Friday, June 20, 2014

The Fed’s Illusion of Prosperity is Breaking Down

On today’s podcast, Jerry and Jennifer Robinson break down yesterday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting outcome. Jerry and Jennifer discuss:
  • Specific statements from Fed chairman Janet Yellen’s press conference and their significance
  • How the Federal Reserve must continue to make dovish statements on the economy in order to prop up the illusion of prosperity in America
  • Why the imminent decline of the U.S. dollar is directly related to Federal Reserve policy
  • The big gains made by gold and silver today and why we believe there is much more room to run higher
Plus, Jerry brings you his daily comments on gold, silver, and stock market prices. All this and more is right here on Follow the Money Daily!

Links From on Today’s Podcast:

Jerry Robinson’s Market Barometer
Find a Christian Financial Advisor in Your Area
[VIDEO] Janet Yellen’s June 18 Press Conference
Saudi Arabia: ‘This is Iraq’s problem and they must sort it out themselves’
Direct trade of yuan and British pound to begin
Bank of China approved for yuan clearing in Frankfurt
Gold Posts Biggest Daily Gain in Nine Months
Follow the Money Podcast Archives
The FTMDaily Online Store

Inflation? Only If You Look At Food, Water, Gas, Electricity And Everything Else

Wheelbarrow of Money
Have you noticed that prices are going up rapidly?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  But Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the Obama administration and the mainstream media would have us believe that inflation is completely under control and exactly where it should be.  Perhaps if the highly manipulated numbers that they quote us were real, everything would be fine.  But of course the way that the inflation rate is calculated has been changed more than 20 times since the 1970s, and at this point it bears so little relation to reality that it is essentially meaningless.  Anyone that has to regularly pay for food, water, gas, electricity or anything else knows that inflation is too high.  In fact, if inflation was calculated the same way that it was back in 1980, the inflation rate would be close to 10 percent right now.
But you would never know that listening to Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.  In the video posted below, you can listen to her telling the media that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about ...
And it is really hard to get too upset with Janet Yellen.
After all, she reminds many people of a sweet little grandmother.
But the reality of the matter is that she is simply not telling us the truth.  Everywhere we look, prices are aggressively moving higher.
Just the other day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the price index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs has just soared to a new all-time high.
This is something that I have repeatedly warned would happen.  Just check out this article and this article.
And it isn’t just meat prices that are going up.  One of the largest coffee producers in the entire world just announced that it is going to be raising coffee prices by 9 percent
It took the Fed long enough but finally even it succumbed to the reality of surging food prices when, as we reported previously, it hiked cafeteria prices at ground zero: the cafeteria of the Chicago Fed, stating that “prices continue to rise between 3% and 33%.” So with input costs rising across the board not just for the Fed, but certainly for food manufacturers everywhere, it was only a matter of time before the latter also threw in the towel and followed in the Fed’s footsteps. Which is what happened earlier today when J.M. Smucker Co. said it raised the prices on most of its coffee productsby an average of 9% to reflect higher green-coffee costs.
Not that coffee isn’t expensive enough already.  It absolutely stuns me that some people are willing to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee.
I still remember the days when you could get a cup of coffee for 25 cents.
Also, I can’t get over how expensive groceries are becoming these days.  Earlier this month I took my wife over to the grocery store to do some shopping.  We are really ramping up our food storage this summer, and so we grabbed as much stuff on sale as we could find.  When we got our cart to the register, I was expecting the bill to be large, but I didn’t expect it to be over 300 dollars.
And remember, this was just for a single shopping cart and we had consciously tried to grab things that were significantly reduced from regular price.
I almost felt like asking the cashier which organ I should donate to pay the bill.
Sadly, this is just the beginning.  Food prices are eventually going to go much, much higher than this.
Also, you should get ready to pay substantially more for water as well.
According to CNBC, one recent report warned that “your water bill will likely increase” in the coming months…
U.S. water utilities face a critical economic squeeze,according to a new report—and that will likely mean higher prices at the water tap for consumers.
A survey by water-engineering firm Black & Veatch of 368 water utility companies across the country shows that 66 percent of them are not generating enough revenue to cover their costs.
To make up for the financial shortfall, prices for water are heading upward, said Michael Orth, one of the co-authors of the report and senior vice president at Black & Veatch.
“People will have to pay more for water to make up the falling revenues,” he said. “And that’s likely to be more than the rate of inflation.”
Of even greater concern is what is happening to gas prices.
According to Bloomberg, the price of gasoline hasn’t been this high at this time of the year for six years…
Gasoline in the U.S. climbed this week, boosted by a surge in oil, and is expected to reach the highest level for this time of year since 2008.
The pump price averaged $3.686 a gallon yesterday, up 1.2 cents from a week earlier, data posted on the Energy Information Administration’s website late yesterday show. Oil, which accounts for two-thirds of the retail price of gasoline, gained $2.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the same period and $4.88 in the month ended yesterday.
The jump in crude, driven by concern that the crisis in Iraq will disrupt supplies, may boost pump prices by 10 cents a gallon at a time when they normally drop, according to forecasts including one from the EIA.
And the conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere could potentially send gas prices screaming far higher.
In fact, T. Boone Pickens recently told CNBC that if Baghdad falls to ISIS that the price of a barrel of oil could potentially hit $200.
Of course the big oil companies are not exactly complaining about this.  This week energy stocks are hitting record highs, and further escalation of the conflict in Iraq will probably send them even higher.
Meanwhile, a “bipartisan Senate proposal” (that means both Democrats and Republicans) would raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over the next two years.
Our politicians have such good timing, don’t they?
And our electricity rates are going up too.  The electricity price index just set a brand new record high and there are no signs of relief on the horizon…
The electricity price index and the average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity both hit records for May, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average price for a KWH hit 13.6 cents during the month, up about 3.8 percent from 13.1 cents in May 2013.
The seasonally adjusted electricity price index rose from 201.431 in May 2013 to 208.655 in May 2014—an increase of about 3.6 percent.
If our paychecks were increasing at the same rate as inflation, perhaps most families would be able to weather all of this.
Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.
As I wrote about recently, median household income in the U.S. is nowabout 7 percent lower than it was in the year 2000 after adjusting for inflation.
And if realistic inflation numbers were used instead of the government-manipulated ones, it would look a lot worse than that.
Inflation is a hidden tax that all of us pay, and it is systematically eviscerating the middle class.
So what are prices like in your neck of the woods?
Is your family feeling the pain of inflation?
Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…


WARNING: US Has Failed To Relaunch Its Economy, The Entire House Of Cards Are Soon To Fall.

The boom in fixed-income derivatives trading is exposing a hidden risk in debt markets around the world: the inability of investors to buy and sell bonds.
While futures trading of 10-year Treasuries is close to an all-time high, bond-market volume for some maturities has fallen a third in the past year. In Japan’s $9.6 trillion debt market, the benchmark note didn’t trade until midday on two days last week. As a lack of liquidity in Italy caused transaction costs in the world’s third-largest sovereign bond market to jump last month, Lombard Odier Asset Management helped propel an eightfold surge in Italian futures by relying more on derivatives.
The shift reflects an unintended consequence wrought by central banks, which have dropped interest rates close to zero and implemented policies such as buying debt to restore demand in economies crippled by the financial crisis. Inefficiencies in the $100 trillion market for bonds may make investors more vulnerable to losses when yields rise from historical lows.
“Liquidity is becoming a serious issue,” Grant Peterkin, a money manager at Lombard Odier, which oversees $48 billion, said in a June 11 telephone interview from Geneva. The worry is that when investors try to exit their positions, “there may be some kind of squeeze.”
That concern has caused investors to pour into derivatives, which are contracts based on underlying assets that can provide the same exposure without tying up as much capital.
(NaturalNews) Food prices are now skyrocketing across the USA, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Their most recent report (1) reveals that prices of meat, poultry, fish and eggs leaped 7.7 percent over the last year. That’s nearly 367% higher than the official 2.1% inflation rate claimed by the federal government. (2)

Prices on these food items have risen 664% in the last five decades, according to the BLS, but much of the price acceleration has happened in just the last few years… and there’s no end in sight.

While the federal government tries to blame rising food prices on global warming — because seemingly everything is now attributed to climate change, including depression and divorces — the far more sobering truth is that conventional agriculture is reaching a point of systemic, catastrophic failure.
One of the more insidious lies spread by the recently flipflopping cadre of “suddenly” permabullish millionaire sellers of newsletters has been that wages – that most important component of any real, durable, self-sustaining economic recovery – are rising. Maybe they are rising for said millionaires, but not for the US population. Of course, this propaganda is perfectly explainable: if there are expectations of, and confidence in rising wages, Keynes 101 says that sooner or later employers will have no choice but to match expectations with reality. And sure enough, in nominal terms, after plunging to just a 1% increase in Y/Y terms, absolute wages paid to US workers have staged a tiny, if observable rebound, still well below historical levels.
Of course, what said newsletter sellers always fail to mention is that nominal wages are meaningless in a world in which food and energy prices are soaring, and where, as even the BLS admitted earlier, food prices have surged the most since 2011. In other words, what matters are real, not nominal wages.
Luckily, there is propaganda (“ignore the present focus on the future”… for 6 years now), and there are facts.
The chart below shows that, as reported moments ago by the BLS, real average hourly earnings just posted their third sequential decline in a row, dropping from $10.33 in February, to $10.32 in March, to $10.30 in April, to $10.28 in May.  Furthermore, this was the first year over year decline since October 2012.
And to put today’s $10.28 real average hourly earnings number in context, this is the same real wage seen last in July 2013, July 2012, March 2011 and then, if one goes further back…the month after Lehman failed!
 Inflation Rises as CPI Gains, Housing Stars Decline

This morning we learned inflation climbed at the fastest rate since 2011, and that housing starts fell 6.5% from April.  
As a result, analysts’ models are now showing lower Q2 GDP.
First up is Barclays’ Cooper Howes, who said the declines in housing were broad based, and that what few gains there have been this year have mostly come from multi-family. As a result, his growth forecast came down 1/10th to 2.9%
“After unusually severe winter weather weighed on housing activity in the first quarter, housing starts have been slow to recover,” he writes.
A Moment Of Truth From JPM: “It’s Hard To See The Recent Growth-Inflation Mix As Anything Other Than Discouraging” No comment necessary. Highlights in the latest comment from JPM’s Michael Feroli ours:
Both the headline and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in firmer than expected in May. The CPI increased 0.35% (2.1% over year-ago), and the ex-food and energy core CPI rose 0.26% (2.0% over year-ago), the largest one-month increase for this measure since October 2009. Over the past three months the core CPI is now up 2.8% annualized. By our estimate this implies a 0.16% increase for May in the Fed’s preferred core PCE measure of inflation, which would take the year-ago increase up to 1.5%.   The recent move higher in inflation makes the Fed outlook more interesting. As for tomorrow, the current statement language on inflation is so generic that it doesn’t have to be modified, though the recent news could increase the odds that an amendment could me made to mention inflation moving back towards the Committee’s longer-run objective.   The dots are submitted at the beginning of the two-day meeting, which starts at 10am today, so today’s print shouldn’t have a material impact on the dot plot (recall that the midpoint of the core PCE projection for 4Q14 at the March meeting was 1.5% — which should be achieved in May — we have already been expecting a modest move higher in tomorrow’s projection). At the margin, today’s inflation print further tilts the odds toward an earlier first rate hike relative to our current 4Q15 call….The higher-than-anticipated headline PCE inflation implication (our reading is +0.22%), implies lower real consumption spending growth in May, we think only up 0.1% now. Through the first five months of the year the headline CPI is up at a 2.6% annual rate, even though first half GDP growth may come in around 0.5% annualized….   While some may cheer an earlier Fed rate hike, its hard to see the recent growth-inflation mix as anything other than discouraging.
Fear not: we are confident many will try because, clearly, it’s the blamy(sic) spring’s fault. U.S. Banks Seen Falling Short of New Debt Funding Rule
Wells Fargo, State Street and JPMorgan Chase & Co are below or almost at minimum capital thresholds expected to be included in a rule still being hammered out by U.S. regulators that’s meant to mitigate taxpayer losses in another financial crisis…
German investor confidenceunexpectedly fell for a sixth month in June even after the European Central Bank announced a new round of stimulus aimed at preventing deflation and rekindling growth in the euro area.
The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations, which aims to predict economic developments six months in advance, slid to 29.8 from 33.1 in May. Economists forecast an increase to 35, according to the median of 35 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The gauge has dropped every month since reaching a seven-year high in December and is now at the weakest since December 2012.
German economic growth has slowed this quarter after output was buoyed at the start of the year by a mild winter, according to the Bundesbank. While the prospects for Europe’s largest economy remain sound, the 18-nation euro area is struggling with subdued growth and low inflation, prompting the ECB to unveil a package of measures including a negative deposit rate and targeted long-term loans to banks.
“The German economy is currently in a very good shape but further increases are becoming more difficult,” said ZEW President Clemens Fuest. “We had a strong first quarter in 2014 due to favorable weather conditions but signs are that the second quarter will be weaker.”
A month ago, using the latest UK housing data from Rightmove, we asked a simple question: whose housing bubble is bigger: China’s, or the place where increasingly more of China’s $25 trillion in bank assets are being parked: the UK (specifically London). Using then available data, the answer was still a toss-up, even if the divergence in directions was quite clear.
Earlier today, we finally got the official data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, and we politely retract our question, as rhetorical as it may have been. The reason: there is no contest – the UK’s housing bubble has officially slammed China’s, and the result is nothing short of a knock out.
SHANGHAI–Average new home prices in 70 Chinese cities declined in May from April, marking the first monthly decline in two years as property developers rolled out further price cuts amid sluggish demand from home buyers and rising inventory of homes.
Average new home prices in 70 cities slid 0.15% month-on-month in May, according to calculations by The Wall Street Journal based on data released Wednesday by the National Bureau of Statistics.
This marks the first month-on-month decline since May 2012. Prices rose 0.06% month-over-month in April. On a year-over-year basis, average prices rose 5.35% in May compared with 6.42% in April and 7.32% in February.
Many home buyers have retreated to the sidelines since the start of the year amid concerns about stagnant or falling housing prices due to the excessive supply of homes, as well as difficulties in getting loans.
Average home prices in Shanghai also recorded a 0.3% month-on-month fall, indicating that the weakness in the market is spreading to larger cities. In Beijing, home prices rose 0.2% in May from April.
TOKYO–Japan’s export recovery stalled in May amid subdued global economic growth, raising the possibility that the country’s trade picture may not improve any time soon, while weaker imports suggest the domestic economy may be slowing.
The trade deficit came to Yen909.0 billion ($8.9 billion), extending the run of monthly shortfalls to a record 23rd month, according to data released Wednesday by the Ministry of Finance.
Economists expected a deficit of Yen1.15 trillion, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal and the Nikkei.
The International Monetary Fund cut its growth forecast for the U.S. economy this year and said the Federal Reserve may have scope to keep interest rates at zero for longer than investors expect.
The Washington-based IMF now sees the world’s largest economy growing 2 percent this year, down from an April estimate of 2.8 percent. The IMF left a 2015 prediction unchanged at 3 percent, and said it doesn’t expect the U.S. to see full employment until the end of 2017, amid low inflation.
“We see prospects looking up for the U.S. but we also believe that attention must now turn to the kinds of policies needed to lay the foundation for growth that will be sustainable,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said at a press conference in Washington today.
Canada’s banks weathered the financial crisis of 2008 better than many of their international peers which required expensive taxpayer-funded bailouts to stay afloat. Since the crisis, governments and regulators around the world have been laying the groundwork for bail-ins. In some of these scenarios, creditors holding instruments such as a new breed of convertible bonds bear at least some of the burden of stabilizing a bank in crisis.
  1. Argentina: Won’t submit to ‘extortion’ on debt
  2. Japan Mulls De-linking Pensions from Prices to Allow Payout Cuts
  3. Offshore Cash of $2 Trillion Sparks Hunt for Tax-Friendly Deals
  4. Total US debt soars to nearly $60 trn, foreshadows new recession
  5. Russia Adds Extra $58 Billion to Ease Bank Funding Shortage
  6. China lowers US debt for third straight month
  7. Fort Worth pension unfunded liability hits $1.12 billion
  8. Local govts face massive debt repayment pressure (China)
  9. French budget deficit to ‘exceed target’
  10. Record numbers of expatriates renounce U.S. citizenship
  11. Fed looks at exit fees on bond funds
  12. Recovery hasn’t paid off yet for American workers




Robert Rapier: Global Oil Demand is Rising Faster Than Production

Jason Burack of Wall St for Main St had oil and energy expert, Robert Rapier…, back on for another in depth podcast on the oil markets.
In this 40+ minute interview, Jason asks Robert about the terrorist/rebel activities in Iraq and whether this has already lead to any refinery or pipeline shutdowns or destruction.
Robert says refineries are being evacuated and one was recently captured but nothing has been destroyed yet. Iraq is one of the few countries who has dramatically increased oil production the last 7 years straight but this positive trend will probably stop now.
Next, Jason asks Robert about the new, in depth BP Statistical Review out. Robert talks about how the US (because of shale oil production) is the only major country that increased oil production significantly. Many other key oil producing countries are now in rapid production decline and global oil demand is now growing faster than global energy supply (production).
Jason and Robert talk about National Oil Companies in Venezuela, Mexico, etc and the problems these organizations and governments have with CAPEX spending to increase oil production.
Robert talks about the enormous capital expenditures or CAPEX already being spent just to keep oil production flat.
Jason and Robert talk about the dilemma the oil majors like Shell, BP, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, etc have. They can either increase their dividend or have to fund much higher capex for projects including exploration, but they cannot afford both without a much higher oil price.
Jason and Robert then wrap up the interview talking about the Keystone XL Pipeline and the US Shale oil boom.
This is a great 40+ minute, comprehensive interview about the oil markets you don’t want to miss!
Please visit the Wall St for Main St website here
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Follow John Manfreda on Twitter @JohnManfreda
Follow Wall St for Main St on Twitter @WallStforMainSt

Why Even Business Leaders Now Realize Widening Inequality is a Terrible Problem

A few weeks ago I was visited in my office by the chairman of one of the country’s biggest high-tech firms who wanted to talk about the causes and consequences of widening inequality and the shrinking middle class, and what to do about it. I asked him why he was concerned. “Because the American middle class is the core of our customer base,” he said. “If they can’t afford our products in the years ahead, we’re in deep trouble.”
I’m hearing the same refrain from a growing number of business leaders.
They see an economic recovery that’s bypassing most Americans. Median hourly and weekly pay dropped over the past year, adjusted for inflation.
Since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, median real household income has fallen 4.4 percent, according to an analysis by Sentier Research.
These business leaders know the U.S. economy can’t get out of first gear as long as wages are declining. And their own businesses can’t succeed over the long term without a buoyant and growing middle class.
They also recognize a second danger.
Job frustrations are fueling a backlash against trade and immigration. Any hope for immigration reform is now dead in Congress, and further trade-opening agreements are similarly moribund. Yet the economy would be even worse if America secedes into isolationism.
Read more

Julian D.W. Phillips – Gold is Getting Ready for a Breakout

Julian D.W. Phillips has a unique perspective on the precious metals market.
Located in South Africa, along with the benefit of decades of experience, Julian sees that gold is being re-monetized and the supply is diminishing. This means that the value is going way higher. In addition, the balance of economic power is shifting from West to East.
It’s all about to hit the fan and you need to be ready.
Click Here to Listen

Wikileaks Publish Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex

Today, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, which covers 50 countries and 68.2%1 of world trade in services. The US and the EU are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes, which also covers cross-border data flow. In a significant anti-transparency manoeuvre by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.
Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures2, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.
TISA negotiations are currently taking place outside of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. However, the Agreement is being crafted to be compatible with GATS so that a critical mass of participants will be able to pressure remaining WTO members to sign on in the future. Conspicuously absent from the 50 countries covered by the negotiations are the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The exclusive nature of TISA will weaken their position in future services negotiations.
The draft text comes from the April 2014 negotiation round – the sixth round since the first held in April 2013. The next round of negotiations will take place on 23-27 June in Geneva, Switzerland.
Current WTO parties negotiating TISA are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, which includes its 28 member states Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
China and Uruguay have expressed interest in joining the negotiations but so far are not included.
[1] Swiss National Center for Competence in Research: A Plurilateral Agenda for Services?: Assessing the Case for a Trade in Services Agreement, Working Paper No. 2013/29, May 2013, p. 10. [2] For example, in June 2012 Ecuador tabled a discussion on re-thinking regulation and GATS rules; in September 2009 the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, convened by the President of the United Nations and chaired by Joseph Stiglitz, released its final report, stating that “All trade agreements need to be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the need for an inclusive and comprehensive international regulatory framework which is conducive to crisis prevention and management, counter-cyclical and prudential safeguards, development, and inclusive finance.”
WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organization that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organization was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities.
CONTACT: WikiLeaks
Andy Stepanian:

Cost of global violence and conflict reaches $1,350 per person

The last seven years have seen a rapid deterioration in world peace and the cost of global violence was put at $1,350 per person, according to an index measuring world peace as several countries slid down the index into civil war and violence.
The economic cost of dealing with world violence stood at $9.8 trillion, or 11.3 percent of total global economic output – as much as the economies of Britain, France, Germany and Italy combined, according to new research by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
The pattern reversed the 60-year trend in more peace after the end of World War II.
The index was measured gauging conflict, unrest, safety and security as well as militarization and defense spending.
“Given the deteriorating global situation we cannot be complacent about the institutional bedrocks for peace,” said Steve Killelea, the IEP’s executive chairman, Reuters reported.
“This is a wakeup call to governments, development agencies, investors and the wider international community that building peace is the prerequisite for economic development,” he added.
The decline in world peace is not being felt round the world evenly. While 51 countries had improved levels of peace since 2008, 111 had deteriorated.
Syria has pushed Afghanistan out of the No. 1 spot for the world’s least peaceful nation, as the bloody civil war continues there for a third year.
Iraq was ranked 159 out of 162 countries before the latest bloodshed unleashed by the ISIS Sunni militants.
South Sudan, the world’s newest country, came 160 as it slides towards a full-blown tribal civil war just three years after its birth, which was itself a result of a lengthy conflict with northern neighbor Sudan.
Elsewhere in Africa, the Central African Republic saw a marked deterioration in peace, although Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been locked in violent internal conflict for a number of years, so their low peace rankings were not a surprise.
Perhaps a surprising country that has slid down the index is Russia, as the domestic political situation and relations with neighboring Ukraine begin to take their toll. Ukraine itself also became less peaceful.
Other countries that have seen a marked deterioration in peace were Libya and Egypt. In China, increased military spending saw it drop to 108th position.
The IEP predicts that things could get worse, with 500 million people living in countries at risk of becoming less peaceful.
Despite the crisis in Ukraine, Europe was still the most peaceful area of the world, with 14 of the 20 most peaceful countries.
The UK saw an improvement in peace levels over the past decade and saw the largest drop in total crime of all European countries. Although London has become safer, certain areas such as Hackney, Lewisham and Lambeth remain the most dangerous areas of the country.
Violent crime and homicide was about 10 times higher in the US than the UK, although overall the US has become more peaceful in the last 20 years.
Peace levels in the US varied markedly by state, with Louisiana the least peaceful state for the 20th year running and the South having the highest rates of homicide, incarceration and violent crime.
In contrast the most peaceful states such as Maine and Vermont had better economic opportunities and higher levels of educational attainment.
Iceland is still the most peaceful country on earth.
Reprinted with permission

PROOF That Hyperinflation Is Already Here

After 6 Years of Unprecedented Central Planning, the Economy Is More Fragile Than Ever

Charles Hugh Smith
Reprinted with permission
We will all discover that the economy is much more fragile than advertised by the Central Planners and their media toadies.
This week I have made the case that the past 13.5 years have been the most destructive to the core values of the nation in U.S. history. The same holds true for the economy, which has been critically weakened by 6 years of unprecedented Central Planning.
What do I mean by Central Planning? Here are the key characteristics of Central Planning:
1. The central bank/state intervene in the economy in a dominant fashion, controlling functions such as interest rates by order of central authorities that were once set by decentralized, self-organizing markets.
2. The central bank/state pick winners and losers: for example, the Too Big To Fail Banks (TBTF) were selected to win, as the central bank/state bailed out their private losseswith public-taxpayer money. In effect, the central state/bank enrich cronies at the expense of everyone else.
3. The central bank/state manipulate the nominally “free” market to boost asset valuations as a way of enriching cronies who own most of the financial assets and as a public-relations charade to mask the failure of their picking winners and losers.
In other words, in centrally planned economies, markets are not allowed to discover price–they exist only to reflect positively on Central Planners.
4. The central bank/state use the power of the printing press to create as much money as they need to reward cronies and cram their decisions down the throat of the economy.
5. The central bank/state use the power of their public policy announcements to manipulate behavior and the financial markets while keeping programs that might attract scrutiny secret.
Central planning fails for intrinsic reasons unrelated to the specific policies. The decentralized, self-organizing market is like the immune system for the economy; it keeps the system healthy by burning off the deadwood of failed bets and failed investments and distributing credit and risk on performance rather than cronyism.
By eliminating the economy’s immune system, Central Planning dramatically increases vulnerability and guarantees systemic crises down the road. Another way of understanding the destruction wrought by Central Planning is to see the Central Planners as heroin pushers who addict the economy to zero-interest credit and a constant flow of “free money” to the winners selected by the central bank/state.
The Yellowstone Analogy and The Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism (May 18, 2009)
The economy becomes dependent on the The central bank/state intervention and loses the ability to function in the real world. When the real world finally intrudes, the weakened, strung-out addict, no longer capable of responding to reality in a positive fashion, expires.
A handful of charts illustrates the scope of the Central Planning and the fragility this Central Planning has generated. (Charts are courtesy of Market Daily Briefing. All comments on the charts are mine.)
The Federal Reserve balance sheet: hey, what’s $4.3 trillion between pals? Where did all this newly created money go? To inflate asset bubbles that enrich the few at the expense of the many.

That little spot of bother in 2008 that caused credit to contract a bit nearly collapsed the entire U.S. economy. Has expanding credit to subprime banks and borrowers fixed anything, or simply extended the system’s already-sky-high fragility?

And what has all this unprecedented Central Planning done for the GDP? Growth as measured by GDP (a largely bogus metric, as many have pointed out) has been declining since the Central Planners picked their cronies as winners.

How about real median income? Central Planning has greatly boosted the wealth and income of the financier winners picked by the Planners, but sadly this does not include wage earners, who have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings plummet.
Aren’t you delighted that Central Planning works so great?

One predictable result of Central Planning is more asset bubbles–or in the case of housing, an echo bubble of the housing bubble created by Central Planners in the early 2000s. Alas, an echo bubble is still a bubble, and so it will pop just like every other financial bubble throughout history.

Just as a refresher on the staggering enormity of Federal Reserve intervention / manipulation in the housing / mortgage market: if the Fed buying $2 trillion of home mortgages (more than 20% of the entire market) isn’t Central Planning, then what is it?

The damage done by Central Planning has yet to come home to roost. Six years into the Grand Experiment–that Central Planners can pick winners who just happen to be their cronies–the chickens of consequence are still making their way home.
And when they finally come home to roost, we will all discover that the economy is much more fragile than advertised by the Central Planners and their media toadies.

Fury as Miliband bans jobless young people from benefits

Labour activists are reacting with fury at Ed Miliband’s plans to ban jobless young people from claiming benefits.
He told a press conference today, Thursday, that a future Labour government would take away job seekers allowance from under 21 year olds. Instead, they will be forced to claim a new “youth allowance” that would depend on how much education they had and how much their parents earned.
He also said Labour would impose a regional benefit cap and make claiming job seekers’ allowance more dependent on how long a person had worked. Labour MP Katy Clark warned that benefit cap would “mean that some of the most vulnerable will miss out,” she argued.
Labour-supporting trade unionists are also up in arms.
Joan Pritchard-Jones, a care worker and Unison union member from Bolton, told Socialist Worker, “Welfare reforms should make things better not worse. You can’t penalise young people for there being no jobs for them and no real chances for employment.”
Joan said that pledging to get rid of university fees and create real jobs and apprenticeships would be a better solution.
Disability campaigner Sue Marsh was also outraged.
She said, “Labour will not win votes by being tougher than the Tories on welfare – or rather, tough but not quite as tough as the Tories by a fag paper. And specifically, they will not make any friends at all by being seen to hit a group that is already one of the hardest hit under the coalition.”
This isn’t the first time Miliband’s strategy of playing to the right has backfired in recent weeks.
His decision to pose with The Sun newspaper stunned Labour activists, particularly on Merseyside. Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson made a damning public criticism, and one councillor resigned.
Diane Abbott MP has slammed Miliband for pandering to anti-immigrant racism.
And according to the Financial Times newspaper, even one former cabinet minister has criticised the plan to stick to Tory cuts targets, asking “Why on earth would people want to vote Labour?”
Whether or not Miliband’s attacks help his party poach votes from the Tories in the short term, the real danger is that Labour will strengthen the right wing arguments that divide our class and strengthen its enemies.
Reprinted with permission

Argentina says it has no team for talks in debt battle

The Economy Ministry building is seen in Buenos Aires June 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian
The Economy Ministry building is seen in Buenos Aires June 18, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

(Reuters) - Argentina hasn't prepared a team to go to New York to negotiate with holdout bondholders, Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said on Thursday, casting doubt over whether it will seek a deal to stave off a debt default.
His remark appeared to contradict the government's lawyer, Carmine Boccuzzi of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, who said in federal court on Wednesday that Argentina would send officials to New York next week to seek negotiations with holdouts for the first time.
"There is no delegation prepared for a possible trip to the United States," Capitanich said in his morning briefing, although he also did not rule out negotiations.
A government source said later that Capitanich was referring to a lack of detail about who would travel and when, but that he wasn't saying talks wouldn't take place.
Argentina on Wednesday also said it couldn't afford to make its next bond payment, due June 30, if it had to pay the holdouts as well as the owners of its restructured bonds. Uncertainty about the government's strategy pushed Argentine stocks down about 3.5 percent in Thursday trading.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Argentina can't continue to pay creditors who agreed to restructure their bonds after its 2001-02 default on $100 billion in debt unless it also pays $1.33 billion to the holdouts demanding full payment.
President Cristina Fernandez's leftist government has until now refused to pay the holdouts and says the court rulings make it impossible to meet the next payment to holders of restructured debt.
Capitanich also referred to Economy Minister Axel Kicillof's remarks this week that Argentina was exploring ways to pay holders of its restructured bonds outside of U.S. law, an issue that was discussed yesterday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan.
"Therefore this (lifting of the stay) obviously changes the conditions from the point of view of paying, that's what generates the alternative conditions of paying under national law," Capitanich said.
Griesa said yesterday that adopting another payment mechanism of the kind proposed by the finance minister would violate the orders of his court.
Negotiations between the government and hedge funds leading the group of holdouts could resolve the crisis but the two sides appear to be far apart and Argentina is running out of time.
While the debt payment is due on June 30, the government has a grace period of 30 days before falling into default.
Fernandez has said she is open to negotiations while also accusing the holdouts of "extortion" and implying that her government might try to skirt the U.S. court rulings by bringing the debt under Argentine law.
The tough talk may be a bid to bolster Argentina's power at the negotiation table but it risks further angering Griesa, who has ruled consistently in favor of the holdouts and criticized Fernandez's public comments.
The holdout creditors are led by NML Capital Ltd., a division of billionaire Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp., and Aurelius Capital Management, chaired by Mark Brodsky.
"Argentina's lawyer has informed the court that unidentified government officials will come to New York on an unidentified day next week to discuss settlement after years of rebuffing settlement overtures," Brodsky said in a statement on Wednesday. "I have learned not to rely on any assurance Argentina's counsel provide to our courts. I expect a charade, but I hope to be proven wrong."
Spokesmen for NML and Aurelius on Thursday declined further comment about whether prospective talks were in the works.
(Reporting by Buenos Aires newsroom; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond and Alison Frankel in New York; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Kieran Murray and John Pickering)

Trader alert: This is a fantastic sign for gold stocks

From Chris Kimble of Kimble Charting Solutions:
(Click on chart to enlarge)
Since March I have been sharing with members that miners looked to be creating a bullish inverse head & shoulders pattern, and that the right shoulder needed to be completed.
Premium & Metals Members that are aggressive traders bought the miners (GDX/GDXJ) on June the 6th at (1) in the chart above. Last week a strong rally took place following a positive “power of the pattern” set up in the mining complex, with several mining index’s moving 10% higher in five days.
Did last weeks rally confirm that the bullish inverse head & shoulders pattern is completed? Not yet in my humble opinion… but so far I like what I see. I am sharing other resistance levels with members that I feel are key to keep this pattern going.
Examples of the power of the inverse head & shoulders pattern…
Natural Gas rallied 89% in 9 months off this inverse head & shoulders pattern two years ago this month (see NG H&S pattern here).
Yields formed one last year and interest rates blasted off, jumping 37% in 7 months, hurting bonds big time (See rates H&S pattern here).
This pattern has tons of potential, thats for sure. For it to be confirmed, other price action needs to take place. If playing the metals or mining stocks is of interest to you and you’d like to be informed of our pattern thoughts on this sector, I would be honored and humbled to have you as a member.


Who Just Bought Half A Billion Dollars Of Gold Futures?

Presented with little comment aside to note the surge in gold since Yellen gave markets the all-clear yesterday. It seems someone decided the open this morning was an opportune time to take on half a billion dollars of gold exposure...

Putin Advisor Proposes “Anti-Dollar Alliance” To Halt US Aggression Abroad

Source: Zero Hedge

It has been a while since both Ukraine, and the ongoing Russian response to western sanctions (which set off the great Eurasian axis in motion, pushing China and Russia close together, and accelerating the “Holy Grail” gas deal between the two countries) have made headlines. It is still not clear just why the western media dropped Ukraine coverage like a hot potato, especially since the civil war in Ukraine’s Donbas continues to rage and claim dozens of casualties on both sides. Perhaps the audience has simply gotten tired of hearing about mixed chess/checkers game between Putin vs Obama, and instead has reverted to reading the propaganda surrounding just as deadly events in the third war of Iraq in as many decades.
However, “out of sight” may be just what Russia’s political elite wants. In fact, as VoR’s  Valentin Mândr??escu reports, while the great US spin and distraction machine is focused elsewhere, Russia is already preparing for the next steps. Which brings us to Putin advisor Sergey Glazyev, the same person who in early March was the first to suggest Russia dump US bonds and abandon the dollar in retaliation to US sanctions, a strategy which worked because even as the Kremlin has retained control over Crimea, western sanctions have magically halted (and not only that, but as the Russian central bank just reported, the country’s 2014 current account surplus may be as high as $35 billion, up from $33 billion in 2013, and a far cry from some fabricated “$200+ billion” in Russian capital outflows which Mario Draghi was warning about recently). Glazyev was also the person instrumental in pushing the Kremlin to approach China and force the nat gas deal with Beijing which took place not necessarily at the most beneficial terms for Russia.
It is this same Glazyev who published an article in Russian Argumenty Nedeli, in which he outlined a plan for “undermining the economic strength of the US” in order to force Washington to stop the civil war in Ukraine. Glazyev believes that the only way of making the US give up its plans on starting a new cold war is to crash the dollar system.
As summarized by VoR, in his article, published by Argumenty Nedeli, Putin’s economic aide and the mastermind behind the Eurasian Economic Union, argues that Washington is trying to provoke a Russian military intervention in Ukraine, using the junta in Kiev as bait. If fulfilled, the plan will give Washington a number of important benefits. Firstly, it will allow the US to introduce new sanctions against Russia, writing off Moscow’s portfolio of US Treasury bills. More important is that a new wave of sanctions will create a situation in which Russian companies won’t be able to service their debts to European banks.
According to Glazyev, the so-called “third phase” of sanctions against Russia will be a tremendous cost for the European Union. The total estimated losses will be higher than 1 trillion euros. Such losses will severely hurt the European economy, making the US the sole “safe haven” in the world. Harsh sanctions against Russia will also displace Gazprom from the European energy market, leaving it wide open for the much more expensive LNG from the US.
Co-opting European countries in a new arms race and military operations against Russia will increase American political influence in Europe and will help the US force the European Union to accept the American version of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a trade agreement that will basically transform the EU into a big economic colony of the US. Glazyev believes that igniting a new war in Europe will only bring benefits for America and only problems for the European Union. Washington has repeatedly used global and regional wars for the benefit of  the American economy and now the White House is trying to use the civil war in Ukraine as a pretext to repeat the old trick.
Glazyev’s set of countermeasures specifically targets the core strength of the US war machine, i.e. the Fed’s printing press. Putin’s advisor proposes the creation of a “broad anti-dollar alliance” of countries willing and able to drop the dollar from their international trade. Members of the alliance would also refrain from keeping the currency reserves in dollar-denominated instruments. Glazyev advocates treating positions in dollar-denominated instruments like holdings of junk securities and believes that regulators should require full collateralization of such holdings. An anti-dollar coalition would be the first step for the creation of an anti-war coalition that can help stop the US’ aggression.
Unsurprisingly, Sergey Glazyev believes that the main role in the creation of such a political coalition is to be played by the European business community because America’s attempts to ignite a war in Europe and a cold war against Russia are threatening the interests of big European business. Judging by the recent efforts to stop the sanctions against Russia, made by the German, French, Italian and Austrian business leaders, Putin’s aide is right in his assessment. Somewhat surprisingly for Washington, the war for Ukraine may soon become the war for Europe’s independence from the US and a war against the dollar.

Jack Lew: We're committed to supporting Israel's economy

The US Secretary of Treasury is in Israel for the US-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) forum.

“After a very difficult winter that hit productivity hard, we expect a better second quarter, and the most recent data we have received reinforce our optimism,” said US Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, who arrived yesterday in Israel for the US-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG). The forum is taking place in Jerusalem, and is being led by Ministry of Finance Director General Yael Andorn. This is Lew’s first visit to Israel since he took office.
At his meeting today with Minister of Finance Yair Lapid , Lew said that the US is committed to supporting the Israeli economy, and said: “This is a loan guarantee program that we are offering - despite the fact that Israel does not need the guarantees now that it is able to access markets itself - which guarantees access during times of trauma. The loan guarantee program has already been extended for the third time, most recently in 2012, and this is a sign of the strong ties and our deep commitment to the leadership."
Regarding the Iran sanctions, Lew said, “They are effective and they will cause great damage to the economy. The temporary easing of sanctions was very limited. Iran is losing huge numbers of gas deals. The sanctions on Iran are the most severe that have ever been imposed on any country; the effects are felt. Iran’s economy has been left in a crisis situation that is forcing it to come to the negotiating table. But let there be no misunderstanding: Iran cannot attain nuclear arms.” The US Secretary of Treasury also spoke about Iraq and said that it is not a “military challenge,” and therefore there is no “military solution” to the Iraq problem.
“Like the US, Israel understands that growth is not just top-down, but also from the inside out,” said Israeli Minister of Finance Yair Lapid. “The middle class is the engine of creativity and job creation. We must continue our efforts to protect the middle class and to strengthen it, because it is our real source of economic power.” With these remarks, Lapid again expressed his opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s belief in trickle-down economics - a belief shared by many Republican Party members.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on June 18, 2014
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

Charter school companies in US face corruption charges

Two recent episodes expose the corruption rampant in large privately run and publicly funded charter school companies. Charter schools have aggressively expanded in the last decade as a key component of the bipartisan attack on public education in the United States led by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
In the course of 2013, 17 charter schools were closed in Ohio due to corruption, forcing hundreds of students to find alternative schools in the fall. Touted as the cornerstone of education “reform,” there is no longer any question that these so-called education companies are cash grabbing operations that would not exist without the government diverting money from resource-starved public schools.
On June 2, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Chicago United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter Schools as well as UNO itself, with defrauding investors in a $37.5 million municipal bond offering. UNO did not disclose that several million dollars for new school construction was awarded to construction companies operated by brothers of UNO Schools Chief Operating Officer Miguel D’Escoto. D’Escoto left UNO schools in February.
UNO, the largest operator of charter schools in Illinois, has neither confirmed nor denied the charges, opting to settle by agreeing to “improve procedures,” and accepting an independent monitor.
“UNO misled its bond investors by assuring them it had reported conflicts of interest in connection with state grants when in fact it had not,” said Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC Division of Enforcement. “Investors had a right to know that UNO’s transactions with related persons jeopardized its ability to pay its bonds because they placed the grant money that was primarily funding the projects at risk.”
In 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn cut off state funding to UNO schools for violating the terms of a 2009 state school construction grant totaling $98 million. For that grant, former UNO CEO Juan Rangel and UNO enjoyed the support of Illinois House Speaker and Democratic Party strongman Michael Madigan, a vocal proponent of education and pension reform.
Rangel, who stepped down last year amid the two corruption scandals, co-chaired Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign in 2010. Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff, has overseen the shutdown of 50 schools, the attack on Chicago teachers’ conditions and the expansion of charter schools.
The way for this was paved by the sellout of the 2012 strike by the Chicago Teachers Union. As a reward for this betrayal, the American Federation of Teachers was granted a “neutrality” agreement by UNO allowing it to “organize” charter school teachers, i.e., collect union dues from miserably paid instructors who have virtually no rights.
On June 4, the Des Plaines, Illinois headquarters of Turkish religious leader Fethullah Gülen’s Concept Charter Schools was quietly raided by the FBI. Nineteen other schools operated by the company in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are also reportedly being investigated. Gülen’s charter network is estimated to be the largest in the United States, with around 139 active schools in 26 states.
The schools are privately run and publicly funded, strategically located in urban areas having concentrations of poor and minority youth. The Chicago Math and Science Academy raided in June receives all but 8 percent of its $6 million yearly budget from the public school district.
Concept Schools purports to provide an education emphasizing math and science education, in line with Obama’s emphasis on the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM fields. Concept Schools sponsored an invitation-only STEM leadership summit in Washington, DC in April of this year.
A Concept spokeswoman stated the documents taken by federal investigators were part of an audit of grants for the Schools and Libraries Program. However, a representative of the Cleveland FBI office has told media outlets, “What we did was not part of any audit,” but part of an “ongoing white collar crime” investigation. This involves several agencies, including the US Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The June 4 federal search warrant on Concept Schools remains sealed, so any connection to previous investigations is unclear. The charter operator has been under federal scrutiny for both crimes and questionable education practices since 2009, including visa fraud.
The raid was conducted very quietly, with no identifying uniforms worn by FBI agents or marked cars present. School has already been dismissed for the summer.
In the last several years Gülen’s Niagara Foundation, as well as other Turkish NGOs, paid for House Speaker Madigan, and Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, in whose ward the Chicago Math and Science Academy is situated, to visit Turkey with other Illinois politicians.
Under the Obama administration the number of students enrolled in charter schools has doubled. New Orleans is now an all-charter school district with Detroit not far behind. The Obama administration has used its Race to the Top funding program to press states to lift their cap on the number of charter schools while offering tax breaks to encourage banks and educational “entrepreneurs” to invest in charter school construction.
Reprinted with permission