Culture, Humour, the Brave, the Foolhardy and the Damned
Culture, Humour, the Brave, the Foolhardy and the Damned
Curated by Investors Europe Stock Brokers
Venezuela's government has given the U.S. two weeks to slash the size of its embassy staff in Caracas to 17 diplomats as tensions between the two nations rise. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez made the announcement Monday after a meeting with the top American diplomat in Caracas. She said it is up to the U.S. to decide which of an estimated 100 diplomats it wishes to send home.
An Argentine Federal Chamber has confirmed the prosecution of Vice President Amado Boudou for “bribery and negotiations incompatible with the public administration” in the case investigating Cristina Fernandez second-in-command for his alleged involvement in the purchase of the ex printing company Ciccone Calcografica.
housands of Argentines demonstrators participated worldwide, under different climatic conditions, in the rally led by federal prosecutors to honor late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, one month after his death. Demonstrators carried Argentine flags, chanted the national anthem and called for “Justice” and an independent judiciary branch.
|Rescooped by Investors Europe Stock Brokers from Politique : Place à la dure réalité et aux petits arrangements entres amis "AutreMent"|
Les juges d’instruction du pôle financier qui ont mis en examen le député UMP Patrick Balkany pour corruption passive et blanchiment de fraude fiscale ont demandé sa levée d’immunité parlementaire pour lui imposer un contrôle judiciaire.
Dans cette enquête, les juges soupçonnent notamment le couple Balkany d’être les véritables propriétaires à l’insu du fisc français de deux villas, l’une à Saint-Martin aux Antilles, l’autre à Marrakech. Concernant la première, l’épouse de Patrick Balkany, Isabelle, avait confirmé aux enquêteurs qu’elle était «l’ultime ayant-droit de la société» propriétaire du bien.
Première adjointe à la mairie de Levallois-Perret (Hauts-de-Seine), Isabelle Balkany avait été mise en examen fin mai 2014 pour blanchiment de fraude fiscale et s’était vu imposer une caution d’un million d’euros.
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February 11, 2015
Puerto Varas, Chile
Ten years ago, the legendary American mathematician Edward Lorenz paid a visit to the University of Maryland's Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Department.
As retold by Professor Christopher Danforth of the University of Vermont—
At some point during his stay, [Lorenz] penned the following on a piece of paper: “Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”
Chaos, of course, is the field of mathematics that deals with finding order in what otherwise may appear to be random. Stock market prices. Weather patterns. Even warfare and politics.
Lorenz was a pioneer in this area, famously coining the term 'Butterfly effect'. This observation suggests that a tiny butterfly flapping its wings may cause minuscule changes in the air which ultimately lead to a major storm system.
In other words, nothing is consequence-free. Everything affects everything else. And Lorenz's definition of chaos perfectly sums up where the world is right now.
We can see that nearly every Western nation is broke. Many central banks are borderline insolvent. Most Western banking systems are poorly capitalized and highly illiquid.
This approximate present will not approximately determine the future. Nothing is going to happen tomorrow. There will likely be no giant collapse this afternoon.
But as Lorenz suggests, there will come a time when these conditions have a major impact on what happens down the road. What happens now absolutely will determine the future.
Over the last few years, words like 'unsustainable' and 'unprecedented' have been used copiously when referring to government debt levels and monetary policy.
And with good reason. Because it absolutely IS unsustainable to go deeper into debt year after year. It absolutely IS unsustainable to maintain interest rates at negative levels, or levels that fail to keep up with inflation.
These conditions may not drive immediate consequences. But eventually a major storm system will form.
Consider this—just days ago, the yield on some of Nestle's corporate bonds went into negative territory to minus 51 basis points.
This means that investors are willing to PAY Nestle 0.51% per year for the privilege of loaning the company money.
Imagine that. You have to pay someone else to loan them money, instead of the other way around.
But this goes far beyond Nestle.
According to the Financial Times, there is now $3.6 TRILLION worth of government debt around the world with negative interest rates.
And yes, there are banks now (primarily in Europe) which require depositors to pay them interest... and even bizarre cases of negative interest rate mortgages (i.e. the bank pays you to borrow money).
This is beyond absurd. There are zero incentives to save and produce, and every incentive to borrow and consume. It should be completely obvious that this system is entirely broken.
But it's more than that.
As the negative interest rate bandwagon continues to pick up steam, people WILL reach their breaking points. They'll be forced into an "anywhere but a bank" option to hold their cash.
Think about it—if your bank is charging YOU interest to be a customer, wouldn't you rather just rent a safety deposit box and stuff it full of cash? It would be a hell of a lot cheaper.
Now imagine dozens of people showing up to your bank demanding cash withdrawals.
Then dozens more. Hundreds. Thousands. Even more.
Quite simply, this is enough to cause a collapse of the entire banking system. Why? Because as we have written so many times before, banks do not have the money.
Most banks have razor thin liquidity—as a percentage of customer deposits, many Western banks hold less than 3% in cash equivalents... and an even smaller amount in physical currency.
If there were a sudden rush from people wanting to pull their money out of the banking system, whether to hold physical currency, precious metals, bitcoin, or any other alternative, it could cause a run on the banks.
And since most of them are in absolutely pitiful financial condition, they would absolutely collapse.
Perhaps most ironically, judging by their actions, governments and central banks are almost pushing for this to happen. They're slashing deposit rates and bond yields, practically daring the public to take its money out.
They obviously think we're a bunch of suckers. But they're dead wrong.
This is the topic of today's podcast. Needless to say, it's important. We'll discuss this problem in more detail, as well as a number of solutions that I want you to know about:
Data in massive cache of leaked secret bank account files lift lid on questionable practices at subsidiary of one of world’s biggest financial institutions
The HSBC files, which cover the period 2005-2007, amount to the biggest banking leak in history, shedding light on some 30,000 accounts holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets...(...)...The Guardian’s evidence of a pattern of misconduct at HSBC in Switzerland is supported by the outcome of recent court cases in the US and Europe. The bank was named in the US as a co-conspirator for handing over “bricks” of $100,000 a time to American surgeon Andrew Silva in Geneva, so that he could illegally post cash back to the US....'
Homewood’s interest in the Arctic is partly because the “vanishing” of its polar ice (and the polar bears) has become such a poster-child for those trying to persuade us that we are threatened by runaway warming. But he chose that particular stretch of the Arctic because it is where ice is affected by warmer water brought in by cyclical shifts in a major Atlantic current – this last peaked at just the time 75 years ago when Arctic ice retreated even further than it has done recently. The ice-melt is not caused by rising global temperatures at all.
´´One of the first examples of these “adjustments” was exposed in 2007 by the statistician Steve McIntyre, when he discovered a paper published in 1987 by James Hansen, the scientist (later turned fanatical climate activist) who for many years ran Giss. Hansen’s original graph showed temperatures in the Arctic as having been much higher around 1940 than at any time since. But as Homewood reveals in his blog post, “Temperature adjustments transform Arctic history”, Giss has turned this upside down. Arctic temperatures from that time have been lowered so much that that they are now dwarfed by those of the past 20 years.
The oil markets are showing some life, having rallied 11 percent over a two-day period. But if a bigger rebound is not around the corner, it won’t just be oil companies that will be feeling the pain: their lenders will also face some steep losses if drillers can’t come up with the cash to cover debt payments.
Drilling for oil is an expensive process. Until the oil begins to flow, companies have to shell out cash without seeing much in return. Without revenues from other wells already in production, oil companies have to take on debt to finance operations. Even for companies with big production portfolios, debt is a crucial source of funds to keep the treadmill of new drilling going. Between 2010 and 2014, the oil industry took on around $550 billion in debt, a period of time in which oil prices surged. Now with a crash, that volume that becomes especially hard to service.
The largest banks – JP Morgan, or Citibank, for example – are so massive that losses on loans to the energy industry will likely result in only "slight negatives," as JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon put it a January conference call with investors. But smaller more regionally-focused banks, especially in Texas and North Dakota, are facing a much bigger problem.
During the last oil crash in the 1980’s, around 700 banks failed after oil prices crashed. Analysts aren’t expecting failures to come close to those numbers, but there are a series of banks that have high percentages of their loan portfolios coming from the energy sector. For example, companies like International Bancshares has (42.4 percent), and Cullen/Frost Bankers (35.9 percent), two Texas-based regional banks, are highly exposed, as CNN Money reported in January.
Canadian banks are also reeling from oil prices that have dropped by more than 50 percent since mid-2014. The S&P/TSX Commercial Banks index, an index of eight Canadian banks, dropped by around 10 percent in January, the index’s worst start to a year since 1990, according to Bloomberg.
Even British banks could be on the hook. The Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, and a series of other British banks are exposed to more than $50 billion in high-yield loans in the energy sector.
But not all lenders are in trouble. Eyeing wounded animals, some financial vultures sense an opportunity. Hedge funds and private equity are stepping into the fray, providing credit to distressed oil companies at exorbitant rates. Shut out of traditional debt markets, oil companies drowning in debt have few other options. Particularly for smaller drillers, these emergency loans provide a lifeline to pay off other debt.
Bloomberg reported on February 2 that several major private equity firms – Carlyle Group, Apollo Global Management, Blackstone Group, and KKR – are in the midst of taking massive positions in indebted oil companies.
KKR, for example, provided $700 million in credit to Preferred Sands LLC, a producer of sand used to frack oil and gas wells. In exchange for the emergency loan – which carried a 15 percent yield – KKR took a 40 percent ownership stake in the company. Blackstone did a similar deal with Linn Energy LLC, another struggling oil firm.
The New York Times chronicled the case of Resolute Energy, a company barely alive after being overwhelmed by debt. Highbridge Capital Management, a hedge fund, provided $150 million in loans to the company at a more than 10 percent interest rate.
The onerous terms on new debt obviously makes it even less likely that oil drillers will be able to get back on their feet. But these vulture investors know that they can seize assets in the event of a bankruptcy. And if oil prices do turnaround, then these financial institutions come away with potentially lucrative oil-producing assets that they obtained at fire sale prices.
"The single best opportunity to invest is distressed debt in energy," David Rubenstein, a co-founder of The Carlyle Group, said in Davos at the World Economic Forum.
By Nick Cunningham for Oilprice.com