat Seyhun, a finance professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said before results were posted. “There is a new administration in town and Chairperson Janet Yellen is trying her best to get along with President Trump and push back on interference from the politicians against the Fed’s independence.”

Also of note: Deutsche Bank's New York-based trust bank and Banco Santander SA’s U.S. business, which had both failed two years in a row on qualitative standards, passed this year after being exempted from the qualitative exam.

All of Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank’s operations in the U.S. will be tested next year after the Fed required the largest foreign lenders to consolidate assets in the country under an umbrella structure starting last July. That will bring the German firm’s broker-dealer in the country under scrutiny for the first time in the tests.

So as one after another bank announces their capital return plans, here are the details on their various buybacks and dividend plans as they trickle in.

Here are the buyback announcements:

  • ALLY TO BUY BACK UP TO $760M OF SHARES
  • AMERICAN EXPRESS TO BUY BACK UP TO $4.4B OF SHRS
  • BANK OF AMERICA PLANS TO BUY BACK SHARES UP TO $12B
  • CAPITAL ONE SEES BUYING BACK UP TO $1.80B SHRS
  • CIT TO BUY BACK UP TO $225M IN SHARES
  • CITIGROUP TO BUY BACK UP TO $15.6B SHARES, BOOST DIV TO 32C/SHR
  • CITIZENS PROPOSES COMMON SHARE REPURCHASES OF UP TO $850M
  • COMERICA PROPOSES COMMON SHARE BUYBACK UP TO $605M
  • BB&T: RECOMMENDATION OF UP TO $1.88B IN SHARE BUYBACK
  • BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON TO BUY BACK UP TO $2.6B SHRS
  • DISCOVER PLANS TO BUY BACK UP TO $2.23B OF STOCK
  • FIFTH THIRD TO BUY BACK UP TO $1.16BN OF SHARES
  • JPMORGAN TO BUY BACK UP TO $19.4B SHRS
  • KEYCORP TO BUY BACK UP TO $800M OF SHARES
  • MORGAN STANLEY REPORTS SHARE BUYBACK OF UP TO $5B
  • PNC TO BUY BACK SHARES UP TO $2.7B
  • REGIONAL FINANCIAL PLANS UP TO 1.47BN SHARE BUYBACK
  • STATE STREET TO BUY BACK SHARES UP TO $1.4B
  • WELLS FARGO PLAN INCL UP TO $11.5B SHARE BUYBACK FOR 4 QTRS

And divdends:

  • ALLY BOOSTS QTR DIV TO 12C-SHR FROM 8C, EST. 10C
  • AMERICAN EXPRESS TO BOOST QTR DIV TO 35C/SHR FROM 32C, EST. 35C
  • BK PLANS BOOSTS OF QTR DIV TO 24C/SHR FROM 19C, EST. 22C
  • CITIZENS TO BOOST QTR DIV TO 18C/SHR, UP 29%
  • CIT PLANS TO BOOST QTR DIV TO 16C/SHR STARTING IN Q3
  • COMERICA PLANS TO BOOST QTR DIV BY 15%
  • DISCOVER PLANS TO BOOST QTR DIV TO 35C/SHR FROM 30C, EST. 34C
  • FIFTH THIRD BOOSTS QTR DIV TO 16C FROM 14C, AND TO 18X IN Q2 2018
  • JPMORGAN BOOSTS DIV TO 56C/SHR FROM 50C/SHR
  • KEYCORP TO CONSIDER DIV BOOST UP TO 12C/SHR FOR 2Q OF 2018
  • PNC BOOSTS QTR DIV TO 75C/SHR, UP 36%
  • REGIONAL FINANCIAL BOOSTS QTR DIV TO 9C/SHR FROM 7C/SHR
  • STATE STREET BOOSTS QTR DIV TO 42C/SHR FROM 38C, EST. 40C
  • WELLS FARGO SEES BOOST TO 3Q DIV TO 39C/SHR FROM 38C, EST. 38C

And this is how the banks are responding:

WTF: Rogue Cop Steals Helicopter And Drops Grenades On Venezuelan Supreme Court

SHTF Plan - 5 hours 22 min ago

The people of Venezuela have endured unimaginable horrors over the past few years under their corrupt government. Food shortages, record breaking murder rates, rampant inflation, kidnappings, vigilantism, black markets, and civil unrest have all become the norm. However, nothing could have prepared them for the what happened next.

That’s because the unrest in Venezuela took a rather strange turn today, when a stolen helicopter flew over the nation’s Supreme Court and dropped several grenades, before strafing the Interior Ministry with gunfire. The helicopter could be seen waving a flag that read “350 Freedom,” in reference to Article 350 of the nation’s constitution, which grants citizens the right to resist an undemocratic government.

#Venezuela | Oscar Perez flying stolen helicopter that dropped grenades on Supreme Court. pics via twitter. #OOTT pic.twitter.com/ztue54VojZ

— Lee Saks (@Lee_Saks) June 28, 2017

Momento en el que helicóptero del CICPC disparó a sede del #TSJ en #Caracas. Reportó @LuisOlavarrieta #27Jun pic.twitter.com/KdiAAl9Lfa

— CaraotaDigital (@CaraotaDigital) June 28, 2017

So far no casualties have been reported from this incident. President Maduro has since condemned the “armed terrorist attack against the country’s institutions,” and has stated that “this is the kind of armed escalation I have been denouncing.”

So who was responsible for this brazen attack? If you can believe it, the bombing was committed by a rogue police officer who has worked with opposition figures in the past. But that’s not all. The man is also a high profile movie star in Venezuela.

The rogue police officer behind a helicopter attack on Venezuelan government buildings is an action film star who paints himself as a James Bond-cum-Rambo figure on social media.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro said Oscar Perez, a strapping pilot, diver and parachutist, was responsible for firing shots and lobbing grenades on the Interior Ministry and the Supreme Court after hijacking the helicopter.

In a social media video, Perez said he was fighting a tyrannical, vile government.

Perez, 36, produced and starred in a 2015 Venezuelan action movie called “Suspended Death” about the rescue of a kidnapped businessman, which includes scenes of him firing a rifle from a helicopter and emerging from water in scuba gear.

He has an unusually public profile for the usually tight-lipped and secretive investigative police.

Videos have since surfaced on Instagram, showing Perez flanked by masked gunman, as he reads from a script and denounces the Maduro regime. During the first video he claimed that he was part of “a coalition among soldiers, policemen, and civilians seeking balance and opposing this transitory criminal government. We do not belong to any political party; we are nationalists, patriots, and institutionalists.”

However, as the regime hunts for Perez and condemns his attack on the government, the political opposition fears that his actions represent a threat to dissent in Venezuela.

And yet this is where the comparisons emerge with the “failed Turkish coup” to “remove” Erdogan last summer, which most admit was a staged attempt meant to further entrench the despotic president.

While Venezuela opposition leaders have long been calling on Venezuela’s security forces to stop obeying Maduro, following yesyerday’s event, there was speculation among opposition supporters on social media that the attack could have been staged to justify repression or cover up drama at Venezuela’s National Assembly, where two dozen lawmakers said they were being besieged by pro-government gangs.

To some, the incident has “false flag” written all over it.

But there seemed to be little enthusiasm for the pilot Perez. “It’s a joke. How many people have been arrested for raising a flag? Yet someone who takes a helicopter, gets away,” said Gary Guillen, walking in a Caracas street. “This sounds more like government tactics than anything else.”

Whatever the case may be, one thing is for certain. The total collapse of Venezuela is accelerating everyday. It’s utter chaos over there. What else can you conclude when B-movie action stars are bombing government buildings?

Read More:

In Socialist Venezuela, Oppressed People Set Fire To Supreme Court Building

Why We Have A Second Amendment: Venezuela Plans To Give Firearms To Loyalists So They Can Purge Growing Resistance

Venezuela Braces for Runaway Inflation As Merchants Weigh “Mountains of Cash” Instead of Counting It

Venezuela Isn’t Just in Crisis, But Faces “Total Societal Collapse”

Rosen Slams Canadian Accountants: “Investors Are Being Swindled"

Zerohedge - 5 hours 25 min ago

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Contributed by Sprott Money

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Bill Morneau was one of the country’s top pension fund management professionals before he went into government. But when Canada’s Minister of Finance recently addressed Concordia University business students, not one asked about the country’s $4 trillion national debt, much of which is pension-related.

That’s not surprising – because, as the Fraser Institute notes, nearly three quarters of those debts are not included in the federal and provincial  governments’ financial statements. So Canadians have no clue how bad the country’s true financial situation is.

This lax reporting is spread throughout the system, including public companies, says one expert.
“Investors are being systematically swindled out of large amounts of retirement savings,” says Al Rosen, a forensic accountant and co-author of Easy Prey Investors, a recently-released book that details shortfalls of Canada’s lax reporting standards.

Accounting scandals abound

“Investors mistakenly believe that their pension plans, mutual funds and other investments are safeguarded,” says Rosen. “In fact they are suffering losses that are monumental, compared to individual publicized scams.”

A key challenge says Rosen relates to Canada’s use of International Financial Reporting Standards, which “assign excessive power and choice to corporate management, providing them the ability to inflate corporate profits.”

Rosen cites a range of accounting scandals including Valeant, Nortel and Sino-Forest as examples of Canadian laxness.

(In one famous fraud case, Bre-X, auditors couldn’t be bothered to check if the company’s gold mine, it’s only major asset, actually existed. External accountants instead essentially relied on a manager’s claim that he had “found gold” in the core samples he presented to a valuation firm, when they signed off on the statements).

Bucephalous: creative pension assumptions

Those problems aren’t restricted to Canada says Robert Medd, president of Bucephalus Research Partnership, which has produced research regarding “creative accounting” at Alcoa, Raytheon, UPS and a slew of other global businesses.

“Pension deficits continue to grow,” says Medd. “Investors have yet to focus on the detailed assumptions used by managements and how they might affect pensions’ solvency, valuations and corporate strategies.”

Medd says that assumptions about life expectancies, obligation discount rates and forecast returns are key areas that management can adjust to (legally) underfund corporate pension plans and thus boost company earnings. “In many cases, pension discount rates and forecast returns have fallen, but nowhere near enough,” says Medd.

Medd cites lax independent auditors as enablers of the inconsistencies. “Given the small number of audit firms, actuarial tables and regulations, one would assume that the assumptions used would be similar,” says Medd. “However there are some startling outliers (and) expected returns have stayed high.

Aggressive pension accounting strategies work particularly well because they enable managers and auditors to boost short-term fees and bonuses, and to simultaneously get out of dodge before the pension obligations become due.

Accounting lobby shields profession from litigation

According to Rosen the 1997 Hercules Supreme Court of Canada decision essentially handed widespread legal immunity to financial statement auditors who approved misleading reports. “In essence, investors are being told that they should not be using audited annual financial statements for their investment decisions.”

The situation is roughly similar to that in the United States where provisions in the Private Securities Litigation Act, which was enacted under heavy pressure from the quiet, but exceptionally powerful accounting lobby, also make it very hard to sue auditors. (In recent years a spate of lawsuits against US auditors are attempting to reestablish a balance).

Because Canadian accountants are a self-regulating profession, additional blame lies with the regulators says Rosen, but they too have been asleep at the switch.

“(Canadian) Securities commissions (have) maintained their well- established practice of rarely investigating financial statement manipulations, deferring auditors to determine what is appropriate,” says Rosen. “As a result securities prosecutions have been uncommon, convictions rare, and penalties trivial.”

Morneau sets the (creative accounting) standard

 Finance Minister Bill Morneau, when asked by an Alt-Fin writer about Canada’s accounting practices, following the Concordia event, defended the government’s position by pointing out that similar practices are in place in other major economies.

(One estimate of unfunded liabilities in the United States runs to more than $200 trillion).

In all fairness, Morneau inherited many of Canada’s shifty accounting procedures from the Conservative Harper Government, when the Liberals took power in 2015.
That said, Morneau’s expertise on this issue and his position in government, make him a natural leader on this issue.

By continuing to play along with those old practices, Canada’s Finance Minister is signaling to his Cabinet colleagues and to Canadian businesses that it is OK to cook the books.

Until that changes: investors had better watch out.

Airlines Fear "Chaos" As Trump Unveils Enhanced Security Protocols For Every Inbound US Flight

Zerohedge - 5 hours 34 min ago

Instead of instituting a widespread laptop ban on every US-inbound flight, the Trump administration will require nearly 200 airlines (and implicitly almost 300 airports) around the world to meet new heightened security protocols, or be barred from entry.

As The Hill reports, the U.S. is rolling out new aviation security measures for all international flights coming into the country instead of imposing a laptop ban, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday.

Passengers on U.S.-bound flights can expect to go through a more “extensive screening process” beginning as soon as this summer in some areas, according to senior officials. The enhanced procedures will impact 105 countries, 180 airlines and an average of 2,000 daily flights.

 

“It is time that we raise the global baseline of aviation security. We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat,” DHS Secretary John Kelly said during a security conference on Wednesday.

 

“Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed.”

 

The administration's announcement comes after weeks of negotiations between the U.S. and Europe over whether to restrict large electronics on all U.S.-bound flights — a policy that currently only applies to 10 overseas airports.

The U.S. does not have jurisdiction over foreign airports, but has authority over airlines that have direct flights into the country.

The new measures include additional sniffer dogs, improved “next-generation” technology, more intensive screening, more vetting and a host of “unseen” efforts targeting passenger areas and around aircraft.

 

“Carriers will be given specific direction on what they need to institute,” said an official, who described the actions as “raising the bar globally” but said it was unlikely the measures would prove “unduly disruptive”.

The administration imposed a laptop ban earlier this year on U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa, which the DHS said was necessary because terrorists have been pursuing innovative methods to smuggle bombs into commercial flights.

The electronics restrictions at those airports can be lifted, however, if they comply with the new aviation security measures, senior officials said Wednesday.

The FT concludes, one European airline official predicted “chaos, at least to begin with”, saying there were questions over the cost of new security equipment and whether passengers transferring on their way to the US would need to be screened twice. But the official added:

“We’re absolutely relieved that this is not a laptop ban, and that this is a worldwide measure, not one that is EU focused. A laptop ban would have caused fire hazards if they were packed in the hold, and those issues were never resolved.”

But people close to major European airports played down the impact the new security measures would have, noting that they already have some of the most robust security in the world.

“From what we understand this would be just general enhanced screening,” according to one industry spokesperson. “It’s something we have been preparing for already.”

US government officials see an “urgent and evolving” terror threat to airliners and terrorists are plotting “multiple approaches” to breach airline security. They say the new measures will counter risks previously tackled only in piecemeal fashion as they emerged, such as explosives concealed in underwear, shoes, liquids and most recently laptops.

"How Did It Go So Wrong" Goldman Asks, As It Slashes Oil Price Target

Zerohedge - 5 hours 37 min ago

""Spot WTI oil prices at $43/bbl are now back to November pre-OPEC deal levels, down from $52/bbl just a month ago and vs. our prior 3-mo $55/bbl forecast. How did it go so wrong?

       - Goldman Sachs

Goldman has done it again.

Shortly after Goldman's tech analyst came out with a bullish note on WTI, saying oil is now "shifting focus back onto ~51.67-51.81. Keeping a stop at 43.32 (Jun. 22nd high)...." and adding "daily oscillators are crossing upwards from the bottom of this recent range... this ultimately opens up potential to eventually re-test the 200-dma/Dec. ’16 downtrend up at 51.67-51.81. Reaching these pivots would still maintain the trend of lower/lows and lower highs that has been in place since January...."

... Goldman's commodity analyst, Damien Courvalin came out and in a note which contains the infamous words "How did it go so wrong",  cut Goldman's 3 month price target on WTI from $55.50 to $47.50 as "shale drilling ramp-up and large rebounds by Libya, Nigeria are expected to slow 2017 stock draws" crushing Goldman's man near-term bullish thesis.  Courvalin also notes that prices will trade near $45/bbl until U.S. horizontal rig count lowers, stock draws increase or OPEC makes additional output cuts  Goldman's suggestion is that to normalize inventories, OPEC should cut more than what Libya, Nigeria adding.

"We have yet to see if the U.S., service sector can convert this unprecedented increase in drilling into production"

And while Goldman cut its near -term price target, it keeps its long-term WTI price “anchor” at $50/bbl on ongoing shale productivity gains and cost deflation elsewhere. At least until that too is cut in the not too distant future.

Here are the key sections from Courvalin's note:

Spot WTI oil prices at $43/bbl are now back to November pre-OPEC deal levels, down from $52/bbl just a month ago and vs. our prior 3-mo $55/bbl forecast. How did it go so wrong? The surprise over the past month was that two large US stock builds and the unexpected ramp-up in Libya and Nigeria reduced the confidence that inventories would normalize before the end of the OPEC deal. Concurrently, the steady increase in the US rig count and the six month drilling to production lag now imply that US production will be growing strongly by the end of the OPEC deal. This threatens to close the window of time for stocks to normalize before the OPEC cuts end and raises the concerns that OPEC will then ramp up production to defend market share. 

 

No longer being able to dissociate between the 2017 draws and the concerns of a surplus in 2018, Dec-17 oil prices could no longer act as the anchor and pivot for the forward curve and left the whole curve to return into contango. In fact, trading of the distinct 2017 vs. 2018 balances through long Dec-17 vs. short Dec-18 timespread positions likely precipitated this unraveling by offering producers too strong a price signal to ramp-up production this year.

 

 

Despite the market losing its pivot point, the other relative moves in oil prices during the recent sell-off have remained consistent with our fundamental framework:

 

The threats of a surplus next year precipitated the decline of the 1-n year forward price to $45/bbl, which we discussed last month had to occur (albeit in our view only gradually), to slow the shale rebound

The still ongoing draws have driven near-dated timespreads stronger over the past month, with no visible impact yet of the Libya/Nigeria recovery

 

 

The new anchor is likely to be the price at which shale activity slows

 

The oil market is back to searching for an anchor and we believe that this will likely be for now the price at which shale activity slows. Until a month ago, the greater than seasonal March-May draws and the upcoming May OPEC meeting had helped rationalize the steady ramp up in US activity. Data since then has however shaken confidence that these draws were real and sustainable and the market must now address the shale response. Shale’s velocity is making it the marginal barrel today, pushing the burden of proof on determining once again at what price oil horizontal drilling activity will decline.

 

Where does this leave us? We believe that prices have reached a level near $45/bbl at which US producers should start to adjust their drilling activity. Further, strengthening near-dated timespreads suggest that the draws we expect have yet to unravel. The threat of Libya/Nigeria production, the uncertainty on when and at what price level shale activity will slow and the shrinking window of time for the draws to normalize inventories before OPEC is tempted to ramp up all leave us cautious of calling for a sharp bounce in prices here.

And the summary:

  • The fast ramp-up in shale drilling and the unexpectedly n large rebound in Libya/Nigeria production are on track to slow the 2017 stock draws. This creates risks that the normalization in inventories will not be achieved by the time the OPEC cut ends next March. We expect this will leave prices trading near $45/bbl until there is evidence of (1) a decline in the US horizontal oil rig count, (2) sustained stock draws or (3) additional OPEC production cuts. Given that the market is now out of patience for large stock draws and increasingly concerned about next year’s balances, we believe that price upside will need to be front-end driven, coming from observable near-term physical tightness.
  • Cyclically, we believe that the balance of risks is nonetheless shifting from the downside to the upside: (1) global inventories are still drawing and we continue to forecast a deficit this year, (2) net long positioning is back to its February 2016 low level, (3) production disruptions are at their lowest levels in 5 years and skewed to the upside, (4) OPEC can (and in our view should) act and cut more than what Libya/Nigeria are adding, (5) our demand forecast remains above consensus expectations, and finally (6) we have yet to see if the US service sector can convert this unprecedented increase in drilling into production and what inflationary pressures this will create. As a result, while we are lowering our 3-mo WTI forecast to $47.50/bbl from $55/bbl previously, it remains above the forward curve.
  • Structurally, however, ongoing productivity gains for shale and cost deflation elsewhere corroborate our $50/bbl long-term WTI price anchor. While this leaves risk to our 2018-19 $55/bbl forecast squarely skewed to the downside, the shale breakeven discovery process is still a work in progress given the opposing forces of productivity gains, cost inflation and the dynamic cost structure of shale.

And the punchline of the whole report:

This leaves us cyclically bullish within a structurally bearish framework: the near-term price risks are now increasingly skewed to the upside while the low velocity deflationary forces of the New Oil Order are still at play.

Good luck figuring out what that means.

Gold Will Stand Tall When The Next Global Financial Crisis Unfolds

King World News - 5 hours 53 min ago

With the next global crisis dead ahead, gold will stand tall as the chaos unfolds.

The post Gold Will Stand Tall When The Next Global Financial Crisis Unfolds appeared first on King World News.

Dollar Dumped, Tech Stocks Pumped As Central Banker Bias Turns Tighter

Zerohedge - 6 hours 34 sec ago

More crappy data and every central banker in the world turning hawkish... BTFD you idiots!!

 

As we noted earlier... there's only one thing standing...

 

Before the US cash open, The ECB desperately tried to jawbone back Draghi's comments from yesterday... it was met with an instant reaction lower (in Bund yields and EURUSD) but the rest of the day saw that reaction entirely erased...

 

The ECB chatter did impact US equities early on...

 

Nasdaq was crazy today, with chaotic moves all over the place as every effort was made to ensure the tech-heavy index closed above the May close of 6198.5...

 

 

The bounce occurred right at the 50DMA...

 

FANG Stocks bounced off the tech-wreck day lows...

 

The entire equity complex saw v-shape recovery today.. which started at 10ET following dismal home sales data...NOTE - Dow, S&P, Trannies, and Small Caps went nowhere after Europe closed, Nasdaq kept on running. Little selling pressure into the close...

 

Nasdaq was unable to recover yesterday's losses and the S&P ended unch from Monday's close...

 

The driver of the panic-bid - simple - another huge short-squeeze at the open and lasted through the European close... (today was  the biggest short-squeeze since the first day of March)

 

Banks were bid and Utes were offered today ahead of the stress test results...

 

As rates and the yield curve has plunged in June, so the big banks have been bought...round-tripping today from the CAR results last week...

 

Despite the manic buying in stocks, bonds limped only 1-2bps higher (with 2Y yields actually down 2bps on the day)...

 

The Dollar Index extended its losses after Carney and Poloz comments in Sintra... the Dollar Index is now at pre-Fed-hike levels...

 

Funnily enough USDJPY (green below) was deadstick as everything flew around in FX land (and Kuroda warned the world that "there's no magic wand.")

 

Poloz restating his bias towards higher rates sent CAD surging most since March 15th to its strongest since Feb 2017...“The Poloz comments buttress the change in tone that we’ve seen from the Bank over the past month,” said Bipan Rai, Toronto-based senior foreign-exchange and macro strategist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. “There’s still some speculative shorts out there are being squeezed as a result.”

 

Cable also extended yesterday's gains after Carney hinted at stimulus withdrawal... (biggest gain since April and strongest since the election)

 

WTI and RBOB bounced notably after DOE inventory and production data...

 

Gold and silver managed to close higher also as the dollar sank...

 

Finally, as Bloomberg notes, high-beta stocks are no longer in sync with the S&P 500, sending a cautionary signal to equity bulls.

The S&P 500 High Beta Index turned south before each of the last two stock corrections. The high-beta index peaked in February 2011, more than two months before the S&P 500's apex that March. Again in 2015, the high-beta index peaked about a month before the S&P 500. In 2017, the high-beta index peaked in February yet has failed to recover with the broader market.

Planning To Sell Volatility? Goldman Explains Why It Will Buy From You

Zerohedge - 6 hours 13 min ago

Other than buying Ethereum, one strategy has stood out in investing circles - selling US equity market volatility, and as Goldman notes, the profitability of vol-selling strategies has accelerated in the last year. With vol at record lows, and after a long-run of success, Goldman unveils its guide to selling volatility, why it's a good idea, and how to do it.

Via Goldman Sachs,

We are increasingly asked whether flows into options and VIX selling strategies are pressuring options prices and dampening stock price moves. Indeed, when an investor sells an option, the Market Maker on the other side of the trade “delta-hedges” the portion of the trade where there is not a natural buyer. This “delta-hedging” dampens the volatility of the underlying asset from the time of the trade until expiry, all else equal. In this report, we explore the public data that is available to assess whether options and VIX ETP flows have the potential to contribute to the decline in implied and realized volatility. While a significant portion of the options market trades in OTC markets (where public data is sparse), we believe trends in OTC markets are consistent with our findings in the listed markets. In fact, based on our discussions with those that run systematic options strategies, much of OTC volume is recycled into the listed market and likely to influence publically available data.

Why are investors asking if options selling strategies are crowded?

1. Recent volatility is low and options selling returns are strong. Volatility has been low and volatility selling strategies have produced strong risk-adjusted returns over the past several years, accelerating in the past year.

 

 

For example, selling 1-month VIX futures has yielded a total return of 197% over the past year (see Exhibit 2). The average 1-month realized volatility of the SPX has been 9.1% while the options market has priced in an expected (implied) volatility of 13.5%. A variety of options sellers have benefitted from lower volatility than was priced in.

 

 

2. Low volatility environments tend to persist. Generalist investors recognize that volatility tends to stay low for an extended period of time. During the last cycle, SPX 3-month realized volatility was below 15 for nearly 4 years from Sept-2003 to July-2007. Volatility in this cycle has been below 15 for just over 1 year. The expectation for low volatility, but also fear of a cyclical pullback lead most of our questions to focus on selling covered calls (overwriting) rather than put or straddle selling strategies.

 

3. Fear of crowded trades after Feb 2016 “Factormaggedon”. Investors have been particularly interested in understanding crowded factors since the significant moves in factors during February 2016. We believe the narrative of “crowded strategies” travels further than usual in markets where data is less well-understood and more difficult to track than other markets as they are more difficult to refute.

Should investors sell volatility?

We see an assessment of flows as only one part of assessing the risk-reward of an investment. The strength of the fundamentals behind the investment is of primary importance followed by valuation and crowding.

1. Current fundamentals support low volatility environment. Our analysis of the correlation of volatility with major macro variables suggest that US GDP, ISM, Employment growth are consistent with low levels of volatility.

 

2. Equity Valuations have risen, but cash flow remains high. We find Free Cash Flow yield is the metric most closely tied to downside volatility risk for equities, whether used as a time series or cross-sectional signal. The FCF yield of the S&P 500 (ex-Financials) of 4.1% is near 30 year median levels, suggesting there is not an unusually large probability of a large drawdown. Specifically, using our GS-EQMOVE model, that incorporates FCF yield and other macro variables, we estimate a 9% probability of a 1-month 5% down-move in the SPX in the current fundamental environment.

 

3. Volatility is a mean-reverting asset, but mind the gap (between implied and realized). It is true that volatility is near the bottom of its multi-decade range and will increase at some point; however, investors need a large increase to offset the significant carry cost associated with buying options. We believe option buying should be done selectively ahead of events that have the potential to drive volatility.

And helpfully, Goldman explains...

Volatility selling for the Generalist: How do investors typically “sell-volatility”?

1. Overwriting: Selling calls on stocks that one owns is the most common volatility selling strategy as it both reduces equity risk and collects income.

 

2. Put selling: Investors sell puts to collect income in exchange for agreeing to buy a stock if it falls below the strike price before expiration. They hold collateral (cash).

 

3. Straddle/Strangle selling: combining Overwriting with put selling to benefit from a range-bound stock.

 

4. Short-VIX strategies: There are a number of VIX related ETPs that aim to replicate specific systematic VIX futures selling strategies.

And if you wondered what to buy (or sell)...

We use macro and fundamental data for S&P 500 companies to estimate the probability of large moves in the SPX to evaluate whether options are “overpriced” or “underpriced” relative to the fundamental environment. In our methodology paper “GS-EQMOVE: The probability of up and down,” June 6, 2014, we show how this analysis can be used to improve index option selling strategies over time.

Based on the current levels of ISM new orders, US Capacity Utilization, S&P 500 FCF yield and Return on Equity, we estimate there is a 16% probability of a 5% up-move over a 1-month period and a 9% probability of a 5% down-move over a 1-month period.

Calls appear significantly undervalued implying less than a 2% probability of a 5% upmove. Calls appear more attractive than 95% of the observations over the past 20-years.

 

Puts appear slightly overvalued implying a 12% probability of a 5% down-move. The overvaluation of puts is smaller than normal with puts less overvalued than in 87% of the observations over the past 20 years.

We have one simple question - if Goldman is so willing to 'buy' your vol, why are you 'selling'?

 

Gold Market Charts – June 2017

BullionStar - 6 hours 24 min ago
The June edition of BullionStar’s monthly gold chart analysis has now been published to the BullionStar website. The featured charts have been created by the Gold Charts R US market chart website.

This monthly series analyses recent developments in the world’s largest physical gold markets such as India, China, Russia and Switzerland. During May, Russia added a sizeable 22 tonnes of gold to its official reserves, India remained the largest destination for Swiss gold exports, and London again emerged as the largest supplier of non-monetary gold to the Swiss refineries. On the Shanghai Gold Exchange, monthly gold withdrawals reached 138 tonnes, and 2017 is now on course to be as active a year for Chinese wholesale gold demand as 2016 was. On the COMEX, nothing much changed with, as per usual, very small and static registered gold inventories backing up mammoth paper gold trading.

In Bizarre Note, Quant Admits Blowing Up Clients, Then Says "Being Wrong No Reason To Change One's Stance"

Zerohedge - 6 hours 28 min ago

In what is by far the most entertaining research report of the day, Canaccord quant Martin Roberge, essentially admits and apologizes for blowing up the bank's energy client returns in 2017 (with an endless long oil reco), but then - in a bizarre follow up - says that while Canaccord overweight rating on energy has been "costly and like many investors, we feel like throwing in the towel on the group. However, being wrong is not a good reason enough to change one’s stance."

Actually, Robert, our gratitude for the best joke of the day aside, being wrong is always a good reason to change one's stance, unless of course you are long stocks, in which case being "wrong" simply means the Fed or some other central bank comes to bail you out the second markets "crash"by 5% or more.

And just to share some of the cheer, here are the key excerpts from Roberge's note, "Mid-Week Market Observations"

What went wrong? The underperformance of energy stocks in 2017 has erased the outperformance in 2016. Our OW stance has been costly and like many investors, we feel like throwing in the towel on the group. However, being wrong is not a good reason enough to change one’s stance. After all, our OW stance has been predicated on four bullish factors: crude inventory draws, rebalancing world oil markets, a weak US$ and valuation of energy shares expanding from key historical supports. Except for the latter factor, most of these bullish elements are playing out. US commercial (and OECD) crude inventories should keep dwindling as long as gasoline inventories stay below their 26-week average (Figure 1).

 

 

Second, the extension of the 1.8 MMbbl/d OPEC/Non-OPEC production-cut agreement until next March is enough to rebalance world oil markets in 2017 and 2018 (Figure 2) according to the EIA. Third, the US$ has dipped to multi-week lows with no rebound in sight as long as the US economy lags world economic momentum and the US twin deficit deteriorates (Figure 3).

 

 

Last, NA energy stocks are bombed out, trading at a 41% P/BV discount to the market, a new all-time low (Figure 4).

 

Ok so, the clients are all blown up but the analyst refuses to change his view. At least he offers the following mea culpa, although we doubt it will be of much use to those who listened to him all the way down.

Any precedents? As quants, we are vulnerable to breaks in historical relationships and this is exactly what happened in Q2. Only once in the last 30 years (in Q2/95) have we seen crude oil plunging in Q2 despite significant inventory draws. In fact, the decoupling in Q2 is more than a two-standard-deviation move. The regression line in Figure 5 shows that the 27M draw (5% decline) in inventories should have equated to a high double-digit increase in oil prices in Q2. Could the market see crude builds this summer?

This would be very unlikely given the recent relapse in oil prices. Figure 6 should remind investors that there is roughly a three-month lag between oil prices and US rig counts. As such, US Shale production should taper off this summer. Furthermore, the table at the bottom of Figure 5 shows that historically, crude inventory draws in Q2 tend to persist in H2. Looking at the last outlier in Q2/95, oil prices and TSX energy stocks rebounded 12.4% and 6.8%, respectively, in H2/95.

 

Other factors at work. It is hard to pinpoint THE factor behind the above disconnect. Many investors point to OPEC eventually losing its battle to US Shales, hence a persistent oil glut. However, not only is the extension of the OPEC/Non-OPEC production-cut agreement to March 2018 expected to balance world oil markets (Figure 2), but a further extension to December 2018 would likely be struck to guarantee balanced oil markets. Another explanation could be spec positioning. Entering Q2, the market was too optimistic with total net long positions (WTI + Brent) nearing ~400K contracts (Figure 7). Many of these long positions have now been liquidated to levels that matched prior interim oil-price bottoms.

 

On energy stocks, beyond weak oil prices, the craze for growth over value investing may explain the underperformance YTD. Despite growth being overvalued vs. value, and an abundance of earnings growers in 2017, investors (until this week) have kept pouring money in technology/growth stocks directly and indirectly through passive investing which is compounding growth outperformance. This is one parallel with the 1999 tech craze. But another important one is the decoupling between oil stocks’ relative EPS strength and relative price performance (Figure 8). Unfortunately, history shows that a market correction may be needed to change leadership. The correction in 2000 handsomely rewarded value and energy stocks. For this and all of the above, we are sticking to our energy OW where we believe massive short positions in Canadian oil stocks (Figure 9) represent pent-up buying power for the next time up.

 

And there is your trading term du jour: "pent-up buying power for the next time up."

Quants, or rather their trading models such as this one, as a reminder, are taking over for flesh-and-bones investors. The above should serve as a preview of what happens to all other asset classes once things finally "break" relative to historical relationships.

The Dollar Is Hanging By A Thread

JS Mineset - 6 hours 48 min ago

A very interesting week so far. The dollar is now down 150 basis points in 2 1/2 days, in the old days it used to take several months to move this much. The “96”level has only two ticks to go before we see a 95 handle. Gold was flash crashed in Sunday’s access market for... Read more »

The post The Dollar Is Hanging By A Thread appeared first on Jim Sinclair's Mineset.

In The News Today

JS Mineset - 6 hours 50 min ago

Bill Holter’s Commentary Sung to the tune…”You’re in the army now”! Fed Raises Student Loan Rates 15% to 4.75 on 10yr Loans and Your Kid is a G-2 EmployeeJune 28, 2017 College ain’t what it used to be. And student loans are paving the way to indentured servitude possibly for the next generation. In one... Read more »

The post In The News Today appeared first on Jim Sinclair's Mineset.

The ECB Is Already In A Panic

King World News - 8 hours 30 min ago

With major markets on the move, it appears that the ECB is already panicking.

The post The ECB Is Already In A Panic appeared first on King World News.

Brandon Smith: “Next Phase of Collapse Will Include the End of the Dollar as We Know It”

SHTF Plan - 9 hours 25 min ago

This article was originally published by Brandon Smith of Alt-Market.com.

The Federal Reserve Is A Saboteur – And The “Experts” Are Oblivious

I have written on the subject of the Federal Reserve’s deliberate sabotage of the U.S. economy many times in the past. In fact, I even once referred to the Fed as an “economic suicide bomber.” I still believe the label fits perfectly, and the Fed’s recent actions I think directly confirm my accusations.

Back in 2015, when I predicted that the central bankers would shift gears dramatically into a program of consistent interest rate hikes and that they would begin cutting off stimulus to the U.S. financial sector and more specifically stock markets, almost no one wanted to hear it. The crowd-think at that time was that the Fed would inevitably move to negative interest rates, and that raising rates was simply “impossible.”

Many analysts, even in the liberty movement, quickly adopted this theory without question. Why? Because of a core assumption that is simply false; the assumption that the Federal Reserve’s goal is to maintain the U.S. economy at all costs or at least maintain the illusion that the economy is stable. They assume that the U.S. economy is indispensable to the globalists and that the U.S. dollar is an unassailable tool in their arsenal. Therefore, the Fed would never deliberately undermine the American fiscal structure because without it “they lose their golden goose.”

This is, of course, foolish nonsense.

Since its initial inception from 1913-1916, the Federal Reserve has been responsible for the loss of 98% of the dollar’s buying power. Idiot analysts in the mainstream argue that this statistic is not as bad as it seems because “people have been collecting interest” on their cash while the dollar’s value has been dropping, and this somehow negates or outweighs any losses in purchasing power. These guys are so dumb they don’t even realize the underlying black hole in their own argument.

IF someone put their savings into an account or into treasury bonds and earned interest from the moment the Fed began quickly undermining dollar value way back in 1959, then yes, they MIGHT have offset the loss by collecting interest. However, this argument, insanely, forgets to take into account the many millions of people who were born long after the Fed began its devaluation program. What about the “savers” born in 1980, or 1990? They didn’t have the opportunity to collect interest to offset the losses already created by the Fed. They were born into an economy where saving is inherently more difficult because a person must work much harder to save the same amount of capital that their parents saved, not to mention purchase the same items their parents enjoyed, such as a home or a car.

Over the decades, the Fed has made it nearly impossible for households with one wage earner to support a family. Today, men and women who should be in the prime of their careers and starting families are for the first time in 130 years more likely to be living at home with their parents than any other living arrangement.

People are more likely to be living with their parents now than back during time periods in which young people actually wanted to stay close to their parents to take care of them. That is to say, most young people are stuck at home because they can’t afford to do anything else, not because they necessarily want to be there.

This is almost entirely a symptom of central bank devaluation of the currency and its purchasing potential. The degradation of the American wage earner since the Fed fiat machine began killing the greenback is clear as day.

The Fed is also responsible for almost every single major economic downturn since it was established. As I have noted in the past, Ben Bernanke openly admitted that the Fed was the root cause of the prolonged economic carnage during the Great Depression on Nov. 8, 2002, in a speech given at “A Conference to Honor Milton Friedman … On the Occasion of His 90th Birthday:”

“In short, according to Friedman and Schwartz, because of institutional changes and misguided doctrines, the banking panics of the Great Contraction were much more severe and widespread than would have normally occurred during a downturn.

Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

Bernanke is referring in part to the Fed’s program of raising interest rates into an economic downturn, exacerbating the situation in the early 1930’s and making the system highly unstable. He lies and says the Fed “won’t do it again;” they are doing it RIGHT NOW.

The Fed was the core instigator behind the credit and derivatives bubble that led to the crash in 2008, a crash that has caused depression-like conditions in America that we are still to this day dealing with. Through artificially low interest rates and in partnership with sectors of government, poor lending standards were highly incentivised and a massive debt trap was created. Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan publicly admitted in an interview that the central bank KNEW an irrational bubble had formed, but claims they assumed the negative factors would “wash out.”

Yet again, a Fed chairman admits that they either knew about or caused a major financial crisis. So we are left two possible conclusions — they were too stupid to speak up and intervene, or, they wanted these disasters to occur.

Today, we are faced with two more brewing bubble catastrophes engineered by the Fed: The stock market bubble and the dollar/treasury bond bubble.

The stock market bubble is rather obvious and openly admitted at this point. As the former head of the Federal Reserve Dallas branch, Richard Fisher, admitted in an interview with CNBC, the U.S. central bank in particular has made its business the manipulation of the stock market to the upside since 2009:

“What the Fed did — and I was part of that group — is we front-loaded a tremendous market rally, starting in 2009.

It’s sort of what I call the “reverse Whimpy factor” — give me two hamburgers today for one tomorrow.”

Fisher went on to hint at his very reserved view of the impending danger:

“I was warning my colleagues, Don’t go wobbly if we have a 10 to 20 percent correction at some point… Everybody you talk to… has been warning that these markets are heavily priced.” [In reference to interest rate hikes]

The Fed “front-loaded” the incredible bull market rally through various methods, but one of the key tools was the use of near-zero interest rate overnight loans from the central bank, which corporations around the world have been exploiting since the 2008 crash to fund stock buybacks and pump up the value of stock markets. As noted by Edward Swanson, author of a study from Texas A&M on stock buybacks used to offset poor fundamentals:

“We can’t say for sure what would have happened without the repurchase, but it really looks like the stock would have kept going down because of the decline in fundamentals… these repurchases seem to hold up the stock price.”

In the initial TARP audit, an audit that was limited and never again duplicated, it was revealed that corporations had absorbed trillions in overnight loans from the Fed. It was at this time that stock buybacks became the go-to method to artificially prop up equities values.

The problem is, just like they did at the start of the Great Depression, the central bank is once again raising interest rates into a declining economy. This means that all those no-cost loans used by corporations to buy back their own stocks are now going to have a price tag attached. An interest rate of 1% might not seem like much to someone who borrows $1000, but what about for someone who borrows $1 Trillion? Yes, borrowing at ANY interest rate becomes impossible when you need that much capital to prop up your stock. The loans have to be free, otherwise, there will be no loans.

Thus, we have to ask ourselves another question; is the Fed really ignorant enough to NOT know that raising rates will kill stock markets? They openly admit that they knew what they were doing when they inflated stock markets, so it seems to me that they would know how to deflate stock markets. Therefore, if they deliberately engineered the market rally with low interest rates, it follows that they are deliberately engineering a crash in markets using higher interest rates.

Mainstream economists and investment “experts” appear rather bewildered by the Federal Reserve’s exuberance on rate hikes. Many assumed that Janet Yellen would hint at a pullback from the hike schedule due to the considerable level of negative data on our fiscal structure released over the past six months. Yellen has done the opposite. In fact, Fed officials are now stating that equities and other assets appear to be “overvalued” and that markets have become complacent. This is a major reversal from the central bank’s attitude just two years ago. The fundamental data has always been negative ever since the credit crisis began. So what has really changed?

Well, Donald Trump, the sacrificial scapegoat, is now in the White House, and, central bank stimulus has a shelf life.  They can’t prop up equities for much longer even if they wanted to. The fundamentals will always catch up with the fiat illusion. No nation in history has ever been able to print its way to prosperity or even recovery. The time is now for the Fed to pull the plug and lay blame in the lap of their mortal enemy – conservatives and sovereignty champions. They will ignore all financial reality and continue to hike. This is a guarantee.

In the Liberty Movement the major misconception is that the Fed is attempting to “catch up” to the next crash by raising interest rates so that they will be ready to stimulate again. There is no catching up to this situation. The Fed has no interest in saving stock markets or the economy. Again, the fed has raised rates before into fiscal decline (during the Great Depression), and the result was a prolonged crisis. They know exactly what they are doing.

What does the Fed gain from this sabotage? Total centralization. For example, before the Great Depression there used to be thousands of smaller private and localized banks in America. After the Great Depression most of those banks were either destroyed or absorbed by elite banking conglomerates. Banking in the U.S. immediately became a fully centralized monopoly by the majors. In a decade, they were able to remove all local competition and redundancy, making communities utterly beholden to their credit system.

The 2008 crash allowed the banking elites to introduce vast stimulus measures requiring unaccountable fiat money creation. Rather than saving America from crisis, they have expanded the crisis to the point that it will soon threaten the world reserve status of our currency. The Fed in particular has set the U.S. up not just for a financial depression, but for a full spectrum calamity which will include a considerable devaluation (yet again) of our currency’s value and resulting in extreme price inflation in necessities.

The next phase of this collapse will include the end of the dollar as we know it, making way for a new global currency system that uses the IMF’s SDR basket as a foundation. This plan is openly admitted in the elitist run magazine ‘The Economist’ in an article entitled “Get Ready For A Global Currency By 2018.

It is important to understand what the Fed actually is — the Fed is a weapon. It is a weapon used by globalists to destroy the American system at a given point in time in order to clear the way for a new single world economy controlled by a single managerial entity (most likely the IMF or BIS). This is the Fed’s purpose. The central bank is not here to save the U.S. from harm, it is here to make sure the U.S. falls in a particular manner — a controlled demolition of our fiscal structure.

After 8 long years of ultra-loose monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, it’s no secret that inflation is primed to soar. If your IRA or 401(k) is exposed to this threat, it’s critical to act now! That’s why thousands of Americans are moving their retirement into a Gold IRA. Learn how you can too with a free info kit on gold from Birch Gold Group. It reveals the little-known IRS Tax Law to move your IRA or 401(k) into gold. Click here to get your free Info Kit on Gold.

If you would like to support the publishing of articles like the one you have just read, visit our donations page here. We greatly appreciate your patronage.

You can contact Brandon Smith at: brandon@alt-market.com

The single-most important requirement of any Plan B–

Simon Black - 9 hours 26 min ago

It’s really easy to love Italy. The food. The scenery. The weather. The art and architectural splendor. The welcoming culture.

Then there’s the history, which is one of my favorite aspects of this country.

In the 5,000-year record of our civilization, Italy was the world’s dominant superpower not once, but twice.

The first time was in ancient Rome, an empire that grew from humble beginnings to rank among the greatest ever known.

Before Rome, it was the Greeks who ruled the known world. And Rome’s meteoric rise to power coincided with the Greek’s own terminal decline.

The Greeks knew it was happening, too. They could see it. Greek historian Polybius, who lived in Rome and witnessed its rapid growth in the 2nd century BC, wrote,

“Who is so worthless or indolent as to not wish to understand by what means and under what system of polity the Romans, in less than 53 years, have succeeded in subjecting the whole inhabited world to their sole government– a thing unique in history?”

The second time Italy was the world’s dominant superpower was during the very early Renaissance period, more than eight centuries ago in the northern city-states– Venice, Florence, etc.

While the rest of Europe was a plague-infested feudal backwater, Italy was thriving, prosperous, and free.

It was truly the America of its day– a civilization built on the principles of liberty, economic freedom, self-reliance, and independence.

The United States is not the first country to be founded on these ideas. And it won’t be the last.

But history shows us that nearly every tribe, kingdom, empire, and nation throughout history that became the world’s dominant superpower eventually screwed it up.

The Roman Empire vastly overspent its finances, debased its currency, and overextended its weary legions.

The Venetians imposed debilitating regulations that made it extremely difficult for individuals to engage in commerce and for businesses to succeed.

In short, these civilizations departed from the core principles that made them great.

We are, of course, witnessing the same thing in our own modern time.

Today’s America has managed to indebt itself over $20 trillion, with a ‘net worth’ by its own government’s calculations of NEGATIVE $65 trillion.

In fact the US government now spends far more money just on the military, interest on the debt, and Medicare/Social Security than they collect in tax revenue.

In other words, they could eliminate EVERYTHING ELSE in government, from the IRS to the national parks to Homeland Security, and they would STILL be spending more than they collect in taxes.

Just last year the US government posted an enormous $1 trillion loss for the year… an incredible feat considering they weren’t waging a major war, fighting a financial crisis, or bailing out the banking system.

It was just a normal year. And yet they still managed to overspend by a trillion dollars.

On top of that the annual trustee reports from Social Security and Medicare state that BOTH programs are rapidly running out of money and will be completely out of cash in around 12 years.

And then there’s yet another debt ceiling crisis looming right around the corner; the Treasury Secretary himself believes that that the government will run out of money in September.

The US tax code is still one of the most arcane and punishing in the world.

And bureaucrats across the federal government continue to create hundreds of pages of new rules every single day, regulating everything from how to raise your child to what you can/cannot put in your own body.

This is clearly not the path to prosperity.

(And by the way, it’s not just the US. Most of Europe, Japan, and much of the West are in the same boat.)

Sure, perhaps it’s possible that there will never, ever be any consequences from such reckless, irresponsible finances.

For that matter, it’s also possible the Dallas Cowboys decide to name 38-year old Simon Black as their starting quarterback this season.

But it seems foolish to bet everything you’ve ever worked for or hope to achieve in your entire life on such a dangerous fantasy.

You aren’t in a position to ‘fix’ your country. You can’t solve its fiscal challenges, pay off its debts, or make its trust funds solvent again.

But you can make sure that, should the consequences ever arise, you’ll never be a victim of this economic narcissism.

All that’s required is having a Plan B.

Having a Plan B doesn’t mean you think the world is coming to an end. It’s not negative or pessimistic.

It’s something that any rational person has, especially in light of such obvious risks.

By diversifying both domestically and internationally, you can dramatically reduce your exposure to these risks, expand your freedom, and take advantage of worldwide opportunities to increase your prosperity.

These strategies used to be available only to the super wealthy and to multinational corporations with access to armies of lawyers and advisors.

But technology now makes these solutions accessible to just about anyone with the right education and the will to take action.

A great Plan B is like a personalized insurance policy that increases your freedom, protects your current and future assets, helps increase your prosperity, ensures that you legally save tens of thousands of dollars in taxes every year.

Although we call it a “Plan B”, the primary requirement is that it makes sense no matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) next, and that you are never worse off for implementing these solutions.

This means that even if nothing bad ever happens, you’re STILL better off with your Plan B than without it.

Later this week we’ll explore this concept more, along with some real-world examples that you can follow.

Source

Trump Budget Cuts Hit As State Department Imposes New Hiring Freeze

Zerohedge - 10 hours 26 min ago

In an effort to support President Trump’s plans to cut the State Department budget by about one-third in fiscal year 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has imposed a new freeze on hiring.

As a reminder, President Trump instigated an across-the-board hiring freeze in his first days as President, then lifted it in April in favor a more "surgical freeze."

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, described the new stay on hiring as a more "surgical" freeze than the first.

 

"This is a big part of draining the swamp," he said. "Really what you're talking about doing is restructuring Washington, D.C., and that is how you drain the swamp, so this is a centerpiece of his campaign and a centerpiece of his administration."

But now, as Bloomberg reports, it appears the planned budget cuts are being prepared for as an emailed memo sent to State Department staff calls for immediate freeze to “all position upgrades, reorganizations, and lateral reassignments,” according to a copy of the document seen by Bloomberg.

Memo sent June 27 bars creation of any new positions including "senior advisors, envoys, chiefs of staff"

 

“These restrictions are necessary and prudent to insure we do not permit additional position and grade level growth at a time when the Department is undergoing reform and restructuring."

Notably, the memo added that exceptions may be considered for a “national security, life safety” or “public health situation."

Proximity Is Destiny In America's Pay-To-Play Democracy

Zerohedge - 10 hours 39 min ago

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Privilege is unearned proximity to power in all its manifestations.

My friend G.F.B. recently coined an insightful maxim: Proximity Is Destiny. The power of this concept lies in its unification of physical proximity and abstract proximity.

We all understand physical proximity can be consequential. As the Titanic settled lower in the ice-cold Atlantic, those close enough to the lifeboats to secure a seat (mostly the first and second class passengers) lived and those who were not died.

College graduates seek internships at the most successful companies because they know the connections they make by working within the headquarters might lead to a job offer: physical proximity to movers and shakers (and those with the power to hire) is destiny.

But proximity to abstract manifestations of power is even more consequential in an economy/society in which wealth and power are predominantly abstract. For example, getting an internship in the Federal Reserve doesn't mean you can obtain proximity to the Fed's money/credit spigot as a result of your physical proximity to the building or staff: the really powerful proximity--being close to the Fed's money/credit spigot--is entirely abstract.

Abstract proximity is structural, and often invisible. We can't discern an individual's proximity to money/ credit/ privileged-information spigots by their physical locale or appearance, though we may infer their income/wealth from various status signifiers.

But signifiers don't tell us much about abstract proximity. Two individuals may own the same status signifiers, but one earned them the hard way, and the other had the advantage of proximity to insider information.

Privilege is much in the news recently, and I wrote a short book exploring the nature of privilege: Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege. The point of the book is this: privilege requires a centralized power hierarchy, as only a centralized power hierarchy can impose or nurture privilege, often through informal power structures.

Privilege is unearned proximity to power in all its manifestations: in our world of abstract structures of power, privilege often appears informal, masking its structural nature.

This informality enables a useful (to the privileged) confusion of privilege and merit. Two individuals may appear to enjoy similar status--both own homes in upscale neighborhoods, drive luxury vehicles, vacation in exotic locales, own second homes, belong to churches, temples, clubs, charitable organizations, etc. well-stocked with wealthy, influential people, etc., but the sources of their status are very different.

One was handed all this by family connections and inherited wealth, while the other worked his/her way up from humble beginnings. The individual who managed to work his/her way up the social-mobility ladder needed proximity to opportunity, and might have been helped by mentors and plain old luck, but privilege played a relatively modest role in the journey, as millions of other people with similar social status had roughly similar proximity to opportunity.

This inherent difficulty in differentiating privilege from merit allows the privileged Elites to claim their advantageous position is all due to merit: I worked harder than the other guy, etc., when in fact it was proximity to abstract privilege and power that lofted them to the top of the pyramid.

The Power Elites always have need for hard-working, smart, honest strivers to serve their enterprises and institutions, and so they recruit non-privileged strivers to their inner circles: prep schools, elite universities, prestigious organizations, the "right" church, temple, etc., internships in higher management, scholarships, foreign postings that serve to quickly advance careers, and so on.

This proximity is very close to what they offer their own offspring. But there's a difference, of course; their offspring can be dull-witted and lazy, and they will still get access to all these advantages.

And there is another unstated difference: the merely merit-based striver will not be invited to private gatherings, nor encouraged to find a mate in the Elite class.

Proximity is destiny, and it's proximity to abstract but very real structures of privilege, power and capital that count.

As I detailed yesterday, proximity to the flow of cheap credit creates fortunes, fortunes that aren't earned via merit, innovation, genius or the creation of new goods and services; proximity to cheap credit is the core dynamic of rentier skims based on the acquisition of income-producing assets.

With sufficient income and capital, you also gain proximity to the machinery of governance--our pay-to-play "democracy" in which influence can be bought to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Proximity is destiny. To understand this, we must first illuminate the abstract structures that enable proximity to the abstract but oh-so-real levers of privilege, power, wealth and influence.

TF Metals Report explains why gold isn't rising despite dollar index's fall

GATA - 10 hours 46 min ago

11:19a 5:18p ET Friday, June 23, 2017

Dear Friend of GATA and Gold:

With the dollar index falling, why isn't the gold price rising? The TF Metals Report explains the complications today in commentary headlined "POSX Continues to S(t)ink," which can be found here:

https://www.tfmetalsreport.com/blog/8418/posx-continues-stink

CHRIS POWELL, Secretary/Treasurer
Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc.
CPowell@GATA.org

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