Friday, April 18, 2014

Internal report slams U.S. handling of Abound Solar guarantees

 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Energy displayed a "lack of guidance" in how it dealt with millions of dollars in loan guarantees to now-bankrupt Abound Solar Manufacturing, the agency's internal watchdog said in a report on Thursday.
The DOE in recent years has tried to help commercialize the production of solar equipment such as panels and photovoltaic modules with a series of loan guarantees.
The program was savaged by Republican lawmakers after the high-profile bankruptcy of California-based solar manufacturer Solyndra in 2011. The latest audit of loan guarantees to Abound could re-open those wounds.

BLM next land grab: 90,000 acres of Texas Ranchers’ Land near Red River

Looks like Harry Reid’s BLM is getting ready for a really big land grab. The next target appears to be 90,000 of acres of Texas Ranchers’ Land near Red River. This amounts to about 116 miles of land near the Texas-Oklahoma border. On this Red River land grab, the Texas Ranchers have a deeed and have paid taxes on for over a hundred years. But of course, that doesn’t matter to the BLM thugs.
According to the BLM, the Red River is always Accretion (gradual accumulation of sediment) to the south, and always Avulsion (rapid formation of a new river channel) to the north. So according to the BLM, the boundary only moves one direction, never in the direction that favors the ranchers. They are looking to re-draw the entire portion of the Red River boundary. That includes 90,000 acres of land along a 116 mile stretch of the river.
BLM next land grab: 90,000 acres of Texas Ranchers’ Land near Red River
BLM next land grab: 90,000 acres of Texas Ranchers’ Land near Red River

American Freedom Fighters:
“BLM officials believe they have a responsibility to manage land they believe is federal which includes an estimated 90,000 acres along 116 miles of the Red River. If land is found to be public, BLM officials say they have three options: leave the land open, closed, or open with limitations.” January 2014
Public input ignored?
Land that has been in the families of ranchers is to be seized as “public lands” that would be subject to fees or blocked off entirely from rancher’s use. Or in some cases, moving the boundary line over to Oklahoma, where Texas ranchers can lose their rights to the lands that they have owned for more than a century. The BLM had open meetings back in January to “take input” from the public …but they are moving forward with their plan to seize the land anyway. There was likely never any intention of actually listening to the rancher’s stand.
The taking of property from land owners, the stealing of cattle, all of these things are apparently the modus operandi of the Bureau of Land Management. There are no tortoises involved in this incident, just land-grabbing feds who are intent to take away the property of ranchers that have owned it for hundreds of years. Will it come to armed confrontation as is occurring in Nevada? We don’t know.
April 15, 2014 · Filed Under Latest Ramblings

China to Boost Space Defense in ‘New-Type Combat Force’

US Dollars To Be Swept Out Of Russia

Published on Nov 14, 2013 
One of the world’s reserve currencies, the U.S. dollar, may soon disappear in Russia. According to deputies of the State Duma, the Russians trust the dollar, despite the U.S. crisis. Russian MPs are worried that the dollar system may collapse in 2017 due to the growth of the U.S. government debt.Michael Dyagterev, politician, member of the State Duma from the Liberal Democratic Party“The main objective of the bill is to have a discussion. This is multi- task goal, one of the parts of which is to stop the entry of the dollar in Russia. The second task is to push our leaders towards making all our export operations, including oil and gas ones, in rubles. And, as the crown of the strategy, to create a global reserve currency called the ruble. There’s nothing to fear. It’s the Americans who should be worried. Their national debt is 17 trillion dollars, and it will grow from month to month. Buildup debt is a strategy of the American elite. Since debt is a process that has its end, then the process will end with a default or any other type of turmoil. We need to convert all reserves of the country into gold. No currency should be left there, all paper reserves are disastrous for Russia. This is also a part of the strategy that should be conducted.”Should the bill on the ban of the circulation and storage of U.S. dollars in Russia be approved, the owners of American bank notes will have to either spend their dollar cash within one year or exchange it for another currency. Otherwise, banks will be forced to sell dollars at an average exchange rate of the previous year. There will be special measures provided to prevent the storage and use of dollars. The American currency will be seized by law enforcement agencies for a period of up to 30 days, and then exchanged and returned to the owner in the domestic currency.Michael Dyagterev, politician, member of the State Duma from the Liberal Democratic Party.“With regard to the dollars kept by citizens, the bill stipulated no special measures. We simply encourage people to convert all their dollar deposits in rubles, exchange all cash dollars for rubles, or some reliable currency, for example, the Swiss franc, or buy gold. In the event dollars are found, the state will pay the equivalent in rubles, dollars will be withdraw from circulation and exchanged for rubles.”Will the bill come into force? It is obvious that it will trigger a vivid discussion reminiscent to the never-ending debate between Westerners and Slavophiles.

The Stock Market Is More Expensive Than Usual, Q1 Earnings Growth Is Now Projected To Be The Lowest Since Q3 2012

Not only are stock prices near all-time highs, they’re also getting more expensive.
And by expensive, we mean price-earnings ratios are getting high.
Currently, the price-to-forecasted earnings ratio of the S&P 500 is 15.2, notes FactSet’s John Butters.
“This P/E ratio is based on Wednesday’s closing price (1862.31) and forward 12-month EPS estimate ($122.62),” said Butters.
Q1 Earnings Season Summary: More Than Half Have Missed Revenues
When it comes to Q1 earnings expectations one thing is well known: they are low. Very low. So low in fact that as we showed earlier this week, Q1 earnings growth is now projected to be the lowest since Q3 2012, a dramatic change from EPS expectations at the start of the first quarter when it was optimism, all the way.
We Could Be In Trouble If Global Growth Stays This Low For Much Longer
When it comes to the state of the global economy, there’s both good news and bad news to report. On a positive note, Credit Suisse economists forecast that global GDP will increase 3.3 percent this year, an improvement over last year’s 2.9 percent expansion. The bad news? Even at that improved level, growth is merely hovering near the 40-year average of 3.4 percent. Since we’re technically in a recovery, the economy should be growing fasterthan average, and the fact that it isn’t indicates potential GDPis lower than in other recoveries.
Neal Soss, Credit Suisse’s Vice Chairman of Global Fixed Income and Economics Research, says that it’s not unusual to have periods of sluggish growth after a major financial crisis, as governments, businesses, financial institutions, and consumers retrench. The danger arises if that retrenchment phase drags on for too long. At that point, mediocre growth can start to feel more permanent, and businesses will feel a declining incentive to invest in the possibility of expansion. What’s more, the skills of the long-term unemployed can atrophy to the point that they verge on being permanently unemployable. “The downside to an episode of this sort – if that sluggish growth continues – isn’t just the slower growth itself. It’s that the potential of the economy will deteriorate,” he says.
If The Smart Money Is Selling, Who’s Buying?
Based on Bloomberg’s Smart Money Flow indicator, there is a very significant amount of distribution going on… the question is just who is soaking up the smart money selling? Company buybacks, Johnny 5, or a greater-fool retail investor?
Perhaps this chart from Lance Roberts at STA Wealth provides some color for who?
Google testing dual support…that NEEDS to hold!
Google has created a quality rising channel and it broke above this channel last year and now is about to test it as support. As the same time a steep support line is coming into play, creating dual support.
Support is support until broken.
If support should not hold here, it would send a heck of a message to the tech sector! Stay tuned here!!!
I think the reason is obvious why the global economic growth is slowing.

Government economic rescue packages have enriched the rich and didn’t do much to help the middle class and the poor. Money is now concentrated in the hands of those who don’t need to buy anything, while those who need to buy things no longer have enough money to buy them.

They helped people who didn’t need help and neglected those who did need help. And such neglect now comes at a cost.

Once you increase economic inequality beyond a certain point, then it continues to increase on its own. Because decreased consumer spending leads to deflation, which enriches the rich by increasing the value of their money and impoverishes the poor by reducing employment and other economic opportunities for them.

Euro Politics behind Greek Bond Sale w/Yanis Varoufakis & Fed Policy w/Tim Duy

Our lead story: Lawmakers are looking to crackdown on high frequency trading. In the European Union, regulators are poised to approve some of the toughest restrictions yet. Meanwhile, here in the U-S. The world’s largest futures market, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is being sued by three of its users who allege that the company sold high speed traders access to information ahead of other market participants. Erin takes a look.We sit down with Economist Yanis Varoufakis for his view on the Greek bond sale and the future of the European recovery. He argues things are terrible in Greece, and that these bonds are de-coupled from the rest of Greece’s debt. Then we move onto Economist and blogger Tim Duy who gives his take on the Fed and Fed policy.Finally, in today’s Big Deal, Edward Harrison and Erin look at frothiness in the tech world. How bubbly is the market? Or is it bubbly at all? Don’t miss it!

REALIST NEWS – America Now Borrows To Pay Other Countries’ Debts

Europe Dragged Into A Division Of The World Between Debtors And Creditors: The United States’ Desperate Solutions For Not Sinking Alone

In the present confrontation between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian crisis, the image of the Cold War inevitably comes to mind and the media are obviously fond of it. However, contrary to what it gives us to understand, it’s not Russia that seeks the return of an iron curtain but really the US. An iron curtain separating the old powers and emerging nations; the world before and the world afterwards; debtors and creditors. And this in the crazy hope of preserving the American way of life and the US’ influence over “its” camp in the absence of being able to impose it on the whole world. In other words, go down with as many companions as possible to give the impression of not sinking.
For the US, these are the current stakes in fact: drag along the whole Western camp with them to be able to continue dominating and trading with enough countries. So, we are witnessing a formidable operation of turning round opinion and leaders in Europe to ensure docile and understanding rulers vis-à-vis the American boss, supported by a blitzkrieg to link them permanently with the TTIP and to cut them off from what could be their lifeline, namely the BRICS, their huge markets, their vibrant future, their link with developing countries, etc. We are analyzing all these aspects in this GEAB issue, as well as the subtle use of the fear of deflation to convince Europeans to adopt US methods.
In the light of the extreme danger of these methods used by the US, it goes without saying that leaving the US ship wouldn’t be an act of betrayal by Europe, but really a major step forward for the world as we have already extensively analyzed in previous GEAB issues (1).
Unfortunately, the most reasonable European leaders are completely paralyzed and the best strategy that they are still capable of currently putting into effect, in the best case scenario, seems to be simply to delay (2), certainly useful and welcome but hardly sufficient…
Layout of the full article:
This public announcement contains excerpt from sections 1 and 2.


With the internet and “leak” type issues, keeping a secret has become difficult for secret agents and countries with dirty hands. Besides Snowden’s or WikiLeaks disclosures, we have further learned recently that the US was behind a social network in Cuba targeting the destabilization of the government in power (3).
We have been able to watch this video opportunely leaked on YouTube (4) showing the Americans at work behind the coup d’état in the Ukraine. Or again, it would seem that they are not innocent in Erdo?an’s current destabilization in Turkey (5), a country whose situation we will go into in more detail in the next GEAB issue (6)…
The masks are falling… certainly on the evidence, but that nobody can ignore.
But the United States is no longer satisfied with developing countries or banana republics… In Europe, they are also managing to turn round the leaders one after the other, so that they obediently follow American interests. It’s no longer “what’s good for General Motors is good for America” as Charles Wilson (former GM CEO) said in 1953, but “what’s good for the US is good for Europe”. It already has Cameron, Rajoy, Barroso and Ashton’s support… It has succeeded in getting Donald Tusk’s Poland’s whilst he was strongly resistant at the beginning of his term of office (7), Italy’s thanks to Renzi’s opportunist coup d’état (8), and France’s Hollande/Valls thanks in particular to a ministerial reshuffle and a Prime Minister little suspected of anti-Americanism. Unlike the beginning of his term of office when he played the independence card on Mali or on other fronts, François Hollande seems to be completely submissive to the United States. What pressure has been put on him? As for Germany, it’s still resisting somewhat but for how long (9)? We will expand on these remarks in the Telescope.
Europe is thus dragged towards US interests that aren’t its own, neither in terms of politics, geopolitics, or trade as we will see. Whilst the BRICS have chosen an opposite path and are seeking to withdraw from the henceforth profoundly negative influence of the US at any price, Europe is now being taken for a ride. Evidenced, for example, by Belgium’s purchase of $130 billion worth of US Treasuries in three months from October 2013 to January 2040 (latest figures available (10)), being at an annual rate greater than its GDP (11)… It’s certainly not Belgium itself which is responsible for this aberration, but Brussels of course, that’s to say the EU as a little US soldier.
Politically Europe is stifled by the US which can take heart in the absence of any leadership. And the way to permanently seal this American stranglehold over Europe is called the TTIP…


We have already amply documented it: unlike the triumphant discussions of “recovery” based on rising real estate prices and the stock exchange which is at its highest, the real US economy is in dire straits. Food shortages are higher than in Greece.

On the right, percentage of the population which can't afford food, by country (on the left, change 2007-2012). Source : Bloomberg / OECD.
On the right, percentage of the population which can’t afford food, by country (on the left, change 2007-2012). Source : Bloomberg / OECD.
Shops, even good value ones, are closing through lack of customers (12). Demand for real estate loans are at their lowest, which bodes ill for what follows next and presages an imminent reversal, as we anticipated in the GEAB n°81.
But as we have already said, this isn’t the most important thing. The TTIP’s major stake is the Dollar’ s preservation in trade and keeping Europe in the US’ lap in order to avoid the constitution of a Euro-BRICS bloc able to counterbalance the US.
Thus, the Ukrainian crisis, under the pretext of Russian aggression and gas supply, is a good way, in the panic, of imposing the US and the lobbies’ agenda in the face of European leaders who are too weak to act. What wasn’t expected is that the lobbies’ interests are not necessarily going in the direction one thinks…
Notes :
1 And as China, in particular, asks Europe to do via its swap agreements, for instance.
2 Waiting especially for European elections.
3 Source : The Guardian, 03/04/2014.
4 Source : Reuters, 06/02/2014.
5 Following the US’ use of social networks in Cuba as previously mentioned, it’s not surprising that Erdo?an decided to cut off Twitter in Turkey. Moreover, Fethullah Gülen, founder of the Gülen movement opposed to the Erdo?an government, lives in… the US. Sources : Aljazeera (13/03/2014), Wikipédia.
6 A small digression: our team can’t help thinking that if de Gaulle, so admired in France, were in power today, he himself would also be considered as an autocrat to overthrow, like Erdo?an or Putin… Effective leadership in the interest of one’s country now seems to be considered incompatible with democracy in its current form, which must be weak…
7 Source : Wikipédia. Donald Tusk is now a fervent shale gas supporter in Poland and rising up against Russia. Sources : Wall Street Journal (11/03/2014), DnaIndia(05/04/2014).
8 Read also RT, 01/04/2014.
9 Source : EUObserver, 10/04/2014.
10 Source : US Treasury.
11 With its trade surplus of about 1% of GDP it will struggle to explain this purchasing power all by itself…
12 See, for example ABCNews, 10/04/2014.
Jeudi 17 Avril 2014
Lu 676 fois

Lorry driver in Karpal crash tests positive for drugs

 Lorry driver in Karpal crash tests positive for drugs

Traces of cannabis have been found in the urine sample of the lorry driver whose vehicle was involved in a collision with the Toyota Alphard which the late Karpal Singh was travelling in.
Perak police chief Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani told The Malaysian Insider that the initial urine screening of the 45-year-old driver revealed traces of cannabis.
"We have sent the urine sample to the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh for confirmation," Acryl said.
This is the second incident that the police have announced, that the driver of a heavy-duty vehicle had tested positive for drugs.
On Tuesday, police said the driver of a double-decker express bus, which crashed on Saturday resulting in three deaths, tested positive for drugs and will be charged.
Bentong OCPD Superintendant Mansor Mohd Nor said the bus driver, Wan Khairul Affendi Wan Mustafa, 35, would be charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, at a Magistrate's Court.
The offence carries a jail term of up to two years or a fine of up to RM5,000, upon conviction.
During the 12.30am incident at KM11 Jalan Bentong-Raub, the bus crashed into a pole, killing an African man, his pregnant Malaysian wife and another passenger.
Ten other passengers including Wan Khairul were injured in the tragedy.
The bus, carrying 69 passengers, was heading to Kota Baru from Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian Insider also learnt that initial checks revealed that Karpal's driver is believed to have 15 outstanding traffic summonses for speeding.
Checks on the Toyota Alphard revealed that a total of 29 traffic summonses had been issued, of which 15 had not been settled.
Acryl said this was the result of initial checks and investigations which were conducted under Section 41(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987.
The accident is believed to have occurred about 1.10am when the multipurpose vehicle (MPV) bearing Karpal collided with a five-ton Mitsubishi Canter lorry.
The collision took place at KM306.1 of the North-South Expressway. There were five people in the MPV and three in the lorry.
The five in the MPV were Karpal, his son Ramkarpal, his personal assistant Michael Cornelius, an Indonesian maid and driver C. Selvam.
In the lorry, apart from the driver, there was a woman, Nur Azlina Ahmad, 23, and a four-year-old girl Nurieman Diana Qhaleesha Abdullah.
Both Karpal and Michael are believed to have died at the scene following the collision while the maid suffered severe injuries. – April 17, 2014.

Everything is a BUBBLE Because of the Fed!

Shrimp Is Big. Now It’s Sick. And Really Expensive
Greenspan said he “would be surprised if there was a QE3″ because it would “continue erosion of the dollar.”
Wealthy foreigners buy up swaths of UK farmland and country estates
Ultraluxury Apartment Sales Drive Records in Manhattan Real Estate

18 Stats That Prove That Government Dependence Has Reached Epidemic Levels

Heritage Foundation
Did you know that the number of Americans getting benefits from the federal government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million?  In other words, the number of people that are taking money out of the system is far greater than the number of people that are putting money into the system.  And did you know that nearly 70 percent of all of the money that the federal government spends goes toward entitlement and welfare programs?  When it comes to the transfer of wealth, nobody does it on a grander scale than the U.S. government.  Most of what the government does involves taking money from some people and giving it to other people.  In fact, at this point that is the primary function of the federal government.
Just check out the chart below.  It comes from the Heritage Foundation, and it shows that 69 percent of all federal money is spent either on entitlements or on welfare programs…
Heritage Foundation
So when people tell you that the main reason why we are being taxed into oblivion is so that we can “build roads” and provide “public services”, they are lying to you.  The main reason why the government taxes you so much is so that they can take your money and give it to someone else.
We have become a nation that is completely and totally addicted to government money.  The following are 18 stats that prove that government dependence has reached epidemic levels…
#1 According to an analysis of U.S. government numbers conducted by Terrence P. Jeffrey, there are 86 million full-time private sector workers in the United States paying taxes to support the government, and nearly 148 million Americans that are receiving benefits from the government each month.  How long can such a lopsided system possibly continue?
#2 Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.
#3 The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.
#4 Today, the federal government runs about 80 different “means-tested welfare programs”, and almost all of those programs have experienced substantial growth in recent years.
#5 Back in 1960, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 10 percent.  In the year 2000, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 21 percent.  Today, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages is approximately 35 percent.
#6 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the total number of Americans on food stamps has gone from 32 million to nearly 47 million.
#7 Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.
#8 It sounds crazy, but the number of Americans on food stamps now exceedsthe entire population of the nation of Spain.
#9 According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps is now greater than the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”
#10 According to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, 43 percentof all immigrants that have been in the United States for at least 20 years are still on welfare.
#11 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today,more than 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
#12 The number of Americans on Medicare is projected to grow from a little bit more than 50 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.
#13 Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.
#14 If the number of Americans enrolled in the Social Security disability program were gathered into a single state, it would be the 8th largest state in the entire country.
#15 In 1968, there were 51 full-time workers for every American on disability.  Today, there are just 13 full-time workers for every American on disability.
#16 It is being projected that the number of Americans on Social Security will rise from about 62 million today to more than 100 million in 25 years.
#17 Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfallover the next 75 years.
#18 According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program each month.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.
Many will read this and will assume that I am against helping the poor.  That is completely and totally not true.  There will always be people that are impoverished, and this happens for many reasons.  In many cases, people simply lack the capacity to take care of themselves.  It is a good thing to take care of such people, whether the money comes from public or private sources.  In every society, those that are the most vulnerable need to be looked after.
But it is a very troubling sign that the number of people on government assistance is now far, far greater than the number of people with full-time jobs.  This is not a sustainable situation.  The federal government is already drowning in debt, and yet more people become dependent on the government with each passing day.
The long-term solution is to get more Americans working or starting their own businesses, but the federal government continues to pursue policies that are absolutely killing the creation of jobs and the creation of small businesses in this country.  So our epidemic of government dependence is going to continue to get worse.
And many of these programs are absolutely riddled with fraud and corruption.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Natural News article
To understand the extent of this fraudulent waste, go no further than Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who raked in $20.8 million from Medicare in 2012 alone. Dr. Melgen isn’t the only one bathing in the fraud of this crony government program. Medicare dished out over $1 million to almost 4,000 doctors in 2012, according to the new data release analyzed by The Washington Post.
Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is calling on the public for help in identifying fraud. He says, “The program is funded by and large by taxpayer dollars. The public has a right to know what it is paying for. We know there is fraud in the system. We are asking for the public’s help to check, to find waste, and to find potential fraud.”
Instead of fixing their own problems, they want us to help them do it.
Just great.
And of course they always want more of our money to help fund these programs.  In fact, according to Americans for Tax Reform, Barack Obama has proposed442 tax increases since entering the White House…
-79 tax increases for FY 2010
-52 tax increases for FY 2011
-47 tax increases for FY 2012
-34 tax increases for FY 2013
-137 tax increases for FY 2014
-93 tax increases for FY 2015
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Obama budget with the lowest number of proposed tax increases was released during an election year: In February 2012, Obama released his FY 2013 budget, with “only” 34 proposed tax increases. Once safely re-elected, Obama came back with a vengeance, proposing 137 tax increases, a personal record high for the 44th President.
The more we feed the monster, the larger and larger it grows.
And yet poverty is not decreasing.  In fact, the poverty rate has been at 15 percent or greater for three years in a row.  That is the first time that has happened in decades.
Barack Obama promised to “transform” America, and yet poverty and government dependence have just continued to grow during his presidency.
Not that anyone really believes anything that he has to say at this point.  In fact, one recent survey found that only 15 percent of Americans believe that Barack Obama always tells the truth and 37 percent believe that he lies “most of the time”…
A Fox News poll released Wednesday shows that six out of every ten Americans believes that President Barack Obama lies to the American people, at least some of the time. A plurality – 37% – say that he lies “most of the time,” while another 24% say he lies “some of the time.” Another 20% say he lies once in awhile, while only 15% say that he never lies.
So what do you think?
Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

What The Heck Is Going On With US Treasuries In Belgium?

The tiny country of Belgium – my beloved hunting grounds for three years a while back – with a GDP of $484 billion, a country which you can cross by bicycle in a single day if you’re really fit, a country that became famous to the chagrin of some people because it did just fine for a couple of years without a national government – well, that tiny speck of land is starting to grow an enormous mountain of US Treasury Securities.
In February, according to data just released by the US Treasury Department, it added $30.9 billion, taking its mountain of Treasuries to the phenomenal level of $341.2 billion, or about 70% of its GDP.
It put that speck of land with 11 million people in third place, behind export powerhouse China ($1.27 trillion) and former export powerhouse and now money-printing powerhouse Japan ($1.21 trillion), the second and third largest economies in the world.
From August last year, when an already lofty $166.8 billion in Treasuries were held in Belgium, holdings have soared by 105%! Why this sudden jump?
What the heck is going on in Belgium?
It has a vibrant export sector – right away, I can think of superb chocolates, addictive beers, and many other products. But have dollar-denominated sales multiplied umpteen times overnight in a miraculous fashion? Nope. Nothing happens quickly in Belgium. Getting even something minor through the bureaucracy, as we found out, requires superhuman patience, finely honed finesse, and a surprising amount of money. Nope, it couldn’t be anything having to do with Belgium’s real economy.
Leaves the other option: that Belgium has become a financial center for Treasuries owned by other countries, or that it at least has become a transit point for them.
Over the same period since August, Luxembourg, a true financial center with legendary opaqueness, saw its Treasury holdings decline from $143.8 billion to $136.8 billion. Ireland, where Corporate America registers much of its money to avoid US taxes, has also seen Treasury holdings drop since August from $120 billion to 111.4 billion.
So why Belgium? Mystery swirls around it for now. But there are some clues….
One of them is called Euroclear. It’s a big outfit. It holds €24.2 trillion ($33 trillion) in assets. Its clients include, as it says, over 2,000 global and local custodians, broker dealers, central banks, commercial and investment banks, investment managers, and supranational organizations in more than 90 countries. The total value of securities transactions it settles for them exceed €570 trillion per year. It proudly points out: “Every 6 days we settle transactions equivalent to the GDP of the EU.”
And it’s headquartered in Belgium. It could very well be that a government has used this mega-outfit to move its Treasury holdings away from the long muscular arm of the US. Indeed, Euroclear told the Financial Times that the volume of Treasuries it holds had “gone up dramatically” in recent months.
There is a suspect, so to speak. The Treasury’s ledger of Major Foreign Holders of Treasuries shows that Russia’s holdings were $126.2 billion at the end of February, down 23.5% from a year earlier. That’s quite a drop. Clearly, President Vladimir Putin has had it. Gradually and ever so carefully, he is diversifying Russia’s foreign exchange holdings. And occasionally, the Central Bank is selling some of them in an effort to prop up the ruble. But these movements belie the sudden and massive volatility of another ledger, the Federal Reserve’s Securities Held in Custody for Foreign Official and International Accounts.
As the US national debt ballooned by over $1 trillion per year, foreign countries were among the largest buyers. So the Fed’s leger of Foreign Official Accounts peaked at $3.02 trillion on December 18, having soared over 150% in just six years. But then it dropped week after week, and finally plunged by a record $104.5 billion during the week of March 5 to a recent low of $2.855 trillion – only to see some of those Treasuries reappear over the next few weeks, leaving behind a record trail of volatility.
That mystery – a record pile of Treasuries suddenly disappearing and now reappearing – hasn’t been solved. In May, when we get the March data from the Treasury International Capital (TIC) System, we might learn more. All we know for now is that someone in panic-mode yanked a pile of Treasuries away from the Fed and transferred it to some other entity.
The entity could be Euroclear, which would then as custodian, and thus under its name, transfer some of them back to the Fed. Now that they’re no longer in Russia’s name, the US government would presumably have trouble freezing them as part of the sanction spiral unfolding over the Ukraine – couldn’t even credibly threaten to freeze them.
And it opens a broader issue: if otherwise inconvenient foreign holders of Treasuries, like Russia, get harassed by the US Government, or by Congress, what lesson will the Chineselearn from it? And what will they do?
Ha, they’re already doing it: the word dollar didn’t even come up when the Bundesbank signed the agreement with the People’s Bank of China. President Xi Jinping and Chancellor Angela Merkel looked on. It was serious business. Everyone knew what this was about. No one had to say it. Read…. Dollar Hegemony Under Attack By Export-Superpowers Germany and China

Two More Victims Of The Retail Apocalypse: Family Dollar And Coldwater Creek

Family Dollar
Did you know that Family Dollar is closing 370 stores? When I learned of this, I was quite stunned. I knew that retailers that serve the middle class were really struggling right now, but I had no idea that things had gotten so bad for low end stores like Family Dollar. In the post-2008 era, dollar stores had generally been one of the few bright spots in the retail industry. As millions of Americans fell out of the middle class, they were looking to stretch their family budgets as far as possible, and dollar stores helped them do that. It would be great if we could say that the reason why Family Dollar is doing so poorly is because average Americans have more money now and have resumed shopping at retailers that target the middle class, but that is not happening. Rather, as you will see later in this article, things just continue to get even worse for Americans at the low end of the income scale.
I was also surprised to learn that Coldwater Creek is closing all of their stores
Women’s clothing retailer Coldwater Creek Inc. on Friday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after failing to find a buyer said it plans to close its stores by early summer.
Coldwater Creek joins other retailers to seek protection from creditors in recent months as consumers keep a lid on spending.
The company said it plans to wind down its operations over the coming months and begin going-out-of-business sales in early May, before the traditionally busy Mother’s Day weekend.
Coldwater Creek, which has 365 stores and employs about 6,000 people, has five stores in Maryland.
I remember browsing through a Coldwater Creek with my wife and mother-in-law just last year. At the time, my mother-in-law was excited about getting one of their catalogs. But now Coldwater Creek is going out of business, and all that will be left of that store is a big, ugly, empty space.
Of course the fact that a couple of major retailers are closing stores is nothing new. This kind of thing happens year after year.
But what we are witnessing right now is really quite startling. So many retailers are closing so many stores that it is being called a “retail apocalypse”. In a previous article entitled “This Is What Employment In America Really Looks Like…“, I detailed how major U.S. retailers have already announced the closing of thousands of stores so far this year.  If the economy really was “getting better”, this should not be happening.
So why are so many stores closing?
Well, the truth is that it is because the middle class is dying. With each passing day, more Americans lose their place in the middle class and fall into poverty. The following is an excerpt from the story of one man that this has happened to. His recent piece in the Huffington Post was entitled “Next Friday, I’ll Be Living In My Car“…
For the past 13 years, I’ve mostly been doing facility management in several locations across the state. After the position turned into more of a sales role, they laid me off. Since then, I’ve been looking to find any type of work. I’ve applied for food stamps, and I’m waiting for that. I’m mostly eating soup from a food pantry.
I’ve been on several interviews — second, third, fourth interviews — and just haven’t been able to land a job for whatever reason. I definitely have the qualifications and the experience. Last week, I had a job offer that I thought was secure, and we were talking my work schedule. They decided to call me back and go with an assistant rather than a manager.
For a number of applications, I’ve dumbed down my resume. I don’t even go with a resume sometimes, just because I don’t want them to know that I’m educated and have a master’s degree. It shoots me in the foot. They don’t want me because they don’t think I’m going to stay. I don’t blame them. I was making six figures at $60-70 an hour. Now, I’m looking for a $10 an hour job.
There are millions upon millions of Americans that can identify with what that man is going through.
Once upon a time, they were living comfortable middle class lifestyles, but now they will take any jobs that they can get.
Just today I came across a statistic that shows the massive shift that is happening in this country. A decade ago, the number of women working outnumbered the number of women on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin. But now the number of women on food stamps actually exceedsthe number of women that have jobs.
How could things have changed so rapidly over the course of just one decade?
And sadly, things continue to go downhill. Every day in America, more good jobs are being sent out of the country or are being replaced by technology. I really like how James Altucher described this trend the other day…
Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class.
The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?”. 2008 finally gave them the chance. “It was the economy!” they said. The country has been out of a recession since 2009. Four years now. But the jobs have not come back. I asked many of these CEOs: did you just use that as an excuse to fire people, and they would wink and say, “let’s just leave it at that.”
I’m on the board of directors of a temp staffing company with one billion dollars in revenues. I can see it happening across every sector of the economy. Everyone is getting fired. Everyone is toilet paper now.
There is so little loyalty in corporate America these days. If you work for a major corporation, you could literally lose your job at any moment. And you can be sure that there is someone above you that is trying to figure out a way to accomplish the tasks that you currently perform much more cheaply and much more efficiently.
Most big corporations don’t care if you are personally successful or if you are able to take care of your family. What they want is to get as much out of you as possible for as little money as possible.
This is a big reason why 62 percent of all Americans make $20 or less an hour at this point.
The quality of our jobs is going down, but the cost of living just keeps going up. Just look at what is happening to food prices. For a detailed examination of this, please see my previous article entitled “Why Meat Prices Are Going To Continue Soaring For The Foreseeable Future“.
As the middle class slowly dies, less people are able to afford to buy homes. Mortgage originations at major U.S. banks have fallen to a record low, and the percentage of Americans that live in “high-poverty neighborhoods” is rising rapidly
An estimated 12.4 million Americans live in economically devastated neighborhoods, according to American Community Survey data collected from 2008 to 2012. That’s an 11 percent jump from the previous survey, conducted from 2007 to 2011. Even more startling, it’s a 72 percent increase in the population of high-poverty neighborhoods since the 2000 Census.
If nothing is done about the long-term trends that are slowly strangling the middle class to death, all of this will just be the beginning.
We will see millions more Americans lose their jobs, millions more Americans lose their homes and millions more Americans living in poverty.
The United States is being fundamentally transformed, and very few people are doing much of anything to stand in the way of this transformation. Decades of incredibly foolish decisions are starting to catch up with us, and unless something dramatic is done right away, all of these problems will soon get much, much worse.