Tag: China (page 1 of 59)

“I Should Have Left Them In Jail” – Trump Slams UCLA Player’s Parents Indignation

A clearly frustrated President Trump raged over Twitter this afternoon at the father of a UCLA basketball player who downplayed Trump’s importance in getting his son released from shoplifting charges in China…

As a reminder, LaVar's son, LiAngelo, and two other players were arrested and accused of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store while the UCLA basketball team was on a trip to China for its season-opening game.

The players faced potential jail sentences for the charge, but Trump reportedly spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about resolving the situation. The players were released, and landed in the United States last week.

Trump took credit for their release, and questioned in a tweet whether the players would thank him.

The players subsequently held a press conference last week and apologized for the incident and thanked Trump.

However, as The Hill reports, ESPN on Friday asked LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of LiAngelo and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, about Trump’s role in bringing his son back to the United States.

"Who?" Ball responded.

 

"What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."

 

"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," LaVar Ball told ESPN.

 

"I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.'

 

I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him."

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The Coming Economic Downturn In Canada

Authored by Deb Shaw via MarketsNow.com,

  • Canadian GDP growth has outperformed this year, helping the Canadian dollar
  • As GDP growth slows and the Bank of Canada turns neutral, catalysts turning negative
  • Crude oil and real estate look set for a downturn, with negative implications for the currency

Given its natural resource-based economy, Canada is a boom and bust kind of place. This year, the country has enjoyed a significant boom. Thanks to a government stimulus program, rising corporate capital expenditures and consumer spending, Canada’s GDP growth has been nothing short of spectacular in 2017. According to Statistics Canada, the latest reading for year-over-year GDP growth is a healthy 3.5% (as of August 2017). While this is stronger than all major developed countries, growth is decelerating from its most recent peak in May 2017 (when GDP growth was an astounding 4.7%). A visual overview of historical GDP growth is shown below for reference:

Turning a corner: Canadian growth comes back down to earth

11-17-2017 CAD GDP growth

Source: Statistics Canada

Following the crude oil bust in the second quarter of 2014, Canadian growth rates cratered. While the country avoided a technical recession, the economic outlook was poor until early 2016. After crude oil returned to a bull market in the first quarter of 2016, the fortunes of the country turned. Given limited growth in 2015, the economy had no problem delivering 2%+ year-over-year growth rates in 2016. As a substantial stimulus program ramped up government spending in 2017, growth rates have continued to accelerate this year.

Storm clouds on the horizon: crude oil and real estate

While Canada has delivered exceptional growth in the last two years, the future outlook is much more challenging. Beyond the issue of base effects (mathematically, year-over-year GDP growth will be much tougher next year), key sectors including the oil & gas industry and Canadian real estate look ripe for a downturn.

Crude bull market intact today, but at risk in 2018

As WTI crude strengthens beyond $55, crude oil is clearly in a bull market today. Looking at figures from the International Energy Agency, global demand growth continues to run ahead of supply growth. Thus the ongoing bull market is supported by fundamentals. Thanks to the impact of hurricanes and infrastructure bottlenecks in 2017, US shale hasn’t entirely fulfilled its role as the global ‘swing producer’ this year. The dynamics of supply growth versus demand growth are shown below:

Who invited American shale? US supply ruins the crude oil party

10-13-2017 crude oil supply demand

Source: International Energy Agency, forward OPEC supply estimates via US EIA

Unfortunately, the status quo looks set to change as US supply returns with a vengeance. According to estimates from the IEA, supply growth will outstrip demand growth in the first quarter of 2018. Digging deeper into supply estimates, US shale is once again to blame. Our view is that this changing dynamic will lead to a new bear market in crude oil. Looking back at recent history, crude prices formed a long-term top in the second quarter of 2014 once supply growth overtook demand. Similarly, crude prices bottomed in the first quarter of 2016 once supply growth fell below demand in early 2016. Given Canada's dependence on crude oil exports, a bear market for the commodity is likely to result in a weaker currency.

As China enters its latest real estate downturn, Canada not far behind

While Canadian real estate has enjoyed a great year, the future outlook is much tougher. Similar to its peers in Australia and New Zealand, Canadian real estate prices tend to lag real estate prices in China. This is both because Canada’s economy is deeply intertwined with China, and because the country is a big destination for overseas investment from China. While overseas investors make up a relatively small portion of buyers (around 5% according to government estimates), they serve an important role by acting as the marginal buyer for prime property. A comparison of new house prices in China versus Canada is shown below for reference:

Canadian real estate boom set to run out of steam

11-17-2017 China Canada real estate

Source: Statistics Canada, China National Bureau of Statistics

As Chinese new house prices accelerated significantly in early 2015, Canadian real estate prices followed in 2016. As the Chinese market is now decelerating, negative growth appears to be on the horizon. In March 2015, Chinese house price growth bottomed at -6.1%. While the Canadian bull market continues for now (September new house prices registered at 3.8%), a downturn is likely over the next 6-12 months. As real estate makes up 13% of Canadian GDP, a significant decline in the fortunes of the industry are likely to spill over to the broader economy.

Implications for the Canadian dollar

At the beginning of the year, the Canadian dollar enjoyed a wide number of bullish catalysts including accelerating GDP growth, rising rate hike expectations, a relatively strong crude oil market and speculator sentiment that was at a bearish extreme. These catalysts, and the Bank of Canada’s actions in particular, helped the currency strengthen until late September.

Today, almost every factor that drives the Canadian dollar is working against it. Future GDP growth rates are set to keep decelerating. Looking at the Bank of Canada, its outlook for future rate hikes is now “cautious”. This is a big change from its hawkish tilt earlier this year. While speculator sentiment is no longer at bullish extremes, waning interest in the Canadian dollar is weighing on the currency. The ongoing NAFTA negotiations are another source of potential political risk. Finally, an impending downturn for both crude oil and Canadian real estate further worsen the picture. Thus, our longer term outlook on the Canadian dollar is bearish.

 

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Golden Catalysts

Authored by James Rickards via The Daily Reckoning,

The physical fundamentals are stronger than ever for gold.

Russia and China continue to be huge buyers. China bans export of its 450 tons per year of physical production.

Gold refiners are working around the clock and cannot meet demand.

Gold refiners are also having difficulty finding gold to refine as mining output, official bullion sales and scrap inflows all remain weak.

Private bullion continues to migrate from bank vaults at UBS and Credit Suisse into nonbank vaults at Brinks and Loomis, thus reducing the floating supply available for bank unallocated gold sales.

In other words, the physical supply situation has been tight as a drum.

The problem, of course, is unlimited selling in “paper” gold markets such as the Comex gold futures and similar instruments.

One of the flash crashes this year was precipitated by the instantaneous sale of gold futures contracts equal in underlying amount to 60 tons of physical gold. The largest bullion banks in the world could not source 60 tons of physical gold if they had months to do it.

There’s just not that much gold available. But in the paper gold market, there’s no limit on size, so anything goes.

There’s no sense complaining about this situation. It is what it is, and it won’t be broken up anytime soon. The main source of comfort is knowing that fundamentals always win in the long run even if there are temporary reversals. What you need to do is be patient, stay the course and buy strategically when the drawdowns emerge.

Where do we go from here?

There are many compelling reasons why gold should outperform over the coming months.

Deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Russia will only accelerate Russia’s efforts to diversify its reserves away from dollar assets (which can be frozen by the U.S. on a moment’s notice) to gold assets, which are immune to asset freezes and seizures.

The countdown to war with North Korea is underway, as I’ve explained repeatedly in these pages. A U.S. attack on the North Korean nuclear and missile weapons programs is likely by mid-2018.

Finally, we have to deal with our friends at the Fed. Good jobs numbers have given life to the view that the Fed will raise interest rates next month. The standard answer is that rate hikes make the dollar stronger and are a head wind for the dollar price of gold.

But I remain skeptical about a December hike. As I explained above, the market is looking in the wrong places for clues to Fed policy. Jobs reports are irrelevant; that was “mission accomplished” for the Fed years ago.

The key data are disinflation numbers. That’s what has the Fed concerned, and that’s why the Fed might pause again in December as it did last September.

We’ll have a better idea when PCE core inflation comes out Nov. 30.

Of course, the Fed’s main inflation metric has been moving in the wrong direction since January. The readings on the core PCE deflator year over year (the Fed’s preferred metric) were:

January 1.9%

February 1.9%

March 1.6%

April 1.6%

May 1.5%

June 1.5%

July 2017: 1.4%

August 2017: 1.3%

September 2017: 1.3%

Again, the October data will not be available until Nov. 30.

The Fed’s target rate for this metric is 2%. It will take a sustained increase over several months for the Fed to conclude that inflation is back on track to meet the Fed’s goal.

There’s obviously no chance of this happening before the Fed’s December meeting.

A weak dollar is the Fed’s only chance for more inflation. The way to get a weak dollar is to delay rate hikes indefinitely, and that’s what I believe the Fed will do.

And a weak dollar means a higher dollar price for gold.

Current levels look like the last stop before $1,300 per ounce. After that, a price surge is likely as buyers jump on the bandwagon, and then it’s up, up and away.

Why do I say that?

There’s an old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This chart is a good example of why that’s true:

Gold Breakout Chart

Gold analyst Eddie Van Der Walt produced this 10-year chart for the dollar price of gold showing that gold prices have been converging into a narrow tunnel between two price trends – one trending higher and one lower – for the past six years.

This pattern has been especially pronounced since 2015. You can see gold has traded up and down in a range between $1,050 and $1,380 per ounce. The upper trend line and the lower trend line converge into a funnel.

Since gold will not remain in that funnel much longer (because it converges to a fixed price) gold will likely “break out” to the upside or downside, typically with a huge move that disrupts the pattern.

At the extreme, this could imply a gold price on its way to $1,800 or $800 per ounce. Which will it be?

The evidence overwhelmingly supports the thesis that gold will break out to the upside. Central banks are determined to get more inflation and will flip to easing policies if that’s what it takes.

Geopolitical risks are piling up from North Korea, to Saudi Arabia, to the South China Sea and beyond.

The failure of the Trump agenda has put the stock market on edge and a substantial market correction may be in the cards. Acute shortages of physical gold have also set the stage for a delivery failure or a short squeeze.

Any one of these developments is enough to send gold soaring in response to a panic or as part of a flight to quality. The only force that could take gold lower is deflation, and that is the one thing central banks will never allow. The above chart is one of the most powerful bullish indicators I’ve ever seen.

Get ready for an explosion to the ups ide in the dollar price of gold. Make sure you have your physical gold and gold mining shares before the breakout begins.

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“We’re Not Stupid” – Top US Nuclear Commander Would Disobey “Illegal” Trump Orders

A few short months after Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said he would obey a hypothetical order to launch a nuclear strike against China if the president chose to give it, Air Force Gen. John Hyten – America's top nuclear commander – said Saturday he would push back against President Trump if the president ordered a nuclear launch the general believed to be "illegal."

When an audience member asked Hyten, who was speaking at a national security conference in Halifax Canada, about the hypothetical scenario, he responded by assuring his interlocutor that military commanders “aren’t stupid.”

Here's CBS:

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if Mr. Trump ordered a strike he considered unlawful.

 

"I think some people think we're stupid," Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. "We're not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?"

 

Hyten explained the process that would follow such a command. As head of STRATCOM, Hyten is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

 

"I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do," Hyten added. "And if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm going to say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."

Hyten said he has been trained every year for decades in the law of armed conflict, which takes into account specific factors to determine legality – necessity, distinction, proportionality, unnecessary suffering and more. Running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order is standard practice, he said.

And Hyten is not the only one who’s been thinking about how they might react to a hypothetical order to launch a nuclear strike. A few months ago, Vanity Fair reported that Defense Secretary Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had discussed the issue, though it’s unclear, exactly, how they would respond.

Hyten apparently believes that an order from the president could be illegal, under certain unspecified circumstances. And if you execute an illegal order, he said, you could be prosecuted.

John Hyten

"If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life," Hyten said.

As CBS pointed out, Hyten’s comments come at a time when Congress is reexamining the authorization of the use of military force and power to launch a nuclear strike.

In a hearing earlier this week, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, said Mr. Trump "can launch nuclear codes just as easily as he can use his Twitter account."

Hyten said the military is always ready to respond to the threat of North Korea, even at that very moment. Trump has been embroiled in a war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since shortly after taking office, and has repeatedly threatened to respond with overwhelming force if he the North continues to threaten the US.

"And we are ready every minute of every day to respond to any event that comes out of North Korea. That's the element of deterrence that has to be clear, and it is clear," Hyten said.

But Hyten also said handling North Korea and its unpredictable leader Kim Jong Un has to be an international effort. Mr. Trump has continued to put pressure on China to help manage its tempestuous neighbor.

"President Trump by himself can't change the behavior of Kim Jong Un," Hyten said. "But President Trump can create the conditions that the international community can reach out in different ways where we can work with the Republic of Korea, where we can work with our neighbors in the region."

However, Admiral Swift, who has led the Pacific Fleet since 2015, has a very different view of the obligations that come with being a military commander in charge of the US’s nuclear arsenal.

“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us.”

When it comes to nuclear war, North Korea, for many, is the first adversary that comes to mind. But in the long run, China, which is reportedly developing hypersonic fighter jets that would be able to reach the Continental US within 14 minutes and has been slowly expanding its military footprint in the Pacific, may pose the bigger threat.

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Is America In Terminal Decline?

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

John Rubino recently posted a graph from Bob Prechter’s Elliot Wave that points to some ominous signs. It depicts the S&P 500, combined with consumer confidence and savings rate. As the accompanying video at Elliott Wave, What “Too Confident to Save” Means for Stocks, shows, when the gap between high confidence and low savings is at its widest, a market crash -often- follows.

In 2000, the subsequent crash was 39%, in 2007 it was 54%. We are now again witnessing just such a gap, with the S&P 500 at record levels. Here’s the graph, with John’s comments:

Consumers Are Both Confident And Broke

Elliott Wave International recently put together a chart that illustrates a recurring theme of financial bubbles: When good times have gone on for a sufficiently long time, people forget that it can be any other way and start behaving as if they’re bulletproof. They stop saving, for instance, because they’ll always have their job and their stocks will always go up. Then comes the inevitable bust. On the following chart, this delusion and its aftermath are represented by the gap between consumer confidence (our sense of how good the next year is likely to be) and the saving rate (the portion of each paycheck we keep for a rainy day). The bigger the gap the less realistic we are and the more likely to pay dearly for our hubris.

John is mostly right. But not entirely. Not that I don’t think he knows, he simply forgets to mention it. What I mean is his suggestion that people stop saving because they’re confident, bullish. To understand where and why he slightly misses, let’s turn to Lance Roberts. Before we get to the savings, Lance explains why the difference between the Producer Price Index (PPI) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) is important to note.

Summarized, producer prices are rising, but consumer prices are not.

You Have Been Warned

There is an important picture that is currently developing which, if it continues, will impact earnings and ultimately the stock market. Let’s take a look at some interesting economic numbers out this past week. On Tuesday, we saw the release of the Producer Price Index (PPI) which ROSE 0.4% for the month following a similar rise of 0.4% last month. This surge in prices was NOT surprising given the recent devastation from 3-hurricanes and massive wildfires in California which led to a temporary surge in demand for products and services.

 

Then on Wednesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was released which showed only a small 0.1% increase falling sharply from the 0.5% increase last month.

 

Such differences have real life consequences. In Lance’s words:

This deflationary pressure further showed up on Thursday with a -0.3% decline in Export prices. (Exports make up about 40% of corporate profits) For all of you that continue to insist this is an “earnings-driven market,” you should pay very close attention to those three data points above. When companies have higher input costs in their production they have two choices: 1) “pass along” those price increase to their customers; or 2) absorb those costs internally.

 

If a company opts to “pass along” those costs then we should have seen CPI rise more strongly. Since that didn’t happen, it suggests companies are unable to “pass along” those costs which means a reduction in earnings. The other BIG report released on Wednesday tells you WHY companies have been unable to “pass along” those increased costs.

 

The “retail sales” report came in at just a 0.1% increase for the month. After a large jump in retail sales last month, as was expected following the hurricanes, there should have been some subsequent follow through last month. There simply wasn’t. More importantly, despite annual hopes by the National Retail Federation of surging holiday spending which is consistently over-estimated, the recent surge in consumer debt without a subsequent increase in consumer spending shows the financial distress faced by a vast majority of consumers.

That already hints at what I said above about savings. But it’s Lance’s next graph, versions of which he uses regularly, that makes it even more obvious. (NOTE: I think he means to say 2009, not 2000 below)

The first chart below shows a record gap between the standard cost of living and the debt required to finance that cost of living. Prior to 2000(?!), debt was able to support a rising standard of living, which is no longer the case currently.

The cut-off point is 2009, unless I miss something in Lance’s comment. Before that, borrowing could create the illusion of a rising standard of living. Those days are gone.

And it’s very hard to see, when you take a good look, what could make them come back.

Not only are savings not down because people are too confident to save, they are down because people simply don’t have anything left to save. The American consumer is sliding ever deeper into debt. And as for the Holiday Season, we can confidently -there’s that word again- predict that spending will be disappointing, and that much of what is still spent will add to increasing Consumer Credit Per Capita, as well as the Gap Between Real Disposable Income (DPI) And Cost Of Living.

The last graph, which shows Control Purchases, i.e. what people buy most, a large part of which will be basic needs, makes this even more clear.

With a current shortfall of $18,176 between the standard of living and real disposable incomes, debt is only able to cover about 2/3rds of the difference with a net shortfall of $6,605. This explains the reason why “control purchases” by individuals (those items individuals buy most often) is running at levels more normally consistent with recessions rather than economic expansions.

If companies are unable to pass along rising production costs to consumers, export prices are falling and consumer demand remains weak, be warned of continued weakness in earnings reports in the months ahead. As I stated earlier this year, the recovery in earnings this year was solely a function of the recovering energy sector due to higher oil prices. With that tailwind now firmly behind us, the risk to earnings in the year ahead is dangerous to a market basing its current “overvaluation” on the “strong earnings” story.

“Prior to 2009, debt was able to support a rising standard of living..” Less than a decade later, it can’t even maintain the status quo. That’s what you call a breaking point.

To put that in numbers, there’s a current shortfall of $18,176 between the standard of living and real disposable incomes. In other words, no matter how much people are borrowing, their standard of living is in decline.

Something else we can glean from the graphs is that after the Great Recession (or GFC) of 2008-9, the economy never recovered. The S&P may have, and the banks are back to profitable ways and big bonuses, but that has nothing to do with real Americans in their own real economy. 2009 was a turning point and the crisis never looked back.

Are the American people actually paying for the so-called recovery? One might be inclined to say so. There is no recovery, there’s whatever the opposite of that is, terminal decline?!. It’s just, where does that consumer confidence level come from? Is that the media? Is The Conference Board pulling our leg? Is it that people think things cannot possibly get worse?

What is by now crystal clear is that Americans don’t choose to not save, they have nothing left to save. And that will have its own nasty consequences down the road. Let’s raise some rates, shall we? And see what happens?!

One consolation: Europe, Japan, China are in the same debt-driven decline that Americans are. We’re all going down together. Or rather, the question is who’s going to go first. That is the only hard call left. America’s a prime candidate.

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China Is Testing Weapons That Can Reach The US In 14 Minutes

A secretive hypersonic wind tunnel, nicknamed 'Hyper Dragon', is helping the experts 'reveal many facts that Americans have not found out', one Chinese researcher said in a propaganda documentary…

South China Morning Post's Stephen Chen reports that China is building the world’s fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometres per second.

A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.

Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China’s hypersonic weapon development programme.

“It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground,” said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

The ground tests will significantly reduce the risk of failure when test flights of hypersonic aircraft start.

The world’s most powerful wind tunnel at present is America’s LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York state, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometres per second – 30 times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic aircraft are defined as vehicles that travel at speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or above.

The US military tested HTV-2, a Mach 20 unmanned aircraft in 2011 but the hypersonic flight lasted only a few minutes before the vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

In March, China conducted seven successful test flights of its hypersonic glider WU-14, also known as the DF-ZF, at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10.

Other countries including Russia, India and Australia have also tested some early prototypes of the aircraft, which could be used to deliver missiles including nuclear weapons.

“China and the US have started a hypersonic race,” said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing who received a national technology award for the invention of a new heat shield used on hypersonic vehicles in 2013.

Wu has worked on the development of hypersonic cruise missiles, a near space vehicle, high-speed drones and other possible weapons for the People’s Liberation Army.

He said there were a number of hypersonic wind tunnels in mainland China which had helped ensure the high success rate of its hypersonic weapon tests.

The new wind tunnel will be “one of the most powerful and advanced ground test facilities for hypersonic vehicles in the world”, said Wu, who was not involved in the project.

 

“This is definitely good news for us. I look forward to its completion,” he added.

In the new tunnel there will be a test chamber with room for relatively large aircraft models with a wing span of almost three metres.

To generate an airflow at extremely high speeds, the researchers will detonate several tubes containing a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen gases to create a series of explosions that can discharge one gigawatt of power within a split second, according to Zhao.

This is more than half of the total power generation capacity of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Guangdong.

The shock waves, channelled into the test chamber through a metallic tunnel, will envelope the prototype vehicle and increase the temperature over its body to 8,000 Kelvins, or 7,727 degrees Celsius, Zhao said.

That is nearly 50 per cent hotter than the surface of the Sun.

The hypersonic vehicle therefore must be covered by special materials with extremely efficient cooling systems inside the airframe to dissipate the heat, otherwise it could easily veer off the course or disintegrate during a long-distance flight.

The new tunnel would also be used to test the scramjet, a new type of jet engine designed specifically for hypersonic flights. Traditional jet engines are not capable of handling air flows at such speeds.

Zhao said the construction of the new facility would be led by the same team that built JF12, a hypervelocity denotation-driven shock tunnel in Beijing capable of duplicating flight conditions at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 9 at altitudes between 20 and 50 kilometres.

Jiang Zonglin, lead developer of the JF12, won the annual Ground Test Award issued by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics last year for advancing “state-of-the-art large-scale hypersonic test facilities”.

Jiang’s JF12 design “uses no moving parts and generates a longer test-duration and a higher energy flow than more traditionally designed tunnels”, according to the American institute.

According to state media reports, the JF12 tunnel has been operating at full capacity with a new test every two days since its completion in 2012 as the pace of hypersonic weapon development increased significantly in recent years.

In an article published in the domestic journal National Science Review last month, Jiang said the impact of hypersonic flights on society could be “revolutionary”.

“With practical hypersonic aeroplanes, a two-hour flight to anywhere in the world will be possible” while the cost of space travel could be cut by 99 per cent with reusable spacecraft technology, Jiang wrote.

 

“Hypersonic flight is, and in the foreseeable future will be, the driver of national security, and civilian transportation and space access,” he added.

The escape velocity, or the minimum speed needed to leave the Earth, is 11 kilometres per second.

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Katy Perry, Gigi Hadid Banned From China As Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Unravels

As we reported yesterday, this year’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which is slated to take place in Shanghai in just two weeks, is unraveling like a cheap lace thong thanks to Chinese authorities’ refusal to cooperate with its producers, and Communist Party's decision to deny visas to some of the biggest stars who were slated to participate in the show.

The latest update on the deteriorating state of affairs comes via the New York Post, which has reported that US pop sensation Katy Perry – who was slated to perform at the show – and supermodel Gigi Hadid, who was supposed to walk in the show, have been indefinitely banned from China.

Sources told the Post’s infamous Page Six gossip section that the “Roar” singer had tried applying for a visa to enter the Communist nation, but was denied by Chinese officials.

And while she was initially informed that she’d be able to gain access, the decision was apparently reversed after the government caught wind of a controversial incident from 2015, in which Perry donned a bright, glittery dress with sunflowers on it during a performance in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

Gigi Hadid

The innocent gesture wound up causing widespread outrage in China because the sunflower had been adopted the year before by anti-China protesters.

However, Perry also waved a Taiwanese flag during the concert in show of support for the country, which has been clashing with the mainland for years over its autonomy.

“She was initially granted a visa to perform at the VS show in Shanghai, then Chinese officials changed their minds and yanked her visa,” a source explained. “For every artist who wants to perform in China, officials comb through their social-media and press reports to see if they have done anything deemed to be offensive to the country. Maroon 5 was banned a few years ago because one band member wished the Dalai Lama happy birthday on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Hadid and a handful of other models were banned because of social media posts that apparently offended Chinese government officials.

Hadid, who was booked for the show back in August, was banned because of a February Instagram video — in which she held up a biscuit shaped like a Buddha and imitated the religious figure by squinting her eyes.

The clip was posted by the model’s sister, Bella Hadid, in February. It was later deleted following a storm of criticism as Chinese social-media users warned her not to come to Shanghai, calling her racist.

Apparently, Victoria’s Secret has decided that the show will go on, with or without Hadid:

 

 

Some of Victoria’s Secret’s biggest names have been denied entry to China, in addition to lesser-known models, such as Julia Belyakova, Kate Grigorieva and Irina Sharipova.

Model Adriana Lima’s visa has been held up due to an ongoing “diplomatic problem."

Harry Styles will reportedly replace Perry as the show’s performing artist.
 

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Stockman Slams “The Awesome Recovery” Narrative

Authored by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog,

One of the great philosophers of recent times was surely Sgt. Easterhaus of "Hill Street Blues". As he assigned his men to their daily rounds in the crime infested streets of the Big Apple he always ended the precinct's morning call with his signature admonition:

"Let's be carful out there."

That wisdom has been long lost on both ends of the Acela Corridor. In the face of blatant dangers and even existential threats, their denizens whistle past the graveyard with alacrity. So doing, they turn a blind eye on virtually all that contradicts the awesome recovery narrative, the indispensable nation conceit and the Washington can Make America Great Again (MAGA) delusion, among countless other fantasies.

For example, the GOP should be literally petrified by an horrid fiscal scenario for the coming decade that entails Social Security going bust, another $12 trillion of current policy deficits and a prospective $33 trillion public debt by 2027. And even that presupposes a macro-economic miracle in the interim: Namely, a 207 month stretch from 2009 to 2027 without a recession—–a feat which is twice the longest expansion in recorded history

Image result for images of three monkeys of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Instead, they have passed a FY 2018 budget resolution which implicitly embraces all of the above fiscal mayhem, and then adds upwards of $2 trillion (so far and counting interest) of incremental deficits to fund an ill-designed tax cut that is inherently an economic dud and political time bomb.

As to the former, the GOP is lost in ritual incantation and foggy Reagan-era nostalgia. Unlike the giant Reagan tax cut of 1981, the pending bills do not cut marginal tax rates measurably—or even the individual income tax burden in any meaningful sense.

In fact, if you set aside the so-called pass-thru rate for unincorporated businesses (see below), the entire 10-year tax cut on the individual side amounts to just $480 billion. In the scheme of things, that's a tiny number; it represents only 2.2% of the $22 trillion CBO baseline for individual income tax collections over the next decade; and it also is equal to just 0.2% of the projected nominal GDP over the period.

By way of comparison, the Reagan tax cut amounted to 6.2% of GDP when fully effective; and the net cut for individuals taxpayers alone averaged 2.7% of GDP over a decade. In today's economy, that would amount to a tax cut of $6.5 trillion during 2018-2027 or 14X more than the $450 billion net figure estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

To be sure, the abused citizens of America are more than entitled to even this tiny tax cut and much more. That is, if their elected representatives were willing to cut spending by an equal amount or even raise alternative, more benign sources of revenue (i.e. a VAT on consumers vs. the current levy on producer and worker incomes). But unless a rapidly aging society wishes to bury itself in unsupportable public debt, it simply can't afford deficit-financed tax cuts for either the principle or the politics of the thing.

Moreover, to pretend that the tax concoction fashioned by Congressman Brady—- with a pack of Gucci Gulch jackals nipping at his heels— will actually generate enough growth and jobs to largely pay for itself is to make a mockery of Sgt. Easterhaus' admonition. Rather than an exercise in fiscal carefulness, it is the height of recklessness to assume that much enhanced domestic growth, employment and Treasury receipts will result from any part of the $2.8 trillion cut for the rich and corporations that is at the heart of the GOP tax bill.

Actually, it's the heart and then some. With recent modifications (including dropping of the $150 billion corporate excise tax intended to prevent companies from hiding domestic profits via over-invoicing of imports from their own affiliates), the net revenue loss of the Brady bill is calculated at about $1.7 trillion.

That means, of course, that fully 165% of the net tax cut goes to: (1) 5,500 dead rich people's heirs per year ($172 billion for estate tax repeal); (2) 4.3 million very wealthy loophole users ($700 billion for the minimum tax repeal); and (3) the top 1% and 10% of households who own 60% and 85% of business equities, respectively, who will get most of the $1.95 trillion of business rate cuts.

In this context, we cannot stress more insistently that Art Laffer's famous napkin does not apply to business tax cuts in today's world of globalized trade and labor rates and artificially cheap central bank enabled debt and capital.

That's because the business income taxes are born by owners, not workers. The wage rates and incomes of the latter are determined in a saturated global labor market where the China Price for Goods and the India Price for internet based services sets wages on the margin.

At the same time, owners are not deterred from making investments by the proverbial "high after-tax cost of capital". That's because it isn't.

Even at the current statutory 35% tax rate (which few pay), the absolute cost of equity and debt capital is cheaper than ever before in modern history.

In fact, the after-tax cost of equity to scorched earth investment juggernauts like Amazon is virtually zero, while the cheap debt-fueled boom in conventional plant, equipment, mining, shipping and distribution assets over the last two decades has stocked the planet with sufficient capacity for decades to come.

In short, if you lower the business tax rates to 20% and 25% for corporations and pass-thrus, respectively, you will get more dividends, more stock buybacks and other returns to shareholders. Those distributions, in turn, will go to the very wealthy and to pension funds/non-profits. The latter will pay no taxes on these distributions while the former will pay 15%-20% at current law rates of o%, 15% and 20% on capital gains and dividends, which the Brady bill does not change.

In short, maybe the $2.8 trillion of tax cuts for business and the wealthy will generate a few hundred billion of reflows over the decade. And even that will not be attributable to the "incentive effect" of the Laffer Curve at all; it's just tax collection mechanics at work as between the personal and business taxing systems.

By the same token, the Sgt. Easterhaus principle is also being ash-canned by the GOP on the politics side of the tax bill, as well. In fact, Republicans have been chanting the "tax cut" incantation for so many decades that they apparently can't see the obvious. Namely, that among the middle quintile of households (about 30 million filers between $55,000 and $93,000 of AGI) the ballyhooed "tax cut" will actually be a crap shoot.

When fully effective, roughly two-thirds of filers (20 million units) would realize a $1,070 per year tax cut, while another 31% (roughly 9.5 million filers) would experience a $1,150 tax increase!

That's a whole lot of rolling dice—-depending upon family size, sources of income and previous use of itemized deductions. Yet for the heart of the middle class as a whole—-30 million filers in the aforementioned income brackets—the statistical average tax cut would amount to $6.15 per week.

That's right. Two Starbucks cappuccinos and a banana!

So we'd call the GOP's noisy advertising of a big tax cut for the middle class reckless, not careful. Indeed, the Dems will spend hundreds of millions during the 2018 election season on testimonials and tax tables which prove the GOP's claim is a pure con job.

They will also prove the opposite— that the overwhelming share of this unaffordable tax cut is going to the top of the economic ladder. After all, the income tax has morphed into a Rich Man's Levy over the last three decades. So if you cut income taxes—-the benefits inherently and mechanically go to the few who actually pay.

Thus, in the most recent year (2015), 150.5 million Americans filed for income taxes, but just 6.8 million filers (4.5% of the total) accounted for 35% of all AGI ($3.6 trillion) and 59% of taxes paid ($858 billion).

By contrast, the bottom 64 million filers reported only $928 billion of AGI, and paid just 2.2%  ($20 billion) in taxes. That is, owing to the standard deduction, personal exemptions and various credits the bottom 44% of taxpayers accounted for only 1.4% of personal income tax collections.

Even when you widen the bracket to the bottom 123 million tax filers (82%), you get $4.3 trillion of AGI and just $284 billion of taxes paid. In other words, the bottom four-fifths of filers pay only 6.6% of their AGI in tribute to Uncle Sam. They may not be getting their money's worth from the Washington puzzle palaces, but you can't get blood from a turnip, either.

In short, Flyover America desperately needs tax relief for the 160 million workers who actually do pay up to 15.5% of their wages in employer/employee payroll tax deductions. Yet by ignoring the $1.1 trillion per year payroll tax entirely and recklessly and risibly claiming that its income and corporate tax cut bill materially aids the middle class, the GOP is only setting itself up for a thundering political backlash.

Nothing makes this clearer than some recent (accurate) calculations by a left-wing outfit called the Institute for Policy Studies that boil down to the proposition that "It Takes A Baseball Team".

That is, the top 25 US persons (like the full MLB roster) on the Forbes 400 list now report about $1 trillion in collective net worth. That happens to match the net worth of the bottom 180 million (56%) Americans.

Needless to say, that egregious disproportion does not represent free market capitalism at work; it's the deformed fruit of Bubble Finance and the vast inflation of financial assets that the Fed and other central banks have enabled over the past three decades.

In terms of the Sgt. Easterhaus metaphor, monetary central planning has planted some exceedingly dangerous political time bombs in the precincts, neighborhoods, towns and cities of Flyover America. Accordingly, if the GOP succeeds in passing some version of its current tax bill, it may be what finally brings the Dems back into power on an out-and-out platform of socialist healthcare (single payor) and tax redistributionism with malice aforethought.

Even as the GOP recklessly plunges forward with gag rules and its sight unseen legislative steamroller (echoes of ObamaCare in 2010), it will never be able to hide what is buried in the bill's tax tables. Namely, an average tax cut for the top 1%—even after accounting for elimination of upwards of $1.3 trillion of itemized deductions—-that would amount to $1,000 per week.

Moreover, for the top o.1% (150,000 filers), the Dem campaign ads will show a cut of $5,300 per week; and for a subset of 100,000 of the top 0.1% filers, the GOP's tax cut would amount to $11,300 per week .

That's right. Each and every one of the very ultra rich would get a tax break equivalent to that which would accrue to every 2,000 middle bracket filers under the Brady bill.

As Sgt. Easterhaus might have said: They have been warned!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Acela Corridor, the good precinct sergeant gets no respect, either. Indeed, gambling in today's hideously over-valued and unstable casino is exactly the opposite of being careful; it's certain to lead to severe—even fatal—financial injuries on the beat.

In this context, we have been saying right along that the essential evil of monetary central planning is that it systematically falsifies asset prices and corrupts all financial information. That includes what passes for analysis by the Cool Aid drinkers in the casino.

But when we ran across this gem from one Steve Chiavarone yesterday we had to double check because we thought perhaps we were inadvertently reading The Onion.

But, no, he's actually a paid in full (and then some) portfolio manager at the $360 billion Federated Investors group who appeared on CNBC, and then got reported by Dow-Jones' MarketWatch just in case you had the sound turned off during his appearance on bubblevision.

So here's how the bull market will remain "alive for another decade." According to Chiavarone, millenials who don't have two nickels to rub together will make it happen. No sweat.

“Millennials are entering the workforce, but their wages are going to be under pressure their whole career,” he explained to CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Friday. “They won’t make enough money to pay down their debt, fund their life and fund retirement where there is no pension. So, they’re going to need equities.”

Then again, aspiration and capability are not exactly the same thing. In fact, the frequent yawning difference between the two puts us in mind of the Donald's characterization of his primary opponent as Little Marco Rubio. The latter never stops talking about himself as the very embodiment of the American Dream come true—-so for all we know perhaps Marco did aspire to be an NBA star.

But when he famously couldn't reach his water bottle from atop a stool during his nationwide TV rebuttal of an Obama SOTU speech a few years back, it was evident that NBA stardom wasn't ever meant to be.

Nor during the coming decade of stagnant wages and rising interest rates is it any more obvious how millennials will beg, borrow or steal their way to massive purchases of equities. That is, how they will finance what will actually be an avalanche of stock sales by 80 million fading baby boomers who will need the proceeds to pay their nursing home bills.

But never mind. MarketWatch caught the full measure of  what shines on the inside of Mr. Chiavarone's financial beer goggles:

 The risk is not being in this market,” says Chiavarone, who helps run the Federated Global Allocation Fund. The firm’s current price target is for 2,750 on the S&P by the end of next year and 3,000 for 2019.

 

“We are probably frankly low on both of them,” he said. “Tax reform could push up the markets.” That’s not to say there won’t be some pain along the way, specifically the potential for a recession in 2020 and 2021, according to Chiavarone.

 

What’s an investor to do in that case? “Buy the recession,” he said.

Indeed, it doesn't come any stupider than the market blather that is constantly published on MarketWatch. Today it also informs us that not only have US earnings been galloping forward in recent quarters, but its actually a global trend:

However, this is hardly a U.S.-only story. Corporate earnings have been improving globally, and some of the fastest growth has come from international companies, as seen in the following chart from BlackRock, which looks at U.S. growth against the globe, excluding the U.S.

The chart below is supposed to be the evidence, but we are still scratching our heads looking for the point. It seems that global corporate earnings ex-US based companies have surged…..all the way back to where they were in 2011!

You can't make this stuff up. Did these geniuses notice that China just went full retard in credit expansion to insure that the coronation of Mr. Xi was the greatest since, apparently, the Ming Dynasty invited the civilized world (not Europe) to the coronation of its fourth emperor in 1424?

In fact, the 19th Party Congress is now over, and the Red Suzerains of Beijing are back to the impossible task of reining in the massive malinvestment, housing, debt and construction bubbles which have turned China's economy into a $40 trillion powder keg. So right on cue it reported a sharp cooling of its red hot pre-coronation economy last night.

Thus, value-added industrial output, a rough proxy for GDP, expanded by just 6.2% in October compared to double digit increases a few months back.

Likewise, fixed-asset investment climbed 7.3% in the January-October period from a year earlier. Notably, that's way down from high double digit rates during most of the century, and, in fact, is the slowest pace since December 1999.

Needless to say, the latter data point amounts to a clanging clarion. At the end of the day, the ballyhooed Chinese growth miracle is really a story of construction and debt-fueled asset investment gone wild. And that party is now over.

So whatever Sgt. Easterhaus actually meant during the seven seasons of "Hill Street Blues" which always started with his famous admonition, we are quite sure that today it would not have meant buying the dips in a casino that is rife with unprecedented danger.

Finally, when it comes to real danger we think the most precarious spot along the Acela Corridor is about one mile from Union Station. We are speaking, of course, of the Oval Office and the Donald's questionable tenure therein.

Even as he meandered around Asia double-talking about trade and basking in the royal reception put on by his duplicitous hosts in Tokyo, Seoul and most especially Beijing, the Donald did manage to hit a fantastic bull-eye stateside.

Indeed, his takedown of the three stooges—Brennan, Clapper and Comey—–of the Deep State's spy apparatus will be one for the ages. Not since Jimmy Carter has a president even vaguely admonished the intelligence agencies, but as it his wont, the Donald held nothing back—naming names and drop-kicking backsides good and hard:

“And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks. So you look at it — I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker,” Trump told the reporters on Air Force One…..   

Yes, the next day he backed away in what appeared to be a pro forma nod to be his own courage-challenged appointees.

We don't think so, however.

Image result for picture of brennan, comey and clapper in prison uniforms

The truth is, the Deep State is already in the precinct house. And Sgt. Easterhaus is talking to the wall.

 

http://WarMachines.com

Moody’s Boosts Modi: India Gets First Sovereign Credit Upgrade Since 2004

Moody’s upgrade to India’s credit rating comes as a much-needed boost for India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who has been criticised for the fallout from the goods and services tax (GST) and demonetisation reforms. Indeed, Moody’s argued that Modi’s reforms will help to stabilize India’s rising debt levels. According to Reuters.

Moody's Investors Service upgraded its ratings on India's sovereign bonds for the first time in nearly 14 years on Friday, saying continued progress on economic and institutional reform will boost the country's growth potential. The agency said it was lifting India's rating to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed its rating outlook to stable from positive as risks to India's credit profile were broadly balanced. Moody's upgrade, its first since January 2004, moves India's rating to the second lowest level of investment grade. The upgrade is a shot in the arm for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and the reforms it has pushed through, and it comes just weeks after the World Bank moved India up 30 places in its annual ease of doing business rankings.

Moody's believes that Modi’s reforms have reduced the risk of a sharp increase in India’s debt, even in potential negative scenarios. On the GST reform, which converted India's 29 states into a single customs union, the rating agency expects it to boost productivity by removing barriers to inter-state trade. In addition, the recent $32 billion recapitalisation of state banks and the reform of the bankruptcy code are beginning to address India’s sovereign credit profile.

"While the capital injection will modestly increase the government's debt burden in the near term, it should enable banks to move forward with the resolution of NPLs."

Following the upgrade, India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index rose 1.1%, with metals, property and banks the strongest performers. The Sensex has risen 25% so far in 2017, while the banks sector is 42% higher. Retail investors have piled into financial assets and the banking system has been awash with funds since Modi unexpectedly banned high denomination bank notes last November.

As Reuters notes, the Indian government had been unsuccessful at persuading Moody’s to upgrade the rating in 2016.

Last year, India lobbied hard with Moody's for an upgrade, but failed. The agency raised doubts about the country's debt levels and fragile banks, and declined to budge despite the government's criticism of their rating methodology. The government cheered the upgrade on Friday with Economic Affairs Secretary S. Garg telling reporters the rating upgrade was a recognition of economic reforms undertaken over three years.

The Rupee and Indian bonds also rallied on the Moody’s announcement – although some debt traders expressed scepticism that the rally was sustainable.

"It seems like Santa Claus has already opened his bag of goodies," said Lakshmi Iyer, head of fixed income at Kotak Mutual Fund said. "The move is overall positive for bonds which were caught in a negative spiral. This is a structural positive which would lead to easing in yields across tenors," she said. 

 

The benchmark 10-year bond yield was down 10 basis points at 6.96 percent, the rupee was trading stronger at 64.76 per dollar versus the previous close of 65.3250. "We have been expecting it for a long time and this was long overdue and is very positive for the market. Looks like sentiments are going to become positive," said Sunil Sharma, chief investment officer with Sanctum Wealth Management. However, debt traders said the rally was unlikely to last beyond a few days as the coming heavy bond supply and hawkish inflation outlook were unlikely to change soon.

 

"Who has the guts to continue buying in this market?" said a bond trader at a private bank.

India has basked in its status as the world’s fastest growing major economy and Moody’s forecasts suggests that it will continue to outpace China’s roughly 6.5% growth, but only marginally. In the fiscal year to March 2018, Moody’s expects the Indian economy to grow at 6.7% versus last year’s 7.1%. From Reuters.

Moody's noted that while a number of key reforms remain at the design phase, it believes those already implemented will advance the government's objective of improving the business climate, enhancing productivity and stimulating investment. “Longer term, India's growth potential is significantly higher than most other Baa-rated sovereigns," said Moody's.

Bloomberg published some initial reactions from portfolio managers and analysts.

Luke Spajic (head of portfolio management for emerging Asia at Pacific Asset Management Co. in Singapore)

  • “The upgrade came sooner than expected. India has undertaken some tough but necessary reforms like demonetization and the GST, the benefits of which are yet to be fully calculated”
  • “India is on the right long-term path with capital markets — in both debt and equity — pricing in potential improvements in investment quality”

Lin Jing Leong (investment manager, Asia fixed income, at Aberdeen Standard Investments in Singapore)

  • “The upgrade has been long time coming” given Modi’s reform ambitions. “This is not a surprise — we do believe all the rating agencies have been behind the curve somewhat”
  • Initial Indian market reaction is likely to be knee-jerk, but we still expect dollar-India credit spreads, onshore India bonds and the rupee to continue outperforming the broader Asia and emerging-market bloc.

Navneet Munot (chief investment officer at SBI Funds Management Pvt. in Mumbai)

  • This will boost global investors’ confidence in India, but factors like world monetary policy shifts and company earnings will also be key to foreign inflows.
  • Investors like us who have long positions on India always expected an upgrade.
  • The firm has been boosting equity holdings in Indian corporate lenders, industrial and telecommunications companies.

Nischal Maheshwari (head of institutional equities at Edelweiss Securities Ltd. in Mumbai)

  • Equity markets have already given a thumbs up to the news”.
  • It will lead to a reduction in borrowing costs, which is a major improvement.
  • “For foreign investors in equity, it doesn’t change much as their concerns around high stock valuations remain. However, their commitment to the country is in place and the upgrade will only help reiterate their position”.

Shameek Ray (head of debt capital markets at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership in Mumbai)

  • Foreign investors won’t be able to take full advantage of the positive sentiment from the upgrade as quotas for them to buy into rupee-denominated government and corporate debt are full, Ray says.
  • “Whenever these quotas open up there will be keen interest to take India exposure,” but in the meantime Indian companies will get more access to offshore markets.
  • “We could see them pricing dollar or Masala bonds at tighter levels”.

Ken Hu (chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific fixed income at Invesco Hong Kong Ltd.)

  • The upgrade confirms Invesco’s positive view on India’s structural economic reforms.
  • “With more political capital, Modi and his party are able to launch more difficult but more impactful structural reforms. The positive feedback loop will continue to lead to more credit rating upgrades of India in future”.

Chakri Lokapriya (managing director at TCG Asset Management in Mumbai)

  • The upgrade is “very positive for banks, infrastructure and cyclical sectors”.
  • “Banks will benefit strongly as their credit costs come down leading to a reduction in interest costs for infrastructure and manufacturing companies”.

Ashley Perrott (head of pan-Asian fixed income at UBS Asset Management in Singapore)

  • The upgrade is a bit of a surprise, so the market is likely to see some initial bond-spread tightening.
  • “But raising one notch does not make much difference from a fundamental perspective”.

Avinash Thakur (managing director of debt capital markets at Barclays Plc in Hong Kong)

  • “The upgrade should help issuers from India as they are no longer on the cusp of investment grade”.
  • “It makes a big difference to investors and we will see more dollar bond supply from India”.

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Xi Jinping Pledges To “Strengthen Relationship” Between Saudi Arabia And China

In what can only be described as a masterful play to entice Saudi Arabia to list shares of Aramco in Hong Kong (assuming the kingdom follows through with the listing, which is reportedly in jeopardy) Chinese state media reported Friday that Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to strengthen the relationship between China and Saudi Arabia as the latter tries to reform its economy.

According to the South China Morning Post, Xi vowed to strengthen cooperation between the two states at a time when the Middle Eastern kingdom is facing a political shake-up at home, and heightened tensions with Lebanon and Iran. Xi’s vow of friendship came with the crucial qualifier that the relationship between the two countries wouldn’t be affected by shifting international circumstances.

No matter how the international and regional situation changed, China’s determination to deepen strategic cooperation with Saudi Arabia would not change, President Xi Jinping told Saudi King Salman in a telephone conversation, according to a report by China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

 

“China supports Saudi in its efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and achieve greater development,” Xi was quoted as saying.

Of course, that’s an implicit threat that China might come to KSA’s aide if the simmering hostilities between the kingdom and Iran explode out into a military conflict between the two regional rivals. However, the SCMP also stresses that China has a strong relationship with Iran as well.

Hong Kong is reportedly still in consideration to host the Aramco IPO.

And while China will presumably play the dual role of investor and adviser as the Kingdom seeks to diversify its economy into other industries besides energy, including technology and manufacturing, KSA has in returned promised to assist Xi’s “one belt, one road” economic reform program.

King Salman told Xi that Saudi Arabia was willing to become China’s “important partner” in the Gulf. The kingdom also intended to play a role in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and cooperate with Beijing in the energy and financial sectors, he said

Though Chinese media reports didn’t delve into too much detail about the recent purge orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the call between the two leaders obviously follows an event two weeks for KSA, where its leaders reportedly pressured Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign. Hariri had to go, allegedly, because he was deemed too soft on Hezbollah, the shiite militant group that’s affiliated with Iran and is also an important powerbroker in Lebanon.

Two weeks ago, dozens of Saudi princes and officials were detained on corruption charges, a move that is believed to have helped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his power. And yesterday the Financial Times exposed the “corruption crackdown” for what is truly is: A naked cash grab meant to refill KSA’s foreign currency reserves while allowing it the financial flexibility to help ensure the Aramco IPO is executed at the best possible price.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun this week accused Saudi authorities of “detaining” Hariri, but Riyadh said he was free to leave the kingdom “when he pleases”. Hariri was reportedly supposed to arrive in France on Friday.

Saudi Arabia was also seen as a protagonist in leading 11 other nations to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar earlier this year, a move meant to punish KSA’s tiny neighbor for having too close a relationship with Iran.

Despite Xi’s promise, China also maintains warm relations with Iran, meaning the likelihood that China would become involved in a military struggle against either Iran or Saudi is probably low.

According to the SCMP, China has bolstered its presence in the region by forging closer ties with both countries. Of course, Saudi has plenty to gain from closer relations with China, including expanding its foothold in the world’s largest import market for crude.

During King Salman’s first official trip to China in March, the two countries signed deals, including some in the oil sector, worth a combined US$65 billion, the SCMP noted.

However, if the feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran intensifies – and that looks likely – the threat of a geopolitical conflict will become impossible to ignore.

What then?

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Saudi ‘Corruption’ Probe Widens: Dozens Of Military Officials Arrested

After jailing dozens of members of the royal family, and extorting numerous prominent businessmen, 32-year-old Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman has widened his so-called 'corruption' probe further still.

The Wall Street Journal reports that at least two dozen military officers, including multiple commanders, recently have been rounded up in connection to the Saudi government’s sweeping corruption investigation, according to two senior advisers to the Saudi government.

Additionally, several prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days.

A number of businessmen including Loai Nasser, Mansour al-Balawi, Zuhair Fayez and Abdulrahman Fakieh also were rounded up in recent days, the people said.

 

Attempts to reach the businessmen or their associates were unsuccessful.

It isn’t clear if those people are all accused of wrongdoing, or whether some of them have been called in as witnesses. But their detainment signals an intensifying high-stakes campaign spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

There appear to be three scenarios behind MbS' decision to go after the military:

1) They are corrupt and the entire process is all above board and he is doing the right thing by cleaning house;

 

2) They are wealthy and thus capable of being extorted (a cost of being free) to add to the nation's coffers; or

 

3) There is a looming military coup and by cutting off the head, he hopes to quell the uprising.

If we had to guess we would weight the scenarios as ALL true with the (3) becoming more likely, not less.

So far over 200 people have been held without charges since the arrests began on November 4th and almost 2000 bank accounts are now frozen, which could be why, as The Daily Mail reports, Saudi prince and billionaire Al-Waleed bin Talal has reportedly put two luxury hotels in Lebanon up for sale after being detained in his country during a corruption sweep.

The Saudi information ministry previously stated the government would seize any asset or property related to the alleged corruption, meaning the Savoy hotel could well become the state property of the kingdom.

'The accounts and balances of those detained will be revealed and frozen,' a spokesman for Saudi Arabia's information ministry said.

 

'Any asset or property related to these cases of corruption will be registered as state property.'

As we noted previously, it appears clear that MbS has decided to enforce a 70% wealth tax…the Financial Times reports today that the Saudi government has offered the new occupants of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton a way out…. and it’s going to cost them: In some cases, as much as 70% of their net worth.

Saudi authorities are negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen held over allegations of corruption, offering deals for the detainees to pay for their freedom, people briefed on the discussions say.

 

In some cases the government is seeking to appropriate as much as 70 per cent of suspects’ wealth, two of the people said, in a bid to channel hundreds of billions of dollars into depleted state coffers.

 

The arrangements, which have already seen some assets and funds handed over to the state, provide an insight into the strategy behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s dramatic corruption purge.

The country’s attorney-general has said he is investigating allegations of corruption amounting to at least $100 billion – though the total value of assets seized could be as high as $800 billion. Though the Financial Times puts the high-end figure at a relatively modest $300 billion; to make up for the delta, more arrests are still expected.

Regular Saudis, who’ve seen their benefits cut and some of their jobs taken away, support MbS’s decision.  “Why should the poor take all the pain of austerity,” said one Saudi academic. “The rich need to pay their way too.”

In Saudi Arabia, they are about to do just that.

*  *  *

While MbS also continues to get the support of US officials, not everyone is convinced that the anti-corruption probe will succeed

As Counterpunch.org's Patrick Cockburn warns in fact, it is doomed to fail

About eight or nine years ago, I had an Afghan friend who previously worked for a large US aid agency funding projects in the Afghan provinces. He had been hired to monitor their progress once work had got underway, but he did not hold the job very long for reasons that he explained to me.

The problem for the Americans at the local agency headquarters in Kabul was that the risk of ambush by the Taliban was deemed too high for them personally to visit the projects that they were funding. Instead, they followed the construction from one step removed, by insisting that the Afghan company involved should transmit back to Kabul, at set intervals, detailed pictures of its activities, to show that they were fulfilling their contract to the letter.

Almost as an afterthought, the aid agency thought it might be useful to send along an Afghan in their employ to check that all was well. His first mission was to go to Kandahar province, where some plant – I seem to remember it was a vegetable packing facility – was believed to be rising somewhere in the dangerous hinterland. He went there, but, despite earnest inquiries, was unable to locate the project.

Back in Kandahar city, he asked around about the mystery of the missing vegetable plant, but found that his questions were answered evasively by those he contacted.

Finally, he met somebody who, under a pledge of secrecy about the source of the information, explained to him what was happening.

Businessmen in Kandahar receiving funds from the aid agency and knowing its reliance on photographs to monitor works in progress, had found it safer and more profitable to fake the whole process.

They engaged a small local company with experience of making TV advertisements and documentaries to rig up what was, in effect, a film studio – in which workers played by extras would be shown busily engaged in whatever activity the agency was paying for. In the case of the vegetable-packing facility, this must have been simple enough to fake by buying cabbages and cauliflowers in the market to be placed in boxes inside some shed by labourers hired by the day.

My friend returned to Kabul and hinted to his employers that this particular project in Kandahar was not doing as well as they imagined. He thought that it would be unhealthy for himself to go into detail, but he did not, at this stage, resign from his well-paying job. This only happened a few months later, when he was sent to Jalalabad to check on a chicken farm supposedly nearing completion outside the city.

Once again, he could not find the project in question and, when he met those in charge, put it to them that it did not exist. They admitted that this was indeed so, but – according to his report – they added menacingly that he should keep in mind that “it was a long road back to Kabul from Kandahar”. In other words, they would kill him if he exposed their scam: a threat that convinced him his long-term chances of survival were low unless he rapidly resigned and found new employment.

I was thinking of the story of the Kandahar packing plant and the Jalalabad chicken farm, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia last weekend.

There may be a big difference in the amount of money to be made out of looting the Saudi state compared to US aid agencies in Afghanistan, but the psychology and processes at work have similarities.

In both cases, those making a lot of money out of corruption will put more effort into going on doing just that, than those who say they are determined to stop them. If a few wealthy individuals are scapegoated, then others will jostle to take their place.

It is important to take on board, when considering the case of Saudi Arabia, that many oil- or resource-rich states – be they monarchies or republics – have launched their own anti-corruption drives down the years. All have failed, and for roughly the same reasons.

Iraq, so different from Saudi Arabia in terms of history, religion and politics, is likewise entirely dependent on oil revenues. Its next biggest export used to be dates, though today even these are often imported from China. Corruption is chronic, particularly in giant infrastructure projects. Four years ago, I was in Baghdad early in the year, when there was heavier than usual rainfall, which led to a large part of the eastern side of the city disappearing under a foot of grey water mixed with sewage. This was despite $7bn (£5.3bn) supposedly spent on new sewers and drainage systems, but which, in the event, turned out not to function – or even to exist.

The problem in resource-rich states is that corruption is not marginal to political power, but central to acquiring it and keeping it. Corruption at the top is a form of patronage manipulated by those in charge, to create and reward a network of self-interested loyalists. It is the ruling family and its friends and allies who cherrypick what is profitable: this is as true of Saudi Arabia as it was true of Libya under Gaddafi, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and his successors, or Iraqi Kurdistan that was supposedly different from the rest of the country.

Corruption is a nebulous concept when it comes to states with arbitrary rulers, who can decide – unrestrained by law or democratic process – what is legal and what is illegal. What typifies the politics of oil states is that everybody is trying to plug into the oil revenues in order to get their share of the cake.

This is true at the top, but the same is the case of the rest of the population, or at least a large and favoured section of it.

The Iraqi government pays $4bn a month to about seven million state employees and pensioners. These may or may not do productive work, but it would be politically risky to fire them because they are the base support of the regime in power.

Anti-corruption drives don’t work, because if they are at all serious, they soon begin to cut into the very roots of political power by touching the “untouchables”. At this point principled anti-corruption campaigners will find themselves in serious trouble and may have to flee the country, while the less-principled ones will become a feared weapon to be used against anybody whom the government wants to target.

A further consequence of the traditional anti-corruption drive is that it can paralyse government activities in general. This is because all officials, corrupt and incorrupt alike, know that they are vulnerable to investigation.

“The safest course for them is to take no decision and sign no document which might be used or misused against them,” a frustrated American businessman told me in Baghdad some years ago. He added that it was only those so politically powerful that they did not have to fear legal sanctions who would take decisions – and such people were often the most corrupt of all.

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“It’s A Nightmare” – Chinese Bureaucrats Are Killing The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

The marketing brass at L Brands are probably starting to regret their decision to hold this year’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show – expected to have the largest audience in the show's history – in Shanghai.

As the New York Post reports, the fashion show, which takes place in two weeks and will feature  Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Karlie Kloss, among other internationally recognized supermodels, is transforming into an international diplomatic crisis.

Chinese government officials are refusing to work with the show’s producers and grant the necessary expedited visas so fashion bloggers and other media types who’re supposed to cover the show, according to the New York Post.

Bureaucrats have also stubbornly resisted other seemingly routine requests, like approving shooting locations for the TV crew.

We’re told fashion bloggers booked to cover the glitzy event are canceling their trips because the Chinese government won’t give them visas; TV producers are grappling with bureaucrats over permission to shoot outside the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where it’s being held (“If you’re going to China, you want to show that you are in China!” fumed an insider); and Victoria’s Secret staffers in China can’t send out press releases because they have to be approved by government officials.

 

“It’s just a nightmare for all the media trying to cover [the show],” said a jet-setting insider. “These TV companies are spending a fortune on it, and they don’t even know what they can shoot when they get there."

 

We’re told that producers charged with coordinating the coverage for various outlets are “on the verge of nervous breakdowns."

The show, which will be broadcast on CBS, has mostly been held in the US since 2001, but the popular purveyor of ladies’ undergarments has had a run of bad luck in the past few years since trying to host the show overseas, the Post reports. Last year’s show (which was held in Paris) was also plagued with production issues caused by a terror attack and Kim Kardashian’s high-profile robbery.

For that event, every journalist covering the event had to submit to background checks and provide government ID, and security was so tight that cars dropping off VIP guests were only allowed to stop momentarily outside the venue, so celebrities had to circle the block before being dropped off.

This year, they’d be lucky to get a visa.

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Weekend Reading: You Have Been Warned

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Investors aren’t paying attention.

There is an important picture that is currently developing which, if it continues, will impact earnings and ultimately the stock market. Let’s take a look at some interesting economic numbers out this past week.

On Tuesday, we saw the release of the Producer Price Index (PPI) which ROSE 0.4% for the month following a similar rise of 0.4% last month. This surge in prices was NOT surprising given the recent devastation from 3-hurricanes and massive wildfires in California which led to a temporary surge in demand for products and services.

Then on Wednesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was released which showed only a small 0.1% increase falling sharply from the 0.5% increase last month.

This deflationary pressure further showed up on Thursday with a -0.3 decline in Export prices. (Exports make up about 40% of corporate profits)

For all of you that continue to insist this is an “earnings-driven market,” you should pay very close attention to those three data points above.

When companies have higher input costs in their production they have two choices: 1) “pass along” those price increase to their customers; or 2) absorb those costs internally. If a company opts to “pass along” those costs then we should have seen CPI rise more strongly. Since that didn’t happen, it suggests companies are unable to “pass along” those costs which means a reduction in earnings.

The other BIG report released on Wednesday tells you WHY companies have been unable to “pass along” those increased costs. The “retail sales” report came in at just a 0.1% increase for the month. After a large jump in retail sales last month, as was expected following the hurricanes, there should have been some subsequent follow through last month. There simply wasn’t.

More importantly, despite annual hopes by the National Retail Federation of surging holiday spending which is consistently over-estimated, the recent surge in consumer debt without a subsequent increase in consumer spending shows the financial distress faced by a vast majority of consumers. The first chart below shows a record gap between the standard cost of living and the debt required to finance that cost of living. Prior to 2000, debt was able to support a rising standard of living, which is no longer the case currently.

With a current shortfall of $18,176 between the standard of living and real disposable incomes, debt is only able to cover about 2/3rds of the difference with a net shortfall of $6,605. This explains the reason why “control purchases” by individuals (those items individuals buy most often) is running at levels more normally consistent with recessions rather than economic expansions.

If companies are unable to pass along rising production costs to consumers, export prices are falling and consumer demand remains weak, be warned of continued weakness in earnings reports in the months ahead. As I stated earlier this year, the recovery in earnings this year was solely a function of the recovering energy sector due to higher oil prices. With that tailwind now firmly behind us, the risk to earnings in the year ahead is dangerous to a market basing its current “overvaluation” on the “strong earnings” story.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

In the meantime, here is your weekend reading list.


Trump, Economy & Fed


VIDEO – It’s A Turkey Market


Markets


Research / Interesting Reads


“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” – Sir John Templeton

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Muddy Waters Proved Right As Huishan Dairy Prepares For Liquidation

On March 2017, we discussed the sudden 90% drop in the share price of China’s largest dairy farm operator, the Hong Kong-listed China Huishan Dairy Holdings. The collapse occurred the day after its creditors convened an emergency meeting to discuss the company’s cash shortage and was three months after Muddy Waters’ Carson Block questioned its profitability and said the company was “worth close to zero.” After the collapse in the share price we joked that “it suddenly almost is.” Now we have confirmation that Block was correct, as Huishan is entering provisional liquidation, citing liabilities of $1.6 billion. From Bloomberg.

China Huishan Dairy Holdings Co., the Hong Kong-listed company targeted by short sellers including Muddy Waters Capital LLC, is preparing for provisional liquidation in a move that could protect its assets as it negotiates with creditors. The firm had told its Cayman legal advisers to make the preparations, it said in a Hong Kong stock exchange filing Thursday.

 

Huishan’s board earlier found that the net liabilities of its units in China “could have been” 10.5 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) as of March 31, the company said. A provisional liquidation generally is used to safeguard a company’s assets before a court rules what action to take.

In the Muddy Waters report, Block alleged that Huishan mislead investors by overstating its sales, making an undisclosed transfer of a subsidiary to a company controlled by Chairman Yang Kai and lying about its self-sufficiency in alfalfa. Following its publication, Huishan accused his firm of making allegations which were “groundless, malicious and false”. Apparently not, however. Speaking to Bloomberg, Block, who exited its short position, said.

“The most interesting part is the statement by the directors that net liabilities of the company could be 10.5 billion yuan and I compare that to the last published financials from September 2016 and the company was showing net assets of 12.9 billion yuan," he said. “That’s a clear affirmation that Huishan was a fraud."

In the filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Huishan stated that it will “take into account, as far as possible, options available to the company to preserve the assets of the group.” Chinese law will apply to the liquidation as Bloomberg explains.

With the majority of its assets held through units in China, any debt restructuring will be subject to Chinese law, Huishan Dairy said.The provisional liquidation could lead to liquidation potentially, or some form of restructuring, according to Keith Pogson, a managing partner at Ernst & Young in Hong Kong. The group’s estimated total indebtedness was about 26.7 billion yuan as of March 31, including about 18.7 billion yuan of bank loans and 4.25 billion yuan of non-bank loans, it said in June. A liquidation would still need approval by shareholders or creditors, according to Shen Meng, Beijing-based director of the boutique investment fund Chanson & Co. Huishan’s move may be aimed at forcing creditors to accept its restructuring plan, which would result in only some repayment of debt, he said.

 

“Huishan published this stock exchange statement in order to apply pressure on creditors to come to its terms," Shen said. “It is likely that unhappy creditors will now take action, perhaps through legal routes, to protect their interests.”

What’s noteworthy in respect of the Huishan filing is how quickly it followed a statement the company made to the HKSE on 1 November 2017 when it said that it was on track to post positive cash flow from its core operations by the end of March 2018. Furthermore, it said that more than half of its mainland creditors, representing more than two thirds of the debt associated with Huishan and Yang group companies, were backing a debt restructuring plan.

Accounting irregularities aside, Huishan’s performance also suffered, to some extent, from the downturn in the global market for dairy products, as Bloomberg notes.

China’s dairy industry, which imports about a fifth of its milk supply, is recovering from a worldwide raw milk price slump that’s weighed on the profits of producers including China Modern Dairy Holdings Ltd. that’s controlled by China Mengniu Dairy Co. But Huishan’s troubles are largely due to its own capital entanglements and not to wider market trends, said Guangdong Dairy Association Director Wang Dingmian. The company’s milk supply largely goes to manufacturing dairy products under its own brand, according to Wang. Huishan’s existing farms are operating normally, he said.

 

“It is a very small supplier in the overall market and its troubles will not affect the supply of milk in China,” he said. China’s dairy farming landscape is dominated by smaller-scale farmers, which means that Huishan was one of the bigger industrial farms while still accounting for only a small portion of nationwide milk supply.

So, hat-tip to Carson Block and food for thought from Charles Macgregor, as Bloomberg relays.

Huishan’s troubles should be a cautionary example for investors, said Charles Macgregor, head of emerging markets research at Lucror Analytics.

 

“There is very likely more Huishans out there, this type of behavior is hardly isolated to a few bad apples.”

This is China…damn right.

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Traders Puzzled After Chinese Media Warning Triggers Market Selloff

Overnight we highlighted that despite a massive weekly net liquidity injection by the PBOC (which ended on Friday when the PBOC drained a net 10bn in liquidity) Chinese stocks failed to hold on to Thursday’s gains, and resumed their slump…

 

… headed for their worst week in 7 months.

 

However, it was more than the simply a question of liquidity flows, because it once again appears that Beijing is involved in micromanaging daily stock moves, only unlike the summer of 2015 when China blew a huge stock bubble in a few months, which then promptly burst leaving China scrambling for the next year to figure out how to avoid contagion, this time Xinhua had a different message: sell.

According to Bloomberg, the reason why Chinese stocks – led by Shenzhen shares – slumped on Friday, is due to a warning by state media that one of the nation’s hottest stocks was climbing too fast, which in turn triggered a selloff. And while the SHCOMP closed down 0.5%, the Shenzhen Composite Index closed down more than 2%, with liquor makers and technology companies that had outperformed this year among the biggest losers.

The catalyst that sparked the selloff? China’s biggest liquor maker, Kweichow Moutai, which plunged 3.9% – after tumbling as much as 5.8%, its largest decline since August 2015 – after Xinhua News Agency said its China’s biggest “should rise at a slower pace.” Other liquor makers fell in sympathy, Wuliangye Yibin slid as much as 5.3% in Shenzhen, the most since July 2016, and Luzhou Laojiao fell 4.7%, although the stocks, which have more than doubled this year, pared their losses by the close.

In commentary published in the state-owned newspaper, the author said “short-term speculation in Kweichow Moutai shares will hurt value investing and long-term investment will deliver best returns.”

The bizarre and unusual critique – traditionally China’s media mouthpieces have only urged stocks to go higher, never lower – capped a week that saw a rout in Chinese sovereign bonds spill into the equity market amid concern about a government deleveraging campaign and faster inflation. For the week, the Shenzhen gauge fell 4.2%, its worst loss since May 2016. The Shanghai benchmark declined 1.5 per cent.

“The Xinhua warning was the last straw,” said Ken Chen, a Shanghai-based analyst with KGI Securities Co. “Expectations of worsening liquidity conditions are also hurting stocks.”

In retrospect, perhaps the Xinhua warning was not so strange: after China’s debt-fueled stock market bubble burst in 2015, wiping out $5 trillion of value, Chinese policy makers have acted to restrain excessive speculation in equities.

Xinhua is concerned that a runaway rally in a heavyweight like Kweichow will hamper the stability of the overall market,” said Hao Hong, chief strategist at Bocom International Holding Co in Hong Kong.

And while one can wonder why China is suddenly so concerned about even the hint of potential vol spike in the stock market – suggesting that even a modest selloff could have dramatic consequences for the Chinese financial sector – it is certainly strange that whereas even China is acting to restrain the euphoria of its citizens over fears of what happens during the next bubble, in other “developed” countries, the local central bankers, politicians and TV pundits have no problem in forcing retail investors to go all risk assets when the market is at all time highs.

As for China, it will have truly gone a full “180”, if in a few months time instead of arresting sellers as it did in the summer of 2015, Beijing throw stock buyers in prison next.

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