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More Evidence We’re Losing Our Freedom : Personal Liberty™

More Evidence We’re Losing Our Freedom : Personal Liberty™.

More Evidence We’re Losing Our Freedom

PHOTOS.COM

The latest Index of Economic Freedom has just come out, and the news for the United States isn’t good. The study, a joint effort of The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, concludes that economic freedom in the United States has declined again. This is the seventh year in a row this has happened.

For more than 200 years, the United States led the world in economic freedom. For many of those years, we were also the most prosperous Nation in the world, as we demonstrated that economic abundance was one of the happy consequences of economic freedom. Now, many other nations are confirming the same thing.

But we aren’t. Now, we’re not even in the top 10 of the 178 countries the study measured. Thanks a lot, Barack Obama! And Congress. And, yes, even the U.S. Supreme Court. All have been complicit in the unrelenting assaults on free enterprise in this country.

In an opinion piece in The JournalTerry Miller, one of the study’s directors, had this to say: “It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket.”

But out-of-control government spending is just one of the areas where the United States is in decline. As Miller wrote: “The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.”

So if the U.S. is losing economic freedom, how is the rest of the world doing? Believe it or not, economic freedom is actually improving in most of the world. According to the study, 114 countries of the 178 in the study enjoyed an increase in economic freedom in the past year. And some 43 countries scored their highest ranking ever in the index’s 20-year history.

Leading the list once again is Hong Kong, which scored 90.1 on the 100-point scale. Following it in the “free” category are Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand and our northern neighbor, Canada.

Rounding out the top 10 in the “mostly free” category are Chile, Mauritius, Ireland and Denmark. Then comes Estonia. The United States finally shows up next, at 12th on the list. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but even Estonia did better than the U.S. this time.

Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. It turns out that several countries in Eastern Europe that used to be dominated by the Soviet Union are thriving now that they have embraced free-market economies. According to the study, Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic are the European countries that gained the most economic freedom in the past 20 years.

Congress, are you listening?

According to the study, 18 countries in Europe have reached new highs in economic freedom. They include Germany, Sweden, Poland and Georgia. On the other hand, five countries — Greece, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Cyprus — scored lower than they did when the first index appeared 20 years ago.

No surprise on which countries are on the bottom of the list. In descending order, they are Iran, Eritrea, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea. All are known for despotic governments, government-run economies and few, if any, property rights — oh, and one other thing: the abject poverty endured by most of their citizens.

The study measures economic freedom in 10 different categories under four broad areas, which it calls the pillars of economic freedom. They are,

  1. The Rule of Law, which includes property rights and lack of corruption;
  2. Limited Government, measured by fiscal freedom and controls on government spending;
  3. Regulatory Efficiency, such as business freedom, labor freedom and monetary freedom; and finally,
  4. Open Markets, as measured by freedom to trade, investment freedom and financial freedom.

Does it really matter how a country scores on economic freedom? Absolutely!

“Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress,” Miller wrote.

It is an outrage that this country, whose freedom and prosperity made us an inspiration for the world, is now measurably on the decline. The report says that the U.S. has suffered “particularly large losses in… control of government spending.” But we already knew that, didn’t we?

The latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms just how shaky things have become in the U.S. economy. While forecasters expected new jobs in December to exceed 200,000, the BLS number came in at a lowly 74,000.

Yet even with that disappointing number, the unemployment rate in this country somehow dropped 3/10 of a point, from 7 percent to 6.7 percent. How is that possible?

It turns out that nearly five times more people stopped looking for work in December than found new jobs. An estimated 347,000 Americans left the labor force and are no longer counted among the unemployed.

Clearly, there’s the solution to make the unemployment numbers look good. If enough people who don’t have jobs simply give up looking for them, unemployment in this country would drop to zero. Wouldn’t that give the Obamaites something to crow about?

The sad truth is that the actual number of people with jobs in this country — the so-called “labor participation rate” – is at a measly 62.8 percent. That’s the lowest number since 1978.

“[T]his year’s index demonstrates that the U.S. needs a drastic change in direction,” Miller wrote.

Indeed it does. But as long as Harry Reid holds the reins as Senate Majority Leader, we’re not going to get it. Happily, that could change in a big way this November, when he could receive a well-deserved demotion to Minority Leader.

I’ll have a lot more to say in coming days on the key elections that could make that happen. In the meantime, keep reminding your friends that Ronald Reagan got it right when he said: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

The latest Index of Economic Freedom confirms the wisdom of the former President’s remark. The more government gets out of the way, the more a country will prosper. The results of five years of Obama prove that the opposite is true, too.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Collapse? Maybe not.

Collapse? Maybe not..

It’s all a matter of perspective.

In a previous post I argued thateconomic contraction is necessary and in fact underway.  Is this “Collapse” — that scary term that so many authors love to throw around?
I find the C word to be counterproductive.  Depending on where you are standing as the grand cascade of change ripples through, the ruthless C word might be how it all feels to you in the moment.  But the big scary C word disclaims all the brilliant aspects of the new, emerging economy.  It denies that there is anything positive going on.
Huh?
Take a step back for a moment.  Let’s take a look at the roots of what constitutes an economy.  At its precious essence, an economy is the sum total of transactions between people.

A classroom demo

Conventional ideas of “economic transactions” can be confusing and daunting (and usually involve lots of paperwork).  They’re Important, with a capital “i” — Things like banking transactions.  The stock market.  Corporate jobs.  Government contracts.  Even buy/sell consumer transactions.
In a recent class I taught, I added visuals:  a brownpaper shopping bag from a major supermarket chain, with CONVENTIONAL ECONOMY written across it.  In turn, into the bag went bank statements, a W2 form, shiny gift bags from fashionable retail botiques.  The conventional Economy display looked quite substantial and formidable.
But transactions between people are far broader than that.  Transactions between people include a potluck supper.  Running an errand for a friend.  Exchanging homegrown vegetables.  Volunteering at a soup kitchen.
These are all noncash, and well outside the conventional Economy, but nonetheless, they are all valid transactions.
For my class visuals, out came a delicate basket — quaint Goldilocks style, in flagrant opposition to the starch techno aesthetic of the art school where the class was taking place.  Into the basket went homesaved seeds for heirloom vegetables.  A handknit sweater.  A book on herbal medicine.  A wooden toy, lovingly crafted by a grandfather.  A few wildflowers, to hand to a sick friend.  (It’s tough to stick hugs into a basket.) …
Writers such as Edgar Cahn, Charles Eisenstein, and Janelle Orsi call our attention to the cashfree economy.  Our society is dependent upon these transactions.
… Teaching your little brother to ride a bike.  Taking care of a hurt animal.  A mom diapering and feeding her baby.  My sister taking care of our 89 year old father. …  Without these vital exchanges, life grinds to a halt.
These are the backbone of our society, in fact the richness of our society.  Environmental economist Neva Goodwin has called noncash transactions the “core economy.”  It’s an apt term, because many people would agree these type of transactions are the core of what it means to be human.
And cash free transactions are only one element in the panorama of the emerging new economy.

The Stomp Monster Cometh

Along comes the down economy.  Things get really rough.
In my classroom performance I start stomping around the room.  The conventional Economy paperbag is conveniently in the middle of the floor.  Suddenly and noisily, it gets crushed and stomped over.  The conventional cconomy doesn’t look very strong anymore.  In fact it is now quite flattened.
But the Goldilocks basket is still sitting pretty: flowers and bread and colorful fabric.  It endures the ravages of the Descent.  It holds within its gentle embrace food, clothing, health care, child/elder care, education, beauty.
Throughout history, people have always found a way to survive.  Study the most desperate times.  You’ll hear of violin concerts in the ghettos, voices raised in song in prisons, poetry from the darkest depths.  It’s popular right now to circulate home ag and home ec posters from the 1930s, but do we listen to the deep survival message behind those stylized images?
Throughout tough times, people return to the basics.  In the tough times, it is the core economy that endures, and this is how people survive.

The sly trick of discounting Alternative

Right now cash-free economic transactions are scorned and discounted by the conventional Economy.  The conventional Economy uses a dismissive term — “alternative” — to label anything outside itself.  As in: there’s the real stuff, and then there are those alternatives.  But don’t place any trust in them because they are alternative, unsubstantial, not “the real deal.”
In its massive scorekeeping system, the conventional Economy doesn’t include cash-free economic transactions.  The message is powerful:  They don’t count.  We start to believe it.
A multitude of media soundbites convince us that to make things right, the conventional Economy has got to Grow.  Insidious media messages bore into our brain that we are nothing without the glossy trappings that are borne on conventional Economy bubbles.  A shiny car, the latest electronic device in our pocket, new carpets for a bigger house — these, it insists, are what is “real.”
When you think about it, all that bluster starts to sound a whole lot like the line from Wizard of Oz:  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!  I am the great and powerful Oz!

There’s no place like home

What is real?  Our senses have been warped by too many decades of artificial opulence.
Real isn’t the stock market gains in the bubble times.  Real is the hug from your sticky-fingered two-year-old.  Real is that sun-warmed tomato, that you grew yourself, in your community garden plot.  Real is the joy you feel when you open the door to a circle of dear friends.  Real is when you turn that tomato into luscious sauce with your grandmother’s recipe, and share it with those friends.
The big guys desperately don’t want you to know it, but Real can happen completely without any products from Monsanto, Apple, Hunts, or Ragu.  Real can happen quite nicely with next-to-no cash.  Real can happen even without W2 income.  (Read the tales of Foxfire, and see how it is done.)  Real is heartwarming, can be belly-filling, and can in fact lead us in the direction of what many people would call “the good life.”  It promises to be a much more satisfying and connected life.
Our stomp Monster, the Economic Descent, is still blustering around the room.  If your life is all tied up in the conventional Economy, the stomp Monster is truly terrifying.  It is coming, and it will crush and wipe out all the glitter.  It will mow down all the hollow transactions that seemed so very important and solid at the time.
But the stomp Monster is surprisingly impotent when it comes to Real.
For more info on what you can do to join the new emerging economy, see“10 Practical Tools for a Resilient Economy” and other writings by Joanne Poyourow.
Picnic basket image via shutterstock. Reproduced with permission at Resilience.org.

Falling loonie tied to underperforming economy – Business – CBC News

Falling loonie tied to underperforming economy – Business – CBC News.

The Conference Board of Canada is calling the decline in the Canadian dollar the economic story of the year so far, predicting further declines as the Canadian economy underperforms.

The loonie began the day stronger on Thursday, rising to 91.48 US in early trading, up from its close of 91.37 US yesterday. It closed up 0.16 of a cent to 91.53 cents US.

The Canadian currency fell 6.6 per cent in 2013, after trading at par with the greenback in February, and is down more than three per cent since the beginning of the year.

‘Markets are betting that the Canadian economy will continue to underperform’– Glen Hodgson, Conference Board

The Conference Board, an economic and policy think tank, said the falling dollar is a sign of lack of confidence in Canadian growth prospects.

“Arguably more important than the value of the loonie is the signal it sends about the Canadian economy. Markets are betting that the Canadian economy will continue to underperform,” chief economist Glen Hodgson said in a report released today.

Loonie 20140109The Canadian dollar is trading at its lowest levels since 2009, after falling from par in February 2013. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

“This assessment is consistent with our own forecast, which calls for U.S. gross domestic product to grow by 3.1 per cent in 2014, much better than Canadian growth of 2.3 per cent,” he continued.

Hodgson is not the only economist predicting Canada’s GDP growth will underperform the U.S. Towers Watson’s annual survey of Canada’s top economists and analysts found most believe Canada will lag the U.S. in both economic activity and job creation over the next few years.

Too many plant closures

“With a lower Canadian dollar, there is hope that manufacturing businesses, and certainly the export sector of the economy, can contribute to reducing the unemployment rate in the next few years,” said Janet Rabovsky, Towers Watson director of investment consulting.

“That being said, recent announcements about industrial plant closures in Ontario would indicate that the cycle has not yet turned.”

Hodgson agreed that it is not clear if Canadian exporters will be able to fully capitalize on a weaker dollar because of the loss of capacity in the manufacturing sector since 2008.

There have been deep slashes in export-dependent industries — such as autos and parts — and a shift of much U.S. production to the southern states, so Canadian suppliers may not benefit as quickly as in the past from the U.S. recovery, he said.

He also points to the hit consumers may take from higher prices.

TD chief economist Craig Alexander said the U.S. Fed’s “decision to taper asset purchases has greased the skids under an already depreciating loonie.”

Traders rush back to U.S. dollar

The Fed decided in December to taper its U.S. bond-buying program to $75 billion US a month and as good economic news out of the U.S. continues to roll in, it is expected to continue tapering.

But that has encouraged traders to buy the U.S. dollar, leading to a rush away from the Canadian dollar.

“However, the fundamentals are not Canadian-dollar positive either, and the loonie likely has further to fall,” Alexander said in a research note.

BMO chief economist Doug Porter predicts a falling dollar will actually help boost Canadian GDP in the long-term – as much as 1.5 percentage points over the next two years if the loonie falls to 90 cents or lower.

“There are definitely losers, such as consumers, travellers, utilities, broadcasters, sports teams. But there are also lots of winners. The beleaguered manufacturing and domestic tourism sectors will find the biggest relief from the weaker currency. Even some retailers will be breathing a tad easier, as the loud siren call of cross-border shopping fades for consumers with each tick down in the currency,” he said.

Time for Obama to make up his mind on Keystone XL, Baird says – Politics – CBC News

Time for Obama to make up his mind on Keystone XL, Baird says – Politics – CBC News.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Nanos Number: pipeline politics

Nanos Number: pipeline politics 6:52

In an attempt to press the Obama administration on its own turf, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

He buttressed his case by making public appearances Wednesday with two pro-Keystone Democratic senators, who both expressed frustration with how long the administration has dragged out the decision.

Baird offered a snappy reply when asked if there’s anything pro-Keystone politicians on either side of the border could still say or do to influence a debate that has been going on for years.

“One politician — the president of the United States — can say yes to a great project to create jobs on both sides of the border, help with energy independence and energy security,” Baird replied, drawing a chuckle from the lawmaker next to him, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

“Decision time is upon us.”

He repeated the “decision time” phrase on three separate occasions at two public appearances Wednesday, making increasingly clear the Canadian government’s frustration over the prolonged approval process.

Baird held a half-dozen meetings on Capitol Hill and several other get-togethers throughout the day.

His two media appearances — both with pro-Keystone lawmakers from the president’s party — allowed them to air their own feelings.

It’s in our economic, national security & energy interests to approve #KeystoneXL & continue to build an#alloftheabove energy strategy

— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) January 15, 2014

“I will tell you the frustration that many of us have,” said Heitkamp.

“It has taken us longer to make a decision than it took us to defeat Hitler in the Second World War.”

‘Weeks’ until environmental review

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would not take “no for an answer” until the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is approved, last fall in New York. More recently, he suggested the U.S. president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process.

When asked how soon he expected a decision, Baird said the ongoing environmental review by the State Department could be completed and released “in the coming weeks,” soon after this month’s state of the union address.

After that, he said, a decision could be announced quickly.

He delivered a similar message during a meeting with Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, touted as the likely next chair of the Senate energy committee.

#KXL is the right thing for our economy and strengthens our energy security. I’ll continue to push Admin to approve#Keystone pipeline

— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) January 15, 2014

With media invited into the meeting, she sympathetically placed a hand on Baird’s as she shared her regrets about how long the process had taken.

Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election fight, said the project was popular in her state.

They used that public meeting to inform U.S. reporters that Canada has the same greenhouse-gas standards as the U.S., the same vehicle-emissions standards, and has done more to phase out coal.

Baird also met with U.S. Senator Bob Corker who posted a picture of his meeting with the foreign affairs minister after his approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

#KeystoneXL will create jobs, expand access to North American energy and strengthen ties with Canada, our largest trading partner. -BC

— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 15, 2014

During his three-day trip, Baird also has meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and several think-tanks.

He’s also scheduled to speak Thursday to business leaders.

The Level Of Economic Freedom In The United States Is At An All-Time Low

The Level Of Economic Freedom In The United States Is At An All-Time Low.

Photo by U.S. Senator Mike LeeAmericans have never had less economic freedom than they do right now.  The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom has just been released, and it turns out that the level of economic freedom in the United States has now fallen for seven consecutive years.  But of course none of us need a report or a survey to tell us that.  All we have to do is open our eyes and look around.  At this point our entire society is completely dominated by control freaks and bureaucrats.  Our economy is literally being suffocated to death by millions of laws, rules and regulations and each year brings a fresh tsunami of red tape.  As you will see below, the U.S. government issued more than 80,000 pages of brand new rules and regulations last year on top of what we already had.  Even if we didn’t have all of the other monumental economic problems that we are currently facing, all of this bureaucracy alone would be enough to kill our economy.

Yes, every society needs a few basic rules.  We would have total chaos if we did not have any laws at all.  But in general, when there is more economic freedom there tends to be more economic prosperity.  In fact, the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was during a time when the federal government was much smaller, there was no Federal Reserve and there was no income tax.  Most Americans do not know this.

Those that founded this nation intended for it to be a place where freedom was maximized and government intrusion into our lives was minimized.

If they were still alive today, they would be absolutely horrified.  We are literally drowning in red tape.

The photo posted below was shared by U.S. Senator Mike Lee on his Facebook page.  Study it carefully…

Photo by U.S. Senator Mike Lee

The following is what he had to say about this photo

“Behold my display of the 2013 Federal Register. It contains over 80,000 pages of new rules, regulations, and notices all written and passed by unelected bureaucrats. The small stack of papers on top of the display are the laws passed by elected members of Congress and signed into law by the president.”

I didn’t even see the small stack of paper at the top of the cabinet until I read his explanation.  Most of the time everyone is so focused on what Congress is doing, but the truth is that the real oppression is happening behind the scenes as unelected federal bureaucrats pump out millions upon millions of useless regulations that are systematically killing our economic freedom.

On Tuesday, an article about the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom was published by the Wall Street Journal.  As I mentioned above, the United States has fallen for seven years in a row

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

That same article mentioned some of the reasons why the United States is falling…

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

And of course the results are predictable.  Our economy has been steadily declining for many years, and that decline appears to be ready to start picking up speed once again.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Dave in Denver

In the latest retail sales report for December, auto sales were nailed – down 1.8%. The only reason overall retail sales from November to December showed a slight “gain” that November’s number was revised lower. Electronics fell off of a cliff. The housing market is about to get crushed. Feedback I’m getting from my Seeking Alpha articles and blog posts on housing from housing market professionals all around the country tells me that the housing market hit a wall at the end of 2013, as I have been forecasting.

What he said about the housing market is definitely true.  In recent months, mortgage originations have been falling like a rock.  Just check out this chart.

And as I wrote about the other day, there has been absolutely no employment recovery since the end of the last recession.  In fact,1,687,000 fewer Americans have jobs today compared to exactly six years ago even though the population has grown significantly since then.

Unfortunately, these are not just “cyclical problems”.  Long ago we abandoned the fundamental principles that once made our economy great, and now we are paying a tremendous price for that.

Posted below is a story that has been circulating all over the Internet for quite some time.  It is a fake story.  Once again, let me repeat that.  This is a fake story.  But I think that it does a great job of illustrating what is happening to America as we march toward full-fledged socialism…

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”.. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that.

But of course it would be disingenuous to pin all of the blame for this just on Obama.  The truth is that our nation has continued to march toward socialism no matter who has been in the White House and no matter who has been in control of Congress.  So if you want to place some of the blame on a “Bush” or a “Clinton” or a “Boehner” or a “Pelosi” please feel free.

And the American people are getting sick and tired of this one party system that has two heads.  According to a recent Gallup survey, only29 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be Democrats right now.  And the news was even worse for Republicans.  According to that survey, only 24 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be Republicans at this point.

A staggering 45 percent of all Americans now consider themselves to be Independents.  Deep down, most Americans know that something is seriously wrong with our nation and that they are being lied to be our politicians and the mainstream media.

Unfortunately, there is very little agreement about how to fix things because Americans do not have a set of shared values that we all agree on anymore.

Puerto Rico Default “Likely”, FT Reports | Zero Hedge

Puerto Rico Default “Likely”, FT Reports | Zero Hedge.

The market just hit a fresh all time high today which means another major default must be just around the horizon. Sure enough, the FT reported moments ago that a Puerto Rico default “appears increasingly likely” and is why creditors are meeting with lawyers and bankruptcy specialists (most likely Miller Buckfire, fresh from its recent league table success with the Detroit bankruptcy) on Thursday in New York.  The FT cited a restructuring advisor, supposedly desperate to sign the engagement letter with creditors and to force the bankruptcy, who said that “the numbers are untenable” and “to issue new debt the yield would have to rise and where they can’t raise new money they will have to stop paying.”

The untenability of PR’s cash flows results from a “debt service burden that requires paying between $3.4bn and $3.8bn each year for the next four years. As doubts grow about the ability of the commonwealth to service that debt, the cost of doing so will inevitably rise.”

For Puerto Rico bonds, such an outcome would not be exactly a surprise, most recently trading at 61:

The rest of the story is largely known:

If Puerto Rico is forced to take that step, the effects will ripple through the entire $4tn municipal bond market. Because the debt is generally triple tax free, in a world of zero interest rates demand is high and it is distributed widely, including in funds that imply they have no exposure to Puerto Rico.

 

But yields have gone up nevertheless – and prices down – suggesting the markets are increasingly nervous about prospects for repayment. Estimates on how much of that debt is insured range from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of total issuance.

 

“Everyone thinks they can get out in time,” the restructuring adviser said.

 

Puerto Rico cannot really raise taxes much more, since the debt per capita is more than $14,000, while income per capita is almost $17,000, a ratio – at 83 per cent – that makes California, Illinois or New York – each at 6 per cent – models of prudence. Meanwhile, at 14 per cent, the unemployment rate is twice the national average.

What would make a Puerto Rico default more interesting is that as in the case of GM, political infighting would promptly take precedence over superpriority and waterfall payments. According to the FT, “any radical step, which the local government denies considering, would involve significant legal wrangling. Congress could step in and create an insolvency regime, lawyers say, since it has comprehensive jurisdiction, but that too would give rise to partisan fighting. The Democrats would say that pension claims have priority while the Republicans would uphold the priority of payments to bondholders, citing the constitutional sanctity of contracts.

Of course, since in the US a bond contract now is only worth the number of offsetting votes it would cost, nobody really knows what will happen. And so, we sit back and watch, as yet another muni quake appears set to hit the US, in the process obviously sending the S&P to higher, record highs.

In the meantime, keep an eye on bond insurers AGO and MBI which have taken on water in today’s session precisely due to concerns over what a Puerto Rico default would do to their equity.

Average Canadian house price up 10% to $389,119 – Business – CBC News

Average Canadian house price up 10% to $389,119 – Business – CBC News.

Owning a home in Canada has become more costly, with the average price in December rising 10 per cent to $389,119, compared to a year ago.Owning a home in Canada has become more costly, with the average price in December rising 10 per cent to $389,119, compared to a year ago.
Bankers disagree on housing bubble

Bankers disagree on housing bubble 2:59

The average price of a Canadian home increased 10.4 per cent to $389,119 in December, compared to the same month in 2012.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released data Wednesday showing that a total of 457,893 homes changed hands in Canada last year, an increase of about 0.8 per cent from 2012’s level.

“Absent further mortgage rule changes,” CREA’s chief economist Gregory Klump said, “sales in 2014 may surpass the annual total for 2013 if demand holds steady near current levels as strengthening economic and better job growth offset the impact of further expected marginal mortgage interest rate increases.”

As has been the case for some time now, CREA says the large jump in prices was largely due to what was happening in Canada’s most active and expensive markets.

Broad gains

Sales activity in December 2012 in Toronto and Vancouver was abnormally low, which dropped the national average at that time.

“Removing Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto from national average price calculations cuts the year-over-year increase to 4.6 per cent,” CREA said.

CREA says the average price can be misleading, as it can be too easily influenced by individual factors.

The realtor group says its MLS Home Price Index “provides a better gauge of price trends because it is not affected by changes in the mix of sales activity the way that average price is.”

That index shows home prices rose 4.31 per cent over the past 12 months. Gains were seen in all housing types.

The index was led by an 8.7 per cent gain in Calgary and a 6.3 per cent gain in Toronto.

Vancouver’s market index posted a second straight increase of 2.13 per cent after declines for much of the time between late 2012 and late 2013.

Catholic Diocese Of Stockton Files Bankruptcy; Priest Sexual-Abuse Scandal Blamed | Zero Hedge

Catholic Diocese Of Stockton Files Bankruptcy; Priest Sexual-Abuse Scandal Blamed | Zero Hedge.

Between lack of cash flows, insurmountable liabilities, an untenable pension funding, even insider fraud, we thought we had seen all the various reasons for filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. And then along came the Catholic Diocese of Stockton which announced that it would join its host city and seek bankruptcy protection “in the wake of the church’s sexual-abuse scandal.” As WSJ reported, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire said in a news release Monday that the diocese would seek bankruptcy protection Wednesday, explaining that reorganization was the only option for dealing with mounting legal costs related to abuse by priests. The bishop said the diocese has spent $14 million in legal settlements and judgments over the past 20 years dealing with abuse allegations, and doesn’t have funds available to settle pending lawsuits or address future allegations. The punchline: “Very simply, we are in this situation because of those priests in our diocese who perpetrated grave, evil acts of child sexual abuse.

In the Stockton diocesan bankruptcy, the parties will likely agree on a figure that the diocese would pay, in addition to potentially pulling in funds from insurers. However, the diocese says it holds “relatively little property and assets.” Other holdings, including schools, parishes and several parcels of land, are incorporated separately.

And so the Stockton Catholics became the 10th US Diocese after Milwaukee; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Ore.; Tucson, Ariz.; Fairbanks, Alaska; Wilmington, Del.; and Gallup, N.M. to file bankruptcy.  In addition, the Christian Brothers Institute, which operates Catholic schools and orphanages, also filed because of sexual abuse liabilities.

The Chapter 11 filing would halt pending litigation against the diocese and likely would ultimately allow it to discharge liabilities stemming from sexual-abuse allegations by setting up a trust to compensate victims. The diocese said it hopes to arrive at a resolution with victims and insurers through the process.

 

Joelle Casteix, western regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the bankruptcy “problematic on a lot of different levels,” noting that it would let the diocese avoid future civil cases.

However, while the local catholics’ financial woes may be put on temporary hold, their civil troubles are only starting:

Separately, a grand jury Monday indicted a former priest with the diocese, Michael Eugene Kelly, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued. Calaveras County authorities are seeking Mr. Kelly’s extradition from Ireland to face charges of three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child, and one count of oral copulation with a child. Mr. Kelly faces 14 years in prison if convicted.

Not surprisingly, the Catholic church which itself is embroiled in numerous financial scandals recently, was unable to come to the Diocese’s rescue even though it has already paid out an estimated $2.2 billion to cover settlements, therapy for victims, support for offenders, attorney fees and other costs, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

And with this filing, we are fairly confident we have seen every possible bankruptcy filing reason.

World Bank Raises Growth Forecasts as Richest Nations Strengthen – Bloomberg

World Bank Raises Growth Forecasts as Richest Nations Strengthen – Bloomberg.

The World Bank raised its global growth forecasts as the easing of austerity policies in advanced economies supports their recovery, boosting prospects for developing markets’ exports.

The Washington-based lender sees the world economy expanding 3.2 percent this year, compared with a June projection of 3 percent and up from 2.4 percent in 2013. The forecast for the richest nations was raised to 2.2 percent from 2 percent. Part of the increase reflects improvement in the 18-country euro area, with the U.S. ahead of developed peers, growing twice as fast as Japan.

The report by the institution that’s trying to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 indicates a near-doubling of the growth in world trade this year from 2012, as developed economies lift export-reliant emerging nations. At the same time, the withdrawal of monetary stimulus in the U.S. may raise market interest rates, hurting poorer countries as investors return to assets such as Treasuries, according to the bank.

“This strengthening of output among high-income countries marks a significant shift from recent years when developing countriesalone pulled the global economy forward,” the bank said yesterday in its Global Economic Prospects report published twice a year. Import demand from the richest nations “should help compensate for the inevitable tightening of global financial conditions that will arise as monetary policy in high-income economies is normalized.”

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Produce is sold at a market in Kolkata. Growth in developing countries will accelerate… Read More

Fed Tapering

The bank’s forecasts hinge on the orderly unwinding of Federal Reserve stimulus, which is starting this month with the trimming of monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion. If investors react abruptly in coming months, as they did in May when the central bank mentioned the possibility of tapering, capital inflows to developing economies could drop again, according to the report.

“To date, the gradual withdrawal of quantitative easing has gone smoothly,” Andrew Burns, the report’s lead author, said in a statement. “If interest rates rise too rapidly, capital flows to developing countries could fall by 50 percent or more for several months — potentially provoking a crisis in some of the more vulnerable economies.”

The bank sees a global expansion of 3.4 percent in 2015, compared with 3.3 percent predicted in June.

In the U.S., where growth is seen accelerating to 2.8 percent this year, unchanged from the outlook in June, the recent budget compromise in Congress will ease spending cuts previously in place and boost confidence from households and businesses, the bank said.

Japan’s Outlook

The bank held its forecast this year for Japan at 1.4 percent, while cautioning that the reforms of the economy promised by the government “have disappointed thus far, raising doubts about whether the improvement in economic performance can be sustained over the medium to longer term.”

It raised its prediction for the euro region to 1.1 percent for this year from 0.9 percent in June as the monetary union comes out of it debt crisis, propelled by Germany and showing improvement in fragile economies including Spain and Italy.

“The euro area is where the U.S. was a year and a half or two years ago, where growth is starting to go positive but it’s still hesitant,” Burns, also the bank’s manager of global macroeconomics, said in a phone interview. “We’re not going to be totally convinced until this gathers a little more steam.”

The bank estimates that investors withdrew $64 billion from developing-country mutual funds between June and August, with the impact most pronounced on middle-income countries includingBrazilIndia and Turkey. Not all economies were hit the same way, as China or Mexico were less affected because of stronger economic fundamentals, the bank said.

Developing World

The 2014 forecast for developing markets was cut to 5.3 percent from 5.6 percent.

The bank lowered its forecast for China this year to 7.7 percent from 8 percent, saying the world’s second-largest economy is shifting “to slower but more sustainable consumption-led growth.”

It cut projections for Brazil to 2.4 percent from 4 percent, for Mexico to 3.4 percent from 3.9 percent and for India to 6.2 percent from 6.5 percent.

Growth in developing countries will accelerate “modestly” between 2013 an 2016, at a pace about 2.2 percentage points below that of the years preceding the global crisis, according to the bank’s report.

“The slower growth is not cause for concern,” according to the report. “More than two-thirds of the slowdown reflects a decline in the cyclical component of growth and less than one-third is due to slower potential growth.”

Still, not all countries are well placed to respond to capital outflows and higher interest rates, according to the bank, which urged policy makers to prepare now for such an outcome.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington atsrastello@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

Canada Job Grant ads cost $2.5M for non-existent program – Politics – CBC News

Canada Job Grant ads cost $2.5M for non-existent program – Politics – CBC News.

Jobs plan or ad campaign?

Jobs plan or ad campaign? 4:13

Canada Job Grant ad

Canada Job Grant ad 0:34

The federal government blanketed the internet with ads and bought pricey TV spots during playoff hockey as part a $2.5-million publicity blitz to promote a skills training program that doesn’t yet exist, CBC News has learned.

 

TV commercials for the Canada Job Grant often ran twice per game last May during the widely watched Hockey Night in Canada NHL playoff broadcasts on CBC. There were ads on radio, as well.

 

“The Canada Job Grant will result in one important thing – a new or better job,” said the reassuring voice-over in the TV ads.

 

The problem: The program was never launched and is still on hold. The job grants were announced in the 2013 federal budget, but it called for an agreement with the provinces, which have so far refused to buy in.

 

Employment and Social Development Canada spent between $2.5 million and $2.6 million on the ad campaign. That figure excludes radio ads funded by the Finance Department.

“Spending millions of dollars to advertise a program that doesn’t even exist is like flushing tax dollars down the toilet,” Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said.

 

$11-million publicity push

 

CBC News has also learned that that advertising cash came from an $11-million fund set aside last year for Employment and Social Development Canada to promote the government as a job creator.

Before the Canada Job Grant TV ad went to air, the government paidEnvironics Research Group almost $70,000 to conduct market research. Focus groups saw a near-final version of the commercial.

 

Environics concluded: “The main message was consistently seen as positive and one that inspired hope…. In light of seeing the new ad for the Canada Job Grant, most now believe the Government of Canada is on the right track regarding skills training and the job market in Canada.”

“Their own research suggests that people get a positive impression of the ads,” Queens University political science professor, Jonathan Rose said. “Whether that means they convey accurate information is another story.”

 

A government commissioned survey done post-campaign showed only two per cent of the 292 people polled who saw or heard the ad also caught the disclaimer that the program didn’t yet exist. It also found only 18 per cent of viewers understood tax dollars paid for the advertising.

 

Ads ruled misleading

 

After receiving numerous viewer complaints, Advertising Standards Canada, the advertising industry’s self-regulating body, ruled the TV commercial was misleading because the job grant program hadn’t been approved.

 

“The commercial omitted relevant information,” ASC concluded in a report. The report didn’t name the government because the ad campaign was already over.

Economic Action Plan adsThe federal government has spent millions on advertisements about its economic programs. (Government of Canada)

 

The proposed job grants would give workers $15,000 each for training, with the provinces kicking in one-third of the cost. But provinces have yet to sign on, complaining the proposed program claws back $300 million in federal funds now used to help disadvantaged workers.

 

“We do not believe, the way the program is designed, that it will work,” Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne said at a premiers meeting last July.

 

Quebec threatened to opt out. There’s no word yet on when an agreement might be reached.

Asked to comment on the ad campaign, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said, “The government of Canada’s top priorities are creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.”

 

Harper blasted Liberals over ads

 

In his first question as opposition leader, in 2002, Stephen Harper took the then Liberal government to task over their advertising spending and the emerging sponsorship scandal.

 

“Will the prime minister stop the waste and abuse right now and order a freeze of all discretionary government advertising?” he asked in the House of Commons on May 21, 2002.

 

During its peak, the Liberal government spent $111 million on advertising, in 2002-2003. Harper’s current Conservatives doled out $136.3 million in 2009-2010, their biggest advertising budget yet on record.

If you have more information about this story or any other tips, please email investigations@cbc.ca.

 

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