Credit strategists are increasingly disturbed by a sudden and rare contraction of US bank lending, fearing a synchronised slowdown in the US and China this year that could catch euphoric markets badly off guard. One key measure of US corporate borrowing is falling at the fastest rate since the onset of the Lehman Brothers crisis. Data from the US Federal Reserve shows that the $2 trillion market for commercial and industrial loans peaked in December. The sector has weakened abruptly as lenders tighten credit, especially for non-residential property. Over the last three months it has dropped at a rate of 5.4pc on annual basis, a pace of decline not seen since December 2008.
…If sales nevertheless fall, everyone will blame the winter storm that arrived in the winter – “unexpectedly” or something. And it is possible that sales might fall. There was no winter storm in February, which was one of the warmest Februaries on record. Yet, sales in February fell 1.1% year-over year. They edged down in January too. And sales in both months combined fell 1.4% from the same period a year ago. It’s not like automakers haven’t been trying. They paid out record incentives to accomplish this feat of slowing down the sales decline. In February, the industry in the US shelled out on average $3,587 per vehicle in incentive spending, per TrueCar. It was the highest ever for a February…..For March, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive pegged incentives at $3,768 per new vehicle sold – the highest ever for any March. The prior record for March was achieved in 2009 as the industry was collapsing. In June 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy.
They said the election of Donald Trump would usher in an era of political repression in which the First Amendment would come under attack – and they were right, although not in the way they meant it: “Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories – some fictional – that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say…..Aside from sites run by the Russian government, like Russia Today and Sputnik, the targets of the investigation are Breitbart.com, the pro-Trump web site formerly managed by Steve Bannon – now an advisor to the President – and Infowars.com, the “conspiracy” site made famous by entertainer Alex Jones, although the purview of the
witch hunt “investigation” is bound to broaden.So this is how the smear campaign scores points: you don’t have to be on the Russian payroll – you can be a “useful idiot” just because of your political views, which condemn you as an “unwitting” agent, as former CIA director Mike Morell described Trump. This is how the parameters of “respectable” opinion are policed: this is how the War Party criminalizes those who think that the cold war is over and shouldn’t be revived.
NSA whistleblower William Binney told Tucker Carlson on Friday that the NSA is spying on “all the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress, both House and Senate, as well as the White House.” Binney, who served the NSA for 30 years before blowing the whistle on domestic spying in 2001, told Tucker he firmly believes that Trump was spied on. “They’re taking in fundamentally the entire fiber network inside the United States and collecting all that data and storing it, in a program they call Stellar Wind,” Binney said.
As members of Congress in Washington debate raising the minimum required to obtain a U.S. immigrant investor visa from $500,000 to $1.35 million, concern about the hike has set off a scramble among wealthy would-be participants in China…..China’s wealthy, using not-always-legal means to skirt capital controls to get their money out and at the same time gain residency in the U.S., are continuing to dwarf all others as the largest participants in the EB-5 program, despite heightened measures by the Chinese government.
As with many other complex, opaque systems in the U.S., only those toiling in the murky depths of the healthcare system know just how broken the entire system is. Only those dealing daily with the perverse incentives, the Kafkaesque procedures, the endlessly negative unintended consequences, the soul-deadening paper-shuffling, the myriad forms of fraud, the recalcitrant patients who don’t follow recommendations but demand to be magically returned to health anyway, and of course the hopelessness of the financial future of a system with runaway costs, a rapidly aging populace and profiteering cartels focused on maintaining their rackets regardless of the cost to the nation or the health of its people.
What has also been stunning is the surge in corporate profitability despite a lack of revenue growth. Since 2009, the reported earnings per share of corporations has increased by a total of 221%. This is the sharpest post-recession rise in reported EPS in history. However, that sharp increase in earnings did not come from revenue which is reported at the top line of the income statement. Revenue from sales of goods and services has only increased by a marginal 28% during the same period.”
The report was mostly mathematical gibberish based on Okun’s Law. Clearly, Okun’s Law is at least as useless as any widely believed economic law, which is to say totally useless. The supporting paper consists of 90 pages of largely unintelligible garbage such as the following.
Regardless of that dispute, the famine was definitely a tragedy of enormous proportions. Now, imagine that you live in the United States in the early 1930s and get your news from The New York Times (NYT). What do you know about this tragedy? The short answer is nothing. The head of the NYT’s Moscow bureau at that time was Walter Duranty, an apologist for Bolshevism. American left-wing intellectuals enthusiastically greeted his dispatches from the Soviet Union. In 1931, Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles in the NYT that covered up Stalinism’s atrocities. He vociferously denied the existence of the famine in Ukraine, claiming people were “hungry but not starving” and “there is no famine or actual starvation.” Some other Western journalists covering the USSR honestly reported on the famine. One of them was the Manchester Guardian’s Moscow correspondent Gareth Jones, but Duranty tried to discredit Jones’ reports, calling him a liar.
Throughout it all, debt levels kept rising. The Dutch government used government bonds to live beyond its means, borrowing money to fund everything imaginable– wars, infrastructure, and ballooning deficits. But people kept buying the bonds, convinced that the Dutch government will never default. “Everyone was brainwashed; the mere suggestion that the Dutch government would default was tantamount to blasphemy. It didn’t matter that the debt level was so high that by the early 1800s the Dutch government was spending 68 percent of tax revenue just to service the debt. “Well, in 1814 the impossible happened: the Dutch government defaulted. And the effects were devastating.