Algirdas Šemeta, the European Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud has announced in a speech that there are ten nations in the EU that need to cut the tax burden on labor if they are going to aid the growth of the European Union. They are hindering investment and holding back output of firms across the EU, although he admits that it is not reducing the tax burden alone that will solve the problems of the economic crisis.
The Belgian Central Bank said yesterday that about 25 tons of the European nation’s gold reserves have been lent to bullion banks according to Bloomberg. Nearly 10% or about 25 metric tons of the National Bank of Belgium’s remaining 227.5 tons of gold reserves are currently lent to bullion banks, Director and Treasurer Jean Hilgers told the central bank’s annual meeting in Brussels. The proportion of gold reserves on loan declined from 84.3 tons on December 31, 2011, and averaged 48.1 tons in 2012 as loans matured and some gold loans were reimbursed early. Hilgers said that the Belgian central bank sees gold lending decreasing further this year. During the 1990’s, Belgium sold some 1,000 tons of gold into the market - more than three quarters of its remaining holdings. The Belgian gold reserves, which had already seen sizeable liquidation in late 1978, fell from 33.7 million ounces on 12/31/88, to just 5.7 million ounces on 03/31/98, or a fall of 83% in less than 10 year.
Most people do not think that Europe engages in Quantitative Easing. They know that the United States engages in it, that Britain engages in it and now that Japan engages in it but they think that Europe has so far refused to be involved. They think this because this is what they have been told. Unfortunately this is inaccurate. The European Quantitative Easing takes place every day just not in the manner utilized by America and others. However, it takes place all the same and it is done in a manner to circumvent the rules of the European Union. This is also why the ECB has such a massive balance sheet. What Europe has done is gotten around their own regulations which forbid the ECB from lending money directly to nations.
Currency wars are so pre-"QE eternity." At least that is the opinion of Indian multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, and owner of the world's biggest steelmaker, who urged Europe to embrace protectionism and erect trade barriers to "protect" its manufacturers (benefiting one ArcelorMittal among others), while at the same time bashing austerity, saying "the futures of EU manufacturing depended on politicians in Brussels helping industry face what he said was unfair competition from China." In other words, it's time for Europe to escalate into full blown trade warfare with China. It is unclear if Mr. Mittal had any thoughts on how China would, in turn, escalate to this progression in trade warfare: whether with tariffs, subsidies, or outright dumping. What does appear quite clear is that the owner of ArcelorMittal, who on Friday posted a net loss of $345 million (down from a $92 million profit a year earlier) on Q1 sales plunging by 13%, whose stock is just off its 52 week lows, and who said he may close plants in Eastern Europe if the "economy continues to slump", may have some ulterior motives in asking that Europe fight his war for him.
If England does not wake up and recognize what is happening then it will be Neville Chamberlin all over again. Appeasement is never a good answer and today no war is threatened just financial domination. Over time, if Britain remains in the European Union, they will get pushed down into the mud, lose their ability to govern themselves, watch as their financial institutions get trampled by Frankfurt. The Germans will force them into a space presently occupied by Greece, Slovenia and Cyprus. Retribution for two World Wars will finally be won in Berlin.
- Pentagon Plans for the Worst in Syria (WSJ)
- Russia and US agree to Syria conference after Moscow talks (FT)
- Hedge Funds Rush Into Debt Trading With $108 Billion (BBG)
- Detroit is the new "deep value" - Hedge funds in search of distress take a look at Detroit (Reuters)
- Commodities hedge funds suffer weak first quarter (FT)
- But... but... Abenomics - Toshiba posts 62% decline in Q1 net profit (WSJ)
- Americans Are Borrowing Again but Still Less Than Before Freeze (WSJ)
- Man Utd announce Alex Ferguson to retire (FT)
- Asmussen Says ECB Discussed ABS Purchases to Spur SME Lending (BBG)
- Benghazi Attack Set for New Review (WSJ)
- Belgium Says 31 People Arrested Over $50 Million Diamond Theft (BBG)
- Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo wins WTO leadership battle (FT)
- Bangladesh Garment Factory Building Collapse Toll Reaches 782 (BBG)
With equity valuations no longer levitating but in a different, 4th dimension altogether, and credit spreads compressing dramatically (and unreasonably)... It is in situations like these, when the crash comes, that the proverbial run for liquidity forces central banks to coordinate liquidity injections. However, something tells me that this time, the trick won’t work. Over almost a century, we have witnessed the slow and progressive destruction of the best global mechanism available to cooperate in the creation and allocation of resources. This process began with the loss of the ability to address flow imbalances (i.e. savings, trade). After the World Wars, it became clear that we had also lost the ability to address stock imbalances, and by 1971 we ensured that any price flexibility left to reset the system in the face of an adjustment would be wiped out too. From this moment, adjustments can only make way through a growing series of global systemic risk events with increasingly relevant consequences. Swaps, as a tool, will no longer be able to face the upcoming challenges. When this fact finally sets in, governments will be forced to resort directly to basic asset confiscation.
A look at the price action in the foreign exchange market and the technical forces in the week ahead.
The weakness in economic data (not to be confused with the centrally-planned anachronism known as the "markets") started overnight when despite a surge in Japanese consumer spending (up 5.2% on expectations of 1.6%, the most in nine years) by those with access to the stock market and mostly of the "richer" variety, did not quite jive with a miss in retail sales, which actually missed estimates of dropping "only" -0.8%, instead declining -1.4%. As the FT reported what we said five months ago, "Four-fifths of Japanese households have never held any securities, and 88 per cent have never invested in a mutual fund, according to a survey last year by the Japan Securities Dealers Association." In other words any transient strength will be on the back of the Japanese "1%" - those where the "wealth effect" has had an impact and whose stock gains have offset the impact of non-core inflation. In other words, once the Yen's impact on the Nikkei225 tapers off (which means the USDJPY stops soaring), that will be it for even the transitory effects of Abenomics. Confirming this was Japanese Industrial production which also missed, rising by only 0.2%, on expectations of a 0.4% increase. But the biggest news of the night was European inflation data: the April Eurozone CPI reading at 1.2% on expectations of a 1.6% number, and down from 1.7%, which has now pretty much convinced all the analysts that a 25 bps cut in the ECB refi rate, if not deposit, is now merely a formality and will be announced following a unanimous decision.
When it comes to Italy, the market may have priced in every possible favorable outcome (the ECB and Kuroda will take care of the rest), but the country still has no Prime Minister and its economy continues to be in freefall with record unemployment and ever higher bank non-performing loans month after month. And while it may have elected a new figurehead president after 6 attempts last week, the choice of Prime Minister will hardly be as simple, especially since as the WSJ reports, this will likely be Enrico Letta, deputy of the Democratic Party (which as a reminder is in complete chaos following last week's internal coup and the resignation of its head Bersani over the weekend), at a time when Berlusconi's PDL lead in the polls continues to increase. Why the Bunga veteran would agree to a premiership by his opponents remains unclear, and with a parliamentary vote coming, it is doubtful just how smooth the approval process will be in a country best known for its dysfunctioning political process.
Those who have been following the US debt to GDP ratio now that the US officially does not have a debt ceiling indefinitely, may have had the occasional panic attack seeing how this country's leverage ratio is rapidly approaching that of a Troika case study of a PIIG in complete failure. And at 107% debt/GDP no explanations are necessary. Luckily, the official gatekeepers of America's economic growth (with decimal point precision), the Bureau of Economic Analysis have a plan on how to make the US economy, which is now growing at an abysmal 1.5% annualized pace, or about 5 times slower than US debt growing at 7.5% annually, catch up: magically make up a number out of thin air, and add it to the total. And it literally is out of thin air: according to the FT the addition will constitute of a one-time addition of intangibles, amounting to 3% of total US GDP, or more than the size of Belgium at $500 billion, to the US economy.
Every scheme in Europe than can be rigged has been or is being rigged and, in the end, it will only be the fools that are left in this game. It is not the greater fools either but the mandated fools who take directions from Brussels who takes their directions from Berlin. We cannot emphasize enough the great risk that anyone takes now by investing in anything in Europe. You can ignore liabilities, you can play pretend and not count liabilities but in the end they are still there and the losses must be finally acknowledged. Gold gave you a head's up.
Time after time, it appears, in Europe 'beggars can be choosers'. That is, it seems, until Cyprus, when the Merkel hammer was brought down and a new 'template' to avoid German taxpayers implictly taking on the burden of southern European largesse. The initial pro-Euro indifference to the bailouts has turned increasingly to resentment in Germany - and, as we noted here, the rise of anti-Euro parties in the very heart of the political project. The following Bloomberg Briefs chart explains the tension and why the German 'five-wise-men' are pushing for a broad-based 'wealth tax' across Europe's periphery. Simply put, the Germans bearing the burden are 'poorer' than the peripheral nations as the chart of median wealth so clearly indicates. Combine this with the fact that Germany has the lowest rate of home ownership in Europe and it is little wonder that 'Alternative-for-Germany' party is already at a 3% polling? However, as discussed below, this is misleading since wealth is very unequally distributed in Germany, creating a perception among less wealthy Germans that these transfers are unfair.
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
– Benjamin Franklin
In most cases, Mr. Franklin's statement would be correct. However, as you will see below, there are some countries in the world where you can be certain you won't pay taxes. With the year 2013 marking the 100th anniversary of the income tax and the Federal Reserve in the US (two of the most powerful tools the government uses to extract wealth), we thought it would be useful to look at when Tax Freedom Day occurs across the world to gain some perspective. Tax Freedom Day (TFD) is the day of the year that the average person has in theory earned enough money to pay his or her annual tax bill.
As of later this month, we’ll receive the final picture on China’s U.S. bond sales over late 2011 and early 2012, and the reaction isn’t likely to be much different than it was last year. But, we argue that there’s actually quite a lot to see. Namely, there’s a brand new reason to be concerned about America’s access to foreign capital. In a nutshell, America needs foreigners to be both willing and able to buy its bonds. China is able but much less willing than it used to be. (Treasury data that isn’t shown here suggests its interest in U.S. securities recovered somewhat in late 2012, but remains far short of the levels of two years ago.) Other countries are willing but not nearly as able as China, notwithstanding the sharp increase in purchases in the recent period. And overall, the message in the preliminary TIC data is more worrisome than it may appear on the surface. Should the final report on April 30th confirm the message, consider it a warning of a potentially disastrous future decline in foreign purchases of U.S. debt.