The Greece impasse set to culminate on Sunday continues to have a massive impact on at least one stock market, unfortunately it is the wrong one, located on a continent which is mostly irrelevant to the future of the Greek people (unless that whole AIIB bailout does take place of course). We are, of course, talking about China which as noted earlier, started off horribly, plunging over 7% with over 1000 stocks hitting 10% limit down, then in the afternoon session mysteriously recovering all losses and even trading slightly higher on the day, before the late selling returned once more, and the Shanghai Composite plunged to close down 5.8%: an unimaginable 20% total roundtrip move!
What has really been going on in Europe over the past 5 years, if the debt load kept creeping higher, and yet little money was actually making its way to the broader population? The answer is simple: abuse of taxpayer funding, also known as fraud and corruption. As Italy's TheLocal reports, the EU anti-fraud office, Italy currently has 61 open investigations into fraud involving EU funds. This means Italy has the second highest number of investigations in the EU, ranking just below Greece's neighbor to the north, Bulgaria.
"Millions of people in ex-Communist Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Romania have deposits in banks owned by Greek lenders, putting this corner of south-eastern Europe in the frontline if there is contagion from the Greek crisis."
Have you picked up on the new trope du jour? We are all encouraged to bask in our innocence as we lament the advent of a new Cold War. The thought has been in the wind for more than a year, of course, at least among some of us. But we witness a significant turn, and I hope this same some of us are paying attention. As of this week, leaders who know nothing about leading, thinkers who do not think and opinion-shaping poseurs such as Tom Friedman are confident enough in their case to sally forth with it: The Cold War returns, the Russians have restarted it and we must do the right thing - the right thing being to bring NATO troops and materiel up to Russia’s borders, pandering to the paranoia of the former Soviet satellites as if they alone have access to some truth not available to the rest of us.
MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – is way over. It kept a somewhat uneasy peace during seven decades of Cold War. Cold War 2.0 is as hardcore as it gets. And with all those Breedhate Strangeloves on the loose, nuclear madness is now at five seconds to midnight.
We had wondered at the relative lack of response by Russia to extended sanctions and asset freezes in Europe and now we see the first major move. Having confirmed new counter-sanctions this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin just threw The IMF (US taxpayers), and Ukraine's 'American' finance minister under the bus... "Moscow can no longer give Ukraine gas discounts due to the current drop in oil prices." The price must be on level of other countries like Poland, he added.
"If they want to lecture us on democracy building, let them lecture students at some American university," Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov said Tuesday, regarding the collapse of a bilateral arrangement struck in 2009 between Moscow and Washington. Fortunately for Dolgov, it doesn't appear as though he, or any other Russian diplomats for that matter, will be forced to endure a "lecture" on democracy from the US anytime soon because as the positioning of 250 Bradleys and self-propelled howitzers, and associated armored brigade combat team equipment" in Eastern Europe makes clear, the time for dialogue of any kind has long since passed.
A fund manager for one of the largest mutual fund and investment groups in the world, Fidelity, has warned investors and savers to have an allocation to “physical cash,” “including precious metals” to protect against "systemic risk".
This is an eventful period for EU-Russia gas relations. How should the most recent evolutions of the Russian waltz of pipelines be interpreted? There are three possible scenarios...
Greece completes stage one of the dreaded "Russian pivot" as energy ministers from Athens and Moscow ink an MOU on Gazprom's Turkish Stream pipeline. Meanwhile, Gazprom signs a deal with Shell and others to double the capacity of the Nord line, a move which will, over time, decrease the energy giant's dependence on Ukraine for transport.
The European Commission has ordered 11 EU countries to enact the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) within two months or be hauled before the EU Court of Justice, according to a report from Reuters on Friday.
Greece has received what The New York Times recently described as “dueling sales pitches” on two proposed natural gas pipelines, with the US pressing Athens to support The Southern Gas Corridor rather than Gazprom's Turkish Stream project. It appears Moscow may have made the more convincing case because, much to Washington's dismay, Greece is set to sign an MOU for the Greek portion of The Turkish Stream pipeline in June.
The EU issued a press release this morning which could perhaps be summed up in 2 words - "not fair." Following the denial-of-entry by Russia of several EU politicians, Russia has released a list of 89 names who will face travel bans - of exactly the same type as EU and US enforced upon numerous Russian elites. Europe is displeased that Russia would dare do unto them as they have done unto others... "we deem this measure as totally arbitrary and unjustified," they exclaimed, adding, "we don’t have any further information on the legal basis or the criteria or the process of these decisions."
Just hours after being force to admit that they were hacked (by Russians apparently), an inspector general's report shows that The IRS has rather remarkably continued to pay refunds on hundreds of thousands of fraudulent tax returns in recent years, and sent dozens of checks to the same addresses, including in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. While some progress has been made, $2.3 billion of real US taxpayer's money was wrongfully refunded to fake US taxpayers... but with this new cyber-attack, we suspect that number will soar.
Many people seem to think that America has lost its sense of purpose. You don’t have to seek further than the USA’s sub-soviet-quality passenger railroad system, which produced the spectacular Philadelphia derailment last week that killed eight people and injured dozens more. Six days later, we’re still waiting for some explanation as to why the train was going 100 miles-per-hour on a historically dangerous curve within the city limits. The condition of our trains is symptomatic of the shape of the nation.