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Latest News Affecting Gold Price


  • Some Ex-Cons Are Finally Finding Jobs: But Does The Fed Care?

    While CNN doesn’t dedicate much time to covering the subject, we’ve repeatedly pointed out that, contrary to what conventional wisdom might lead one to believe, incarceration rates among white Americans have risen since 2000 while incarceration rates for minorities have fallen.

    The US prison population is finally shrinking after swelling to more than 2 million people, placing the US among the countries with the largest prison populations. Nearly one in five inmates are incarcerated on nonviolent drug charges.

    And in 2000, there were 449 white inmates per 100,000 citizens while in 2014, the rate increased slightly with 465 inmates per 100,000.

    In recent years, opioids have devastated many predominantly white rural communities, sending many young men to prison, while also causing a surge in drug-overdose deaths. Whether you believe this downward mobility among white men is the cause – or a symptom – of the endemic ills associated with it, data appear to show that the recent uptick in the employment participation rate is a signal that the labor market truly is beginning to tighten.

    That means millions of working-age men are sidelined. Opioid abuse and high incarceration rates could be drivers. Some 10 percent of adult men not in prison had a felony conviction in 2010, up from less than 5 percent in 1980, research shows. And criminal histories are a hiring barrier -- as Zito’s story illustrates.

    Many working-class whites struggle to find the types of manufacturing jobs that their parents held, which once provided a home and a better life for many. But manufacturing jobs have been declining for more than 30 years. Over the past two decades, robots are increasingly taking over more of the manufacturing jobs that are left.

    Beginning about four or five years ago, the participation rate ticked slightly higher. The marginal gains may not ultimately mean much when measured against the yearslong decline that began long before the baby boomers began leaving the workforce in droves. Still, trying to nurture better conditions for the workforce’s most marginal members should be a priority for incoming Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, Bloomberg reports.

    Setting aside the notion that the Fed’s policies seem to consistently and implicitly favor the wealthy, raising the participation rate – and reducing the ranks of the 20 million working men who have inexplicably left the workforce – would be a major political coup for the incoming Fed chair. It might even help restore of the central bank’s credibility.

    While Janet Yellen delivered another 25 basis point rate hike, as was widely expected, today's meeting was her last as the leader of the FOMC. Bloomberg claims one reason her successor should "tread lightly" when it comes to raising interest rates would be to preserve this hard-fought progress along the labor market's most marginalized edges.

    Michael Zito got a job in July, and that game-changing development likely owes a lot to a tight U.S. labor market.

     

    The 57-year-old New Yorker spent 27 years in prison after killing an acquaintance who he says broke into his Brooklyn apartment and beat his wife. When he was released on Dec. 12, 2016, he had never used a mobile phone.

     

    He had no home, no living relatives, and no computer skills. Yet eight months later, he landed work in building maintenance.

     

    “I have a low-paying job, but I have a paycheck, which I’m happy for,” said Zito, who makes $11 an hour keeping antique elevators running at a 1920s building in Queens. With the money, he hopes to move out of a shelter soon. Plus, he says, “it gives me a little bit of extra job experience.”

     

     

    Stanley Richards has witnessed the healing properties of low unemployment. As executive vice president of the Fortune Society, the nonprofit that helped Zito get a job, he’s seen companies become more willing to hire his clients as the shadow of the 2007-2009 recession fades.

     

    Construction had been a really hard sector to place people, Richards said, but “because there are so many opportunities in that industry now, we have been able to partner with companies who are hiring our people."

     

    To be sure, the Fed isn’t playing a zero-sum game. Cautious tightening shouldn’t trigger a hiring or growth slump -- it will just slow progress. Economists reckon that rates are still low enough to boost growth, despite recent increases.

    Bloomberg also references the worsening economic inequality in the US and implores the central bank – to our eternal amusement – to do more to combat this troublesome trend.

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists say America’s labor market is operating at two speeds. On one hand, employed workers who change jobs do so quickly - at 4.1 percent last month, headline unemployment is tight. On the other, people sidelined by the recession for structural reasons - from felony raps to outdated skills - are only slowly trickling back in.

     

    Job-finding prospects for the non-employed have gotten better and “could improve further in a labor market as tight as in 1999-2000,” they wrote in a research note this fall. That may boost the labor-force participation rate by a few more tenths of a percentage point.

     

    “For the Fed, the implications of this divided labor market are double-edged,” the Goldman economists wrote. If the low short-term unemployment rate matters more for inflation, as they suspect, letting the job market run creates the risk of overheating. “The FOMC seems to find this trade-off unappealing and is likely to continue to tighten steadily as a result.”

    Ultimately, whether Powell’s policies benefit men like Michael Zito - the ex-con who spent nearly 3 decades behind bars – is incidental. The central bank has repeatedly demonstrated that a stable equity market is its enduring aim.

    Michael Zito

    And although lawmakers and the media made a fuss about Powell’s only marginally more permissive views about financial industry regulation, his approach to monetary policy will be familiar.

    After all, there’s a reason Trump didn’t choose Taylor.
     

  • Bitcoin Surges To New Record High, Ethereum Slides

    Despite record bubble heights, hoards of futures shorts ready to pounce, funding ISIS, and being a "highly speculative asset," it appears the world's citizens are willing to place some assets in the safety of a decentralized, non-fiat asset.  

    Bitcoin is surging once again as Asia opens, to new record highs at $17,661.

    The catalysts for the most recent surge is unclear though today saw a Senior VP at eBay suggest they are "seriously considering" Bitcoin integration and Israeli PM Netanyahu suggest Bitcoin could replace banks -

    “Is the fate of banks that they will eventually disappear? Yes. The answer is yes. Does it need to happen tomorrow? And do we need to do it through Bitcoin? That’s a question mark.”

    Ethereum appears to be taking the brunt of the rotation.

     

    Interestingly it appears the relative price level of 22 ETH per BTC is some kind of support/resistance for now...

  • WSJ Exposes The Real Election Meddling... At The FBI

    Via The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board,

    More troubling evidence of election meddling at the bureau...

    Democrats and the media are accusing anyone who criticizes special counsel Robert Mueller as Trumpian conspirators trying to undermine his probe. But who needs critics when Mr. Mueller’s team is doing so much to undermine its own credibility?

    Wednesday’s revelations—they’re coming almost daily—include the Justice Department’s release of 2016 text messages to and from Peter Strzok, the FBI counterintelligence agent whom Mr. Mueller demoted this summer. The texts, which he exchanged with senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, contain expletive-laced tirades against Mr. Trump. Such Trump hatred is no surprise and not by itself disqualifying. More troubling are texts that suggest that some FBI officials may have gone beyond antipathy to anti-Trump plotting.

    “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Mr. Strzok wrote Ms. Page in an Aug. 15, 2016 text. He added: “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

    What “policy” would that be? The “Andy” in question is Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director. FBI officials are allowed to have political opinions, but what kind of action were they discussing that would amount to anti-Trump “insurance”?

    In another exchange that month, Ms. Page forwarded a Trump-related article and wrote:

    “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.”

     

    He thanked her and assured: “Of course I’ll try and approach it that way.”

    Mr. Strzok, recall, is the man who changed the words “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” in James Comey’s July 2016 public exoneration of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    The McCabe meeting came on the heels of the FBI’s launch of its counterintelligence probe into Trump-Russia ties. July is also when former British spook Christopher Steele briefed the FBI on his Clinton-financed dossier of salacious allegations against Mr. Trump. The texts explain why Mr. Mueller would remove Mr. Strzok, though a straight shooter wouldn’t typically resist turning those messages over to Congress for as long as Mr. Mueller did.

    Meanwhile, we’re learning more about the political motives of Mr. Mueller’s lieutenant, Andrew Weissmann.

    Judicial Watch last week released an email in which Mr. Weissmann expressed his “awe” and praise for Sally Yates, after the then acting AG and Obama holdover refused to implement Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

    This should trouble anyone who cares about the integrity of the Justice Department. Ms. Yates had every right to resign at the time if she felt she couldn’t implement Mr. Trump’s order. But she had no authority as an executive branch official to defy a legitimate presidential order. Mr. Weissmann’s support for her insubordination was a declaration that he is part of the “resistance.” This should be unacceptable in a ranking FBI official, much less someone charged with conducting a fair-minded investigation.

    Public confidence isn’t helped by the continuing Justice and FBI refusal to cooperate with Congress. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises Mr. Mueller, toed the Mueller-FBI line on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee. He repeated FBI Director Christopher Wray’s preposterous excuse that he can’t answer questions because of an Inspector General probe. And he wouldn’t elaborate on the news that Nellie Ohr, the wife of senior Justice official Bruce Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, which hired Mr. Steele to gin up his dossier.

    The man who should be most disturbed by all this is Mr. Mueller, who wants his evidence and conclusions to be credible with the public. Evidence is building instead that some officials at the FBI—who have worked for him—may have interfered in an American presidential election. Congress needs to insist on its rights as a co-equal branch of government to discover the truth.

  • Humans Fight Back: San Fran Security Robot Attacked, Knocked Over, Smeared With Feces

    Earlier today, we mentioned the bizarre story of a San Francisco animal shelter which was using a low cost, high-tech robot security guard to purge homeless people outside its facilities. The San Francisco SPCA branch had contracted Knightscope to provide a K5 robot (the same model which in July committed suicide at a mall fountain) for securing the outdoor spaces of the animal shelter. 

    Why use a robot to chase away humans? Simple: money - it costs the SPCA $7/hour to rent the robot, about $3 less than the minimum wage in California, and according to San Francisco Business Times, the robot was deployed as a “way to try dealing with the growing number of needles, car break-ins and crime that seemed to emanate from nearby tent encampments of homeless people.”

    Everything was going great - and very cost-efficiently too - until the local humans fought back, knocked the robot over, and smearing it with feces before eventually forcing the robotic guardian to be purged itself.

    But first, the local community's anger at the unwelcomed K5's presence manifested itself in the way anger and outrage always seem to emerge these days: on twitter.

    What happened then is straight out of Terminator: according to reports, a group of anti-robot vigilantes doused the K5's sensors with barbecue sauce, knocked it over and veiled it with a tarp. One Twitter user claimed they saw feces smeared on its shell, while another described the robot's use as "shameful".

    The robot upset local resident Fran Taylor:

    Last month, the robot approached Taylor while she walked her dog near the SPCA campus. Her dog started lunging and barking, she said, and Taylor yelled for the robot to stop. It finally came to a halt about 10 feet away, she said. The encounter struck Taylor as an “unbelievable” coincidence since she had been working with pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco in asking the city to limit sidewalk delivery robots. That legislation is expected to receive final approval soon but doesn’t apply to security robots like K9.

     

    Taylor said she’s concerned about robots bumping into people on the sidewalks. She knows robots are often equipped with sensors so they don’t do that, she added, but “I don’t really trust that.”

     

    She wrote an email to the SPCA the day of her encounter and copied several San Francisco government officials, including Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors. The SPCA team responded and cited security concerns as the motivation for starting to use the robot.

    "The money that was spent on these robots could have gone towards homeless shelters," said another twitter user who clearly did not do pass Econ 101.

    As we reported earlier, the shelter said it released the robot, nicknamed K9, to patrol the pavements around its centre in the Mission District, which has become a camp for the city's homeless population.

    "We weren't able to use the sidewalks at all when there's needles and tents, and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment," the SPCA's president Jennifer Scarlett told the Business Times.

    The shelter told one website that it only hoped to improve the safety of its employees, following an influx of crime in the surrounding area, and that it is "extremely sensitive" to the issue of homelessness.

    "In the last year we've experienced a great deal of car break-ins, theft, and vandalism that has made us concerned about the security and safety of the people on our campus," the SPCA's media relations manager Krista Maloney told Dezeen. "The security robot that we've been using on a pilot basis has been very effective at deterring these criminal incidents."

    The revulsion to the robot was bizarre: hardly reminiscent of the T1000, the bubbly K5 is equipped with four cameras that monitor its surroundings, and moves on wheels at speeds of up to three miles per hour. It measures 5 feet tall and nearly 3 feet wide at its base, creating a sizeable obstacle on the pavement. To be sure, the rollout of this particular model has been problematic: the K5 has already been embroiled in other controversies elsewhere, including knocking a toddler over in Silicon Valley, and falling into a pond in Washington DC after missing a set of stairs.

    Meanwhile, San Francisco is already tightening restrictions on autonomous machines on the streets – particularly delivery robots – with growing concerns over public safety.

    What is most perplexing in this story, is that this is just one robot provoking such a broad and angry response: one wonders what the human backlash will be once a vast portion of America's middle class realizes that it has been made obsolete courtesy of robots who can do its job faster, smarter, much more efficiently and for a fraction of the cost.

  • Shocking Video Shows What Everyday Life Is Like In Puerto Rico Now

    Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

    In Puerto Rico, everything has changed since Hurricane Maria struck nearly 3 months ago.

    Many people have no running water. And if they do, it can’t be consumed without boiling.

    There’s no electricity in many regions.

    Supplies are scarce.

    I’ve written about the SHTF aftermath in Puerto Rico, both the day after the storm,  a week after, and a couple of months later. But while there is a lot of good information in all those articles, it’s just words on a page.

    The video below brings it to life. This is what life looks like for people who have just watched everything be turned upside down by Mother Nature.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klYPBkrTK7c]

  • Saudi Arabia Launches Misguided $19 Billion Stimulus In Desperate Bid To Kickstart 2018 Growth

    If you haven’t been living under a rock in recent months, it’s been impossible to miss the turmoil in Saudi Arabia and its relations with the outside world. A few weeks ago we published a piece by Chris Martenson of PeakProsperity.com “If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn't Worry You, You're Not Paying Attention”. Martenson argued.

    A dramatic geo-political realignment by Saudi Arabia is in full swing…upending many decades of established strategic relationships among the world's superpowers and, in particular, is throwing the Middle East into turmoil. So much is currently in flux, especially in Saudi Arabia, that nearly anything can happen next. Which is precisely why this volatile situation should command our focused attention at this time. The main elements currently in play are these:

    • A sudden and intense purging of powerful Saudi insiders (arrests, deaths, & asset seizures);
    • Huge changes in domestic policy and strategy;
    • A shift away from the US in all respects (politically, financially and militarily);
    • Deepening ties to China;
    • A surprising turn towards Russia (economically and militarily); and
    • Increasing cooperation and alignment with Israel (the enemy of my enemy is my friend?).

    Taken together, this is tectonic change happening at blazing speed.

    We might add to this list the stand-off with Qatar, the proxy war in Yemen against Iran, the support of Syrian “rebels”, allowing women to drive and, most recently, in a “watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy”, the re-opening cinemas for the first time in 35 years. 

    In the latest development, the focus of King Salman (well, his son really) has shifted to the depressed state of the Saudi economy. Back in 2011, you may remember, King Abdullah announced a $36 billion of bribes benefits bribes in an attempt to stave off the uprisings which had destabilised other Arab nations. The then cash-rich Saudi government offered lower and middle-income Saudis pay rises, unemployment benefits and affordable housing. Today, the Saudi leadership has announced a slightly more sophisticated stimulus package, as the Financial Times explains. 

    Saudi Arabia unveiled a $19bn (72 billion riyals) stimulus package on Thursday aimed at supporting the struggling private sector as the government tries to revive an economy battered by low oil prices and austerity measures. The package was approved by King Salman and includes subsidised loans for house buyers and developers, fee waivers for small businesses and financial support for distressed companies, the state news agency reported.

    It is the first big part of a broader three-year SR200bn ($53bn) stimulus planned by Riyadh as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tries to balance pushing ahead with an ambitious reform programme with the need to implement tough austerity measures as the budget deficit widens. The decline in oil revenue over the past three years has pushed the economy into recession and forced the government to slash expenditure, raise debt and spend more than $250bn of its foreign reserves. The private sector, which is dependent on state spending, has borne the brunt of the economic shock, prompting businessmen to call for more government assistance.

    The new 72 billion riyals stimulus package includes:

    • 21 billion riyals for housing;
    • 14 billion riyals for efficient home design and engineering;
    • 5 billion riyals for an export-import bank;
    • 5 billion riyals for an investment program; and
    • 2.6 billion riyals for broadband and fiber optics.

    There is an obvious focus on investement-led growth, which we think might be misguided right now (see below). In the meantime, some analysts are characterising it as a desperate attempt to kick-start economic growth in 2018, which does sound about right. Indeed, the IMF is forecasting Saudi GDP growth of “close to zero” in 2017, with government spending declining from 38.6% to 34.3% of GDP. This from Bloomberg.

    Crispin Hawes, a managing director at Teneo Intelligence, a political risk consulting firm in London, called the stimulus package “a short-term cost they have to pay to get where they want to go.” “The only way to generate a recovery of growth in 2018 is through fiscal stimulus,” Hawes said. “They can’t withstand multiple years of sub-1 percent growth.”

    Other analysts are sceptical about how well the stimulus will integrate government’s goals with private sector capabilities. Furthermore, the recent crackdown on normal business practice corruption, with the detention of 200 members of the royal family, ministers and former ministers and businessmen has hardly inspired the sort of confidence needed for long-term investment, either domestic or overseas funded.

    Next week is the budget which the FT expects to be “expansionary”. It will need to be with the introduction of a value added tax and reduced fuel subsidies slated for next year. The leadership unveiled another bribe this week in the form of a cash transfer programme to compensate low and middle-income families. In some ways, things haven’t changed much since 2011, except the House of Saud is more divided, the country is a lot poorer and Saudi’s foreign relations considerably more fragile.

  • Three Charts And The Path To Hyper-Monetization

    Authored by Chris Hamilton via Econimica blog,

    Just three charts putting things in perspective...

    Chart #1:  three periods and four variables (total US energy consumption, 25-54yr/old US employees, federal debt, and federal funds rate %:

    1950 to 1975

    • +43 quadrillion BTU's of energy consumption
    • +15 million 25-54yr/old employees
    • +$0.3 trillion federal debt

    1975 to 2000

    • +19 quadrillion BTU's of energy consumption
    • +45 million 25-54yr/old employees
    • +$5.1 trillion federal debt

    2000 to 2017

    • <-3> quadrillion BTU's of energy consumption
    • +1.5 million 25-54yr/old employees
    • +$14.9 trillion federal debt

    Chart #2:  Annual 15-64 year old population change versus the market weighted value of all stocks actively traded in the US.

    Chart #3:  Breaking down the growth of the working age population, per ten year periods, versus the growth of the Wilshire 5000.

    *  *  *

    For the minority that are asset holders, this should be great news as the now declining working age population is the cause for outright centrally driven hyper-monetization domestically and globally.  Market valuations previously undreamed of will be achieved in the "new depopulationary normal". 

    For the majority that are working for a living with little or no assets, a stagflationary nightmare.

    *  *  *

    Bonus Chart:  15-64yr/old total population versus annual change.  Again, the Census estimated growth among the 15-64yr/old population in excess of 600 thousand in 2017 (almost entirely thanks to immigration)...but reality appears to be a decline in excess of 200 thousand (detailed HERE).  And moving forward, the chances of core depopulation through 2025 look increasingly more likely.  Regardless the Fed speak and happy tax talk, a spectacular amount of additional debt and monetization will be necessary over the next decade if America is to show "growth" in a nation built on debt fueled consumption and trade deficits.

     

  • Global Deflation Alert: Chinese Credit Creation Tumbles To 27 Month Low

    At the end of November, we showed a troubling observation for China - and global - macro watchers from Axiom's Gordon Johnson: for the first time ever, record Chinese credit creation had failed to stimulate the economy, and in fact the exact opposite appeared to be unfolding – economic growth is slowing across a number of data points despite massive new credit injected into the economy over the past year.

    In economic terms, this meant that China's credit impulse had hit rock bottom, and was perhaps at its lowest level ever, something UBS hinted at over the summer when it showed that no matter how much credit China creates, it can no longer keep the first derivative, i.e. impulse, surging at is had in the past despite record amounts of nominal debt created. Quite the contrary.

    And while one can debate the definition of credit impulse, and its impact on the global economy, one thing is clear: China's credit creation - the growth dynamo of the entire world - is rapidly slowing. We got the latest confirmation of this earlier this week, before last night's battery of economic data which painted a very mixed picture of the Chinese economy, with retail sales missing, while IP and CapEx barely met expectations...

    ... when the PBOC reported November new loans of Rmb1.12Trillion and Total Social Financial of Rmb1.6Trillion. While on the surface both numbers appeared solid, beating consensus, a careful read between the lines showed some very troubling details which confirmed that not only was November not the upward "turning point" for monetary policy some expected it to be, worse, China's credit slowdown was accelerating.

    For one, adjusting for municipal bonds and equity raising, as Deutsche Bank did, showed that system credit growth slowed further to 14.4% yoy from 14.9% the prior month.

    Putting this number in context means that adjusted credit growth (including municipal bonds) of 14.4% yoy this month was the slowest in the past 27 months. In fact, the last time Chinese credit was growing this slow, global markets were about to get rocked and only the Shanghai Accord of 2016 prevented a global bear market.

    Looking at the breakdown, loan growth accelerated to 13.3% yoy (vs. 13.0% in Oct), while shadow banking and corporate bond financing remained muted. Shadow banking components (entrusted loans, trust loans and undiscounted bills) made up only 11% of Nov TSF versus 22% in 1H17. This suggests that following a series of tightening rules, banks are bringing off-BS shadow banking into on-BS. What is notable, is that de-levering shadow credit, cutting off financing layers and bringing debt creation into the "open", M2 growth actually rebounded from a historical low of 8.8% yoy in Oct to 9.1% yoy. The M2/GDP ratio stayed flattish mom at 207% versus a record high of 210% in March.

    The slowdown in credit creation wasn't only at the aggregate level: looking at banks’ balance sheets, asset growth dropped below 10% yoy for the first time ever...

    ... dragged by shrinkage in interbank funding.

    Looking at the recipients, short-term household loans almost doubled last month from a year ago as regulators clamp down on other opaque forms of borrowing to tame shadow banking sector risks. According to Reuters, new short-term household lending, which includes credit card debt and car loans, rose more than 80 percent to 202.8 billion yuan ($30.65 billion) in November from a year ago, and nearly trebled from the previous month.

    Recently China has been cracking down on risks to the financial system due to excessive leverage, and has recently zeroed in on fast-growing, loosely-regulated micro-lenders that make unsecured cash loans. The crackdown on micro-lenders followed warnings from the authorities on rising household debt, which includes mortgages and consumer loans.

    As Reuters adds, the jump in demand for bank short-term household loans also comes against a backdrop of Beijing trying to temper speculation in the property market by tightening the loan-to-value ratios for mortgage loans in some cities. As a result, the tighter mortgage rules have led to the widespread ‘re-purposing’ of short-term household loans for the deposit a homebuyer has to make to get mortgage, say analysts and people familiar with the matter.

    “Short-term lending growth really starts to pick up just as property (purchase) controls start to weigh on long-term lending growth,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics. The surge in such loans suggests that “households are finding ways around some of those mortgage restrictions using short-term credit,” he added.

    Short-term household credit has also become more accessible, with Chinese lenders swapping struggling corporate borrowers for more promising retail borrowers as this allegedly carries relatively lower risk to their balance sheet and asset quality.  “It’s hard to bring it down because it’s convenient for banks ... it’s cheap in terms of capital and in terms of provision,” said Alicia García Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis.

    Ultimately, local banks face a choice: continue with shadow lending, or hand out money to households. Having done the former for years, China's financial system is now shifting to the latter.

    “Of course, it could create problems down the road because there’s too much concentration on the mortgage loan,” she noted. “We’re not there yet because this (household loans) is only 30-plus percent of Chinese banks’ loan books.”

    The surge in question in short-term retail loans - at the expense of traditional, long-term loans - is shown in the charts below. Putting in context, Chinese household debt-to-GDP rose to 47% in the second quarter of this year from 39% in the same period two years ago, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

    Household loans as a proportion of overall China bank lending is expected to grow by a quarter this year, versus 7 percent growth for corporate loans, according to a Natixis report. The bad loan ratio of household debt is significantly lower than it is for businesses.

    Separately, and as discussed on many occasions in the past, China has launched probes into consumer loans that are being misused for home purchases, warning they can’t be used to “fuel property bubbles”, a senior banking official said in September.

    Essentially, what China is doing, is now that it has filled up the shadow conduits with debt to the point where they pose a systemic risk, Beijing is hoping to flood the world's largest population with debt as the last recourse to keep the debt game going for a few more years; the good news is that one decade after the US great financial crisis which was catalyzed by record household and consumer debt, we know how it all ends.

    * * *

    Yet going back to the beginning, the biggest irony in all this is that China's quiet attempt to redirect credit formation while injecting massive amounts of loans is still not enough, as the following chart of China's credit impulse vs home prices shows.

    In the end, whether China's deleveraging is premeditated or accidental doesn't matter: a few more month of China's credit impulse collapsing and it will be too late to prevent a hard landing, first in China where real estate was, is and will be the most popular and important asset, and then the rest of the world. As we explained in "Why The Fate Of The World Economy Is In The Hands Of China's Housing Bubble", to understand what the world economy will do in 6-9 months you only have to follow China's debt creation and housing market today.

    And right now, both of those are headed straight down, and the worst is yet to come: as Deutsche Bank sumamrizes in its latest snapshot of China's banking system, "we are likely at most halfway through the financial deleveraging process. New regulations on asset management and liquidity risks will be phased in and more rules will probably follow."

    Which means even less credit creation, even faster slide in property prices, and even greater global credit deflation which is coming just as the world's central banks are poised to tighten financial conditions expecting a deluge of inflation. The result will be another economic crash in the coming year.

  • Vampires, Zombies, And 'Hooking-Up': 37 Examples Of Real College Courses That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

    Authored by Michael Snyder via The American Dream blog,

    You just can’t make this stuff up. 

    All over America we push our young people to get good grades so that they can get “a college education”, but then once they get through college many of our young people are completely unequipped to deal with the real world.  Personally, I spent eight years at public universities, and I can tell you that the quality of education that our college students are receiving is a complete joke.  Especially on the undergraduate level, almost all testing consists of either true/false, multiple choice or fill in the blank questions.  Students learn very few useful skills at our “institutions of higher learning”, and many of them leave school barely even able to function in society.

    I am about to share with you a list of 37 of the most ridiculous courses that are currently being offered at major U.S. colleges and universities today.  This information comes from a brand new report that was just put out by Young America’s Foundation, and it is tempting to chuckle as you read through what they have compiled, but the truth is that what is happening to our system of higher learning is not a laughing matter.  The following is a short excerpt from the report

    As tuition rates increase and students face increasing levels of college-related debt, the value and quality of education plummets. Rather than churning out the next generation of American leaders, so-called “premiere” institutions graduate class after class of adults who are unable to tolerate opposing viewpoints.

     

    Many of the courses listed in the following pages are comical in their titles and descriptions, but the situation unfolding on America’s campuses is hardly a laughing matter. Beyond the inane topics, these classes advance a liberal agenda, malign conservatives, and shut out ideological diversity.

     

    Since 1995, Young America’s Foundation has released “Comedy and Tragedy” to document the intellectual abuse and flat-out indoctrination happening by way of the appalling curriculum at our country’s most (so-called) prestigious institutions of higher education.

    For a long time I have been describing our colleges and universities as “indoctrination centers”, and most parents have absolutely no idea what is really going on at our “institutions of higher education”.  The following are 37 examples of real college courses that are almost too crazy to believe…

    #1 MCL 135: Vampires: Evolution of a Sexy Monster (University of Kentucky)

    #2 HIST 336: Saints, Witches, and Madwomen (University of Nebraska)

    #3 WOMGEN 1225: Leaning In, Hooking Up (Harvard University)

    #4 SOAN 261: Campus Sex in the Digital Age (Washington & Lee University)

    #5 GSWS 434: The Politics of Ugly (University of Pennsylvania)

    #6 AMS 398: FAT: The F-Word and the Public Body (Princeton University)

    #7 GWS 462: Hip Hop Feminism (University of Illinois)

    #8 GWS 255: Queer Lives, Queer Politics (University of Illinois)

    #9 SOC 388: Marriage in the Age of Trump (Davidson College)

    #10 HISTORY 330-0: Medieval Sexuality (Northwestern University)

    #11 AI 318: Zombies: Modern Myths, Race, and Capitalism (DePaul University)

    #12 SOCI 332: Alternative Genders (Texas A&M University)

    #13 AMCULT 103: Drag in America (University of Michigan)

    #14 AMCULT 334: Race, Gender, Sexuality and U.S. Culture in Video Games (University of Michigan)

    #15 AMCULT 411: Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music (University of Michigan)

    #16 WGS 255: Deconstructing the Diva (DePaul University)

    #17 GLBT 3404: Transnational Sexualities (University of Minnesota)

    #18 GSFS 0208: Unruly Bodies: Black Womanhood in Popular Culture (Middlebury College)

    #19 MC 2002: Media, Sport and Culture: Amplifying the Sporting-Ism (Louisiana State University)

    #20 THEO 025: The Bible and Horror (Georgetown University)

    #21 SOAS 3500: Queerness in South Asian Literature and Cinema (University of Iowa)

    #22 AADS 2204: Black Women and the Politics of Blackness and Beauty (Vanderbilt University)

    #23 AFR 334: Radical Theories of Political Struggle: Anti-Black Racism and the Obama Administration (Williams College)

    #24 COLT 0510F: Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, The Men and the Myths (Brown University)

    #25 HIST 379: Queering Colonialism (Washington & Lee University)

    #26 AMST 274: Rainbow Cowboys (and Girls): Gender, Race, Class, and Sexuality in Westerns (Wellesley College)

    #27 AFA 4430: Black Lives Matter (University of Florida)

    #28 RELI GU 4355: The African American Prophetic Political Tradition from David Walker to Barack Obama (Columbia University)

    #29 RELG 032: Queering God: Feminist and Queer Theology (Swarthmore College)

    #30 RELG 033: Queering the Bible (Swarthmore College)

    #31 ENVS 042: Ecofeminism (Swarthmore College)

    #32 FRSEMR 61D: Trying Socrates in the Age of Trump (Harvard University)

    #33 GSWS 2219: Deconstructing Masculinities (Bowdoin College)

    #34 GSFS 0325: American Misogyny (Middlebury College)

    #35 BLSTU 3850: Gender, Hip Hop, and the Politics of Representation (University of Missouri)

    #36 AAS 301: Black to the Future: Science, Fiction, and Society (Princeton University)

    #37 SOC 105: Race, Religion, & Donald Trump (Davidson College)

    As a bonus, let me share with you 20 more crazy college courses that have been previously offered at colleges and universities around the nation.

    This list comes from one of my previous articles, and even though most of these courses are no longer being offered, they still serve as examples of how pathetic our system of “higher education” has truly become in recent years…

    1.What If Harry Potter Is Real?” (Appalachian State University) – This course will engage students with questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. By looking at the actual geography of the novels, real and imagined historical events portrayed in the novels, the reactions of scholars in all the social sciences to the novels, and the world-wide frenzy inspired by them, students will examine issues of race, class, gender, time, place, the uses of space and movement, the role of multiculturalism in history as well as how to read a novel and how to read scholarly essays to get the most out of them.

    2.God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path” (UC San Diego) – Who shapes our desire? Who suffers for it? Do we control our desire or does desire control us? When we yield to desire, do we become more fully ourselves or must we deny it to find an authentic identity beneath? How have religious & philosophical approaches dealt with the problem of desire?

    3.GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity” (The University Of Virginia) – In Graduate Arts & Sciences student Christa Romanosky’s ongoing ENWR 1510 class, “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity,” students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work. For this introductory course to argumentative essay writing, Romanosky chose the Lady Gaga theme to establish an engaging framework for critical analysis.

    4.Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” (The University Of South Carolina) – Lady Gaga may not have much class but now there is a class on her. The University of South Carolina is offering a class called Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.  Mathieu Deflem, the professor teaching the course describes it as aiming to “unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music, videos, fashion, and other artistic endeavours.”

    5.Philosophy And Star Trek” (Georgetown) – Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That’s the plan. This course is basically an introduction to certain topics in metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, centered around major philosophical questions that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments.

    6.Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond” (The University Of Texas) – Why would anyone want to learn Klingon?

    7.The Science Of Superheroes” (UC Irvine) – Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars? Would a “gamma ray” accident turn you into the Hulk? What is a “spidey-sense”? And just who did think of all these superheroes and their powers? In this seminar, we discuss the science (or lack of science) behind many of the most famous superheroes. Even more amazing, we will discuss what kind of superheroes might be imagined using our current scientific understanding.

    8.Learning From YouTube” (Pitzer College) – About 35 students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments.  Class lessons also are posted and students are encouraged to post videos. One class member, for instance, posted a 1:36-minute video of himself juggling.

    9.Arguing with Judge Judy” (UC Berkeley) – TV “Judge” shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument [“from the stronger”] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on “Judge Judy” and “The People’s Court” and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning.” Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.

    10.Elvis As Anthology” (The University Of Iowa) – The class, “Elvis as Anthology,” focuses on Presley’s relationship to African American history, social change, and aesthetics. It focuses not just on Elvis, but on other artists who inspired him and whom he inspired.

    11.The Feminist Critique Of Christianity” (The University Of Pennsylvania) – An overview of the past decades of feminist scholarship about Christian and post-Christian historians and theologians who offer a feminist perspective on traditional Christian theology and practice. This course is a critical overview of this material, presented with a summary of Christian biblical studies, history and theology, and with a special interest in constructive attempts at creating a spiritual tradition with women’s experience at the center.

    12.Zombies In Popular Media” (Columbia College) – This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figure’s many incarnations. Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.

    13.Far Side Entomology” (Oregon State) – For the last 20 years, a scientist at Oregon State University has used Gary Larson’s cartoons as a teaching tool. The result has been a generation of students learning — and laughing — about insects.

    14.Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing” (Swarthmore) – Do clothes make the man? Or the woman? Do men make better women? Or women better men? Is gender a costume we put on and take off? Are we really all always in drag? Does gender-bending lead to transcendence or chaos? These questions and their ramifications for liminalities of race, nationality and sexuality will be our focus in a course that examines dramatic works from The Bacchae to M. Butterfly.

    15.Oh, Look, a Chicken!” Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing (Belmont University) – Students must write papers using their personal research on the five senses. Entsminger reads aloud illustrated books The Simple People and Toby’s Toe to teach lessons about what to value by being alive. Students listen to music while doodling in class. Another project requires students to put themselves in situations where they will be distracted and write a reflection tracking how they got back to their original intent.

    16.The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur” (University of Washington) – The UW is not the first college with a class dedicated to Shakur — classes on the rapper have been offered at the University of California Berkeley and Harvard — but it is the first to relate Shakur’s work to literature.

    17.Cyberporn And Society” (State University of New York at Buffalo) – Undergraduates taking Cyberporn and Society at the State University of New York at Buffalo survey Internet porn sites.

    18.Sport For The Spectator” (The Ohio State University) – Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business, and entertainment. Develop the ability to identify issues that affect the sport and spectator behavior.

    19.Getting Dressed” (Princeton) – Jenna Weissman Joselit looks over the roomful of freshmen in front of her and asks them to perform a warm-up exercise: Chart the major moments of your lives through clothes. “If you pop open your closet, can you recall your lives?” she posits on the first day of the freshman seminar “Getting Dressed.”

    20.How To Watch Television” (Montclair) – This course, open to both broadcasting majors and non-majors, is about analyzing television in the ways and to the extent to which it needs to be understood by its audience. The aim is for students to critically evaluate the role and impact of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture. The means to achieve this aim is an approach that combines media theory and criticism with media education.

    I have to admit that “Oh, Look, a Chicken!” is my all-time favorite.  I wish that had been offered at my university when I was an undergraduate.

    But seriously – what in the world has happened to our system of education?

    Our society is rotting and decaying in so many ways, and our colleges and universities are prime examples.  If we don’t get our act together, it is hard to see how our country is going to have any sort of a positive future.

    *  *  *

    Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

  • Nobel Laureate 'Discovers' Cause Of Opioid Crisis: Complete Economic Destruction Of The "White Working Class"

    For several decades now the American Midwest has suffered from unprecedented economic decay courtesy of a persistent outsourcing of manufacturing jobs in the automotive and steel industries, among others. As we've noted frequently, that economic decay has resulted in a devastating surge in opioid overdoses that claim the lives of 100s of people each year.

    Of course, many attribute Trump's staggering victories in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania to his efforts to tap into the frustration of the dispossessed Midwest masses by promising a rebirth of the manufacturing economy that once provided them a solid middle-class lifestyle.

    That said, no economic crisis is truly "discovered" until an Ivy League, Nobel-prize-winning economist says it is.  As such, we present to you the intriguing findings of Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton who said he was "looking for something else" when he noticed a staggering increase in white mortality rates for people aged 50-54.  Per Market Watch:

    That was the case with landmark research undertaken by Nobel Prize winning economist Angus Deaton. The Princeton economist, working with his wife Anne Case, stumbled on the fact that mortality rates were rising for working-age white Americans since 1999.

     

    We were really looking for something else and then we discovered that, at least among people between 45-54, and even more between 50-54, a decline in mortality, particularly white mortality that had been established for about 100 years had actually stopped or even reversed itself. Whether it has reversed itself or not depends on a bit on your starting point and end point, but the century-long decline in mortality rates that had gone on since the beginning of the 20th century had just stopped and was starting to rise.

     

    For mortality rates to rise instead of fall is extremely rare. It typically takes a war or epidemic for death rates to jump.

    Of course, from there it wasn't much of a stretch for Deaton and Case to 'discover' that these deaths are tied to “deaths of despair” from alcohol, suicide and opioids.

    Then comes the far more difficult question of 'why' the mortality rates are surging for middle-aged, white men...something Deaton attributes to a bleak job market and stagnant wages...

    As to the more difficult question of “why” these deaths are taking pace, Deaton hypothesized that they are tied to a destruction of a way of life for working class Americans that used to exist.

     

    “I’ve been using the analogy of the plains Indians, they had had a life which you might have liked or might not have liked before Europeans came to America and that life was destroyed and was never put back together again. I think we’re seeing that for the American working class over the last 40 or 50 years,” he said in a recent speech.

     

    So we trace this back sort of a long way, and if you look at birth cohorts it is like each successive birth cohort is doing worse. They are more susceptible to these deaths throughout life, and the deaths rise with age more rapidly for younger cohorts, so we’re attracted by this idea that there is a cumulative process going on which is steadily getting worse over time. And, you know, the destruction of the way of life of the white working class is maybe a good way of thinking about this.

     

    One story is just that there has been this slow loss of the white working class life. There has been stagnation in wages for 50 years. If you don’t have a university degree, median wages for those people have actually been going down. So it is just like that model, whereby American capitalism really delivered to people who were not particularly well-educated, seems to be broken.

    Of course, pretty much anyone with a grade school education who has lived in Detroit for an extended period of time could have told you everything that Deaton has apparently 'discovered'...but it does sound very official coming from a Princeton economist.