A recent article at the BBC discusses the findings of a report by EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on corruption in the EU. According to the report, the cost of corruption in the EU amounts to €120 billion annually. We would submit that it is likely far more than that (in fact, even Ms. Malmstroem herself concurs with this assessment). This is of course what one gets when one installs vast, byzantine bureaucracies and issues a veritable flood of rules and regulations every year. More and more people are needed to administer this unwieldy nightmare of red tape, and naturally the quality of the hires declines over time due to the sheer numbers required. And that is merely what they actually know about...One gets an inkling of how big the problem may really be when considering the case of Greece.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
The Likeness of God is to Create not Consume. Ingenuity and innovation are hallmarks of our human creativity. Curiously, those marvelous characteristics unique to mankind, which have delivered the most astoundingly advanced technological productivity gains ever conceived, are now fast displacing a multitude of relatively menial jobs previously attended to by human beings, who having been anchored to unsatisfying and unfulfilling laborious routines, were less able to enjoy the free time and space certainly required to become more creative enlightened beings themselves.
This wasn't supposed to happen. At a time when the European Union, reeling from the ongoing near collapse of the Eurozone, has been preaching its key benefits - the removal of borders and the free transit of labor - moments ago Switzerland, with a tiny majority of 50.4%, voted in favor of new immigration curbs which requires the government to set an upper limit for foreigners, risking a backlash from the (utterly toothless) European Union.
No-one knows for sure how big a problem China's economy will eventually face due to the massive credit and money supply growth that has occurred in recent years and no-one know when exactly it will happen either. There have been many dire predictions over the years, but so far none have come true. And yet, it is clear that there is a looming problem of considerable magnitude that won't simply go away painlessly. The greatest credit excesses have been built up after 2008, which suggests that there can be no comfort in the knowledge that 'nothing has happened yet'. Given China's importance to the global economy, it seems impossible for this not to have grave consequences for the rest of the world, in spite of China's peculiar attributes in terms of government control over the economy and the closed capital account.
A few short months after Putin cornered the US state department into a disastrous foreign relations dead end with the false flag Syrian escalation which achieved none of the predetermined nat-gas-to-Europe pipeline ambitions, instead alieanting the US from both staunch allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Russian president has just managed to inflict yet more pain on US foreign policy this time by infuriating (even more) a core US ally in Europe - Angela Merkel. Just two days after the phone recording of Victoria Nuland emerged in which she not only made it explicitly clear it was the US who was the puppetmaster behind the Ukranian opposition with the traditional CIA tractics as was expected all along, but also explained just how the US freels toward the EU with the now infamous "Fuck the EU" comment, Angela Merkel called the obscene remark "absolutely unacceptable."
The problem for the state is that its success in imposing exorbitant fees and taxes will simply drive low-income people scratching out a minimal living in the gray market to other networks that do not even have a corporate structure to tax. To wit: "The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers." Phantom economies tend to give rise to gray and black markets in proportion to the deviance of the phantom economy from reality.
How long can economic growth continue in a finite world? In simplest terms, our problem is that we as a people are no longer getting richer. The reason we are getting poorer is because hidden parts of our economy are now absorbing more and more resources, leaving fewer resources to produce the goods and services we are used to buying. The promised collapse, from 1972's The Limits of Growth, is practically right around the corner, beginning in the next year or two. In fact, many aspects of the collapse appear already to be taking place, such as the 2008-2009 Great Recession and the collapse of the economies of smaller countries such as Greece and Spain. How could collapse be so close, with virtually no warning to the population?
Inflation is hot property today, hyperinflation is even hotter!
It’s now clear that the spate of positive economic data coming out of Europe prior to the German Federal Election in September 2013 was just political gaming to get Angela Merkel back into office.
With reporters stunned by Sochi's unreadiness and athletes now quitting individual events on the lack of preparedness of the snow, the Winter Olympics in Russia is off to a less than stellar start. The last time Russia hosted the Olympics – the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow - the Soviet Union was a superpower, stagnant but stable. Not so today, notes Nina Khruschcheva; Putin’s Russia is weak, tawdry, and corrupt – and underserving as an Olympic host. The atmosphere surrounding the Sochi Games reflects many of Russia’s worst traits. In the immortal words of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, describing the country’s economic transition of the 1990’s: “We hoped for the best, but things turned out as usual.”
It's snowing in New York so the market must be down. Just kidding - everyone know the only thing that matters for the state of global risk is the level of USDJPY and it is this that nearly caused a bump in the night after pushing the Nikkei as low as 13,995, before the Japanese PPT intervened and rammed the carry trade higher, and thus the Japanese index higher by 1.23% before the close of Japan trading. However, since then the USDJPY has failed to levitate as it usually does overnight and at last check was fluctuating within dangerous territory of 101.000, below which there be tigers. The earlier report of European retail sales tumbling by 1.6% on expectations of a modest 0.6% drop from a downward revised 0.9% only confirmed that the last traces of last year's illusionary European recovery have long gone. Then again, it's all the cold weather's fault. In Europe, not in the US that is.
As if we didn’t know it already! The Western world is the ultimate destination for corruption, pulling a swift one and swiping the valuables from the inside pocket of the guy’s pants standing in front of you as he keeps his beady eye on the economy.
While Greece may be the most corrupt nation in Europe, there appears another problematic issue for finance minister Yannis Stournaras when he discusses the way forward with his Swiss counterpart this week. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah reports, Greece's difficulties with tax evasion are the worst in Europe. Accprding to a study from Johannes Kepler University, the size of the Greek shadow economy is a stunning 24% of GDP. One can only wonder what lesson this unintended consequence has for a US (or French) President besotted with extraction - especially as 74% cite "taxes are too high" as a reason for 'informal labor'.
Europe has an odd definition of recovery: we already knew that in Greece "recovery" means record high unemployment, an entire generation unable to find work, the return of neo-nazism, no ink with which to print tax forms, and even instances where people infect themselves with HIV to get medical benefits. That, and of course, soaring suicides. Now it is Spain's turn. While the Iberian nation is furiously scrambling to catch up to Greece in terms of sheer economic collapse, even if the government has changed the definition of GDP so many times, somehow Spain dares to look people in the eye and claim its GDP is growing with 26% total, and 54% youth unemployment, one statistic Spain can't change is that the suicide rate has soared and is now the highest in eight years.