Headline News Archives

Monday 12.05.2016

Euro dives as Italy votes 'No' on reform

The euro sank to 20-months lows in Asia on Monday after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would resign in the wake of a stinging defeat on constitutional reform that could destabilize the country's shaky banking system.

The single currency dived as far as $1.0505 in thin trade, after starting around $1.0645 earlier. It was the sharpest fall since June and opened the way to a retest of the March 2015 trough around $1.0457.

The single currency also slid 1.6 percent against the safe-haven yen to reach 118.63. The dollar was underpinned by expectations of a U.S. rate rise this month and held its ground on the yen at 113.10.

Dealers said Italian bonds were set to come under pressure as top-rated U.S. Treasuries and German bunds gained. Futures for U.S. 10-year Treasury notes added 10 ticks. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.2 percent, while E-mini futures for the S&P 500 lost 0.4 percent.

Venezuela to Issue Bigger Bills This Month as Currency Plunges

With the value of Venezuela’s largest banknotes reduced to a few U.S. cents by triple-digit inflation and the currency’s collapse on the black market, the country’s central bank said it will begin circulating higher-denomination notes this month.

New denominations including bills of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 bolivars will start appearing at banks from Dec. 15, according to a Central Bank statement, adding that coins of 10, 50, and 100 bolivars would also be released. Bloomberg News first reported the plans for larger bills on November 30.

The reluctance of authorities to issue bills larger than 100 bolivars over the past several years as the currency declined in value had forced Venezuelans to ditch wallets in favor of bags of cash for everyday transactions. Some shopkeepers have started to weigh wads of notes instead of counting them to save time. Venezuela’s government, meanwhile, is planning to announce new currency measures after the bolivar lost almost two-thirds of its value in black-market trading last month.

“There’s an action being planned that is going to have a very important impact,” foreign trade and investment minister Jesus Faria said Sunday in an interview on the Televen television network, without proving additional details. “In the middle of this turbulence, there have to be continuous revisions, and that’s what we’re adopting, adjusting to the new challenges and conditions. The changes will be adopted Tuesday, he said.

Odds Overwhelmingly Favor FOMC Interest Rate Hike in December

There is going to be some serious food for thought in the coming weeks. As 2016 comes to an end, there has been a substantial post-election rally around the notion that Donald Trump as President is going to be more focused on business and growth. Stocks have risen and oil has recovered on a formal OPEC production cut, but bond yields have unilaterally risen as well. What matters now is that a Federal Reserve rate hike looks almost certain for the December 14 FOMC meeting.

254/7 Wall St. has tracked the chance of an interest rate for hike some time. Now the CME even has its own FedWatch Tool. This is a reading that is based around CME Group 30-Day Fed Fund futures prices. This tool evaluates the likelihood of changes in U.S. monetary policy and the probability of FOMC interest rate changes for upcoming FOMC meetings.

Prior to Friday’s BLS employment situation report the FedWatch Tool was calling for closer to a 98% chance of Fed Funds rate hike. The current 0.25% to 0.50% rate has been in place for a year. As a reminder, the last and only rate hike since the great recession was in December of 2015, where the Fed Funds target range was raised from the 0.00% to 0.25% target range in what was called the zero interest rate policy (ZIRP).

The current Federal Reserve never did adopt the negative interest rate policy (NIRP) that Europe and Japan have adopted. Now we have even seen in the last month with rising yields that the trillions of dollars worth of negative sovereign debt yields has contracted massively after peaking this summer.

Sears is on the brink of catastrophe as store closures loom and top execs flee the company

Things aren't looking good for Sears. The company is shutting down dozens of Kmart stores this month and two of its highest-ranking executives left this week in the midst of the key holiday shopping season.

This comes following speculation among Sears and Kmart employees, suppliers, and several banks that the retailer will soon go bankrupt — something Sears has repeatedly dismissed.

Jeff Balagna, formerly Sears' executive vice president, left the company Wednesday, "in order to focus on his other business interests and pursue other career opportunities," Sears said in an SEC filing dated November 23.

Balagna did not respond to a request for comment. Sears declined to comment beyond what was stated in the filing. Sears President and Chief Member Officer Joelle Maher also left the company this week, Sears confirmed to Business Insider. The company declined to give a reason for her departure.

Deutsche Bank to pay $60 million to settle US gold price-fixing case

Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay $60 million to settle private U.S. antitrust litigation by traders and other investors who accused the German bank of conspiring to manipulate gold prices at their expense.

The preliminary settlement was filed on Friday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge's approval. Deutsche Bank denied wrongdoing. The bank in October agreed to pay $38 million to settle similar litigation over alleged silver price manipulation.

Amanda Williams, a spokeswoman for the bank, declined to comment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is one of many in the Manhattan court in which investors accused banks of conspiring to rig rates and prices in financial and commodities markets. Investors sued Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC and Societe Generale in 2014, claiming that they conspired to fix gold prices from 2004 to 2013.

Investors Push Gold Eagle Sales To Record High & Commentary On Precious Metals Sentiment

Investment demand for Gold Eagles surged during the last day in November pushing sales to a new monthly record. Not only did Gold Eagle sales for November reach a new record high for the year, it surpassed sales during the same month last year by 52%.

It seems as if investors are once again taking advantage of lower gold prices. I had planned to publish the article on Wednesday (last day of the month) showing that November sales hit a new record high, but the U.S. Mint updated their figures yesterday reporting another 20,000 Gold Eagles oz were sold on the 30th.

So, as of Nov 29th, the U.S. Mint Gold Eagle sales reached a new high for the year of 127,500 oz. Then they sold another stunning 20,000 oz in one day for a total of 147,500 Gold Eagle oz for November:

Even though the price of gold has sold off, some investors take this as an excellent buying opportunity. Again, to see 20,000 oz of Gold Eagles sold in one day suggests that some investors aren’t following the negative sentiment that the “Gold trade is over.”

Trump vows 35% tax on companies that leave the US

California Pensions Underfunded By $1 Trillion Or $93k Per Household

To shore up rapidly deteriorating finances, CalPERS will consider significantly reducing its investment forecast in a long-overdue move that could shake up government retirement funds across the country.

The reduction would mean that local governments and the state would be required to contribute more to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension plan.

Public employee unions object because that would leave government agencies with less money for salaries and benefits. But the move would slow the soaring growth in pension debt for which California taxpayers are liable.

CalPERS currently assumes that its investments will earn 7.5 percent annually. But its consultant warns that it should anticipate only an average 6.2 percent in each of the next 10 years.

Pelosi: 'I don't think people want a new direction'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that despite Democrats losing the House, Senate, and almost two-thirds of state houses, the American people don't want a new direction.

The California congressman appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday and instead said the issue facing Democrats is simply a failure of communication.

Dickerson: “The Democratic Party is in a moment of questioning about its identity. You were reelected to lead the Democrats in the House. What do you tell Democrats who want a new direction and then, go to you, what are you going to do differently?”

Pelosi: “Well, I don’t think people want a new direction. Our values unify us and our values are about supporting America’s working families. That’s one that everyone is in agreement on. What we want is a better connection of our message to working families in our country, and that clearly in the election showed that that message wasn’t coming through. But we are united in terms of the security of our country, which is our first responsibility. To be smart and strong and not reckless in how we protect the American people, strong in how we protect our economy.”

The Average American Will Spend $936 on Gifts This Holiday Season

How much will the average American spend during the 2016 holiday season? The short answer is $935.58, according to the National Retail Federation, but many people will spend much more than this, and many will spend much less. Here's a breakdown of the numbers so you can compare them with your own holiday bills.

According to a survey Opens a New Window. by the National Retail Federation, the average consumer who celebrates one of the major holidays plans to spend $935.58 on the holidays this year, including gifts for others, as well as spending on items for themselves, food, flowers, decorations, and greeting cards. Separately, another survey Opens a New Window. conducted by the American Research Group found a similar average planned spending of $929, an increase of 5% over 2015.

Data source: TD Ameritrade. Percentages don't add to 100%, because some respondents said they didn't plan to spend anything, while others planned to spend more than $2,000. Unlike the other two surveys mentioned above, the TD Ameritrade survey didn't exclude people who don't celebrate a major holiday.

Furthermore, the TD Ameritrade survey found that 37% of consumers don't track their holiday spending at all, and simply spend what they want. And a total of 63% either save money specifically for holiday gifts or cut back on other expenses to make up for it.

Jim Sinclair-Financial Pressure Cooker Bomb Cooking Now

Here’s How the War on Cash Threatens You

In Europe, at least, the war on cash has begun. How long before it reaches North America?

The Spanish government, in fact, plans to issue a law—by decree rather than parliamentary vote—that will limit cash transactions. The legislators say that the new law targets fraud but, in fact, the centerpiece of this law is that it limits cash transactions to no more than €1,000.

The war on cash is spreading like wildfire. It’s coming to Spain in the guise of a scheme to discourage tax evasion, but Scandinavia, Denmark, and Sweden have been hogging the headlines with their own fights against physical money. The two countries have been conducting a sort of experiment with a “no-cash” economy, recruiting their own citizens as guinea pigs.

The authorities will be satisfied only when the war on cash results in its total elimination. In fact, should anyone doubt this goal, consider that the Spanish government has imposed gradual limits on cash transactions. The new €1,000 limit comes in the wake of a previous €2,500 limit. It won’t be long before that limit tightens again.

Witching hour fast approaching for 10,000 Chicago city retirees

On Dec. 31, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will complete a 3-year phaseout of the city’s retiree health care program, including a 55 percent subsidy.

The controversial move is aimed at saving Chicago taxpayers $107 million in annual costs that would have ballooned to $307 million by 2018 and $541 million by 2023 if left unchecked, a mayoral commission had warned.

But it means that roughly 10,000 city employees who started working for the city before April 1, 1986, and do not qualify for Medicare will be on their own to search for coverage that will be difficult or too expensive to find.

They will be forced to choose between exorbitant premiums that, in some cases, are double their retirement checks or go without health insurance coverage at a time when they need it the most because of their age and declining health. “We have people who are 75 years old who worked for the city for 30 years and more and none of them qualified for Medicare coverage. They’re being dumped into an abyss,” said Clint Krislov, lawyer for the retirees.

Money-Laundering Networks Thrive Amid India’s Cash-Ban Chaos

As Indians struggle with the chaos caused by last month’s sudden banning of their 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, money-laundering networks are spreading across the country, seizing on a new market in helping people turn their cash hoards into legal tender.

While people have until year-end to deposit old notes in their bank accounts, the government has said it will scrutinize large cash deposits and money with undeclared origins -- and will tax or penalize depositors. That’s created a scramble for ways to turn so-called black money, the local term for cash that has evaded taxation, into white.

Agents offering to launder money are using creative means, including flying banned cash by the planeload to northeastern states exempt from restrictions as well as connecting people to high-turnover businesses that can deem old cash as revenue, keep a portion of it, and return the rest, according to people involved in the networks. Premiums range from 10 percent to 50 percent, depending on the difficulty, they say. At least one property brokerage is offering to arrange the sale of apartments using banned money in an upscale suburb of Mumbai that’s popular with Bollywood movie stars.

While the government has been working to close loopholes -- which Prime Minister Narendra Modi decried as people’s "illegal means to save their ill-gotten wealth" in a radio address last week -- new ones are opening even faster. So far, the policy aimed at reducing the scale of the black economy and bringing more people into the tax net is, in the short term, leading to just the reverse: money-laundering, tax-avoidance, and new opportunities for existing organized crime, the evolution of the long-standing hawala money-transfer system, and the start of new illicit networks.

U.S. Border Patrol agents grapple with sudden surge of Central American migrants

Seconds after the radio crackled and the government SUVs sped into the darkness, Border Patrol agents sprinted through the brush and toward the border in an all-too-familiar pursuit of drug smugglers.

"They dropped their bundles of narcotics and went back into Mexico," said agent Marlene Castro, sounding disappointed after racing through a pitch-black clearing outside Rio Grande City. Still, on this recent night, agents would recover 66 pounds of marijuana with a street value of roughly $53,000.

But chasing drug smugglers wasn't the only thing keeping them busy. During two days that NBC News spent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, it became clear that Castro and her colleagues were dealing with a sudden surge of families from Central America who are running toward those officials — not from them.

Many of the families are eager to be caught so they can apply for asylum or temporary protected status as they try to escape the violence back home. Apprehensions on the Southwest border, along the Rio Grande, are rising. There were 46,195 in October — that was almost 20,000 more than the same month two years ago and the largest spike since the massive surge of unaccompanied minors during the summer of 2014.

Pimco to pay nearly $20 million to settle SEC charges that it misled investors

Investment giant Pimco has agreed to pay a nearly $20-million penalty to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that it misled investors about the performance of one of its earliest actively managed exchange-traded funds.

The charges stem from the firm’s Total Return ETF, a diversified bond portfolio managed by a team. After the ETF launched in 2012, it quickly garnered attention for outperforming Pimco’s flagship mutual fund, the Pimco Total Return Fund, in the first four months.

To boost the initial performance of that actively managed ETF, Pimco — which is based in Newport Beach and whose full name is Pacific Investment Management Co. — bought 156 smaller-size bonds, known in investment jargon as odd lots. But the firm overstated the value of 43 of those odd lots, which caused the fund to overvalue its portfolio and sell shares at prices that were not actually based on their net asset value, according to the SEC order.

Pimco provided “other, misleading reasons” for the fund’s early success in monthly and annual reports to investors, and it did not disclose that its odd lot strategy was not sustainable as the fund grew, according to the SEC order.

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