This is so bad, it’s almost funny. It happened May 31, at the end of the month, Friday afternoon, when no one was supposed to pay attention, minutes before the close of the stock market, when volume had died down to a trickle, and when the move was guaranteed to produce huge results.
The “March Against Monsanto” in 52 countries, an unapproved strain of its genetically modified wheat growing on its own in Oregon, cancelled wheat export orders.... A rough week for Monsanto. Now it threw in the towel in Europe where its deep pockets and mastery of lobbying had failed: “It’s counterproductive to fight against windmills,” it explained.
“Yes, the industry is in collapse mode, but it is not all bad, it is just a healthy shakeup needed in a maturing industry,” an insider wrote in an email. Then he offered what he called “a slightly less gloomy take on the industry and with 50% more silver lining as well.”
The solar-panel price war waged by state-subsidized Chinese companies killed a slew of manufacturers worldwide. Now, much of solar-panel manufacturing takes place in China. To stay alive, they cut costs – and corners. Defects are ballooning. And “cheap” solar panels suddenly get very expensive. A cruel twist for an already threatened industry.
Contributed by Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential: It’s almost as if the mainstream media is defining the U.S. housing market as being “hot,” while some economists are calling for robust growth ahead. But the reality is that we are far from a recovery in the housing market and more troubles could follow.
The good old days are back. Those days when money grew on trees: home prices jumped 10.9% year over year, based on data through March 2013. The usual suspects: Phoenix soared 22.5%, San Francisco 22.2%, Las Vegas 20.6%. You can’t lose money in real estate. I’m already hearing it again.
The confidence of consumers in France is catching up with the economic situation in their country, where the state sector, which dominates the land with 56% of the economic activity, has been hobbled by budget woes, and where the private sector, which is struggling with an inscrutable labor code and slack demand, is suffocating under a pile of new taxes.
Contributed by Don Quijones: “In a newspaper like El País it is no longer possible to criticize the main Spanish banks. And you have to be very careful when talking about the Government, in case it gets angry: its benevolence is needed in order to avoid bankruptcy.”
Contributed by Don Quijones: As bank lending has dried up, Spain's government has barely lifted a finger to help struggling self-employed workers or small enterprises. Instead, it apparently made it its mission to make their working lives as difficult as possible by ramping up their tax burden to historic highs.
Stability in the Japanese government bond market is “extremely desirable,” said Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda in a sign of just how frazzled he was after the turmoil and craziness that his over-the-edge experimental monetary policy has unleashed. But as stability eludes him, he might resort to ever more desperate measures to just hang on.
Like so many debacles in the EU, it started with the unelected European Commission. It’s immune to voters, but not to lobbyists and corporations. Under the guise of “consumer protection” or some other harmless moniker, it generates zany laws that tend to benefit large corporations. But last week, it went too far, even for Europeans.
Contributed by Chriss Street: Premier Washington DC criminal attorney William W. Taylor III of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP announced that his new client Lois G. Lerner, the now infamous Director of the IRS Tax-Exempt Organization Division, will exercise her right against self-incrimination. She’ll pay him $2,000 per hour. Scandal, a bonanza for DC lawyers.
No one accused Apple of having violated US tax laws. The Senate hearings merely exposed how Apple is dodging income taxes by doing what multinationals do: taking advantage of handouts and loopholes that Congress hands them. Now it turns out that much of the discussion was based on a fairytale.
The issue of inflation is complex everywhere. Official rates are disputed. People can’t reconcile them with what they see at the store. There are different formulas, resulting in different rates, and everyone picks and chooses what suits their needs. But nowhere is the issue as “complex,” infested with lies, and shrouded in obscurity as in Argentina. But 34.9%?
Contributed by John Mauldin and Barry Ritholtz: Last month, Senators Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, and David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, introduced a resolution calling for the end of the implicit subsidies that TBTF banks enjoy and that put taxpayers at risk. The Senate voted 99-0 in support. Now they're turning their ideas into actual legislation.
The solar-panel industry, once fattened by taxpayer subsidies and false hopes, has been in a death spiral around the world. In the US, a slew of photovoltaic standouts like Solyndra went under, taking billions of subsidies and investor capital with them. In Germany, it has been just as brutal. Even large companies are licking their wounds.
Since I write so much about financial fiascos, debacles, nightmares, and entanglements, I’ve been asked by my readers about ways to protect assets in this environment. I had to disappoint them: I don’t give financial advice. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have all the answers. But I just finished reading an excellent book on precisely that topic, so I decided to review it.
It was announced Friday afternoon, when no one was supposed to pay attention: after years of controversy, heated rhetoric, intense lobbying, and stiff opposition from some unlikely bedfellows, the Obama Administration decided in favor of the US oil and gas industry. With major geopolitical impact.
In my interview with Voice of Russia, I talk about the ECB's fears for its own existence. I use Spain, which is stuck in an existential crisis, as an example of the greatest “achievement” of central banks: the separation of economic reality from stock markets. And I get a chance to lambaste the French finance minister who is once again barking up the wrong tree.