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JPMorgan Asks "How Similar Is China To Japan In The Late 1980s?"





China is similar to Japan in the 1980s in terms of financial imbalances and challenges for the real economy, but, as JPMorgan notes, China differs in terms of its stage of economic development. Turning possibility into reality is not an easy task, especially as China’s structural slowdown is accompanied by mounting financial imbalances. In the near term, overcapacity and decline in the rate of return on investment are the major challenges to be addressed by policymakers, and rising debt in the corporate sector and local governments needs to be contained and gradually reduced. In our view, this would require reform not only on the economic front (e.g., fiscal reform, land reform, financial reform, and SOE reform), but also social reform (e.g., hukou reform) and governmental reform (e.g., changing the role of the government and de-monopolizing). The list of tasks is daunting, but policy inaction could be even more dangerous - a delay in economic restructuring in China could lead to a repeat of Japan’s experience.

 

 
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The New (Ab)normal: When 200 People Have More Wealth Than 3,500,000,000





The following brief video created by TheRules.org, using data sourced from this website, is the latest vivid demonstration of the most adverse (and dangerous) side effect of nearly five years, and counting, of global monetary intervention by central banks: a world in which the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, and the middle class disappears. The video's punchline "The richest 300 people on earth have as much wealth as the poorest 3 billion" is not exactly correct: in truth the situation is even worse: the richest 200 people have about $2.7 trillion, which is more than the poorest 3.5 billion people, who have only $2.2 trillion combined.

 
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Now That Detroit’s Gone Bust, Is Your City Next?





Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is one depressing read. Poverty, crime, blight – you name the malady and there’s plenty of data to back it up. And unfortunately, Detroit’s not alone. You may be wondering which city hits the wall next...

 
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Detroit Mayor Warns "We May Be One Of The First... But We Absolutely Won't Be The Last"





Amid the furore of Sunday morning political programming, Detroit Mayor Bing and Michigan Governor Snyder have been quite vocal. Bing made it clear that "a lot of negotiations will go into fixing our city," and when asked whether he will seek a Federal bailout, he responded, "not yet." The decisions following this huge bankruptcy are likely to be precedent-setting as Bing noted that more than 100 urban US cities "are having the same  problems we're having." As the WSJ reports, Bing warned, "We may be one of the first. We are the largest. But we absolutely will not be the last. And so we have got to set a benchmark in terms how to fix our cities." Snyder was a little more hopeful that salvation will come from above as he stated that while "I don't view that as the right answer... if the federal government wants to [bail us out], that’s their option."

 
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Why China's "Interest Rate Liberalization" Is Much Ado About Nothing





One of the catalysts driving the Friday rally in stocks was news from the PBOC that China was pushing forward with liberalization of its "interest rate controls" by removing the lending rate floor. Back then we asked, rhetorically, that "besides optics, because China does not have a market clearing interest rate so this announcement is largely moot, will this announcement have an actual impact on Chinese lending or transmission mechanisms? Hardly." As SocGen lays out today, "Hardly" was indeed the accurate answer: "Although the step is of great significance, the near term impact is likely to be very limited."

 
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Congress Prepares To Limit NSA Spying Reach





Late on Friday, with little fanfare, the government's Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported that the secret FISA court - the "legal" administrators of the NSA's assorted domestic espionage programs - would be granted an extension of its telephone surveillance program. And while so far the US public has shown a stoic resolve in its response to learning more details about how the US government spies on its day after day, things may soon be changing. As McClatchy reports, "Congress is growing increasingly wary of controversial National Security Agency domestic surveillance programs, a concern likely to erupt during legislative debate - and perhaps prod legislative action - as early as next week." Among the measures considered are legislation to make those programs less secret, and talk of denying funding and refusing to continue authority for the snooping.

 
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Japan Voted And... The People Like Rising Stocks





As expected, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc won a decisive victory in an upper house election on Sunday, setting the stage for Japan's first stable government since Koizumi left office in 2006. The Japanese people voted for moar of the same irresponsible monetary policy and this provides a three-year window without a national election and strengthens PM Abe’s hand to supposedly deliver on the promised reforms. As Reuters reports, "people wanted politics that can make decisions", and, "'Abenomics' is proceeding smoothly and people want us to ensure the benefits reach them too." So moar trickle-down wealth-creation for the Japanese, moar surging energy prices, moar currency wars, and moar leverage. There will now be a significant tradeoff among his 'three-arrows' strategy - between monetary and fiscal/reform policy - as the reform agenda may actually enable less monetary policy, increasing the chances of higher inflation in Japan without additional monetary stimulus. This may be just what Kuroda needs to save the JGB market from failure (at least in terms of jawboning if not actuality).

 
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Did A Raging Fire Burn Down JPMorgan's Gold Vault?





Overnight there has been a flood of viral reports that 'there was a fire at JPM's gold vault' based on a self-made video showing a barrage of fire trucks located on Broad Street between Wall Street and Exchange Place, further subsantiated additionally by a @FDNY tweet around 6:30 pm on Saturday which indeed confirmed there had been a "commercial fire in a vault." So did a sweeping fire "take place" (in broad daylight and in front of video camera armed streetwalkers) provide the fire brigade a pretext to abscond with JPM's gold, or merely give JPM an alibi to say it's gold is "gone... all gone" or rather "burned... all burned" (leaving aside the propensity of a fire to propagate in the confined oxygen constraints to be found on top of the Manhattan bedrock and far below street level)? No.

 
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The Crash Of 1929





Based on eight years of continued prosperity, presidents and economists alike confidently predicted that America would soon enter a time when there would be no more poverty, no more depressions - a "New Era" when everyone could be rich. Then 1929 began - a time when the stock market epitomized the false promise of permanent prosperity... it's only when we learn the lessons of the past can we avoid the mistakes of the future - or this time it's really different.

 
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China Warns Of "Overly Optimistic Forecasts"; Tells G-20 To Mind Your Own Economies





In a wide-ranging interview with Xinhua, the Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei started from the normal fantasy-land of central-planners by noting that the topic of a Chinese hard-landing "was not discussed at the G-20," because "no participant believes in the existence of that risk." Commenting on calls for the Chinese to launch new stimulus (to save the world's economy), Lou admonished the other nations, adding "I suggest they fulfill their own due work rather than counting mainly on others." He remained adamant that China is still growing and creating jobs but fears what everyone else fears: "The global market will sustain negative impact should the Fed fail to interact properly with other components of the market." In other words, "get to work, Mr. Bernanke, and don't remove the punchbowl," because as Lou notes, "some countries are overly optimistic on their outlooks."

 
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Was Ron Paul Right?





Ron Paul wrote this scathing assessment and prediction about the newly created DHS eleven years ago. He was outraged by the $3 billion price tag. The DHS 2014 budget is $60 billion. Were his warnings about the American people being spied on by our government accurate? Are you safer today than you were in 2002? Do you have more or less liberty and freedom than you had in 2002? Was it worth it? 

 
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Confessions Of A Keynesian Debt Serf





"Things are different now. I’ve turned my savings into spending, rung up thousands of dollars’ worth of purchases on my credit cards and in the process paid a lot more in taxes. And I’ll probably keep spending like this until I nearly run out of money. In other words, I’ve bought a house. Since the recession materialized in 2008, policymakers in Washington have been urging Americans to buy homes, because no single purchase does more to generate economic activity. The housing market and everything associated with it accounts for around one-sixth of the entire economy, which is why a housing bust can drag the whole nation into a recession (basically what happened starting in 2007) while a housing boom can make nearly everyone better off, including people who don’t even own homes."

 
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Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel As They Slowly Recreate De Beers' Diamond Monopoly





About a month ago we reported on an inquiry launched into JPM's "anti-competitive" and "monopolistic" practices on the LME which have resulted in artificially high prices for a series of commodities which had been hoarded by the Too Big To Fail bank. Today, the WSJ continues this investigation into a practice that is not insular to JPM but also includes Goldman Sachs and "other owners of large metals warehouses" which can simplistically be characterized as a De Beers-like attempt to artificially keep prices high for commodities such as aluminum, courtesy of warehousing massive excess supply, artificially low market distribution of the final product, while collecting exorbitant rents in the process. Specifically, "Goldman, through its Metro International Trade Services unit, owns the biggest warehouse complex in the LME system, a series of 19 buildings in Detroit that house about a quarter of the aluminum stored in LME facilities. Coca-Cola and other consumers say that Metro in particular is allowing the minimum amount of aluminum allowed by the LME—1,500 metric tons a day—to leave its facilities, and that Metro could remove much more, erasing supply bottlenecks and lowering premiums for physical delivery in the process. Coca-Cola, which has complained to the LME, says it can take months to get the metal the company needs, even though warehouses are allowing aluminum to come in much more quickly. Warehouses, meantime, collect rent and other fees." It is not only Goldman's Metro operations, but includes JP Morgan's Henry Bath division, and naturally commodities behemoth Glencore, all of which are taking advantage of the LME's guidelines and rules which make the imposition of a pseudo-monopoly an easy task. The primary driver of this anti-competitive behavior is the fact that GS, JPM and Glencore now control virtually the entire inventory bottlenecking pathways: "In recent years, major investment banks like Goldman and J.P. Morgan and commodities houses like Glencore have been snapping up warehouses around the world, turning the industry from a disperse grouping of independent operators into another arm of Wall Street. The LME has licensed about 600 warehouses around the world. The transformation has raised questions about whether the investment banks, which also have big commodity-trading arms, are able to use their position as owners of warehouses to manipulate prices to their advantage."And since the outcome of this anti-competitive delayed tolling collusion ends up having quite an inflationary impact on end prices, the respective administrations are more than happy to turn a blind eye to this market dominant behavior which buffers the impact of deflation on input costs. We may have seen the end of the OPEC cartel. Alas, it has been replaced with a far more vicious one - this one having Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan as its two key members.

 
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Guest Post: Is This A 2007 Redux?





Are we likely forming a market top? It is very possible.  We saw the same type of market action towards the last two market peaks.  However, it will only be known for sure in hindsight.  The many similarities between the last cyclical bull market cycle and what we are currently experiencing should be at least raising some warning flags for investors.  The levels of speculation, leverage, price extensions, duration of the rally, earnings trends and valuations are all at levels that have historically led to not so pleasant outcomes. The reality, however, is that the current "liquidity driven exuberance" could keep the markets "irrational" longer than logic, technicals or fundamentals would dictate.

 

 
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Most Transparent Administration Ever Discloses The US Will Continue Telephone Surveillance Program





It wasn't exactly like rubbing salt into the wounds of a US population that over the past month has learned it has no electronic communication privacy left, but it was close, when last night the US government's Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced that it was granting the secret FISA court - the same 11 people who decide behind closed doors whose email, phone or browser history is of national interest and thus subject to further "examination" - an extension of its telephone surveillance program. This is one of the two data surveillance efforts by the US (in conjunction with all major private telecom and internet companies) that Snowden leaked about. Why do we know this? Because the Obama administration is suddenly serious about being the most transparent ever: "The ODNI said in a statement it was disclosing the renewal as part of an effort at greater transparency following Snowden's disclosure of the telephone data collection and email surveillance programs." In short: "we will continue spying, but at least we are fully transparent about it."

 
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