Archive for July, 2014

This is the “bottom line” on the U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia

From Mike “Mish” Shedlock at Global Economic Trend Analysis:

M.A.D. Sanctions

Sanctions are a lose-lose-lose game. Consumers lose, businesses lose, countries lose. And the hypocrisy alone is appalling.

The EU wants sanctions to hurt Russia “more” than the EU.

Thus the EU let a French military sale to Russia go through, while blocking transactions and travel of Russians who had virtually nothing to do with this mess.

Knockout Blow?

For all their efforts, will the U.S. or EU accomplish anything with the sanctions on Russia?

Financial Times writer Christopher Granville has the answer in his take EU’s Sanctions on Russia Will Fail to be a Knockout Blow.

The main burden of the EU sanctions mooted by the commission would appear to fall on the UK.

The core measure targets debt and equity capital raising by the Russian state banks and bans European intermediaries from offering associated underwriting and advisory services, and the bulk of such business is done in the City of London.

Capital market funding is also a small portion of overall foreign funding of Russian banks (about 3.5 per cent as of March 2014), so an important detail about the EU sanctions package as regards both overall impact and burden sharing between the member states will be whether the prohibition on financing Russian banks will extend to ordinary lending. The international syndicated loan market for Russian borrowers is dominated by continental European banks. French banks have the largest exposure of $52.5bn.

This analysis presupposes that the EU will never go for the “nuclear” sanctions option of banning gas imports from Russia, and that the EU and U.S. together will not try to replicate against Russia the ban on oil exports imposed on Iran.

The EU cannot for now substitute its present annual gas import volumes of 150bn cubic metres from Russia, and the loss of Russia’s present level of crude oil exports – 7m barrels a day, compared to Iran’s 2.5m b/d – would trigger a sharp rise in the oil price and a global economic slump.

This would be the economic equivalent of the Cold War-era concept of nuclear deterrence based on mutually assured destruction.

Short of the “MAD” options, the Russian economy will decline and Europe will suffer, but there will be no knockout blow and, as so often in Russia’s history, the Russian nation may be expected to rally around in the face of hardship caused by foreign foes.

Loser Analysis

According to Granville, Europe and Russia will both suffer. On that, I agree.

Granville thinks the UK will suffer most.

From a financing standpoint, I suspect Granville is correct. But from a manufacturing and trade standpoint, I believe Germany will be the big loser.

Two Games at Once

MAD is really a game of chicken.

Granville misses the mark in one respect: The choice to go “nuclear” is not only in the hands of the EU.

Yes, the EU could ban all imports. But they won’t.

Here’s the MAD game at hand: The U.S. and EU want to apply pressure on Russia but not so much pressure that Russia cuts off natural gas supplies to the rest of Europe.

Europe needs the gas, and Russia needs the hard currency.

It’s mutual destruction if gas is shutoff.

Fool’s Mission

If things do get MAD, there will be a knockout blow to global trade, not just to Russia. Yet, if the U.S. and EU pressure Russia too much, then Russia may feel like it has nothing to lose. Why not go down fighting?

The U.S./EU game of chicken all starts with the notion that Putin will react as expected and eventually blink first.

I wonder how long the expected lasts. I suggest not as long as the bureaucrats think. Regardless, the exercise is a fool’s mission from the start given that everyone loses from sanctions.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 Invest, News, Wealth Comments Off on This is the “bottom line” on the U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia

Fund manager Singer: This is the No. 1 risk to investors today (hint: it’s not what you think)

From Bloomberg:

Threats to the electric grid are coming from everywhere: saboteurs, weather and, as silly as it sounds, from outer space. The danger is significant and growing, and business risk managers are taking it seriously.

The latest warning comes from Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., a $24.8 billion hedge-fund firm based in New York. Singer warned investors, in a letter obtained by Bloomberg News, of what he sees as the gravest threat: an electromagnetic pulse from the Sun that knocks out the grid for months or longer.

While Elliott’s letters to investors “are typically chock full of scary or depressing scenarios,” writes Singer, “there is one risk that is head-and-shoulders above all the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence.”

While it sounds like the stuff of Hollywood, the threat from the Sun is quite real. Just last week, NASA reported on a 2012 sunburst, known as a coronal mass ejection, with the potential to “knock modern civilization back to the 18th century.”

The miss was about as near as they come: If the pulse had traveled through the same region of space a week earlier, Earth would have been pummeled. Ground currents would have melted the copper in transformers, and the interconnections of the sprawling power lines would have spread the damage far and wide. “We would still be picking up the pieces” two years later, Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado said in a post on NASA’s website.

A powerful solar storm in 1859, known as the Carrington Event, disrupted telegraph service. In today’s plugged-in world, such a storm would wreak havoc worldwide. In the U.S. alone, 130 million people could lose power. As many as 40 million Americans could be left with long-term power disruptions — anywhere from 16 days to 2 years, according to a report last year by Lloyd’s, a 350-year-old insurance marketplace. ??Two years. The reason an outage could last so long is that many of America’s biggest transformers don’t have spares, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences. Most are no longer produced in the U.S., and if new custom transformers must be ordered, the lead time is a minimum of five months.

Extreme storms like the Carrington event occur approximately once every 150 years. The last one was almost 155 years ago. The potential economic cost of a Carrington-level event today: $2.6 trillion.

The regions outlined are susceptible to system collapse.
Source: NASA / J. Kappenman, Metatech Corp. presentation on space weather workshop, May 23, 2008

The specter of a solar storm is ghastly, but it’s not the only threat to the U.S. grid. We got a reminder of that last year when the Wall Street Journal reported on a Hollywood-style attack on a California electricity facility. Another hint of how vulnerable grids can be: the 2012 blackout in India that left 640 million people without power. While cyber attacks to the grid have so far been limited in scope, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) found that a coordinated strike could bring down the entire U.S. grid, according to the Wall Street Journal.

These are dress rehearsals. Singer, one of the biggest backers of Republicans politicians, has called for “what should be a bipartisan push to make the country (and the world) safer from this kind of event.”

Congress has been working on legislation to make the grid less vulnerable for years but has yet to reach agreement.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 Invest, News, Wealth Comments Off on Fund manager Singer: This is the No. 1 risk to investors today (hint: it’s not what you think)

What you’re not being told about Obamacare

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re familiar with the “Affordable Care Act” – otherwise known as “Obamacare” – and you probably have some strong opinions about it.

But chances are, those opinions are based on misconceptions and half-truths you’ve heard from the media and politicians.

Liberals have cheered Obamacare for bringing healthcare to “everyone”… while conservatives have denounced it as “socialized medicine,” and even “communism.”

But the fact is, both of these opinions are wrong.

To get the real story, check out the short video below.

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Controversial report: Gov’t whistleblower says “FEMA camps” are about to be opened

From Paul Joseph Watson at Infowars.com:

A whistleblower who claims to work inside the Los Angeles Department of Health Services has told Infowars that L.A. officials are planning to forcibly remove homeless people from the streets later this summer and house them in facilities which they will not be permitted to leave.

The source, an office clerk within the LADHS, said that during a policy meeting on the morning of June 18th last month, his supervisor announced that the Los Angeles County Dept. of Health Services had struck a deal with the government to open up “low cost housing” facilities for homeless people, otherwise known as “FEMA camps.” The source said that his supervisor ordered staff not to use the term “FEMA camps.”

The program is focused around removing or relocating homeless people from the streets of downtown L.A., starting with Skid Row.

“We will approach them on the street asking if they need or want help usually offering food to get their direct attention, if they come into the office it makes our jobs twice as efficient,” said the supervisor. “In most cases the decision is already made for them unless they become combative or belligerent, in which case we send them in for a 72-hour psych evaluation and then transfer them while under sedation or heavy medication to the “facility.”

The supervisor stressed that the program would be “humane,” that it would help clean up the streets, and that the citizens being processed into the housing units would receive medical treatment, an RFID chip, and room and board, but that “they cannot leave.” The supervisor elaborated that the facility was not a prison, but that its population would be kept there “for their own health and safety.”

The whistleblower points to a page on the Department of Health Services official website which details how “roving teams” will help “provide short-term housing with health oversight to homeless DHS patients who are recovering from an acute illness or injury or have conditions that would be exacerbated by living on the street or in shelters.”

The post also mentions “a 38 bed recuperative care site in South LA” which will be opened “this summer” to cater for the homeless.

The notion of forcing homeless people off the streets into detention facilities is not a conspiracy theory and has already been taking place across the United States. Los Angeles is already making moves to force charities for the homeless off the streets as part of plans for the “gentrification” of entire areas.

Last year, the city of Colombia, South Carolina voted to make homelessness a crime, creating police patrols which gave homeless people the choice of either forcibly entering a shelter on the edge of town or being sent to jail.

More than 50 cities all over the nation have also made feeding the homeless a crime, while in places like Camden, N.J., authorities are bulldozing entire tent cities.


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This is how the government covers up inflation

From Bill Bonner, editor, The Bill Bonner Letter:

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Argentina, will never be remembered as a great economist.

Nor will she win any awards for “accuracy in government reporting.”

Au contraire: under her leadership, the numbers used by government economists in Argentina have parted company with reality completely. They are not even on speaking terms.

Still, Ms. Fernandez deserves credit. At least she is honest about it.

The Argentine president visited the U.S. in the autumn of 2012. She was invited to speak at Harvard and Georgetown universities. Students took advantage of the opportunity to ask her some questions, notably about the funny numbers Argentina uses to report its inflation.

Her bureaucrats put the consumer price index (CPI) – the rate at which prices increase – at less than 10%. Independent analysts and housewives know it is a lie. Prices are rising at about 25% per year.

At a press conference, Cristina turned the tables on her accusers: “Really, do you think consumer prices are only going up at a 2% rate in the U.S.?

Two percent was the number given for consumer price inflation by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012. But in North America as in South America, the quantitative analysts (quants) work over the numbers as if they were prisoners at Guantanamo. Cristina is right. The numbers all wear orange jumpsuits. The Feds are the guards. Waterboard them a few times, and the numbers will tell you anything you want to hear.

The “inflation” number is probably the most important number the number crunchers crunch, because it crunches up against most of the other numbers, too.

If you say your house went up in price, we need to know how much everything else went up in price, too. If your house doubled in price while everything else roughly doubled too, you realized no gain whatsoever.

Likewise, your salary may be rising; but it won’t do you any good unless it is going up more than the things you buy. Otherwise, you’re only staying even, or maybe slipping behind.

GDP growth itself is adjusted by the inflation number. If output increases by 10%, yet the CPI is also going up at a 10% rate, real output, after inflation, is flattened out. In pensions, taxes, insurance, and contracts, the CPI number is used to correct distortions caused by inflation.

But if the CPI number is itself distorted, then the whole shebang gets twisted.

You may think it is a simple matter to measure the rate of price increases. Just take a basket of goods and services. Follow the prices. Trouble is, the stuff in the basket tends to change. You may buy strawberries in June, because they are available and reasonably cheap. Buy them the following March, on the other hand, and they’ll be more expensive. You will be tempted to say that prices are rising.

The number crunchers get around this problem in two ways. First, they make “seasonal adjustments” in order to keep prices more constant. Second, they make substitutions; when one thing becomes expensive, shoppers switch to other things. The quants insist that they substitute other items of the same quality, just to keep the measurement straight. But that introduces a new wrinkle.


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Let us say you need to buy a new computer. You go to the store. You find that the computer on offer is about the same price as the one you bought last year. No CPI increase there! But you look more closely and you find that this computer is twice as powerful. Hmmm. Now you are getting twice as much computer for the same price. You don’t really need twice as much computer power. But you can’t buy half a computer. So, you reach in your pocket and pay as much as last year.

What do the number guards do with that information? They maintain that the price of computing power has been cut in half! They can prove that this is so by looking at prices for used computers. Your computer, put on the market, would fetch only half as much as the new model. Ergo, the new model is twice as good.

This reasoning does not seem altogether unreasonable. But a $1,000 computer is a substantial part of most household budgets. And this “hedonic” adjustment of prices exerts a large pull downward on the measurement of consumer prices, even though the typical household lays out almost exactly as much one year as it did the last. The typical family’s cost of living remains unchanged, but the BLS maintains that it is spending less.

You can see how this approach might work for other things. An automobile, for example. If the auto companies began making their cars twice as fast, and doubling the prices accordingly, the statisticians would have to ignore the sticker prices and conclude that prices had not changed.

Or suppose a woman buys a new pair of shoes for $100. She never wears them, so a year later, she tries to sell them back to the store. The store refuses, saying they are out of style. So, she goes to a used clothing store and sells them for only $5 – a 95% drop. Does that mean a new pair of shoes is 20 times better? If that is so, assuming she buys another pair for $100, has she really got a $2,000 pair of shoes?

Hedonics, seasonal adjustments, substitutions – the quants can trick up any number they want.

BLS will give you a precise number for the CPI, as though it had a specific, exact meaning. But all the numbers are squishy. Nothing is stiff and dry. Not a single statistic can be trusted. Yet economists build with them as though they were bricks.

A flapping cod is piled on a slippery trout on which is placed a slithering eel. And upon this squirming, shimmying mound, they erect their central planning policies.

– Adapted from Hormegeddon: How Too Much of a Good Thing Leads To Disaster. Copyright © 2014 by Bill Bonner.

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Thursday, July 31st, 2014 Invest, News, Wealth Comments Off on This is how the government covers up inflation

This major market is breaking out NOW

From Jeff Clark, editor, S&A Short Report: 

Chinese stocks are breaking out… But you won’t see it mentioned in the mainstream press.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index (the “SSEC”) – China’s version of the Dow Jones Industrial Average – rallied last Thursday… and broke a five-year consolidating-triangle pattern to the upside. This suggests Chinese stocks are about to rally.

And early investors could make double-digit gains over the next few months…

Take a look at this long-term chart of the SSEC…

The SSEC has been stuck in a bear market for the past six years. It’s down more than 60% from its peak in 2007. But on Thursday, the index broke out of a five-year consolidating-triangle pattern.

This is such a long, drawn-out pattern that you can barely see the breakout on the eight-year chart. But there’s no mistaking it on the one-year chart…

 

This is a BIG DEAL. This is when new bull markets begin. And as I told you in May, the last time the SSEC emerged from a pattern like this, it rallied 500% in a year and a half.

I’m not looking for those types of gains this time around. But at the very least, the SSEC should be able to hit some of the overhead resistance lines on the long-term chart.

The first target is at about 2,500. If the SSEC can rally above that first resistance level, the next upside targets are 2,900 and 3,500. Based on current levels, investors could see gains of anywhere between 38% and 67% in the next few months.

It has been a long time since traders have had a chance to make money buying Chinese stocks. But we have a good opportunity right now. Last week’s breakout from the consolidating-triangle pattern signals a major change in trend. And early investors could make double-digit profits in the next few months.

Now is the time to buy Chinese stocks.


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Argentina could default for the second time TODAY. Here’s what that could mean.

From Bloomberg:

By defaulting [today], Argentina may trigger bondholder claims of as much as $29 billion — equal to all its foreign-currency reserves.

If the overdue interest on Argentina’s dollar-denominated securities due 2033 isn’t paid by July 30, provisions in bond indentures known as cross-default clauses would allow the nation’s other debt holders to also demand their money back immediately. The amount corresponds to Argentina’s debt issued in foreign currencies and governed by international laws.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa blocked Argentina’s attempt last month to transfer the $539 million in interest after the nation didn’t set aside money for holdout creditors, who won a ruling that entitled them to full repayment of obligations that Argentina repudiated in 2001. While Citigroup Inc. says there’s little chance investors will invoke the pay-back clauses in coming weeks, potential claims are large enough to exhaust the country’s reserves.

“It would mean that Argentina is in default on most all of its debt and presumably everybody would be in the same boat,” Anna Gelpern, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a law professor at Georgetown University, said in a telephone interview.

[Today] is the last day Argentina has to avoid its second default in 13 years by making the interest payment to holders of $13 billion in bonds before a 30-day grace period expires.

Cross Default

A delegation of Argentine officials led by Finance Secretary Pablo Lopez arrived at a meeting with court-appointed mediator Daniel Pollack at about 11:15 a.m. New York time [on Tuesday].

In a default, even a temporary one, Argentina’s economy will contract and the odds of a crisis are high, according to Marcos Buscaglia, an economist at Bank of America Corp. Money demand will become unstable as Argentines scramble for dollars, causing the peso to slump, he wrote in a report [yesterday].

“Argentina’s current weak fiscal, monetary and external conditions make the probability of the situation spinning out of control quite high,” he wrote. “Argentina’s payment capacity should not be taken for granted if it defaults.”

Even though trading in the bonds suggest investors don’t foresee an imminent catastrophe, the nation could still be on the hook for billions of dollars in immediate repayment.

Based on the cross-default clauses, Argentina would have to pay back the entire balance – plus unpaid interest – of any security if holders of at least 25 percent of that debt demand that their money be returned.

Debt Repudiation

While Argentina deposited the interest due on the 2033 bonds last month, Griesa has prevented the custodian firms from transferring the money until Argentina pays the holdouts led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp.

The dispute stems from Argentina’s record $95 billion default in 2001. While most of the debt was swapped for new bonds in 2005 and 2010, with holders accepting losses of about 70 percent, the holdouts were among the 7 percent who rejected the terms and sued to reclaim all principal and unpaid interest.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government says it needs to delay the ruling until January, after the expiration of a Rights Upon Future Offers clause that’s supposed to keep it from voluntarily giving better terms to the holdout creditors without extending the same offer to exchange bondholders.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said today that Argentina has serviced its debt and won’t default. Restructured bondholders should claim their interest payments in U.S. courts, he told reporters in Buenos Aires.

Default Swaps

In a meeting last week with Pollack, Argentina called on the judge to create a safeguard against risks related to the RUFO clause, which the country has said may trigger claims of more than $120 billion. Griesa has rejected Argentina’s repeated pleas for a delay.

Credit-default swaps that protect against losses from an Argentine default over the next three months imply a 43 percent chance of non-payment, according to data compiled by CMA. The South American nation’s debt is the most expensive in the world to protect with the swaps.

“If payments are missed for a few days, or even a couple of weeks, acceleration is unlikely to happen,” Citigroup analysts Guillermo Mondino and Jeff Williams wrote in a July 25 report. If bonds subject to cross-default are accelerated, Argentina would still have 60 days to pay the original bonds and decelerate the notes, they said.

RUFO Clause

The bonds due 2033 fell 1.19 cents [Tuesday] to 82.68 cents on the dollar as of 1:22 p.m. in New York. While the securities have fallen from a high of 94 cents earlier this month as optimism for a settlement waned, they are still trading above their 74-cent average of the past five years.

Average yields on Argentina’s bonds were 9.7 percent yesterday. Borrowing costs for the South American country were about four times higher when former President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa halted debt payments on Dec. 24, 2001.

Many investors assume that “the default will be cured after the RUFO clause expires, so the degree of panic isn’t great,” Michael Roche, an emerging-market strategist at Seaport Group LLC, said in a telephone interview.

Other investors speculate that Fernandez might be able to swap investors into local-law bonds outside of Griesa’s jurisdiction, and thus continue paying if there’s a default.

A jurisdictional swap “would gut the legal bite” of Griesa’s ruling, said Carlos Abadi, chief executive officer of New York-based investment bank ACGM Inc.

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John Chu: Investors Can Feast on Fertilizer Yields

July 30, 2014 (Investorideas.com Mining stocks newswire) As the world grows ever larger, its people demand more and better food.

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From Argentina to the Athabasca: Etienne Moshevich on Hot Prospects

July 30, 2014 (Investorideas.com Mining stocks newswire) Unearthing lucrative investments sometimes means following the money.

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Why Nickel is The Leading Base Metal in Performance in 2014

Remember the price spike in palladium (PALL) in 1999? Or the run up in uranium prices (URA) in 2007? Even more recently the move in silver (SLV) and gold (GLD) in 2011? Commodities and the mining stocks have a tendency to breakout into price spikes and frenzies.  In late 2013 I told you that nickel was about to rebound.


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I am excited by the fantastic move this year in nickel from the low $6 range to above $9 making over a 50% move in 2014. It has pulled back for the past three months and may be on the verge of making a second leg higher.  See my recent interview with CBS Marketwatch by clicking here…

Why is nickel breaking out in 2014 outperforming other commodities and equities?

Nickel prices are hitting multi-year highs for three major reasons.
1)Indonesian Export Ban
2)Russian Economic Sanctions
3)Disruption to existing production at major mines like Vale’s Goro Project.

Demand for nickel is increasing every year despite lower overall economic growth. Nickel is used to make stainless steel.  As populations expand and urbanize more stainless steel is required to build bridges, pipelines, skyscrapers and power plants.

Indonesia supplies over a quarter of worldwide nickel.  Over four months ago I wrote to my readers, “The announcement that Indonesia has banned exports could have a dramatic effect on supply and cause a reversal in the nickel price which is still more than fifty percent below its all time highs.”
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To put this move from Indonesia to ban exports into perspective think of all the OPEC Gulf states ceasing oil production or Chile cutting copper exports.  China may be growing nervous.  Close to 75% of China’s nickel pig iron supply comes from Indonesia.

Other countries such as Japan, Australia, Canada and the U.S. could be significantly impacted by this rise in resource nationalism in Indonesia and Russian economic sanctions.  Do not forget Russia is a major palladium and nickel producer. The nickel price is making a breathtaking move higher.  There are very few sources of high grade nickel outside of Indonesia,  The Philippines is another option but they are also considering an export ban.

Even though there is still a large amount of nickel in stockpile, experts are predicting that inventories could run out by mid 2015.  Enter center stage junior miners who control nickel projects particularly in mining friendly North America. I am focusing on companies that could come into production to fill the shortfall in the next 2-3 years.

The rise of resource nationalism in Indonesia is nothing new.  Nations may have already been planning for the export ban this month by stockpiling.  Nevertheless, smart investors should position themselves in top quality junior mining nickel assets or look at the Nickel ETF (JJN).

There are very few high quality nickel projects ready to be built.

Before the previous run up in 2006-07 there were plenty of undeveloped projects.  This is not the case today.  Nickel is one of the few commodities that China needs desperately as they have very little from their own production.

Royal Nickel Corp.’s Dumont Nickel project in mining-friendly Quebec [could] begin construction by the end of this year and start production in 2016. . .[the] Dumont project is one of the largest nickel deposits in the world and probably the largest, most advanced and best quality nickel projects in the control of a junior miner. . .the company is significantly undervalued and my readers have already seen close to a triple since originally highlighted.

 

Royal Nickel owns one of the only mines I know of with a construction-ready project, experienced management that specializes in nickel and a strong treasury of close to $15M. Royal Nickel’s Dumont Nickel project is one of the best advanced nickel projects under the control of a junior. It could begin construction by the end of this year and start production in 2016.

The company has a management team that knows nickel possibly better than any other junior, as it has some of the top Falconbridge Ltd. and Inco Ltd. personnel and management on the board of directors. Dumont is one of the largest nickel deposits in the world.  I expect the nickel price to start heading higher as the 8 week pullback may be ending.  Much more interest may come into the nickel sector. There are very few assets like the Dumont project in the control of a junior like Royal Nickel (RNX.TO or RNKLF).

Check out my recent interview with Mark Selby, CEO of Royal Nickel (RNX.TO or RNKLF) by clicking here or on the link below.  Mark has over 20 years of experience in the nickel sector with such mining giants as Quadra and Inco.

For more information on Royal Nickel please contact:

Rob Buchanan Director, Investor Relations T: (416) 363-0649 www.royalnickel.com

Disclosure: Author owns shares and the company is a website sponsor.

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