Monday, August 5, 2013

3 Big Fed Speeches Are Coming Up This Week

federal reserve charles evansBusiness Insider – by Sam Ro
After an incredibly busy week that ended with a weak jobs report, this coming week has almost no major U.S. economic events scheduled.
However, some members of the Federal Reserve will be speaking.  And all market participants will be interested to hear what they have to say about the direction of monetary policy in the wake of the latest data dump.  
From Deutsche Bank’s Joe LaVorgna:
… This week’s data docket is relatively light and the main focus will likely be the first round of post-FOMC Fed-speak. St. Louis Fed President Bullard already indicated last Friday that he would favor waiting for more H2 data before tapering QE. It will be interesting to see if his views are shared by fellow committee members. Dallas Fed President Fisher (non-voter) speaks on the economy on Monday, and given his hawkishness, it is doubtful he shares Bullard’s sentiment. In contrast, Chicago Fed President Evans (voter) is scheduled to give a press interview on Tuesday and given his dovishness, it is likely he too will want to see further confirmation that the labor market is on a sustainable path to recovery. On Wednesday, Cleveland Fed president Pianalto (non-voter) will be speaking on the economy, and as one of the more moderate Fed participants, she has indicated in previous speeches that she would rather see asset purchases begin to slow sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see if her view has changed at all in light of the recent data.
On Tuesday, we will get the latest Job Openings And Labor Turnover Survey report. While this is not generally considered a major market-mover, we know that it is closely watched by Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen.

How Falsified U.S. GDP Data will Lead to Much Higher Precious Metal Prices

SRSrocco Report
While it seems that just about all of the economic data coming out of Wall Street or the U.S. Government is manipulated, there is one piece of data that is not.  This valuable piece of information may also give us an idea on just how much the U.S. GDP data is being falsified.
The problem today with modern economics is that it has totally divorced itself from the physical economy.  Everything is based upon a financial adjustment of one figure or a recalibration of another.  Nothing is as its seems in the “Wonderful World of Financialization.”  
However, there is still one metric in the physical economy that we can use to gauge whether the economy is indeed growing or on the other hand, contracting.  This simple measurement has provided concrete evidence showing that the Global GDP growth rate has been slowly declining for decades.

ENERGY: The Destroyer of Manipulated Government Economic Data

To be able to get back to a more fundamental approach in forecasting the health of the economy, we should be looking at the data coming from the energy market.  In the article,“Evidence that Oil Limits are Leading to Declining Economic Growth”, the author provided the following graph:
World Oil Supply & World GDP Growth
Here we can see that as the world’s annual oil supply growth declined, so did the global GDP growth rate.  In the beginning of the 1970′s decade the global oil supply grew more than 7% annually while the global GDP growth rate increased approximately 5% during that time period.
However, during the 2007-2011 period, the world’s oil supply annualized growth rate fell to just 0.5 percent, while the global GDP growth rate was down to little more than 1%.  Thus, energy has everything to do with determining the growth rate of the world’s economies.
To get an idea of what is taking place in the U.S. economy, I obtained total energy consumption data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA).  While the energy supply provides us a good gauge of global economic growth, consumption is a better tool analyzing the United States due to the fact that we use a great deal more energy than we produce.
That graph below reveals how changes in energy consumption paralleled the rise and fall in the U.S. GDP growth rate:
U.S. Energy Consumption vs Annual GDP Rate
The energy information is provided by the amount of quadrillion (quad) Btu’s of energy consumed from 2007 to 2012.  In 2007, before the housing and banking collapse, the United States consumed over 100 quad Btu’s of energy which was a 1.7% increase over 2006.  That same year, the U.S GDP growth rate averaged 1.9%
Then at the bottom of the recession in 2009, total energy consumption by the states declined to 94.6 quad Btu’s which was 4.7% lower than in 2008.  Furthermore, U.S. GDP growth fell substantially to a negative 3.1% that year.  The chart shows, as energy consumption declined so did the annual GDP growth rate.
Once the impact of QE1 and other clandestine stimulus packages by the FED & Treasury finally made its way into the economy, total energy consumption in the U.S. shut up 3.6% in 2010 as the GDP growth rate increased to 2.4%.  Again, energy consumption was an excellent indicator of economic growth in the U.S. economy.
However, in the next two years, something odd occurred…. as the total U.S. energy consumption continued to decline, the GDP growth rate stubbornly decided to go its own way into positive territory.  Basically, the energy consumption rate and GDP growth rate diverged after 2010 (especially in 2012).
You will see that in 2011 as U.S. energy consumption declined 0.8%, the GDP growth rate was still a positive 1.8%.  Moreover, as energy consumption fell even further to a negative 2.3% in 2012, the U.S. economy supposedly grew an additional 2.2% that year.  Thus, the difference in U.S. energy consumption and the GDP growth rate was an amazing 4.5%.
Now, there are several factors here we need to address to understand what is really taking place here.
First, energy consumption and the GDP growth rate are not going to be directly related.  That being said, if we take the difference between energy consumption and the GDP growth rate for each year and provide a simple average, we arrive at an 1.1% figure.  So, from 2007 to 2010 the difference in annual energy consumption to the GDP growth rate was approximately 1.1%. (Note: I am using the degree in difference each year not a positive or negative net change).
This 1.1% seems appropriate if we compare it to the first chart that shows the global GDP growth rate was approximately 1% higher than the world annual increase in oil supply from 2007-2011.
If we go by the 1.1% average difference in annual energy consumption vs the U.S. GDP growth rate, we can safely assume that the official 2.2% GDP growth in 2012 rate may have actually been negative.
Second, a part of the decline in energy consumption in 2012 was due to a relatively mild winter in the states in which there was less demand for heating in the residential and commercial sector.
Third, a more reliable indicator of whether the U.S. economy is growing or contracting, is the energy consumption data from the industrial & transportation sectors.
This next chart shows the change in U.S. energy consumption in the industrial and transportation industry.
U.S. Industrial & Transportation Energy Consumption
Again, the energy data in the graph is shown in quadrillion Btu’s.  Here we can see that as energy consumption in the industrial and transportation industry declined from 2007 to 2009 so did the U.S. GDP growth rate.  In contrast, as energy consumption in these two sectors increased in 2010, the U.S. economy grew by a supposed 2.4%.
Then in 2011 and 2012 the same pattern takes place as was the case in the first U.S. energy chart.  That is, as industrial & transportation energy consumption fell, the U.S. GDP growth was still positive…. especially in 2012.  Somehow, the United States was able to grow its economy 2.2% in 2012 while its industrial and transportation industries consumed 1% less energy.
The 2012 GDP growth data seems quite faulty when you realize that industrial and transportation energy consumption fell to a greater degree (58.0 in 2011 to 57.4 in 2012)  than it did in 2011 (58.2 in 2010 to 58.0 in 2011) which stated a lower GDP rate.
Of course, I can be blamed for being guilty of “cherry picking” the data to prove my point as the differences in prior years’ energy-GDP relationships may be greater in percentage terms.  However,  it still takes growing energy consumption to produce positive GDP growth.
Furthermore, overall GDP statistics are probably manipulated to a greater degree due to the following factors (paraphrasing from the article linked above):
1) Understating the rate of inflation:  GDP is calculated by adding up the increase in sales of all goods and services and then subtracting the amount of GDP that was due to inflation.  Governments have utilized new methods of figuring inflation (by actually under-reporting the real inflation rate) which changed since the 1980′s.  Which means the stated official GDP figure is probably a lot higher due to understating the real inflation rate.
2) Increasing Huge amounts of Debt:  The U.S GDP is figured by the amount of goods and services sold, not how they will be paid for.  If the Fed or U.S. government provides programs such as Quantitative Easing and allows easy financing to anyone with a heartbeat to purchase a car, boat or home… this can increase GDP, but in an inflated unsustainable fashion.

Falsified GDP Data will Turn Out to be Positive for the Precious Metals

So, the real question is how will manipulated GDP data be good for gold and silver?  The answer is simple.  All manufactured and manipulated data has to answer to the forces of the fundamentals at some point.
Even though everyone on CNBC and Wall Street (including Fed Chairman Bernanke) were putting out great economic data while stating how good the future prospects for the market looked in 2007, the following two years turned out to be the exact opposite — a complete economic disaster.
That is why I believe the Fed announcement of QE3 in Sept of 2012 was necessary in their eyes.  If we remember from the data provided by the charts above, U.S. energy consumption was falling in 2012 to a larger degree than 2011, and unless something drastic was done, the conditions in the economy would have continued to disintegrate in 2013.  Basically, the watered down QE2 had run its course and much more was needed.
Today, the Fed hints of “TAPERING” to the public while in secret it plans to unleash QE4.   I would actually be surprised if they didn’t blurt out the word “TAPER” from time to time.   The only thing that is keeping the U.S. economy and dollar alive is a lot of hot air, arm-twisting and cow excrement.
The Fed states that they will start to shut off the QE TAP when the U.S. employment situation improves.  Well, if they are looking at some of the very charts that they are producing there at the St. Louis Fed, conditions in the labor force are continuing to deteriorate.
FRED Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate
As we can see from this chart, the civilian labor participation rate has fallen substantially since the economic crisis during 2008-2009 period.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much stimulus is released into the market, the U.S continues to head towards another economic collapse.
Now, if you are in the mood for a good laugh, let me present the final chart of the day.  With all the Fed money printing, Treasury & Mortgaged Backed Security purchases, zero to low-interest lending and Central Bank Vaudeville Acts, industrial & transportation energy consumption has risen a paltry 0.5% during the first four months of 2013 compared to the same period last year:
U.S. JAN-APR Energy Consumption
Sure, it may be true that it takes time for the impact of monetary stimulation to work its magic, but we are already beginning to see signs that the housing market is topping and turning down as well as other negative economic indicators.
So, if the Fed really decides to “TAPER”, I believe the U.S. economy will suffer a massive stroke disintegrating to levels much worse than what was witnessed during the 2008-2009 time period.
The reason why this manipulated GDP data is positive for the precious metals is due to the fact that gold and silver are stores of wealth that will find their true value when the real market fundamentals finally kick in.  The longer and larger degree in which the GDP data is manipulated, the higher the revaluation of the precious metal values will become.
I don’t believe in trading the precious metals or do I care about the short-term moves in the paper prices of gold and silver.  This is a war of attrition.  The Fed and Central Banks are playing with fire by pushing the price of gold and silver down to the level of their production costs.
Analysts who are forecasting $850 gold are doing so because they are standing in a VACUUM TUBE.  Never in the history of mankind has the value of gold been driven below its cost of production for an extended period.  Very few if any gold analysts realize how energy impacts all aspects of the gold and silver mining industry.
There was a huge difference as it pertains to profit margins in mining gold in the 1930′s and 1970′s compared to the conditions presently.  I will be discussing this in a future article.
Finally, as the U.S. economy stands at the edge of a cliff, very few are prepared for what is coming.  The Fiat Monetary QE to Infinity System has an expiration date.  Of course it is impossible to know what day that will be.  However, the fundamentals and the value of real money always win out in the end.

Homeless: More Young People Sleeping Rough

Video: Homeless Crisis Under The Spotlight

As statistics show more young people are becoming homeless in the UK, a new play questions why more is not being done to help those forced onto the streets.
Government figures show the number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by a third since 2010.
In London alone, 6,437 people slept rough during 2012-13, a 62% rise in two years.
Campaigners say there is a risk this trend could continue, given youth unemployment, the economic downturn and the pressures on low income families, combined with changes within welfare reform, reduction of public services and the general squeezing of housing supply and affordability of accommodation.
The official figures do not account for the hidden homeless.
Three months after his 18th birthday, Leo was forced to sofa surf for nine months until he received help from Centre Point.
He told Sky News: "I feel lonely and like I don't really have a voice. I'm not really accountable for anything despite going to college. I don't feel like a real person."
Director Nadia Fall
Director Nadia Fall's new play opens at the National Theatre in London
Ministers insist they are taking homelessness seriously and have pledged £400m to councils to tackle the issue.
Communities Minister Don Foster said: "We have one of the strongest safety nets across the world. If you look, for example, at rough sleeping in London, out of the 6,000 people in the last 12 months only 14 of those were under 18."
After spending 18 months speaking to young people at an east London hostel, director Nadia Fall has used their words for the basis of a new play called Home, which opens at the National Theatre this week.
"There is seriously a whole generation that will not understand what it means to call your home in the way that we do -  somewhere of your own, either to have, own or to even to rent," she said.

Peter Schiff: Jobs, GDP, and the Fed: Propaganda Disguised as Information

Insane: Bankrupt Detroit Spending $444 Million on Hockey Arena

40 Percent Of U.S. Workers Make Less Than What A Full-Time Minimum Wage Worker Made In 1968

by Michael Snyder
1968 Shelby GT350 - Photo by Ben Cossitor
Are American workers paid enough?  That is a topic that is endlessly debated all across this great land of ours.  Unfortunately, what pretty much everyone can agree on is that American workers are not making as much as they used to after you account for inflation.  Back in 1968, the minimum wage in the United States was $1.60 an hour.  That sounds very small, but after you account for inflation a very different picture emerges.  Using the inflation calculator that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides, $1.60 in 1968 is equivalent to $10.74 today.  And of course the official government inflation numbershave been heavily manipulated to make inflation look much lower than it actually is, so the number for today should actually be substantially higher than $10.74, but for purposes of this article we will use $10.74.  If you were to work a full-time job at $10.74 an hour for a full year (with two weeks off for vacation), you would make about $21,480 for the year.  That isn’t a lot of money, but according to the Social Security Administration, 40.28% of all workers make less than $20,000 a year in America today.  So that means that more than 40 percent of all U.S. workers actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.  That is how far we have fallen.
The other day I wrote an article which discussed the transition that we are witnessing in our economy right now.  Good paying full-time jobs are disappearing, and they are being replaced by low paying part-time jobs.  So far this year, 76.7 percent of the jobs that have been “created” in the U.S. economy have been part-time jobs.
That would be depressing enough, but what makes it worse is that wages for many of these low paying jobs have actually been declining over the past decade even as the cost of living keeps going up.  The following is from a recent USA Today article
In the years between 2002 and 2012, real median wages dropped by at least 5% in five of the top 10 low-wage jobs, including food preparers and housekeepers.
So where have the good jobs gone?
Well, there are three long-term trends that are absolutely crushing American workers right now.
First of all, thanks to our very foolish politicians American workers have been merged into a global labor pool where they must directly compete for jobs with workers on the other side of the planet that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.  This has resulted in millions upon millions of good jobs leaving this country.  Big corporations can pad their profits by taking a job from an American worker making $15 an hour with benefits and giving it to a worker on the other side of the globe that is willing to work for less than a dollar an hour with no benefits.  Our politicians could do something about this, but they refuse to do so.  Most of them are absolutely married to the idea of a one world economic system that will unite the globe.  Unfortunately, the U.S. economy is going to continue to lose tens of thousands of businesses and millions upon millions of jobs to this one world economic system.
Secondly, big corporations are replacing as many expensive workers with machines, computers and robots as they possibly can.  As technology continues to advance at a blistering pace, the need for workers (especially low-skilled workers) will continue to decrease.  Unfortunately, the jobs that are being lost to technology are not coming back any time soon.
Thirdly, the overall U.S. economy has been steadily declining for more than a decade.  If you doubt this, just read this article.  As our economy continues to get weaker, the lack of jobs is going to become a bigger and bigger problem.
And as our economy systematically loses good jobs, more Americans are forced to become dependent on the government.
Back in 1979, there was about one American on food stamps for every manufacturing job.  Today, there are about four Americans on food stamps for every manufacturing job.
When I first found that statistic I was absolutely stunned.  How in the world can anyone out there deny that the U.S. economy is collapsing?

But as I mentioned above, it isn’t just that the number of jobs is not what it should be.  The quality of our jobs is declining as well.  For example, one study found that between 1969 and 2009 the wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 declined by 27 percentafter you account for inflation.
That is a pretty stunning decline.  And it has only accelerated in recent years.  Median household income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen by 7.8 percent since the year 2000, and the ratio of wages and salaries to GDP in the United States is near an all-time record low.
Most Americans are finding that their bills just keep going up but their paychecks are not.  This is causing the middle class to wither away, and most families are just trying to survive from month to month at this point.  In fact, according to one recent survey 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
So where do we go from here?
To some people the answer is simple.  They say that we should substantially raise the minimum wage.  And yes, that would definitely make life a bit better for lots of low paid workers out there, but it would also have some very negative side effects.  A substantially higher minimum wage would mean higher prices at retail stores and restaurants, and it would also greatly increase the incentive that corporations have to replace American workers with foreign workers or with technology.  We already have rampant unemployment in this country, and right now there are more than 100 million working age Americans that do not have a job.  We certainly don’t want to make that worse.
So raising the minimum wage would not solve our problems.  It would just redistribute our problems.
What we really need to do is to return to the principles that once made this country great.  In early America, we protected our markets with high tariffs.  Access to the U.S. market was a privilege.  Foreign domination was kept out, and our economy thrived.
It is definitely not “conservative” and it should not be “liberal” to stand by and watch millions upon millions of our good jobs get shipped over to communist China.  We need more “economic patriots” in America today, but unfortunately they appear to be a minority at this point.
And once upon a time the U.S. economy was actually a free market system where rules, regulations and red tape were kept to a minimum.  Our nation blossomed under such a system.  Sadly, today we have become a nation that literally has millions of laws, rules and regulations.  The control freaks seem to run everything.  In fact, the Obama administration recently forced one small-time magician out in Missouri to submit a 32 page disaster plan for the little rabbit that he uses in his magic shows for kids.  That is a very humorous example, but it is a perfect illustration of how absurd our system has become.
Another thing we could do to turn this around would be to get rid of the IRS and the income tax.  Did you know that the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was during a time when there was absolutely no income tax?  If you doubt this, just read this article.
And of course probably the most important thing that we could do for our economy would be to get rid of the Federal Reserve.  The Fed is a massive Ponzi scheme and it has played a primary role in creating almost every single financial bubble in the post-World War II era.  Right now we are living in the greatest bond bubble in the history of the planet, and when that Fed-created bubble bursts the pain is going to be absolutely excruciating.  In addition, the value of our currency has declined by over 96 percent and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the Fed was created.  The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems, and we desperately need to shut it down.
Unfortunately, our politicians are not even willing to consider these solutions, and most Americans are way too busy watching Toddlers & Tiaras, Honey Boo Boo and other mindless television programs to be bothered with the real problems that our country is facing.
So needless to say, the great economic storm that is coming is not going to be averted.  Most of the country is still asleep, and most people are going to get absolutely blindsided by the economic nightmare that is rapidly approaching.

Effect Of Obama’s Economy On The Job Market – Where’s My Job? – Huckabee Special

Effect Of Obama’s Economy On The Job Market – Where’s My Job? – Huckabee Special

Why Should Anyone Including The ECB Take The Fed Seriously?

Top Fed economist slams ‘incoherent’ ECB
The US Federal Reserve has launched a blistering attack on the European Central Bank, calling for quantitative easing across the board to lift the eurozone fully out of its slump.
These are the same guys that incited and fed a bubble in credit and mortgage finance after the dotcom equity bubble imploded. And when sub-prime gave the first warning sign that the credit bubble was imploding, the wizards at the Fed claimed it was “contained”. Then they looked at their Ouija Board (aka models) and claimed that housing prices will remain robust and that the rest of mortgage finance (alt, prime, jumbo) was in pristine shape and that the economy would not be impacted at all.
So the biggest correction in credit inflated asset markets in recent memory were completely missed by the prognosticators at the Fed. And they want to lecture the ECB and others.
But the track record of the Fed is even worse. Under their tutelage the purchasing power of American citizens has been shredded by over 95%. And they have the gall to advise German citizens that they should tolerate greater than 2% annual debasement of their purchasing power of their hard earned labor for some ephemeral rationale. Look, over the past 5 years the Fed has tripled their balance sheet by printing over $2 trillion dollars. The federal government has provided fiscal stimulus by increasing their debt load over this same period by some $6 trillion. After all this the US economy is barely limping along with the weakest post-war recovery. Recently, the first quarter GDP was revised down to 1.1%. Whoopedeedoo! This is the great achievement by the snake oil salesmen at the Fed with their money printing and government debt monetization.

The Fed incited and sustained inflation in the 70s which then had to be crushed by high interest rates in the 80s. Some of us think that the American and world economy would do much better if the Fed and other central bankers stopped meddling with markets and refrained from more harebrained schemes than we have had from them over the past century. Enough of their snake oil. The best policy for the west would be to restrict the central bank to only being a lender of last resort discounting real bills of trade of solvent institutions. It’s time to end their monetary mis-management. Isn’t a century of failure enough?

What the Fed Does Control

For context, let’s recall what the Fed actually does control:
  1. The Fed controls the Fed Funds Rate; i.e., the lending rate between banks.
  2. The Fed can influence interest rates in the real economy by buying and selling Treasury bonds and other securities; i.e., increasing or decreasing liquidity/money supply.
  3. The Fed can make funds available to the financial sector. During the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, the Fed loaned over $16 trillion to large global banks. This is roughly equal to the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S.; all residential mortgages in the U.S. total about $9.4 trillion.
  4. The Fed can invoke the public-relations magic created by belief in its power to issue grandiose pronouncements; for example, “we’ll keep interest rates low essentially forever.”
That this is, strictly speaking, not completely within the Fed’s power is left unsaid, lest the magic dissipate.
So the godlike powers of the Fed boil down to three monetary levers.

What the Fed Doesn’t Control

Here’s what the Fed cannot do:
  1. It cannot force any enterprise or person to borrow more money.
  2. It cannot differentiate between productive investments and financial speculation/malinvestments.
  3. It cannot distribute money to households by dropping cash from helicopters; all it can do is make money available to banks.
Since it can’t do any of these, its powers in the real economy are severely limited.

Bond Losses at Federal Reserve Top $192 Billion

objectETF Guide – by Ron DeLegge
The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries (^TNX) has surged 66% over the past three months. And bond investors, especially those with jumbo-sized positions, are getting hammered. How much money has the Federal Reserve lost?
At the end of July, the Federal Reserve held $1.98 trillion in U.S. Treasuries. (See chart below) That figure represents just over half of the Fed’s $3.6 trillion balance sheet.   
Scott Minerd, the Global Chief Investment Officer at Guggenheim Partners notes:
“Our estimate shows that the spike in bond yields since the first quarter of this year has caused a mark-to-market loss of $192 billion on the Fed’s holding assets, equivalent to approximately all of the unrealized gains that the Fed had accumulated since it began to implement quantitative easing in late 2008. Although in keeping with their own accounting principles the Fed does not record mark-to-market losses, a continued increase in bond yields would incur actual losses should the central bank decide to sell assets.”

Investments benefiting from rising rates are leveraged short Treasury ETFs like the ProShares UltraShort US Treasury 20+ Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:TBT) and the Direxion Shares US Treasury 20+ 3x Bear Shares (NYSEARCA:TMV). Both ETFs have jumped between 30% to 50% over the past three months. Not bad when considering the total U.S. bond market (NYSEARCA:AGG) has lost 2.83% while long-term U.S. Treasuries have fallen an even harder 11% year-to-date.
Granted, the Bernanke & Co. does not value its massive bond portfolio on a mark-to-market basis. But the surge in interest rates has already erased almost $200 billion in the Federal Reserve’s capital. But that’s not all.
If interest rates continue to head higher, the value of the Fed’s liquid assets that it could sell would decline and further undermine its capital cushion. And if the velocity of rate increases intensifies, the Fed, with only $62 billion in capital, could see its entire capital base completely wiped out.
This could have a serious domino effect. It could paralyze the Fed’s ability to defend the dollar’s purchasing power, causing Treasury prices (NYSEARCA:TLT) to fall further and thereby push interest rates even higher. Just imagine the unimaginable; a weakened and impotent Fed.
The ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter uses a combination of technical analysis, market sentiment, and common sense to be on the right side of the market. Since the beginning of the year, 78% of our ETF picks have turned a profit and 525% was our biggest gainer. (through 6/30/13)

Economy forces Italians to suicide

A recent human-rights report revealed that economy-related suicides in Italy has increased by 40 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
An Italian health official says financials problems in the recession-hit country force people to commit suicide.
œWe have been observing that some suicidal individuals are reporting economic troubles, failing in their job, unemployment or a lot of debt,” said Maurizio Pompili, the director of the Suicide Prevention Centre at the Sant’Andrea Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome on Saturday.
He went on to say that one of his patients is an entrepreneur that œAt the first meeting, said the main problem was an enormous debt of ‚36m ($48m)… He was determined to commit suicide.”
A recent human-rights report revealed that the number of economy-related suicides in Italy has increased in the first quarter of 2013 by 40 percent from a year ago.
Italy has plunged into its longest recession since World War II, as the country struggles to cope with high jobless rate following the implementation of tough austerity cuts.
The latest figures released by the Italian Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Crafts and Agriculture show an unprecedented increase in the country™s unemployment rate which hit a new record high of 12.2 percent in May, amid an eighth straight quarter of recession – the longest in over 60 years.
The Italian bureau of statistics said the country’s unemployment level increased by 5.7 percent or over 4 million people compared to 2012, with the private sector set to suffer a net loss of 250,000 jobs in 2013.
The agency revealed that nearly one million people will leave the labor market because of redundancies, dismissals and retirements by the end of this year.
Italy started to experience recession after its economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and by 0.7 percent in the year™s fourth quarter.
Over the past decade, Italy has had the slowest growing economy in the eurozone.
Italians have been staging protests against high unemployment, economic adversity, and hardship over a series of government-imposed austerity packages in the recent past.
Republished from: Press TV

Survey: More Than 1 in 3 Young Adults Live At Home With Their Parents!

Survey: More Than 1 in 3 Young Adults Live At Home With Their Parents!

Savers pay the price for banks’ cheap funding

A YEAR after the launch of the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) sent savings rates plummeting, long-suffering savers have been warned that banks and building societies will continue reducing cash returns.
By giving lenders access to cheaper funding in a bid to boost the mortgage market the FLS, introduced last August, has reduced the need for banks and building societies to attract deposits from savers.
But while the housing market is showing signs of recovery, savers have seen millions of pounds wiped off interest payments. And worse is to come, experts warn this weekend, with the FLS remaining in place and the Bank of England signalling last month that interest rates, at a rock-bottom 0.5 per cent since March 2009, could stay there for at least two more years.
David Black, banking specialist at Consumer Intelligence, said: “The FLS has further hammered savers, who were already suffering badly from the effects of the historically low bank base rate.
“There used to be a real appetite to attract savers but this has largely dissipated, with the former eagerness of providers to appear in the numerous savings best-buy tables reduced to a pale shadow of what it was.”
The highest easy access rate has plunged from 3.2 to 1.75 per cent since last August, according to Moneyfacts, lowering the average to just 0.67 per cent.
Banks and building societies slashed easy access rates more than 750 times in the first six months of 2013 alone, Bank of England data shows, wiping more than £800 million off the total interest paid to savers.
Cash Isas have been hit too, with the average rate tumbling from 2.44 to 1.67 per cent in the past year – a trend typified by the reduction in Bank of Scotland’s instant access cash Isa rate from 2.75 to just 1 per cent.
Those with cash in fixed rate savings accounts have seen 
the biggest fall in returns. The typical one-year fixed rate 
account now pays just 2.05 per cent, down from 3.45 per cent last August.
Savers reaching the end of their fixed rate deals face a drop in returns that will see the income paid on some products slashed by more than half.
A dramatic decline in the rate paid on savings products over the past two years is set to hit thousands of people who tied into terms of between one and five years in a bid to beat inflation, research shows.
Savers reinvesting their fixed rate pots into the equivalent products now will lose a collective £1 billion of income, according to HSBC. It found that more than five million fixed-rate products worth almost £93bn mature this year.
A plunge in the rates paid on fixed rate savings will leave many with no choice but to accept rates up to 2.4 per cent lower than those they took out previously.
Sylvia Waycot, editor of, said: “It’s the pound in our pockets that matters the most and FLS means that the average £108 interest available on a £10,000 easy access investment prior 
to launch has reduced to just £67 a year.
“The same investor in a five-year fixed rate bond is looking at a loss of £146 this year as the average return has fallen £378 to only £232.”
Waycot warned that the 
outlook for savers remains bleak. “FLS is set to be with us for a few more years, and unless the government comes up with a counter plan to help savers, such as insisting that lenders borrowing from the cheap FLS pot do so without causing detriment to savers, the unpalatable truth is that there are going to be meagre returns for some time.”
But while savers have suffered since the introduction 
of the FLS, many borrowers have benefited from lower mortgage costs. “There have been winners, and these are primarily those who have recently remortgaged or taken out new mortgage deals, especially where there are undemanding loan-to-value requirements,” said Black.
Yet banks and building societies are accused of using the FLS to fatten their margins. They have taken £16.5bn from the FLS, according to Bank of England figures, yet lending by those using the scheme fell in both late 2012 and in the early months of 2013.
Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, said: “Lending levels still fall short of the amount drawn down against the scheme by £1.8bn, but without the FLS, lending levels would be critically low.
“It has acted like a course of steroids for the mortgage market. It has also helped push house prices skyward, which is great for existing homeowners but a blow for first-time buyers struggling to build up a deposit.”

Detroit workers fear city’s bankruptcy could wipe out their pensions

Members of the Detroit Firefighters Association protest during the City of Detroit's bankruptcy hearing July 24 (AFP)
Thousands of pensioners already struggling to get by are afraid they will be pushed into poverty if the city of Detroit is able to slash their benefits in a bankruptcy court.
Retired fire chief Jerry Franklin Smith spent 39 years battling blazes in a city filled with abandoned buildings and too many arsonists.
He’s worried that if a bankruptcy judge allows the city to wipe out its obligations to his pension fund he’ll need to somehow find a job at the age of 78.
“I’ve only done physical things all my life. But I really can’t do them anymore,” Smith told AFP. “It makes you nervous.”
Police and firefighters don’t qualify for the federally-run Social Security pension plan, which has an average payout of $1,268 a month. So their city-run plan is the only thing keeping them out of food banks or even homeless shelters.
Luckily it is better-funded than a separate plan run for Detroit’s other municipal workers. But it is still owed millions and the city is hoping to slash all pension and retiree health care benefits in order to wipe out debt and reduce future costs.
Emergency manager Kevyn Orr was in court Friday urging a federal judge to find the city eligible for bankruptcy in the second such hearing since the birthplace of the US auto industry became the largest US city to go bust on July 19.
Orr has estimated that about nine billion dollars of the city’s $18.5 billion in debt is owed to the pension funds and retiree health care benefits of the city’s 10,000 workers and 20,000 retirees.
Unions and the pension administrators dispute his calculations and have filed suit to block any significant cuts, noting that pension benefits are protected by Michigan’s constitution.

“Governor (Rick) Snyder has taken an oath to protect every aspect of our constitution, thereby he would be violating said oath should he fail to protect our pensions,” said Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association.
“Though there is a great deal of uncertainty about the direction these proceedings will go, know this; there is no end to the lengths we will go in order to protect the heroes who protect the City of Detroit.”
The legal fight could drag on for months or even years, leaving city workers and retirees who’d planned their lives around those previously fixed payments in limbo.
Carol Conner, 63, has already seen her modest monthly stipend shrink after the city imposed higher fees for retiree health care benefits.
“How am I supposed to get by?” said Conner, who lives on Detroit’s crime-ridden east side on a monthly pension comes that currently comes to less than 1,600 dollars.
Conner, who retired from her position as a building attendant to care for her 83-year-old mother, said she is among many Detroiters who turned to the city as a job of last resort.
The pay wasn’t very good, but she needed a job and health care benefits after a long spell of unemployment. Conner worked at Chrysler and General Motors — which were successfully restructured under bankruptcy protect in 2009 thanks to billions in help from the federal government — but was downsized before she could quality for a pension from either automaker.
Even if she could find another job, she couldn’t take it because her mother “can’t be left alone anymore.”
Many retirees bristle at the fundamental unfairness of being asked to pay for a financial crisis caused by decades of mismanagement and complex social and economic problems.
“I earned it. It wasn’t something that was given to me,” said Michael Mulholland, 65, who retired from water and sewer department.
“It’s deferred income,” he explained. “I worked with a lot of contractors. They didn’t get a pension but they made a lot more money than I did. I won’t have the opportunity to get a retroactive raise.”
Once a bustling beacon of industrial might, the Motor City is now a poster child for urban decay, its landscape littered with abandoned skyscrapers, factories and homes.
Detroit has seen its population shrink by more than half — from 1.8 million in 1950 to 685,000 today — as crime, flight to the suburbs and the hollowing out of the auto industry ate away at its foundations.
Crime is rampant, and the city literally cannot afford to keep the lights on — a whopping 40 percent of streetlights are out.
Roger Howard, 55, doesn’t think the bankruptcy process will make life any better in his troubled neighborhood on Detroit’s east side.
“It would just make things a lot worse for me, said Howard, who was forced into retirement after 31 years as the city sought to slash its budget.

American Nuclear Industry Suffers a Meltdown

by WashingtonsBlog

American Nuclear Power Fizzles

Even though the American government has done everything possible to encourage nuclear power – bywholly subsidizing nuclear powerreducing safety standards after Fukushimaforcing Japan to re-start its nuclear programcovering up the severity of the Fukushima accident, raising acceptable radiation limits and agreeing to buy radioactive Japanese seafood – the so-called “nuclear renaissance” is over in the U.S. (and worldwide).
Duke Energy charged its ratepayers $1.5 billion dollars to build a nuclear power plant in Florida, and thenpulled the plug … and refused to refund the money to its ratepayers.
An attempt to secretly ramp up production at the San Onofre plant in California caused massive problems at the plant.  An internal letter reveals that the plant operator knew of defects at the crippled reactors … but misled federal regulators to get and expedited license.  A judge has now permanently shut down the plant.
Virtually all other American nuclear rectors have suffered problem after problem, and plans for new plans have been mothballed.
The problem is that America’s nuclear reactors are old … and are falling apart piece by piece.
But – even after the Fukushima meltdown – regulators have reduced safety standards.
The Nuclear Regulator Commission say that the risk of a major meltdown at U.S. nuclear reactors ismuch higher than it was at Fukushima (and Fukushima is worse than ever.)

And an accident in the U.S. could be lot larger than in Japan … partly because our nuclear plants hold alot more radioactive material.
Indeed, nuclear is expensive and bad for the environment.  Nuclear is wholly subsidized by the government … and would never survive in a free market…. and it doesn’t really reduce global warming.
And it’s not helping inspire confidence in the our ability to safely handle radioactive materials that the former governor of Washington said that the Hanford Nuclear reservation is leaking 1,000 gallons a year, and that there is “no available technology to plug the leaks”.  And see this.   60 of the 177 underground tanks have already leaked and all of the tanks are at risk, which threatens the Columbia River.   There is a chance that the place may explode.
And it’s not helping that a “mass release of floating radioactive particles in metro St. Louis” may be released by the inferno at a landfill containing 8,700 tons of nuclear waste (and all efforts to stop it havefailed so far).
Nuclear energy can be cheap, or it can be safe … but it can’t be both. If we want safe nuclear plants, we have to demand that the plant operators spend real money to maintain their reactors, and prevent easy-to-prevent risks.
And – instead of staying with an archaic design chosen solely because it helps to make nuclear bombs – we must decentralize, to more economical and environmentally friendly energy sources … nuclear or otherwise.

New Tax Hike Push In DC Fuels Debate After High-Taxed Detroit Goes Bankrupt!

New Tax Hike Push In DC Fuels Debate After High-Taxed Detroit Goes Bankrupt!

Insight: Inside the battle at Germany's Siemens

By Jens Hack, Maria Sheahan and Philipp Halstrick
MUNICH/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Tension in the highest ranks of German engineering giant Siemens had been brewing for months when top managers gathered late last month to review the state of the business.
The 166-year-old titan of German industry was having a horrible year, its image tarnished by pricey delays to offshore wind and high-speed train projects, and the closure of its solar thermal business, which had lost 1 billion euros.
But few of those present could have guessed, as they entered the sleek white Siemens Forum building in Munich, that long-running resentments and rivalries were about to boil over with dramatic effect.
The nine members of the management board, led by Chief Executive Peter Loescher, had come together on a Thursday in the midst of a German heat wave, one week before Siemens was to publish its third quarter results.
With some executives taking part by phone, the discussion took a gloomy turn, sources familiar with the talks said, as the heads of the company's big divisions -- industry, energy, healthcare and infrastructure -- warned about disappointing orders and a deteriorating economic environment.
Some argued that Loescher's goal, announced less than nine months before, to boost the firm's operating profit margin to 12 percent by 2014, looked unrealistic. Joe Kaeser, the finance chief who had long viewed that goal with skepticism, agreed.
Loescher pushed back, but to no avail. The fateful decision was taken: Siemens should abandon the profit goal.
Hours later, after a green light from in-house legal experts, the company put out a terse "ad hoc" statement to announce the news. It took the market by surprise and Siemens stock nose-dived.
It was the sixth time in Loescher's six years at the helm of Siemens that he had misjudged the group's profit outlook and it would be the last.
Within days, the 55-year-old Austrian, the first outsider ever to run the company, was unceremoniously booted out.
Kaeser, a "Siemensianer" of over three decades whose disdain for his boss was an open secret in the company and among investors, was hoisted into the top job. Both Loescher and Kaeser declined to be interviewed for this story, although Kaeser told a German newspaper he had played no part in Loescher's removal.
The change at the top of Germany's second most valuable company was shocking both for its speed and for the ruthless way in which it was carried out in a country known for its cozy, consensual approach to business.
It prompted a reaction from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces an election next month. She called Siemens a "flagship" and said she hoped it would soon return to "calm waters".
More importantly, the turmoil at Siemens has highlighted weaknesses at the highest levels of German industry at a time when the country is being held up as a model of manufacturing strength in a region in crisis.
Loescher, the son of a sawmill owner, was hailed as a savior when he arrived six years ago from U.S. healthcare group Merck after a bribery scandal at Siemens that claimed the scalps of his predecessor Klaus Kleinfeld and chairman Heinrich von Pierer.
He wasted little time, tackling the scandal head-on and launching the biggest corporate restructuring in decades at Siemens, a company of some 370,000 employees -- a third based in Germany -- which traces its roots to an electrical telegraph company founded by Werner von Siemens in Berlin in 1847.
But Loescher, a tall, reserved man who speaks five languages including Japanese, soon ran into trouble.
Workers fought back against job cuts and the clean-up of the bribery scandal cost hundreds of millions of euros. The new CEO issued his first profit warning only nine months into the job.
Huge writedowns in the company's healthcare and solar businesses followed.
Under Loescher, Siemens failed to keep up with rivals such as Philips (PHIA.AS) and General Electric (GE) in terms of innovation and profitability. Its stock now trades at 12.4 times estimated 12-month forward earnings, at a discount to both Philips and GE, which trade at multiples of 15.3 and 14.0, according to StarMine data.
The size and complexity of its business portfolio -- it makes products ranging from gas turbines, to trains, ultrasound machines and hearing aids - have also been a problem of late. Investors have been particularly critical of costly delays plaguing the offshore wind and train businesses.
"It simply should not be possible for a Siemens executive to sign a contract that can result in a half-billion euro loss for late delivery," said Peter Reilly, an analyst at Deutsche Bank.
Some insiders believe Loescher simply failed to recognize that another profit warning would sink him.
"He really underestimated the impact of this," said one source close to the company who requested anonymity. "He can be naive on things like this."
Others see him as the victim of a well-organized putsch, led by Chairman Gerhard Cromme, with the tacit consent of Kaeser.
"It looks to me like he was set up for a fall," said Pascal Boeuf, a fund manager at UBS. "There are signs that this putsch had been planned for some time."
What does seem clear is that Cromme, who brought Loescher on board in 2007, worked actively in the hours after the profit warning to lay the groundwork for his exit.
Cromme, who declined comment, had been forced to step down as chairman of ThyssenKrupp (TKA.DE) just four months before, under fire for rubber-stamping bad investments by the steel group's management. The same couldn't be allowed to happen at Siemens.
It is also clear that relations between Loescher and Kaeser were fraught. One source told of a shouting match between the two in an elevator over Loescher's attempt to muzzle the outspoken Kaeser on conference calls with analysts.
At a recent shareholders' meeting in Munich, the two were asked pointedly about their relationship. Loescher played down the tensions, but Kaeser's response did little to ease concerns: "We complement each other like light and darkness," he said.
A former employee says the two hate each other "like the plague".
Still, Loescher did not see the axe coming even after the profit warning sent Siemens stock sliding 8 percent. The next day, a Friday, he gave an interview to Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung in which he spoke of "headwinds" and vowed to stay on.
Little did he know that phone calls to organize his exit had begun the evening before, shortly after the "ad hoc" release landed, and that two meetings of board members to discuss his fate had already been set for Saturday.
The first of these meetings was held at the Kempinski Hotel at Munich airport and heard the views of the 10 members of the Siemens board who represent the interests of shareholders.
The other was made up of 10 Siemens labor representatives, who by German custom hold half of the board seats. Their meeting took place at the Siemens Forum building where the profit warning had been decided two days before.
At the Kempinski, Cromme quickly made clear that Loescher must go, sources familiar with the talks told Reuters. One described the chairman's plan as "meticulously prepared".
But Josef Ackermann, the former CEO of Deutsche Bank, pushed back, according to another source, at one point telling Cromme: "Gerhard, you can't do it this way".
Two board members -- Michael Diekmann, the head of German insurance group Allianz (ALVG.DE), and Nicola Leibinger-Kammueller of technology firm Trumpf -- sided with Ackermann. Six others supported Cromme, making it 7 to 3 in favor of ditching Loescher. Neither Ackermann, Diekmann nor Leibinger-Kammueller would comment.
Meanwhile in the city centre, the 10 other board members were reluctant to take sides on Loescher's future. But they feared if they remained neutral, denying Cromme the majority he needed to push out Loescher, then the chairman himself would fall, to be replaced by Ackermann, whom they viewed with suspicion.
In the end, the decision was taken to go along with Cromme and his plan to install Kaeser as CEO. Loescher's fate was sealed.
Can Kaeser, a Bavarian who changed his name to Joe from Josef during a stint in the United States, get Siemens back on track?
Ben Uglow, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, believes his intimate knowledge of Siemens and focus on shareholder value are "relatively unique", giving him as good a chance as anyone.
Still, the challenge is daunting.
Kaeser will have to face down the unions and pare back Siemens' unwieldy business portfolio in order to boost profitability. Crucially, he must show he can say no to contracts that could come back to bite the company.
"Siemens has had an execution problem, and I do not expect that to change," said one fund manager who works for a top-10 investor in Siemens.
The economic environment, in Europe and Asia, won't make things easy. On Wednesday, Kaeser acknowledged that a pickup in China was taking "significantly longer than hoped".
And then there are the lingering tensions arising from Loescher's abrupt ejection, and suspicions that Cromme and Kaeser may have colluded to dislodge him. One executive described the battle between Ackermann and Cromme as "red hot".
"Cromme has to go," the fund manager said. "Only then can Siemens successfully manage to reinvent itself."
(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze and Tom Atkins; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Giles Elgood)

French bank Natixis to shed up to 700 workers: report

PARIS (Reuters) - French bank Natixis (KN.PA) plans to shed 500 to 700 workers with a voluntary departure scheme that is to be negotiated with unions in September, the Journal de Dimanche reported on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for Natixis declined to comment on the story.
"Several departments will be reorganized at Natixis," a union source told the paper. "There will be a lay-off plan before the end of the year."
Banks worldwide are shedding jobs as stricter regulations and euro zone worries take their toll on trading income and investment banking units. Many began shrinking several years ago and are now cutting more deeply as they reassess their business to cope with tougher capital rules, while some are cutting because of acquisitions or mergers.
Natixis will seek to encourage some staff to take early retirement or jobs outside the company, the report said.
The negotiations with unions started in June and an internal meeting is scheduled for September 2 to discuss plans, the paper said. The bank aims to present a new strategy plan in November.
Natixis in February said it would simplify its finances by shedding a 20 percent stake in BPCE, a network of cooperative lenders which itself controls Natixis.
In May it posted an 18 percent rise in first-quarter profits to 337 million euros, excluding accounting adjustments on its own debt.
(Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Insight: Untangling the UK bid for a Bulgarian pension fund

By Laurence Fletcher and Tsvetelia Tsolova
LONDON/SOFIA (Reuters) - British company United Capital, which agreed last month to buy most of Bulgaria's biggest private pension fund Doverie, has no stock market listing, no website and no phone number.
Its registered office is a terraced house in the town of Grays in Essex, occupied by Tanja Pazarcik, who works for Insolution Service, an agency that helps people set up companies. It uses the address for a number of its clients. Pazarcik says she forwards United's mail to an address in Austria but otherwise knows little about the firm.
United Capital's accounts filed in late October showed the company had 14 pounds in cash and is dormant. The transaction price for Doverie has not been revealed. In a July 15 statement the seller, Vienna Insurance Group AG, said only it had agreed to sell its 92.58 percent of Pension Insurance Company Doverie to United Capital PLC.
Such gaps have raised questions in Bulgaria about United Capital's intentions for Doverie, which with almost 1.8 billion levs ($1.2 billion) under management and more than 1.25 million contributors is an important pension provider in Europe's poorest country.
In Britain, transparency campaigners have latched onto the controversy to renew their calls for tougher disclosure rules.
A Reuters examination of company documents and interviews in Britain, Austria, Bulgaria, Russia and Hong Kong has traced the ownership of United Capital to a series of corporate entities.
Bulgaria's ruling Socialists have appealed to the country's financial regulator to halt the sale. The watchdog says it will seek more information about United Capital's owners, finances and how it proposes to fund the purchase when United Capital files its documents for approval of the transaction.
A spokesman for Vienna Insurance Group said it carried out an examination of all the offers it received from several parties and, after an evaluation, put together a shortlist.
"From there, the final decision was for United Capital," the spokesman said. He did not respond to requests for further comment on what Vienna Insurance knew about United Capital.
In an emailed statement on July 26, United Capital said it was a UK-based financial services "holding entity", which, along with affiliates, manages more than 2 billion euros and which has "participation" in insurance companies, real estate funds, banks and industrial assets in the EU, U.S. and Russia.
"There's nothing the slightest bit unusual about this purchase or selection process which was vetted (by an independent entity)," said U.S.-based lawyer Deborah Sturman, chairman of United Capital, in a telephone interview.
"United Capital is a perfectly normal U.K.-registered financial services holding company." When asked about concerns over the deal in Bulgaria, she said: "if people have a problem with it, I don't care."
According to UK regulatory filings United Capital was incorporated in 2007 by a UK firm called Fletcher Kennedy, which creates offshore companies. Fletcher Kennedy's website says the firm can set up companies in offshore centers such as Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar and the Seychelles. It also says it can set up companies in the UK in three hours for a fee of 208 pounds.
"You do not have to be a UK national or resident to be an officer of a UK company," the website states. "The company must also have a registered office within the United Kingdom. This is the official address of the company, it does not have to be a trading address, and the company does not have to maintain a presence at the address. We will provide you with an address to use as your registered office."
Director Charles Fletcher said the firm was instructed by an individual he declined to name to set up United Capital, and "the complex structure that you mention came in long after our short involvement with the company ended."
He added: "In 2007 there was no requirement for formation agents to carry out due diligence checks. Having said that, we would have obtained identity documents from the instructing client."
"Companies having a registered office at an address other than their trading address is a matter for the legislators."
Once United Capital was founded Fletcher Kennedy resigned as director and secretary soon afterwards, according to regulatory filings. A formation agent acting as the first director and then resigning was standard practice at the time, Charles Fletcher said.
United Capital's accounts for the year to May 2012, filed in October, show the firm had almost 2.9 million pounds in cash. Amended accounts filed later that month show it had 14 pounds in cash. Both show the company to be dormant.
Bulgarian politicians and contributors to the Doverie pension fund say they want more details about United Capital's owners.
In its emailed statement on July 26, United Capital said one of its significant investors was Sergei Mastyugin, a Russian banker. United Capital chairman Sturman said in an emailed response to Reuters on Aug 2 that Asia Trade Management, based in Hong Kong and whose principal owner is Mastyugin, had a stake of very close to 50 percent.
A spokeswoman for Mastyugin was not available to comment.
Based on regulatory filings in Hong Kong, the business activities and shareholders of Asia Trade Management are unclear. A representative for Asia Trade Management declined to comment but said a spokeswoman from Investbank - a Russian bank in which Mastyugin has an 18.3 percent stake and where he sits on the supervisory board - would respond. That spokeswoman was not able to comment, however.
United Capital's emailed statement on July 26 also said LJ Capital, the London-based merchant banking arm of privately held LJ Group, had increased its interest in the firm. Sturman said that LJ Capital had a stake of very close to 50 percent. LJ Capital declined to comment.
UK regulatory filings show that United Capital has four directors. Three - Slobodan Ristic, Guenter Rohr, and Dr Heinz Russwurm - live in Vienna or nearby. The fourth director is Sturman.
Rohr has been a director since 2007. Ristic, Russwurm and Sturman were appointed on July 11 of this year, the filings show, four days before Vienna Insurance Group announced it would sell its stake in the Bulgarian fund to United.
Rohr, who advertises himself as running an IT and corporate consultancy firm, said he would pass on questions from Reuters to "the relevant people".
Russwurm, who is listed in directories as a tax accountant, could not be contacted for comment, nor could Ristic.
Plamen Dimitrov, the head of Bulgaria's largest trade union CITUB which has a 1 percent stake in Doverie, said his union wanted to know more about United Capital.
"The company has changed its majority owner several times, but the buyers were always well established companies and now we get this company (United Capital) that no one has heard of," he said.
Previous majority owners include the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, Deutsche Bank and the Dutch Kardan Financial Services Group. Deutsche Bank and Kardan declined to comment. The EBRD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Daniela Petkova, head of the Doverie management board, said the uncertainty about its future ownership was damaging the fund: "I do not know now what the fair value of the company will be, as many people have already filed declarations to change their pension fund because of the lack of clarity. We are speaking about thousands."
A general shareholder meeting of Doverie on July 30, at which Deborah Sturman was present, did not provide any new information on the buyer, Dimitrov said. Another meeting is set for August 20.
(additional reporting by Mark Anderson in London, Nishant Kumar and Clare Baldwin in Hong Kong, Maria Kiselyova and Megan Davies in Moscow, Georgina Prodhan and Angelika Gruber in Vienna and Lauren Tara LaCapra and Brian Grow in New York; writing by Simon Robinson; editing by Janet McBride)