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Financial blog on news and global macroeconomic themes regarding the world economy. The blog's primary focus pertains to inflation, deflation, and hyperinflation, especially currencies, gold, silver, crude, oil, energy and precious metals. Other macro discussion topics include interest rates, China, commodities, the US dollar, Euro, Yuan, Yen, stagflation, emerging markets, politics, Congressional and statewide policy decisions that affect the US and global markets.
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For Robots Only: Amazon Sponsored Contest; Soft Fingers Needed

czw., 26/03/2015 - 21:12
Amazon is sponsoring a robot warehouse automation contest to see who can pack the most boxes in the least amount of time without dropping any packages or crushing anything delicate such as cookies.

In the contest, in which human workers are not eligible to apply, the robots will have to work without any remote guidance from their creators.

Please consider the MIT Technology Review, Amazon Robot Contest May Accelerate Warehouse Automation.
Packets of Oreos, boxes of crayons, and squeaky dog toys will test the limits of robot vision and manipulation in a competition this May. Amazon is organizing the event to spur the development of more nimble-fingered product-packing machines.

Participating robots will earn points by locating products sitting somewhere on a stack of shelves, retrieving them safely, and then packing them into cardboard shipping boxes. Robots that accidentally crush a cookie or drop a toy will have points deducted. The people whose robots earn the most points will win $25,000.

Amazon has already automated some of the work done in its vast fulfillment centers. Robots in a few locations send shelves laden with products over to human workers who then grab and package them. These mobile robots, made by Kiva Systems, a company that Amazon bought in 2012 for $678 million, reduce the distance human workers have to walk in order to find products. However, no robot can yet pick and pack products with the speed and reliability of a human. Industrial robots that are already widespread in several industries are limited to extremely precise, repetitive work in highly controlled environments.

Pete Wurman, chief technology officer of Kiva Systems, says that about 30 teams from academic departments around the world will take part in the challenge, which will be held at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle. In each round, robots will be told to pick and pack one of 25 different items from a stack of shelves resembling those found in Amazon’s warehouses. Some teams are developing their own robots, while others are adapting commercially available systems with their own grippers and software.

The challenge facing the robots in Amazon’s contest will be considerable. Humans have a remarkable ability to identify objects, figure out how to manipulate them, and then grasp them with just the right amount of force. This is especially hard for machines to do if an object is unfamiliar, awkwardly shaped, or sitting on a dark shelf with a bunch of other items. In the Amazon contest, the robots will have to work without any remote guidance from their creators.

“We tried to pick out a variety of different products that were representative of our catalogue and that pose different kinds of grasping challenges,” Wurman said. “Like plastic wrap; difficult-to-grab little dog toys; things you don’t want to crush, like the Oreos.”

While the Amazon challenge might seem simple, Saxena believes it could quickly make an impact in the real world. “If robots are able to handle even the light types of grasping tasks the contest proposes,” he says, “we could actually start to see a lot of robots helping people with different tasks.”The preceding MIT review describes the 2015 ICRA Contest May 26-30 in Seattle.

2014 Participant Video



The above video shows the 2014 University of Colorado Amazon Picking Entry.

The Baxter robot actually seems a bit clumsy because grasping and packing random objects is not a precisely repetitive action.

The University of Colorado video gets interesting towards the end, highlighting advancements in "soft fingers" and human-like skin.

Meet Baxter

I discussed Baxter on January 22, 2013 in Meet "Baxter" the Robot Out to Get Your Minimum-Wage, No Benefits, Part-Time Job, Because He's Still Much Cheaper; Fed Cannot Win a Fight Against Robots.

Soft Fingers Needed



Soft fingers and better motions are needed to win the 2015 contest, and they are coming (image from the University of Colorado video).

Anything that can be automated, will. The higher the minimum wage and the lower the interest rate, the more incentive companies have to replace humans with hardware and software robots.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Damn the Reports, Full Speed Ahead; Recession Overdue; Good Time to Normalize Rates?

czw., 26/03/2015 - 19:58
Here's one for the I'll believe it when I see it category: Fed Officials say Rate Hike Plan Intact Despite Weak U.S. Data.
In separate events in Frankfurt and Detroit, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said U.S. monetary policy might need to be adjusted in light of the economy's steady improvement since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

"Now may be a good time to begin normalizing U.S. monetary policy so that it is set appropriately for an improving economy over the next two years," Bullard said at a conference in the German financial hub.

The challenge now, Lockhart said, is to sort out whether recent weakness in exports, manufacturing and capital investment indicate the start of an economic slowdown or other temporary factors such as the soaring value of the U.S. dollar.

Lockhart said he is confident for now that the weakness is "transitory," and still regards it as highly likely that the Fed will raise rates at either its June, July or September meetings.

"We're still on a solid track ... The economy is throwing off some mixed signals at the moment and I think that is going to be passing or transitory," Lockhart said in an interview with CNBC from a Detroit investment conference.

"In the beginning when the dollar declined I was prepared to, to some extent, dismiss the influence of the dollar as being not great because our economy is not so export-dependent, but I'm upgrading it as a factor to watch," he said. Totally Clueless

In simple terms, Lockhart may as well have said that he is "totally clueless."

We are going on 7 years of economic expansion.

The San Francisco Fed has an interesting report on the Duration and Timing of Recessions.
NBER records show that, over the period from the mid-1940s until 2007, the average recession lasted 10 months, while the average expansion lasted 57 months, giving us an average business cycle of 67 months or about 5 years and seven months. However, there has been considerable variation in the length of business cycle expansions and contractions in the past.

The shortest recession between the mid-1940s and 2007 lasted only six months, from January to July 1980. The two longest recessions during the period lasted 16 months each, one extending from November 1973 to March 1975, and the other from July 1981 to November 1982. In both of these periods there was a noticeable decline in real GDP.

In contrast to the relatively short duration of most recessions, periods of expansion tend to last much longer, helping the economy expand over time. The shortest expansion period from the mid-1940s until 2007 lasted only 24 months, from April 1958 to April 1960. The longest expansion continued from March 1991 to March 2001, setting a record of 120 consecutive months of growth.Recession Overdue

Statistically speaking, a recession is overdue although there is wide variance in both the length of recessions and recoveries.

Yet, there is very little reason to believe weak report after weak report is "transitory". The idea "we're still on a solid track," is downright ludicrous.

Good Time to Normalize Rates?

Is this a good time to normalize rates?

Let's answer it this way: It's better than a month from now but not as good as two years ago. In fact, for the second time, rates never should have gotten as low as they did for as long as they did.

The Fed has sponsored three asset bubbles in recent history, each of increasing amplitude.

Three Major Bubbles

  1. Dot-Com bubble
  2. Housing and credit bubble
  3. Global equity and junk bond bubble

Bubble number three is still expanding. Few admit that it's a bubble, simply because it  hasn't popped yet.

If the Fed does hike (which is doubtful because Yellen is calling the shots, not Bullard or Lockhart), most will point a finger and say the "Fed caused a needless recession".

Nothing could be further from the truth.

By blowing yet another asset bubble, the Fed guaranteed another hugely destructive asset deflation bust.

Why hike? The reason to hike is the bigger the bubble, the bigger the bust, something the Fed should have thought about in advance but didn't, and never does.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Jobs and Employment: How Much Recession Warning Can One Expect?

czw., 26/03/2015 - 08:17
Watching the Wrong Things

Many market watchers have their eye on jobs and the unemployment rate as the determinant of when the Fed will hike.

Let's investigate the wisdom of that approach with actual data.

I downloaded seasonally adjusted employment and jobs data for the last five recessions from the BLS. Because the recessions start in different months, use of seasonally adjusted data is mandatory for this exercise.

My focus is on jobs and employment in the period three months prior to the recession to three months after the recession.

I used the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) report on US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions as the official arbiter as to when recessions begin.

Jobs are from the Establishment Survey. Employment is from the Household Survey. Results are similar.

Recessions vs. Employment (in Thousands)

Recession DateEmploy -3 MonthsEmploy -2 MonthsEmploy -1 MonthsEmploy -0 MonthsEmploy +1 MonthsEmploy +2 MonthsEmploy +3 MonthsPeak Employment1980-0199,40499,57499,93399,87999,99599,71399,2331 Month Later1981-07101,056101,048100,298100,693100,689100,064100,3781 Month Later1990-07118,852119,151118,983118,810118,802118,524118,5361 Month Prior2001-03137,614137,778137,612137,783137,299137,092136,873Recession Start2007-12146,244145,946146,595146,273146,378146,156146,0861 Month Prior

Recessions vs. Jobs (in Thousands)

Recession DateJobs -3 MonthsJobs -2 MonthsJobs -1 MonthsJobs -0 MonthsJobs +1 MonthsJobs +2 MonthsJobs +3 MonthsPeak Jobs1980-0190,48290,57690,67390,80290,88290,99490,8502 Months Later1981-0791,28391,29391,49091,60291,56691,47991,380Recession Start1990-07109,687109,839109,862109,834109,613109,525109,3661 Month Prior2001-03132,723132,696132,767132,742132,460132,422132,2911 Month Prior2007-12138,053138,136138,253138,350138,365138,278138,1991 Month Later

How Much Warning Can One Expect?

The answer is clearly none.

In the previous five recessions, jobs peaked two months after the start of the recession once, one month later once, one month prior twice, and once during the recession month.

In the previous five recessions, employment peaked one month after the start of the recession twice, one month prior twice, and once during the recession month.

The NBER says the last US recession started in December of 2007 and lasted until  June of 2009. Let's take a closer look at stats from that recession.

2007-2009 Recession Stats

  • Jobs were higher three months after the recession started than two months before the recession started.
  • Jobs were higher two months after the recession started than one month before.
  • Employment was higher three months after the recession started than two months before.
  • Employment was higher two months after the recession started than one month before.

In the last recession, jobs and employment did not provide a clear signal for months.

Negative Data Pours In

With the exceptions of jobs, most other data has been negative.


Economists keep watching jobs, a lagging indicator, somehow convinced that jobs tell the story of what the Fed is about to do. Such a focus is complete silliness. When it's clear that jobs have turned, the economy will likely be in recession.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

GDP Projections Drop Yet Again, Still Too High

śr., 25/03/2015 - 23:38
In the wake of a 6th consecutive decline in business spending GDP Growth Estimates Tumble, Again.

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on Wednesday put its gauge at 0.2%, down from its earlier estimate of 0.3%.
  • Morgan Stanley economists lowered their estimate for first-quarter growth to an annualized 0.9% from an earlier forecast of 1.2%, pointing to light inventories and lower capital goods exports as weighing on GDP.
  • Economists at Barclays lowered their projection a tenth of a percentage point to 1.2%.
  • The forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers also trimmed its estimate down to 1.2% from 1.5% before Wednesday. Barclays and Macroeconomic Advisers cited, among other factors, worries that the drop in shipments last month foretells a decline in first-quarter equipment investment.
  • J.P. Morgan Chase economists lowered their first-quarter forecast to an annualized 1.5%, from 2%, saying a decline in investment by oil companies — the result of the plunge in oil prices — could offset the lift from higher consumer spending.

Optimism Still Rules

Optimism is still the order of the day.

"Overall, given the usual noise in the data, as well as a melange of other special factors, we do not view the 1.5% [First-quarter] tracking as so far below the 2.4% average of the current expansion to raise more serious worries," said J.P. Morgan chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli in a note to clients.

Speaking of optimism, Goldman Trims U.S. First Quarter GDP View to 1.8 Percent from 2.0 Percent.

"Goldman Sachs economist Kris Dawson said on Wednesday he scaled back his view of U.S. growth in the first quarter, following an unexpectedly weak report on domestic durable goods orders in February."

Core Business Orders

Today we learned core business spending, defined as new nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, declined for the sixth month.



Core business spending declined seven months at the beginning of 2012, but nearly all data other than jobs growth has been weak this go around.

The series is somewhat volatile as the following chart shows.



GDP Now Forecast Declines Again

Once again, let's tune into the GDPNow Forecast of the Atlanta Fed.



GDPNow History



The initial forecast on February 2, was 1.9% annualized growth. It is now 0.2% annualized growth. That's quite the plunge in less than two months.

Ominous Trends

I was way ahead of this game. On January 31, I wrote Diving Into the GDP Report - Some Ominous Trends - Yellen Yap - Decoupling or Not?
On Thursday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen met with Senate Democrats at a private luncheon. She told the Democrats that the U.S. Economy is Strong.

[I commented ...]

Several PCE [Personal Consumption Expenditures] items stand out. Is the 2.87% increase sustainable?

Curiously, gasoline added 0.25 percentage points to GDP in spite of rapidly falling prices.

Motor vehicles and parts show rapidly slowing growth since second quarter. That's a trend I expect to continue.

I discussed autos on January 6 in Economists Upbeat Despite 4th Consecutive Decline in Factory Orders; Auto Orders vs. Expectations.

Autos are slowing and so will auto-related jobs. Yet economists believe "Auto sales are expected to reach their highest level in a decade this year, bolstered by strong job gains and cheap gas."

My take: Autos will soon subtract from GDP.

Growth in fixed investment is falling rapidly. Equipment, industrial equipment, and transportation equipment are already in contraction.

Inventories added 0.82 percentage points to fourth quarter GDP. Over time, this series trends to zero, so expect a pull back next quarter.

Rising imports subtract from GDP. Imports actually took 1.39 percentage points from GDP. If oil prices head back up, even modestly, this number could get worse.

Exports added 0.37 percentage points to fourth quarter GDP. But note the trend.

Because of the rising US dollar, export growth is dwindling. Will exports add or subtract to GDP next quarter?

All things considered, this GDP report is far more than a simple snapback from the rapid expansion last quarter.

Canada in Recession, US Will Follow in 2015

Earlier today in Canada in Recession, US Will Follow in 2015, I stated "A Canadian recession is underway. US will follow."

Decoupling or Not?

I remain amused by all the pundits who think the US has "decoupled" from the global economy and will grow stronger in 2015.

Let's return to a question I asked above: Will exports add or subtract to GDP next quarter?

I suggest the answer is subtract. Not only are US exports getting more expensive relative to Europe and Japan, the entire rest of the global economy is slowing rapidly. Our biggest trading partner is Canada and Canada is in recession, with a rapidly sinking loonie (Canadian dollar) on top of it.

US Recession

The US won't decouple, just as China did not decouple from the global economy in 2008-2009 (a widely-held thesis I also knocked at the time).

Indeed, now that virtually no economist expects a US recession, I believe we are finally on the cusp of one, just as the Fed seems committed to hikeMuch of this seemed pretty obvious back in January. I suppose it's not obvious because economists still don't see it.

Then again, economists have a perfect track record. They have never once in history predicted a recession.

For a full recap of today's disastrous durable goods report, please see Durable Goods Orders Unexpectedly Decline, Business Spending Declines 6th Month.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com  Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Durable Goods Orders Unexpectedly Decline, Business Spending Declines 6th Month

śr., 25/03/2015 - 20:55
The durable goods report for February was released today. It was another disaster in a long line of weak economic reports. And once again economists missed their optimistic estimates by a mile.

Apparently the weather has been bad for six straight months because this is the sixth consecutive decline in overall business spending.

The Bloomberg Consensus Estimate was for a 0.7% rise. The actual number was a 1.4% decline.



Durables orders fell 1.4 percent in February after rebounding 2.0 percent the month before. Market expectations were for a 0.7 percent gain.

Excluding transportation, the core declined 0.4 percent, following a 0.7 percent drop in January. Analysts projected a 0.3 percent gain in February.

With those estimates in hand, let's dive into the Commerce Report on durable goods.

Durable Goods Synopsis

New Orders.  New orders for manufactured durable goods in February decreased $3.2 billion or 1.4 percent to $231.3 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today.  This decrease, down three of the last four months, followed a 2.0 percent January increase. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.4 percent [the fifth straight decline]Excluding defense, new orders decreased 1.0 percent. Transportation equipment, also down three of the last four months, led the decrease, $2.5 billion or 3.5 percent to $69.5 billion. [Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 1.4% from January. That marked the sixth straight monthly decline. This is the business spending component for machinery, computers, etc.

Shipments. Shipments of manufactured durable goods in February, down four of the last five months, decreased $0.5 billion or 0.2 percent to $244.0 billion. This followed a 1.4 percent January decrease.  Primary metals, down five consecutive months, led the decrease, $0.3 billion or 1.1 percent to $26.1 billion.

Unfilled Orders.  Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in February, down three consecutive months, decreased $5.6 billion or 0.5 percent to $1,156.9 billion.  This followed a 0.3 percent January decrease. Transportation equipment, also down three consecutive months, led the decrease, $4.6 billion or 0.6 percent to $731.6 billion.

Inventories.  Inventories of manufactured durable goods in February, up twenty-two of the last twenty-three months, increased $1.1 billion or 0.3 percent to $413.0 billion.  This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.3 percent January increase.  Transportation equipment, also up twenty-two of the last twenty-three months, drove the increase, $1.2 billion or 0.9 percent to $135.4 billion.

Capital Goods.  Nondefense new orders for capital goods in February decreased $2.1 billion or 2.6 percent to $77.3 billion. Shipments decreased slightly to $80.2 billion.  Unfilled orders decreased $2.9 billion or 0.4 percent to $727.8 billion.  Inventories increased $0.3 billion or 0.1 percent to $186.8 billion.  Defense new orders for capital goods in February increased $0.8 billion or 10.2 percent to $8.3 billion.  Shipments decreased $0.1 billion or 0.8 percent to $9.0 billion.  Unfilled orders decreased $0.7 billion.

ItemFebJanDecJan-Feb %ChgDec-Jan % ChgNov-Dec % ChgTotal New Orders231,291234,462229,827-1.42.0-3.7Ex-Transportation Orders161,807162,453163,651-0.4-0.7-0.8Ex-Defense Orders222,596224,795219,755-1.02.3-3.2Transportation Orders69,48472,00966,176-358.8-10.0Capital Goods Orders86,65086,93381,003-1.57.3-10.3Non-Defense Capital Goods Orders77,32479,37772,990-2.68.8-10.1Defense Capital Goods Orders8,3267,5568,01310.2-5.7-11.8Core Capital Goods Orders69,25070,22570,308-1.4-0.1-0.5Core Capital Goods Shipments70,04469,90970,2120.2-0.40.4
Line items (except the last line which shows shipments) are new orders, in millions of dollars, seasonally adjusted. Core capital goods exclude defense and aircraft.

Once again this was another exceptionally weak economic report, and once again economists were not close to the mark.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

One Minute to Midnight: Athens Raids Public Health Coffers in Hunt for Cash; Brussels Threatens Capital Controls

śr., 25/03/2015 - 11:30
Eurozone watchers have said 11th hour so many times that no one believes it any more. To place new emphasis on the plight of Greece it's now allegedly 1 minute to midnight.

Given that Greek funds were supposed to last until April 30, there's plenty of time for 30 seconds to midnight, 20 seconds to midnight, then a countdown to Cinderella hour when Greece may finally turn into a pumpkin.

Brussels Threatens Capital Controls

Meanwhile, with a countdown underway, please consider Athens Raids Public Health Coffers in Hunt for Cash.
Greece’s government has raided the coffers of its public health service and the Athens metro as it widens a hunt for funds to keep itself afloat and service debts.

Athens faces a €1.7bn bill for wages and pensions at the end of the month and then a €450m loan payment to the International Monetary Fund on April 9. Greek government and eurozone officials believe Athens does not have funds to cover both.

In another constraint on Greece’s ability to raise cash, the European Central Bank decided to impose stricter curbs on the issuance of short-term government debt.

EU officials expressed hope that a marathon Monday night meeting between Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, and his German counterpart, chancellor Angela Merkel, would spark long-stalled talks over economic reforms Greece must implement to unlock €7.2bn in frozen bailout aid.

In the absence of progress, some EU officials were accelerating their preparations in case Athens runs out of cash before it agrees a reform programme. In Brussels, European Commission officials have begun looking again at EU law governing capital controls in case the growing uncertainty, or a non-payment to the IMF, spurs a renewed run on bank deposits.

In Frankfurt, the ECB informed Greece’s biggest banks that it was making legally binding the ceiling it imposed last month on their holdings of short-term Treasury bills.

Such a move will limit the Eurosystem’s exposure to the Greek government should it fail to pay its debts. But it will also close off another source of financing on which Athens had been relying.

Greek banks hold about €11bn in Greek T-bills, and Athens must roll over two T-bills totalling €2.4bn in mid-April.

“The Greeks are one minute away from midnight,” said Mujtaba Rahman, head of European analysis at the Eurasia Group consultancy. “The government is at the edge of the precipice and may well go over.

In a sign that the cash crunch has become more desperate, officials at Greece’s state healthcare service, were asked on Tuesday to hand over a €50m reserve for paying arrears owed to medical workers.

Earlier this month about €150m of budget funding for hospital supplies was unexpectedly withheld, according to health ministry officials.

The government has so far rounded up more than €600m of cash held by state-owned corporations, including contributions from the Athens metro company, the state electricity supplier, PPC, and the Athens water utility.

About €300m in EU subsidies due to farmers has been diverted to cover salary payments to civil servants, according to people briefed on how the cash crunch is being handled.

Some officials believe a failure to pay the IMF in April would not be catastrophic: under fund rules, a non-payment is not immediately considered a default, though it would prevent Greece from accessing any IMF bailout funding. Half of the €7.2bn tranche Athens is seeking comes from the fund.

A failure to pay either of the T-bills — one is due on April 14, the next on April 17 — would probably bring wider upheaval since they could trigger clauses in other debt obligations that would make them due immediately.

The ECB ceiling could make repayment of the April 14 bill particularly challenging. Greek banks have been the primary buyers of such debt and have essentially rolled over their existing holdings during recent T-bill auctions. But at least 20 per cent of the April 14 bill is held by investors outside Greece who are unlikely to roll over their holdings and Greek banks are now barred from buying up the difference. Seven Seconds to Midnight?

With all these funds being diverted, I fail to see how Greece can possibly make it to April 30.

Thus I offer my own number. I believe it's seven seconds to midnight. However, we have seen the clock stop on many occasions before, stuck on the 11th hour for weeks on end.

It could easily stop at one second to midnight for a week or so.

With that, it's time for a musical tribute.


Link if video does not play: Does Anybody Really Knows What Time It Is? - Chicago

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Screws Tighten: ECB Forbids Greek Banks From Buying More Debt; ECB Exposure to Greece Tops €100 Billion; Greece Out of Cash by April 20

wt., 24/03/2015 - 20:27
ECB Denies it is Blackmailing Greece

Yesterday, Mario Draghi Hit Back at QE Hawks and denied the ECB was blackmailing Greece.
Critics of QE, such as Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann and the head of the Dutch central bank, Klaas Knot, argue the policy, which helps lower the cost of borrowing for member states, will allow countries such as France and Italy to shirk unpopular reforms.

The ECB president told lawmakers it was “very dubious” that a fall in the cost of borrowing for member states automatically weakened the appetite for structural reforms. He said: “Do you really think a high level of interest rates would form an incentive for a government to improve its education system, or judiciary, or electoral system?”

Mr Draghi denied accusations that the ECB was blackmailing Greece. “The ECB has €104bn of exposure to Greece. This is equal to 65 per cent of Greek GDP, which is the highest exposure in the eurozone,” he said. “So what sort of blackmail is this?

The denial follows the leaking of a letter from Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to German chancellor Angela Merkel. In the letter, Mr Tsipras called for the ECB to reintroduce a waiver that would allow Greek banks to use their sovereign’s debt as collateral to secure cheap loans from the central bank’s regular auctions. Screws Tighten

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports ECB Tells Greek Banks Not to Boost Exposure to Athens Government’s Debt.
The European Central Bank has instructed Greece’s biggest banks to refrain from increasing their exposure to Greek government debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move raises pressure on the cash-strapped government in Athens to find an agreement with its international creditors to unlock billions of euros in bailout funds.

The new restriction from the ECB’s bank supervisors, which was approved by the central bank’s governing council, was conveyed to the Greek banks in a letter on Tuesday.

It is in line with recent policies undertaken by the ECB to restrict the amount of funding the Greek government can obtain by selling Treasury bills.

Last month, the ECB suspended an exemption that had allowed Greek banks to post junk-rated government bonds as collateral for cheap ECB loans through its regular lending operations. That forced Greek banks to rely on an emergency lending program through the Greek central bank that carries a higher interest rate.Greece Out of Cash by April 20

Reuters reports Greece Out of Cash by April 20.
Greece will run out of money by April 20 unless it receives fresh aid from creditors, a source familiar with the familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

Athens is scrambling to send a list of planned reforms to its European lenders in the coming days in the hope of unlocking fresh aid and averting bankruptcy.

It has lately relied on repo transactions - where it borrows money from state entities - to cover its cash crunch, but can continue to rely on that only for a few more weeks, the source said.

"Although it will be hard, the country can make it without help until about April 20, using the short-term borrowing from public entities," the source said. Greece Still Needs Third Bailout, Another €54 Billion

Bear in mind that Greece still needs to negotiate a third bailout. See Third Greek Bailout? Another €53.8 Billion Needed? Primary Account Surplus Revisited.

Thus, even if Greece gets over this hump, negotiations start all over again in June because Greece will be unable to pay back ECB bonds that mature this summer.

How much more can Greece take?

Whom is To Blame?

In case you missed it, please read my March 10 article From ZIRP to NIRP: Virtues of Germany vs. the Vices of Greece; What About "Speece" and Gold?

The article contains a discussion of whom is to blame, a rebuttal of the widely held belief that the euro acts like a gold standard, and the role of attitudes in this mess.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

CPI Ticks Up, Led by Rise in Energy; CPI Still Negative Year-Over-Year

wt., 24/03/2015 - 19:10
Following three months of declines (primarily due to falling energy prices), today the BLS Consumer Price Index for February shows that month-over-month, the CPI is back in positive territory.

CPI and Weightings



click on any chart for sharper image

From October to November the CPI declined -.3 percent, so this rise follows three straight month-over-month declines.

Year-Over-Year Seasonally Adjusted Percent Change



Year-Over-Year the CPI is negative for the second month. From December to January the year-over-year CPI was -0.45%. Today, it's a barely negative 0.17%.

Year-Over-Year Components



Of course, your prices will vary greatly. Take for example medical care. Did your costs only go up by 1.8%? Your food basket by 3%?

The above tables are partial. The BLS has many more categories in the link at the top.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Oligarchs and their "Pocket Armies" Take Over Oil Company in Kiev; Ukraine Begs for More Money; Three-Way Civil War?

pon., 23/03/2015 - 21:39
Ukraine Begs for More Money

The IMF foolishly agreed to give Ukraine a four-year $40 billion bailout on March 12. Already, Ukraine's Finance Minister Begs for More Money. Natalie Jaresko told the Financial Times in an interview that a four-year, $40bn, IMF-led bailout finalised this month — including restructuring $15bn of debt — was enough to stabilise the financial and banking system. But that was a “first step”. 

Ukraine needed billions more to restart growth, rebuild shattered infrastructure, and deal with the effects of the eastern conflict that has killed at least 6,000 people, wounded 15,000 and displaced more than a million.

“I believe strongly that the G7, and frankly speaking the broader G20, has a responsibility now to support Ukraine in a much bigger way financially,” Ms Jaresko said.Interesting Debate

I end up hearing this burden-sharing argument between different parties. The Americans say the Europeans should do more, the Europeans say the Americans should do more. That’s an interesting debate, but no one’s paying a greater cost than the Ukrainian people,” said Jaresko.

Yes, it is an interesting debate. But missing from the debate is a Ukraine civil war that is still ongoing. Money to rebuild shattered infrastructure will do no such thing. Instead it will go for more war-mongering.

Money will also go straight into the pockets of the corrupt officials running the country and the corrupt oligarchs battling to take over the country.

Oligarch Takes Over Oil Company in Kiev

The battle over what's left of Ukraine has now reached Kiev with the takeover of oil company Ukrnafta by oligarch Igor Kolomoisky and his private army.

Please consider Poroshenko Warns Rival Over ‘Pocket Army’. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko warned on Monday that no regional governor would be allowed a “pocket army”, after armed men took up positions around an oil company in which Igor Kolomoisky, the billionaire oligarch and governor, is battling to retain control.

The stand-off threatened to escalate into a full-blown clash between the country’s wealthy president and a rival oligarch who has long been one of Ukraine’s richest men but since last year’s Ukrainian revolution has also developed a political power base.

Mr Kolomoisky accepted the role of governor of the central Dnipropetrovsk region last year as Ukraine’s new government tried to stabilise the country after the president at the time, Viktor Yanukovich, was toppled by anti-government protests. He has also funded volunteer militias fighting Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east.

The billionaire has long exercised management control over Ukrnafta, an oil producer, despite owning only 42 per cent. But a law passed by Kiev’s parliament has attempted to enable the state, which owns 50 per cent of the company plus 1 share, to retake full control.

In an unusual scene, camouflage-clad guards in full military gear, some armed with assault rifles, surrounded Ukrnafta’s headquarters in central Kiev on Sunday.

Mr Kolomoisky said the men were from a private security company summoned by the company’s management, not by him. He also said they did not come from one of the volunteer military battalions that he supports.Private "Security" Company

Here a picture of what a private security company in Ukraine looks like.



Anecdotes from Ukraine

Reader "Ellen" Writes ...
Hello Mish,

Western media seldom talks about Ukraine's inner problems. In my country, wealth divided between several groups of ultra-rich oligarchs. Some control the bank system, others the power system, and another the oil companies. Recently the battles between them have escalated. We now have armed fighters on streets of Kiev guarding national oil companies.

I don't care which oligarch wins because I know that the people of Ukraine will lose in any case. The situation now looks like Feudal Europe in early Middle Ages. Each wealthy baron strives to be a king and have own army and own land with serves.

Porochenko has support of America and EU but zero respect in Ukraine. Powerful oligarchs battle for pieces. Some think that Ukraine oil was taken under control by USA, though Porochenko. This seems logical to me.

Best regards

Ellen Desperation Increases

Reader John whose sister lives in Lviv, Ukraine writes ...
Hello Mish

There is a lot of political wrangling going on, with the oligarchs starting to go at one another. It looks to be shaping up as Poroshenko vs Kolomoisky. Stay tuned on this as we head towards the beginning of April.

The following is from my sister.

"Right now, everyone here is worrying about the tax and utility hikes coming in April. It's gonna be devastating. I don't like beating up the government in this state of war, but they're digging themselves an even bigger hole."

"They are taxing poor working pensioners which will bring in a paltry million or so, raising utilities by almost 300% in April, and inflation up to 30% and rising. People leave (especially youngsters) as fast as possible. The OSCE is as blind as ever, as is the World Bank and IMF. I have nothing positive to report, but the war continues, with people dying and maimed every day."

[John continues] This is the absolute first time that I have ever seen or heard my sister say anything negative about the current regime or junta as we call them. What this means is the average Ukrainian is up against the wall financially and there is nothing more that the government can take from them.

Events are a recipe for yet another disaster. I do not like to speculate, but I expect that the Junta will try and pull off something to distract the masses, but by now, the people are too wise for this nonsense, and oligarchs want their say.

JohnCarpetbaggers vs. Oligarchs

On December 3, I wrote Enter the Carpetbaggers: Ukraine's New Finance Minister a US Citizen, New Economy Minister from Lithuania

"Now that Ukraine's gold has been sold off, the only thing left to complete the plundering is to send in the carpetbaggers. That process is now underway. Ukraine's just-named "Finance Minister" is a US citizen, and Ukraine's new "Economy Minister" is from Lithuania. To get around legal issues associated with having foreigners in top level government positions, Ukraine made the appointees Ukrainian citizens.

Three-Way Civil War?

Kiev was happy with the oligarchs and their private armies (Igor Kolomoisky is rumored to have 10,000), as long as they were battling the separatists.

Now it seems the oligarchs have turned on their masters in Kiev. Another overthrow, this time by an oligarch, could easily be in the works.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Idle (and Extremely Late) Threat of the Day by Fed's Bullard: Raise Rates or Face ‘Devastating’ Bubbles

pon., 23/03/2015 - 19:08
The laugh of today comes from Fed non-voting member James Bullard who says Raise Rates or Face ‘Devastating’ Bubbles.
The US risks inflating asset price bubbles with “devastating consequences” if it leaves interest rates at zero, according to a senior Federal Reserve official.

James Bullard, head of the Reserve Bank of St Louis, told the Financial Times on Monday the Fed “should get on with normalisation” as soon as possible so that it does not have to raise rates more aggressively later causing significant market volatility.

The unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 per cent in February, its lowest rate since 2008, and was poised to go below 5 per cent by the third quarter of the year, Mr Bullard said.

Recalling the tech bubble in the 1990s and the housing bubble of the 2000s, he said: “Zero [interest rates] is too low in that kind of environment. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. A zero rate would feed into an asset price bubble”.

When asset bubbles start, they keep going until they blow up out of control with devastating consequences.”

The policy maker dismissed the softer US economic data that has emerged so far this year as temporary and said that the current low inflation was caused by cheap energy prices and would move up once the oil market stabilised.

He said that the dollar was unlikely to soar much higher when the Fed raised rates as markets had already priced this move into the exchange rate.

Growth, he added, was likely to be running about 1 percentage point above its long-run trend and this would continue to push unemployment down towards the 3.8 per cent low of the 1990s and the 4.2 per cent low of the 2000s. How Many Ways Can One Person Be Wrong?

I agree with Bullard that asset bubble blowups have enormous consequences. The problem is that Bullard apparently does not realize we are already in one of the biggest asset bubbles in history.

The asset bubble has already been fed.

As far as growth running above trend, Bullard is in outright Fantasyland.

Whereas Bullard says the current weakness is "temporary", I confidently predict a recession. It would not surprise me in the least if the US is already in one.

Powder Keg

Bullard said he was not especially concerned about the high prices already in bond markets because central banks had the tools and the communication abilities to soothe concerns in these areas.

Bond markets already have very high prices and low yields. You could wonder whether that’s a powder keg ready to explode, but central banks conduct policy so we can mitigate these concerns.”

Just like the Fed mitigated the dot-com bust and the housing bust? Do central banks conduct policy to mitigate bubbles or cause them?

Squirrels and Blind Nuts

Proving that even a blind nut is not always squirrely, Bullard did say something I agree with: Bullard said that the dollar was unlikely to soar much higher when the Fed raised rates as markets had already priced this move into the exchange rate.

On second thought, Bullard is likely to be right about the dollar primarily because the Fed is not going to get in as many rate hikes as the market has priced in.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Plotting the Trust (or Lack Thereof) in Greek Banks; Greece Capital Flight in Pictures

pon., 23/03/2015 - 17:33
Greece Capital Flight in Pictures

Using Target2 Imbalances as a measure of capital flight and trust that Greeks have in their banks, here are two charts that pretty much tell the full story.

Greece Target2 Imbalance January 2014 to February 2015



Between October 2014 and February 2015, over 52 billion euros have fled Greek banks. Go back to June when things appeared to be healing and capita flight is about 60 billion euros.

Greece Target2 Imbalance Every February Since 2008



Charts created with data from Euro Crisis Monitor.

Target2 Discussion

For a discussion of Target2, what it means and how it works, along with a discussion of who is really to blame for the crisis in Europe, please see From ZIRP to NIRP: Virtues of Germany vs. the Vices of Greece; What About "Speece" and Gold?

The record Target2 deficit for Greece was 109.315 billion euros in November of 2011. The Greek Target2 deficit exceeded 100 billion euros for 14 of 15 months between September of 2011 and November of 2012.

On July 26, 2012 ECB President Mario Draghi said the ECB was “ready to do whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency. “Believe me, it will be enough,” said Draghi.

Confidence in the euro resumed. With a bit of a lag, confidence in Greek banks also returned.  Between February of 2012 and June of 2014 nearly 77 billion euros flowed back into Greek banks.

Confidence in Greek banks waned with the rise of Syriza, accelerated ahead of the January 2015 Greek national election, then continued its decline following the election.

Runs on Greek Banks

The above charts nicely depict capital flight and the run on Greek banks.

On January 9, I commented Another Run on Greek Banks Begins; Get Out While You Still Can; Buy Gold

On January 25, 2015 I reported Syriza Trounces New Democracy; Greeks Stop Paying Taxes; Run on Greek Banks Escalates; Get Out!

Greeks held back paying taxes because they figured Syriza Alexis Tsipras would work out a new deal with the Troika and for Greek taxpayers. A new deal never happened, and the run on the banks continued.

In spite of the fact that Greek banks are in need of cash, the ECB has been very reluctant to provide it. See ECB Revokes Greek Bonds as Collateral; ECB vs. Novices; Brass Knuckles.

Greece Warns Merkel of ‘Impossible’ Debt Payments

Today the Financial Times reports Greece’s Leader Warns Merkel of ‘Impossible’ Debt Payments.
Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has warned Angela Merkel that it will be “impossible” for Athens to service debt obligations due in the coming weeks if the EU fails to distribute any short-term financial assistance to the country.

The warning, contained in a letter sent by Mr Tsipras to the German chancellor and obtained by the Financial Times, comes as concerns mount that Athens will struggle to make pension and wage payments at the end of this month and could run out of cash before the end of April.

“Given that Greece has no access to money markets, and also in view of the ‘spikes’ in our debt repayment obligations during the spring and summer . . . it ought to be clear that the ECB’s special restrictions when combined with disbursement delays would make it impossible for any government to service its debt,” Mr Tsipras wrote.

He said servicing the debts would lead to a “sharp deterioration in the already depressed Greek social economy — a prospect that I will not countenance”.

Mr Tsipras was rebuffed in efforts to secure quick financing from either the ECB or eurozone lenders at Thursday’s Brussels meeting with Ms Merkel and a small group of other EU leaders — including French president François Hollande and ECB chief Mario Draghi.No Cash for Greek banks

Adding fat to the Greece fire, Spain says No Cash for Athens Until Reforms in Place.
Greece’s cash-starved government will not receive any money from the eurozone rescue fund until all its proposed reforms have been implemented, the Spanish economy minister has said.

“We will see whether the list of reforms is comprehensive enough or not. [But] there will not be any disbursement before there is a real test that the reforms have been approved and implemented. That is the approach,” Luis de Guindos said in an interview with the Financial Times, dashing Greek hopes that the presentation of a new reform list alone could unlock fresh funds for Athens.Politics Triumphs Over Rational Thinking

Spain could benefit from a rule change itself but fearing the rise of the Spanish anti-euro party Podemos, does not want to appease Greece in any way.

Recall that Podemos "Economic Manifesto" Calls for Debt Restructuring, Spain to Abandon the "Euro Trap"

For further discussion, please see Greecification of Spanish Politics and the Lies of Spain's Ministers.

I believe this foolish move will backfire in a big way in the Spanish national elections later this year.

Get Out While You Can!

If you have money in Greek banks, get it out now! I have been saying that for months, and the smart money is doing just that.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Spanish Anti-Euro Party Podemos Wins 15 Seats in Regional Election

pon., 23/03/2015 - 08:57
Spain has a largely 2-party system, but unlike France, there is no round two if a single political party fails to get a majority.

Instead, political parties must form a coalition. And that is precisely what happened in Spanish regional elections over the weekend.

Podemos Wins 15 Seats

The Guardian reports Spanish Anti-Austerity Party Podemos Wins 15 Seats in Andalusia.
Podemos, the Spanish anti-austerity party, will be a prominent force in Andalusia’s regional parliament after it won 15 seats in the party’s first election since its ally Syriza triumphed in Greece.

The Socialists, who have held power in Andalusia for more than three decades, will continue to govern the region. Lead by Susana Díaz, they won 35% percent of the vote, earning them 47 seats, shy of an outright majority.

“Andalusians have made their voices heard through the ballot box,” Díaz, 40, said on Sunday as the results came in.

The election held up Spain’s two-party system, albeit in a weakened state. The People’s party came in second with 27% of the vote, or 33 seats, but the party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy was the biggest loser on the day as the result was a steep drop from the 50 seats it won in the 2012 elections.

The Andalusian election generated considerable interest far outside the region’s boundaries. Spain this year will see municipal, regional and general elections across the country and many saw the Andalusian race as a crucial window into electoral sentiment.

The race was also Podemos’s first test since Syriza’s win in the Greek elections. With Andalusia’s unemployment rate sitting at 34% – the highest in Spain – and the Socialists entangled in allegations of misusing hundreds of millions of euros in public funds, the election was widely seen as one of Podemos’s first runs at turning discontent into votes.

On Sunday, the party touted their results as the first step in a change sweeping Spain. “The change has begun and will continue,” Podemos candidate Teresa Rodríguez said.

Podemos’s supporters had previously downplayed their chances in Andalusia, pointing to voters’ unwavering support of the regional Socialist party. But in one corner of Spain, Podemos exceeded all expectations: Cádiz. Home to Rodríguez and where the unemployment rate exceeds that of Greece, Podemos placed first in this city, earning 29% of the vote.

Podemos’s 15 seats could put them in a prime position of influence over the Socialists, who came eight seats short of a majority. With the Socialists on the hunt for coalition partners, be it formal or on an ad-hoc basis, Podemos now faces a unique dilemma.

Any alliance with the Socialists could dilute Podemos’s message of change, while an outright refusal to forge alliances could destabilise the regional parliament and lend credibility to opposition claims that a vote for Podemos is a vote for instability. “It’s going to be tough for them to show that they’re in the opposition but to show that they’re not a threat to the system,” said Torreblanca.

The real test for Spain’s bipartisan system will come as the Andalusian parliament begins with Podemos and Ciudadanos thrown into the mix, said Torreblanca. “With these results they’re not powerful enough to overthrow the system, but they’re powerful enough to change the system. They’re going to introduce a new sort of dynamism, more accountability and more transparency.”Political Reality

Podemos is not just anti-austerity. Podemos is also anti-euro (see Podemos "Economic Manifesto" Calls for Debt Restructuring, Spain to Abandon the "Euro Trap".

"Podemos is now part of Spain's official political reality" quipped my friend Bran who lives in Spain.

Political reality is also in play in France over the weekend. See Hollande's Party (PS) Trounced by Sarkaozy (UMP) and Le Pen (FN) in French Local Elections.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

France Local Elections: Hollande's Party (PS) Trounced by Sarkaozy (UMP) and Le Pen (FN)

pon., 23/03/2015 - 03:49
In local French elections over the weekend, Conservatives Hold Off National Front while PS, the party of president Francois Hollande finished a distant third. France's centre-right UMP party and its allies have taken first place in the first round of local elections, partial results show.

Projections suggest that the far-right National Front - despite strong gains - came second with about 25% of the vote, behind the conservatives on 30%.

President Francois Hollande's governing Socialists came third with about 20%.

Voters are electing representatives in 101 departments, or counties, charged with issues like schools and welfare.

The results mean the second round on 29 March will see a run-off between the UMP and the FN in many constituencies.Le Pen: "We Dislodged PS"

Following the election, a triumphant Marine Le Pen announced "We dislodged PS".

Via translation from Le Monde: In an exclusive interview with Le Monde, the president of the National Front believes that the score of his party in the first round of the departmental elections, Sunday, March 22, is a "feat".

Le Pen: I have always said that beating the results of the European election [25%] would be a triumph. We beat that score score tonight.

Le Monde: You cannot dislodge the role of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Le Pen: The one that has been dislodged is the PS. It was dislodged in a thousand cantons!

Le Monde: You pay for your policy of isolation. The dynamic alliance between the UMP and the UDI allows to garner more votes.
Le Pen: We went from zero local presence to many second rounds. It's spectacular! Our score reassures everyone, it shows that our standards have reached such a point that some blow when one makes 27%.

Le Monde: Your dynamic still seems halted.
Le Pen: Not at all! We scored better than in the European elections! The vast majority of our candidates are unknown. And we come to consolidate a national proportional vote. I have no reason to be disappointed tonight. None.

Le Monde: The results of the PS is a defeat for Manuel Valls?
Le Pen: The vote eliminated half of PS candidates in the first round! This is a personal defeat.

Le Monde: Today your main opponent is Manuel Valls and Nicolas Sarkozy?
Le Pen: My main opponent is a presidential candidate. It's Hollande and Sarkozy.Achievement of National Front

Also from Le Monde, please consider Local Elections 2015. Marine Le Pen, made its best score ever in the local elections, with about 26% of the votes.

Marine Le Pen took the floor to celebrate the "achievement" made ​​by the National Front, who managed to better its score in the European elections. "This vote shows that the French want their freedom and understood that Another policy is possible," said the National Front, in a statement at the party headquarters.

Marine Le Pen said that "the overwhelming number of second rounds which will present FN candidates and the eviction of PS candidates in over thousand cantons shows our success."

The FN even won the first round several cantons: that of Eurville-Bienville in Haute-Marne (50.35%), Pontet Vaucluse (53.70%), Fréjus in the Var (51.17 %) of Vic-sur-Aisne in Aisne (53.80%). Runoffs on March 29

It will be interesting to see the results on March 29. History suggests the left will hold their nose and vote for UMP.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

War Games: Russia Threatens Denmark, NATO Intercepts Russian Jets, NATO Launches Drills on Russian Border

nie., 22/03/2015 - 21:29
Destabilizing war drill exercises from both NATO and Russia are the order of the day. The more the drills, the more likely one side or the other is going to make a major mistake.

Russia Threatens Denmark

In addition to the drills which we will discuss momentarily, the Financial Times reports Russia delivers nuclear warning to Denmark.
Russia has threatened Denmark with a nuclear strike if it takes part in NATO’s missile shield, in some of the most incendiary comments yet directed at a member of the military alliance.

Russia’s ambassador to Denmark wrote in a newspaper opinion piece that the Nordic country had not fully understood the consequences of signing up to the NATO missile defence programme.

“If it happens, then Danish warships will be targets for Russia’s nuclear weapons. Denmark will be part of the threat to Russia,” Mikhail Vanin wrote in Jyllands-Posten.

Mr Lidegaard indicated in August that Denmark would fit one or possibly more frigates with a type of radar that would allow the ships to be used in the NATO missile shield.Russia Targets NATO With Military Exercises

In a totally one sided article, Stratfor moans Russia Targets NATO With Military Exercises.
Russian military exercises, the latest in a series across the country, have taken on a threatening posture. While the most recent installment is not the largest exercise Russia has conducted, the areas involved and the forces included seem to have been deliberately chosen to send a warning to NATO; the exercise itself seems to simulate a full-scale confrontation with NATO through the forward deployment of nuclear armed submarines, theater ballistic missiles and strategic bomber aircraft. Strategic weapon systems, including assets that are part of Russia's nuclear capabilities, have also been deployed to locations near NATO's borders.

According to Russian statements, the snap exercise, which was not announced before it began March 16, will last five days and will involve some 45,000 servicemen, around 3,000 vehicles, more than 40 surface vessels, 15 submarines and 110 aircraft. The more notable systems involved are the Iskander mobile theater ballistic missiles and fighter aircraft that are being deployed to Kaliningrad, Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers that are being deployed to Crimea, and ballistic missile submarines that have been sent to sea with protective escorts.NATO Holds Military Drills in Estonia

The Russia snap exercise began on March 16. On February 25, the Telegraph wrote NATO and Russia Hold Rival Military Exercises on Estonian border.
Russian and NATO troops took part in rival exercises on either side of the Estonian border on Wednesday, highlighting fears that the tiny Baltic state could be the next target of the Kremlin’s territorial ambitions.

NATO forces put on a show of strength within yards of Estonia’s Russian border, with armoured personnel carriers, tanks and 1,300 Estonian soldiers forming a military parade. The parade, which also included 100 troops from Britain and other European nations, followed warnings from David Cameron on Tuesday that the Baltics could be next in Russia’s sights for a Crimea-style annexation.

The parade took place in the snow-bound Estonian frontier town of Narva, where a majority of residents are ethnic Russians. The choice of location was a pointed warning to Moscow, which regards the Russian community there as de facto evidence that Estonia is part of Russia’s “back yard”.

The Kremlin responded with its own military drills, sending 2,000 paratroopers into Russia’s western Pskov region, which borders both Estonia and neighbouring Latvia. Note that it was Russia who responded in Estonia. NATO held exercises first.

US Tanks Arrive in Latvia for NATO Drill in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania

On March 9, the Pontiac Tribune reported US Tanks Arrive In Latvia For NATO Drill With Poland, Estonia & Lithuania.

Om March 18, Newsweek reported NATO Intercepts 11 Russian Jets as War Games Continue
Lithuania has intercepted the largest group of Russian military jets near allied airspace this year, in the early hours of this morning, as Russia continues its snap military exercises in the Baltic, Arctic and elsewhere.

The increasing number of unannounced Russian military drills near its Baltic neighbours, combined with Russia sending jets into airspace close to its European neighbours has prompted concern from defence officials on the continent before. Lithuania and Estonia’s defence ministries have previously said such tactics could allow Russia to redeploy forces on their borders.Drills for Me but Not Thee

On March 21, RT wrote Drills for me but not for thee: NATO launches war games near Russian border.
Despite being quick to condemn Russian military manoeuvers, NATO is conducting wide-scale war games in the Baltic states and creating a “line of troops” across Eastern Europe. The US denies a double standard, but records and transcripts suggest otherwise.

Thousands of US troops and hundreds of tanks have poured into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the past two months as part of an operation dubbed “Atlantic Resolve.” In February, 140 NATO vehicles and 1400 troops swept through Narva, a mere 300 meters from the Russian border.

Just last week, Washington pushed Vietnam to prevent Russian aircraft from refueling there.

We have urged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Russia is not able to use its access to Cam Ranh Bay to conduct activities that could raise tensions in the region,” one State Department official told Reuters, on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, in the first three weeks of February, the US Navy flew its latest surveillance aircraft from bases in the Philippines over disputed islands in the South China Sea. The P-8 Poseidon is equipped with the latest sensors and electronics in the US Navy arsenal, and can “pack a serious punch,” according to one US military analyst.

When asked why the US was condemning Russian exercises inside Russia, State Department press official Jeff Rathke told RT no such statement had ever been made.

Wouldn’t US and NATO maneuvers on Russian borders, at a time when the West and Russia are at odds over the crisis in Ukraine, also raise tensions?” asked AP diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee.

“We would disagree with that,” replied Rathke.

Russia announced a massive surprise military drill earlier this week, putting forces all over the country on high alert and conducting exercises in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, the Arctic and the Far East. The ongoing snap check of the military involves about 76,000 troops, over 10,000 vehicles, 65 warships, 16 support vessels, 15 submarines, 200 warplanes and helicopters. Principles Please

The Daily Coin comments Principles Please? US Lauds NATO Drills But Calls Russian Ones Provocative

Principles in Reporting

What about principles in reporting?

RT, unlike Stratfor and Newsweek at least mentioned some military exercises of both Russia and NATO.

I am not here to defend any of these actions. My belief, as stated upfront, is that these war drill exercises are destabilizing. The more the drills, the more likely one side or the other is going to make a major mistake.

If anything, it appears US hawks are itching for a war with Russia. The US and Europe have already waged economic war on Russia, with round after round of sanctions. Those sanctions have hurt Europe as badly as Russia.

Who "Wins"?

  • No one "wins" in economic warfare
  • No one "wins" in nuclear warfare

Sadly, It's entirely possible the former leads to the latter with all these drills as the prelude.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Bottled Water: Is it Safer? Taste Better?

nie., 22/03/2015 - 19:31
A friend sent me a hilarious video this morning on bottled water. The video is from 2010, but it's also timeless.

Bottled water is a big industry, and profit margins are amazing. But does bottled water taste better? Is it free of chemicals? Is it even regulated?

Depending on what you know about bottled water, some of the answers may surprise you.



Link if video does not play: Truth About Bottled Water

There are reasons to drink bottled water of course. Here are two:

  1. Your city tap water tastes bad or looks bad.
  2. Your well water tastes bad, looks bad, or has higher than you like minerals or organics in it.

The number one water in taste tests happens to be New York City tap water. Chicago has great water too, at least it did when I was there in 2000.  The vast majority of citizens in the US have excellent water.

I once lived in a town called Lake in the Hills. It had water that was brown one day of the week, like clockwork. I believe it was every Tuesday. Whatever day it was, you learned not to wash your clothes on that day.

We have a well now, and I think the water tastes great. But it does have high calcium content which a water softener takes care of nicely.

If you like the convenience of having a cold bottle of water handy, I have a simple suggestion: refill the bottles from your tap.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

China's Vice Premier Seeks "Reasonable Growth"

nie., 22/03/2015 - 05:08
China's Vice Premier says "high speed growth" is a thing of the past and instead says China Will Keep Economic Growth in Reasonable Range
China's economy faces increased downward pressure this year, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said on Sunday, while reiterating that economic growth must be kept within a reasonable range.

China's economic growth slowed to just 7.4 percent last year, the slowest in 24 years. Beijing has set a target for growth of around 7 percent for 2015.

"The downward pressure on China's economy increased somewhat since the start of this year," Zhang told a high-level conference in Beijing.

"It's impossible and unnecessary for us to maintain the high-speed growth seen in the past," he added.

"We have paid a price and it's unsustainable. We should focus on improving quality and efficiency, change models and adjust structures." Preposterous Growth

7 percent is not reasonable. Something like 2 percent may be reasonable, but targets themselves are silly. Moreover, it's highly doubtful China grew at 7.4% last year. In fact, China may not have grown at all in the 4th quarter.

The problem with preposterous growth targets is that it puts pressure on local governments to achieve them. Two things happen: local officials make up numbers or worse yet, take silly risks to meet targets.

For a realistic assessment of China's growth please see Reality Check: How Fast is China Growing? Global Recession at Hand

My followup was China's Deflationary Bust and Beyond: Anne Stevenson-Yang Presentation

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli says "We have paid a price and it's unsustainable."

The only accurate part of his statement is "it's unsustainable." No price has been paid yet, but it's coming.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Evolution of Taxes: Italy Taxes "Shadows", Tax on Breathing Next?

sob., 21/03/2015 - 04:12
Zero Hedge had an interesting article today called In Italy, They're Now Taxing Shadows.

This is one of those stories where you expect the headline to be a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn't.
As Italian newspaper Leggo reports, store owners in Conegliano are now faced with the unfortunate (albeit comically absurd) proposition of paying taxes on shadows.

The rationale appears to go something like this: an awning casts a shadow on public property and therefore you must pay to use that property. Tax on Breathing Next?

I pinged that article off Pater Tenebrarum at Acting Man. He lives in Austria. Pater responded ...
They actually got that idea from Austria, where we have the so-called (put down the coffee) "air tax". No, it's not a tax on breathing just yet. But if you have a shop sign that "occupies airspace", you must pay a tax for it!

In Vienna this is garnished additionally with the "subway levy", which has to be paid regardless of whether one uses the subway or not. In fact, I think there is no government on the planet more inventive with regard to taxes, levies and imposts of all sorts.Illinois Tax Proposals

Earlier today I noted Proposed Illinois Tax Hikes: Financial Transactions, Millionaires, Guns, Sweetened Beverages, Satellite Providers, Fireworks, Progressive Income


Additional tax-hike proposals are being thrown around without any idea of how much they might raise. State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, proposed a 3.75% tax on guns and gun parts.

When asked how much revenue it would raise, she said she didn’t know but thought “if we can get a good million or so, I’ll take it.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, recently said that “creative lawmakers can come up with many options for new revenue.” Creative Options

Let's hope Lou Lang does not look at what's happening in Italy or Austria, or proposed tax on shadows or even breathing will soon be on the way.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Yield Curve, Futures, Suggest No Rate Hike Until December; GDP Forecast Halved Again to 0.3%

pt., 20/03/2015 - 20:42
Curve Watcher's Anonymous is investigating the yield curve following Janet Yellen's exceptionally dovish FOMC announcement on Wednesday.

Yield Curve 2-yr, 3-yr, 5-yr, 10-yr, 30-yr



click on chart for sharper image

  • 30-year in black and red
  • 10-year in orange
  • 5-year in blue
  • 3-year in green
  • 2-year in purple

Change From Year Ago



Above rate table from Bloomberg.

Futures Suggest No Rate Hike Until December

Please consider Yellen Sends Odds of Any Rate Increase Below 50% Until December

"The likelihood that policy makers will lift their benchmark rate from near zero in September fell to 39 percent from 55 percent on Tuesday, according to calculations by Bloomberg using federal fund futures contracts. Futures traders have wiped out the chance of an increase in June, assigning it an 11 percent probability."

Door Open

On Wednesday, Bloomberg took the stance Fed Drops Patient Stance, Opening Door to June Rate Increase.

I found that rather amusing and responded Fed Drops Word "Patient"; Door Open, But For What?

Although the Fed removed the word "patient", the rest of Yellen's yap could not possibly have been any more dovish.

The panel said it will be appropriate to tighten “when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term.

That statement can mean virtually anything, prompting me to ask "How much more improvement does the Fed want? Or does the Fed not believe all these glowing labor reports either?"

And of course no one has any clues about the true meaning of "medium term".

Weak Data

For four months nearly all data except lagging jobs data has been weak.


That's just a sampling. Nearly every economic report except for jobs has been weaker than expected.

GDP Forecast Halved Again

On March 13 I noted Atlanta Fed Halves GDP Forecast to 0.6%; Blue Chip Consensus Eight Miles High

Today we see the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow Forecast has been halved again.



The forecast for GDP growth is now down to 0.3%.

I doubt the Fed will hike in a recession, and I do think a recession is on the way. If the Fed does hike, it will be to prick the asset bubble in stocks.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Proposed Illinois Tax Hikes: Financial Transactions, Millionaires, Guns, Sweetened Beverages, Satellite Providers, Fireworks, Progressive Income

pt., 20/03/2015 - 19:22
Illinois pension plans are in extremely dire shape even with the huge stock market returns over the past few years. Illinois Spendaholics have proposed a huge array of tax hikes to make up the shortfall.

Ben VanMetre at the Illinois Policy Institute explains in this guest post.

Illinois politicians propose $100B in tax hikes over next 5 years

More than $100 billion in tax hikes over five years may sound like a joke. But to many Illinois lawmakers, it sounds like a solution.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, recently said that “creative lawmakers can come up with many options for new revenue.” Unfortunately, Illinois lawmakers have outdone themselves in the creativity department this year.

The array of six tax hikes proposed by Illinois lawmakers this legislative session adds up to more than $100 billion over the next five years. That’s more than the state’s total projected general-fund spending in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018 – combined.



And the tax-hike proposals don’t stop there.

Additional tax-hike proposals are being thrown around without any idea of how much they might raise. State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, proposed a 3.75% tax on guns and gun parts. When asked how much revenue it would raise, she said she didn’t know but thought “if we can get a good million or so, I’ll take it.”

Enough is enough. How can taxpayers take their legislators seriously when they’ve put more than $100 billion in tax hikes on the table in a state that is on the brink of financial and economic collapse?

Rather than trying to build a “creative” revenue plan based on how much lawmakers want to spend over the next few years, they should instead focus on building a spending plan based on the amount of revenue the state will have under its current tax structure.

Ben VanMetre
Director of Pension Reform

Tax Madness

Had Pat Quinn won reelection, most or all of those proposals would have passed. And more people would have fled the state in response.

I have a far better set of ideas.

  1. Immediately switch from a defined benefit system to a contribution system.
  2. Allow municipalities to go bankrupt so they can shed pension obligations
  3. Allow municipalities to create their own pension systems instead of setting everything at the state level.
  4. Enact a progressive tax on pension benefits.
  5. Tax at a 90% rate, all benefits above a certain level.

The one tax worth instituting is a progressive tax on pension benefits, big enough to make the state system solvent. Let those who want a "progressive tax" have it. Just put it on something that makes sense.

Should the Illinois Supreme Court strike down a tax on pension benefits, I would take the case to the US Supreme court where I would expect it to win.

For a look at the sorry state of affairs of the Illinois pension system, please see Illinois Pension Plans 39% Funded; Taxpayers On the Hook for $105 Billion in Liabilities; It Will Get Worse!

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

Bitcoin vs. Uber: Bitcoin Lovers Respond to Mish

pt., 20/03/2015 - 08:39
I recently commented that it would not surprise me if bitcoin plunged to $1.00. That was not a prediction, it was a comment.

Still, I still feel a collapse in bitcoin is likely.

For discussion, please see Cash Dinosaur: France Limits Cash Transactions to €1,000, Puts Restrictions on Gold; Bitcoin End Coming?

In response, reader Creighton writes ...
Hello Mish

While I'm not going to argue the point about the possibility that Bitcoin drops to $1, or less, (that could happen yet, but not for the reasons you propose) I felt it necessary to point out something you seem to have overlooked.

While it's likely that the US government watching Bitcoin in order to get some pointers about releasing it's own version of the US$, they would also have noticed that Canada attempted to do that exact thing two years ago.

It went nowhere. And it went nowhere for the same reason that the US, or China, or any other nation, couldn't expect to succeed in the same market.

Bitcoin was first to market in the, previously non-existent, field of non-state Internet currencies. Precious metals don't work, because there has to be a vault somewhere. The Liberty Dollar & Egold both tried that, and both got raided.  There is a real market for a working non-state currency, that can't be screwed with by state actors.  Bitcoin isn't perfect, as I have stated before, but if it's going to zero, it will be because one of the many start--up cryptocurrencies that have arrived since Bitcoin turns out to be substantially better at doing the same things.

I understand that you are not a crypto-geek like myself, and that I'm biased because I understand how Bitcoin actually does what it does, but I can honestly say that it does some things in completely novel ways; and has features that no fiat currency, digital or otherwise, has been able to do internally.  There are entire financial institutions in the finance industry founded upon solving many transaction problems that Bitcoin handles just fine internally, for the cost of about a nickel per transaction. Bitcoin is actually capable of taking over all the functions of notary publics & most of the functions of county clerks, everywhere.

Western Union's cash transfer business model is walking dead. Keep an open mind, because there is a fair chance that you will eventually use Bitcoin, or its successor, in some capacity within a decade.  Perhaps only as a cash transfer method, with the intent of switching back to cash immediately, but that day shall come.

Governments can no longer just suppress these new crypto-currencies and expect them to go away. The last chance to crush Bitcoin was several years ago, before the hashing rate (the cryptographic support of its security model) shot past the capability of the largest non-classified supercomputer on Earth.

Today (I just checked bitcoinwatch.com) it is over 4 million petaflops. The largest (unclassified) supercomputer on Earth is only 33 petaflops.  It would cost more than the market capitalization of all of Bitcoin to build a computer cluster capable of matching that, and it would take years; by which time it would take still much more.

Someday, you too will be a convert, if never a fan.Mish Response to Creighton

Hello Creighton. I fully understand that bitcoin is innovative and disruptive. Yet, all it takes is government action to make it illegal.

It does not even take action by the US to do bitcoin in. China could do it in given that 80% of bitcoin transactions are from China, most likely fraudulent as I have pointed out.

Bitcoin vs. Uber  

The car service Uber survives even though it has been banned nearly everywhere.

I started accumulating all sorts of links many months ago. I collected well over 20. Here are a few of them.


In spite of the fact Uber is banned nearly everywhere, the company survives!

Why?

Because Uber is what the masses want.

Uber Cars Outnumber Yellow Taxis in New York City

Please consider Uber Cars Outnumber Yellow Taxis in New York City.
For the first time, there are more black Uber cars on the streets of New York City than traditional yellow taxis, figures have revealed.

The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission said there were 14,088 registered Uber cars compared with 13,587 yellow cabs.

However, the number of trips taken in yellow cabs far outpaces Uber rides. That is because many Uber drivers work part-time, whereas taxis often operate all day.Do the Masses Want Bitcoin?

I do not believe the masses want bitcoin. Heck, do the masses even know what bitcoin is?

Bitcoin has a legitimate model. Yet, it is not a model the masses care about. As such, it is heavily dependent on the graces of governments and alternative models.

Governments can easily create (and demand usage of their own digital currencies). Governments cannot easily disrupt Uber.

Question of Sentiment

If I am wrong, then bitcoin will survive (just as Uber has survived numerous bans everywhere). In the end, it all boils down to sentiment.

I question whether or not public sentiment on bitcoin will be sufficient to overcome government restrictions.

In contrast, Uber has fared phenomenally in spite of governmental attacks everywhere.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.comMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
Kategorie: Najnowsze feedy

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