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Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: March 25, 2015, 2:53 pm
China and Russia have taken the lead in establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), seen as a rival organisation to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are dominated by the United States with Europe and Japan.
These banks do business at the behest of the old Bretton Woods order. The AIIB will dance to China and Russia's tune instead.
The geopolitical importance was immediately evident from the US's negative reaction to the UK's announcement this week that it would join the AIIB. And very shortly afterwards France, Germany and Italy also defied the US and announced they might join. In the Pacific region, one of America's closest allies, Australia, says she is considering joining too along with New Zealand. The list of US allies seeking to join is growing. From a geopolitical point of view China and Russia have completely outmanoeuvred the US, splitting both NATO and America's Pacific alliances right down the middle.
This is much more important than political commentators generally realise. We must appreciate that anything China does is planned well in advance. Here is the relevant sequence of events:
• In 2002 China and Russia formally adopted the founding charter for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, an economic bloc that today contains about 35% of the world's population, which will become more than 50% when India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia join, which is their stated intention. Russia has the resources and China the manufacturing power to develop the largest internal market ever seen.
• In October 2013 George Osborne was effectively summoned to Beijing because China wanted London to be the base to develop renminbi-denominated financial instruments. London has served China well, with the UK Government even issuing the first renminbi-denominated foreign (to China) government bond. The renminbi is now on the way to being a fully-fledged international currency.
• The establishment of an infrastructure bank, the AIIB, will ensure the lead funding is available for the rapid development of road, rail, electric and electronic communications throughout the SCO, ensuring equally rapid economic development of the whole of the Asian continent. It could amount to the equivalent of several trillion dollars over time.
The countries that are applying to join the AIIB realise that they have to be members to access what will eventually become the largest single market in the world. America is being frozen out, the consequence of her belligerence over Ukraine and the exercise of her hegemonic power through the dollar. America's allies in South East Asia are going with or will go with the new AIIB, and in Europe commercial interests are driving America's NATO partners away from her, turning the Ukraine from a common cause into a festering liability.
The more one thinks about it, the creation of the AIIB is a masterstroke of tactical genius. The outstanding issue now is China and Russia will need to come up with a credible plan to make their currencies a slam-dunk replacement for the dollar. We know that gold may be involved because the SCO members have been accumulating bullion; but before we get there China must manage a deliberate deflation of her credit bubble, which will be a delicate and dangerous task.
Unlike the welfare-driven economies in the west, China has sufficient political authority and internal control to survive a rapid deflation of bank credit. When this inevitably happens the economic consequences for the west will be very serious. Japan and the Eurozone are already facing economic dislocation, and despite over-optimistic employment numbers, the US economy is faltering as well. The last thing America and the dollar needs is a deflationary shock from China.
The silver lining for us all is a peace dividend: it is becoming less likely that America will persist with a call to arms, because support from her allies is melting away leaving her on her own.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: March 23, 2015, 1:47 am
The global de-dollarization trend continues as it appears the UK’s move to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Development Bank has indeed shown other US “allies” that spurning Washington’s advice is actually acceptable and concerns about the institution’s “standards” may simply be a diversion aimed at undermining China’s attempt to exercise more influence in its own backyard. Here’s more from the NY Times
Ignoring direct pleas from the Obama administration, Europe’s biggest economies have declared their desire to become founding members of a new Chinese-led Asian investment bank that the United States views as a rival to the World Bank and other institutions set up at the height of American power after World War II.

The announcement on Tuesday by Germany, France and Italy that they would follow Britain and join the Chinese-led venture delivered a stinging rebuke to Washington from some of its closest allies. It also called into question whether the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which grew out of a multination conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944 and established an economic pecking order that lasted 70 years, will find their influence diminished.

The announcement by Germany, Europe’s largest economy, came only six days after Secretary of State John Kerry asked his German counterpart, Frank Walter-Steinmeier, to resist the Chinese overtures until the Chinese agreed to a number of conditions about transparency and governing of the new entity. But Germany came to the same conclusion that Britain did: China is such a large export and investment market for it that it cannot afford to stay on the sidelines.
South Korea, another US ally that the Obama administration has not-so-subtly lobbied to stay out of the AIIB for the time being, is reportedly reconsidering a bid to join and although reports that Seoul had already committed to the venture appear to have been a bit premature, the country will make a decision this month and is expected to discuss specifics this weekend at a meeting with Chinese and Japanese officials. Here’s FT
The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will meet in Seoul this weekend for the first time in three years, in an effort to calm tensions in the region.

The trio have strong economic ties but frosty relations. International angst about this state of affairs among the regional superpowers has been further piqued by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Chinese-led initiative sparking alarm in Washington and proving divisive elsewhere.
Meanwhile, even Europe’s own “magical fairyland” is taking the plunge. Via Bloomberg: 
China welcomes Luxembourg’s application to be a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China’s finance ministry says in a statement on website.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: March 19, 2015, 6:47 pm
Buy the Rumor, Sell the NewsAll those bemoaning what rate hikes could potentially portend for the US Dollar need to get a grip, the rate hikes are already priced in.  That`s how markets work, buy the rumor and sell the news or ...
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: March 12, 2015, 5:23 pm
Since 2010, The Bank of Japan has 'openly' - no conspiracy theory here - been a buyer of Japanese stock ETFs. Their bravado increased as the years passed and Abe pressured them from their independence to 'show' that his policies were working to the point that in September 2014, The BoJ bought a record amount of Japanese stock ETFstaking its holdings to over 1.5% of the entire market cap, surpassing Nippon Life as the largest individual holder of Japanese stocks. However, as WSJ reports, The BoJ has now gone full intervention-tard - buying Japanese stocks on 76% of the days when the market opened lower.
The Bank of Japan’s aggressive purchasing of stock funds has helped Japanese shares climb to multiyear highs in recent months. But some within the central bank are growing uncomfortable about the fast-paced rally and the bank’s own role in fueling it.

Since Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda took office in March 2013 and introduced monetary easing of what he called a “different dimension,” the central bank has sharply increased its buying of baskets of stocks known as exchange-traded funds. By directly underpinning the market, officials have tried to encourage private investors to follow suit and put more money in stocks in the hope of stimulating the economy and increasing inflation.

During the past two years, the central bank entered the stock market roughly once every three days, picking up a total of ¥2.8 trillion ($23 billion) of ETFs that track Japan’s major stock indexes, according to Bank of Japan records. That distinguishes it from the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, both of which have bought bonds to pump up the economy but haven’t directly bought stocks.


Analysts say the bank’s action has been a significant driver of Japan’s stock-market rally in recent months, combined with hefty purchases by the $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund. Their buying has often countered selling pressure from individuals in the market and made up for a weaker appetite among foreign investors.
The central bank has stepped in mostly when market sentiment was weak. Three-quarters of the central bank’s buying occurred on days when the benchmark Topix index opened lower, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of BOJ data.



So much for independence...
BOJ officials used to be cautious about purchasing ETFs, worried that it could distort market activities and put the central bank’s own financial health at risk. But under pressure from politicians following the global financial crisis, the bank changed its stance in late 2010.

“We led the cows to water, but they didn’t drink it, even though we told them it tasted good,” Miyako Suda, who was a board member then, wrote in a 2014 book discussing monetary easing at that time. “So we thought we should drink it ourselves, showing them it was tasty.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-11/how-boj-stepped-143-times-send-japanese-stocks-soaring
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: March 11, 2015, 8:24 pm
"The Fed is out of control," exclaims David Stockman - perhaps best known for architecting Reagan's economic turnaround known as 'Morning in America' - adding that "people don't want to hear the reality and the truth that we're facing.The following discussion, with Harry Dent, outlines their perspectives on the looming collapse of free market prosperity and the desctruction of American wealth as policymakers "take our economy in a direction that is dangerous, that is not sustainable, and is likely to fully undermine everything that's been built up and created by the American people over decades and decades." The Fed, Stockman concludes, "is a rogue institution," and their actions have led us to "one of the scariest moments in our history... it's a festering time-bomb and we're not sure when it will explode."


Key Excerpts from the detailed interview:
David Stockman: People don't want to hear the reality and the truth that we're facing. But I think there is an enormous appetite out in the country to get a different perspective than what you have from the media day in and day out, so I say the fed is out of control. Its balance sheet is exploded. It's printing money like never before.
Zero interest rates for 70 months have basically destroyed the pricing function in the financial markets. I said that as a result of this, Wall Street has become a huge casino which basically rewards gamblers, but it is not functioning as a capital raising, capital allocating instrument, which really is what the financial markets should do in a free market system. I warned about the size of the federal debt. I'm an old budget director from the Reagan days. We had a trillion dollar national debt, a 3 trillion economy when I started. Today, it's 18 trillion. Eighteen fold gain in the last 35 years versus maybe a fourfold gain in the economy. So all of these trends are taking our economy in a direction that is dangerous, that is not sustainable, and is likely to fully undermine everything that's been built up and created by the American people over decades and decades.
So people don't want to hear the warning. They don't want to hear the truth in the establishment, in Wall Street, in Washington, but I think out in the country they must.
*  *  *
David Stockman: Well it's obvious that Wall Street is addicted to cheap money and unlimited flow of new liquidity into the markets. Traders can then borrow money on an overnight basis for five basis points, which is nothing. Buy anything with a yield like a ten-year or five-year bond or speculate in stocks that they think might be going up or even get fancier and go into derivatives or commodity futures or whatever. And then capture the profit or the spread between the cheap money that the fed is putting into the overnight market and the yield or profit they're making on the asset, and they're leveraging way up.
You know, 90 percent, 95 percent in many cases. So obviously, the whole financial market is dependent on this, but it comes at a cost. It is destroying savers in America. If you worked a lifetime and saved $100,000.00, you're making $400.00 a year in interest from a lifetime of savings. I think there will be a revolt sooner or later of the American public against this disastrous crushing of the saver in order to essentially accommodate Wall Street's appetite for liquidity.
*  *  *
David Stockman: Well you know, the problem is the fed, I've described, is a rogue institution. It's operating beyond any of the legislative intent or statutory authority that's been given to them over the years. They have essentially become a national monetary planning agency that has decided they can drive the daily, weekly, monthly movement of the economy by manipulating interest rates and the yield curve by putting a put under the stock prices by essentially trying to drive the entire 18 trillion or 17 trillion US economy from Wall Street. That is fundamentally at variance with the requisites of a healthy capitalist economy. You need an honest financial market. Not a manipulated one.
You need price discovery by people that have their money at risk, not the central bank.
Harry Dent: Actually, it's a centrally planned economy, isn't it?
David Stockman: Right, exactly.
*  *  *
So David, do you think the republican congress can save us from this economic sundown that we've been discussing today?
David Stockman: Well I would like to think so, and they talk a good game, but unfortunately when push comes to shove, they're in the consensus with everyone else in the beltway in Washington and are unwilling to take on the hard issues. We are borrowing still $600 billion in the last year, six years after allegedly the great recession ended, and we are setting ourselves up for trillion dollar deficits again, the next time the economy stumbles or we have a recession or some other dislocation. The fact is the fed is not abolished the business cycle. The fed has not made the world completely safe from these kinds of dislocations. So therefore, we need to look at what's driving this huge deficit, and the answer is big entitlements and big defense spending, and the republicans are unwilling to take on the Pentagon. They want more, and they're afraid to take on Social Security and the entitlements because they believe that is going to be problematic politically.
So therefore, nothing is being done about the structure of this deficit problem, and we're just basically stumbling our way into another huge crisis in ballooning national debt.
*  *  *
David Stockman: Well, it's one of the scariest moments I think in our history, but also we need to recognize we're in uncharted waters. No central bank has ever printed this much money this long, kept interest rates at zero, fueled so much speculation. Not just here, but worldwide. Not just in the normal stocks and bonds, but the whole shale boom, for instance, in the United States was massively funded by cheap debt based on oil prices that weren't sustainable, and now that's all coming unwound. We have never had deficits of ten percent of GDP back to back, or even still four or five percent four or five years into a recovery.
We have a runaway budget where the population is getting older and older, 10,000 people are retiring every day. Nothing is being done about Social Security. It's a festering time bomb, and we're not sure how it will explode, but we know it isn't sustainable. We have a Wall Street that is more addicted to pure overnight gambling and trading and speculation for the ultra short run that is driven by robo traders, the so-called HFT money, like never before. It's unstable. That's why we see things happen like the overnight 40 percent gain with the Swiss Franc when the Swiss National Bank pulled the pay.
Forty percent overnight – not overnight, but in a couple of minutes or seconds when there were hundreds of billions of short positions in the Swiss Franc. All of these things have never existed simultaneously, not only in the United States, but worldwide. All the central banks are doing it. We're reaching the point where it's unsustainable, things are going to give and break, but the good thing is it's going to be more a disaster in the financial markets in my view, less some kind of Great Depression impact on Main Street. It will be difficult on Main Street, but Wall Street is in the gun sites of this disaster coming.
*  *  *
David Stockman: I agree. In the long run, we have to get off this debt addiction. We need to get back to sound finance both in government and households, but beginning between here and there is going to cause enormous pain for millions of households who have been herded into risky investments, junk bond funds, stock market funds, high flying biotech stocks and on and on because they were told it's the only place to be.If you put your money in a CD, you get no return. If you put your money in a safe bond, you get almost no return. Now when the big reset, as Harry calls it, happens, and the stock market drops by large magnitudes, 50 percent, more, those people who were herded into these risky investments late in life – Because remember, we have the baby boom, you know, heading towards their retirement homes, are going to be badly hurt at a time that they can't recover, and it will be a massive injustice that is being done by Washington and the fed to this current generation of middle class Americans. That will produce, in my view, a political reaction, a political revolt that will begin to say, "What's wrong here? Who believed that printing money out of thin air can make a society wealthier? Why did we do that? Who believed that we can actually create jobs and new economic output on Main Street simply by having the fed press a button and create another billion dollars?"
*  *  *
David Stockman: Yeah, I agree with that, and the point to remember is that massive money printing by central banks on a worldwide basis is inherently deflationary for two reasons. One, it fuels massive financial speculation. When we talk about speculation, we're talking about professional gamblers who borrow 95 cents and use that borrowed money that they pay practically nothing for to buy stocks or bonds or commodities or derivatives or biotech stocks and so forth as I indicated. All of that buying power is artificial. That is not coming from production today, real effort in the economy. That's coming from newly minted credit.
So it takes asset prices to unreasonable, unsustainable levels. They crash, and that creates a negative economic cycle. Secondly, massive money printing makes capital and debt too cheap to the real sector of the economy. So therefore, massive capital investments are made on the basis of cheap cost of capital, not on the basis of the likely return or sustainable return over time.
*  *  *
David Stockman: Yeah, a famous American economist once said anything that's unsustainable tends to stop. My argument is that we're at the stop point. The fed has been printing money like there's no tomorrow really for 25 years since Greenspan took over in 1987. They are now at the point where their balance sheet has become so bloated, so enormous that even the people running the fed are confused about what to do. They've painted themselves into a corner, and they're playing it by the day, and they're going to make a huge mistake. So the money printing thing is near an end.
Secondly, our political system has become totally non-functional. We have a lame duck president who can accomplish nothing, a congress that is totally paralyzed, meaning that before 2017 at the earliest, nothing will be done about our fiscal and entitlement explosion. Finally, the American people have believed falsely that all of this is going to work out. It's not going to. When they find out that the adults so called in Washington had no clue what they were doing, there is going to be a collapse of confidence, and that will flow into the system as well.
*  *  *
So it seems like this bubble bursting is inevitable. How much time do we have? Is it years, months? How will we know? Are there some clues we can look into to make sure that we're prepared?
David Stockman: There's really no magic numbers here, but it's remarkable that these central bank driven bubbles tend to peak after about six years. The dot com bubble started really in mid-1994 with the famous Netscape IPO. It crashed in March 2000, six years. The housing bubble roughly started in 2002. It totally crashed in 2008. Six years. The meltdown on Wall Street bottomed in March 2009. Add six years. 2015. I think we're at the end of this bubble simply based on the fact that they can't expand forever. They reach an asymptotic peak, and then confidence is lost, a catalyst occurs, a black swan appears, the selling begins, and there's nothing under this market. There is no safety net under this market.
*  *  *
Is there anything that can save us?
David Stockman: Yes, there are, and in the short run, that will be painful. There will be great dislocations, both in the financial markets and the real economy. But in the long run, that's a good thing. We have become so dependent on government, we have come to believe that the Federal Reserve drives the economy hour by hour, day by day. None of that is historically true. Real wealth, real prosperity comes from the sweat and from the enterprise and from the invention of people on Main Street, not the politicians on Wall Street who are on the central bank. So I think the big inflection point that we're facing is when the big crash comes, on the other side, maybe we can get back to the private enterprise system and the kind of family self-reliance and thrift and prudence that our prosperity was built on 40 years ago.
*  *  *
David Stockman: Well in The Great Deformation, I said, "We're heading towards a day of reckoning. This isn't sustainable." It's happening in real time, and in the updates, what I try to do is focus on the catalyst events, the catalyzing forces that will warn us when we're really getting to the edge of the cliff.
That is the central banks. Japan's central bank is out of control. I watch that. It's important to know what happens there because if the great money printing debt experience in Japan finally fails, it's going to be noted in markets all around the world. I watch the ECB, European Central Bank. It is divided between Germans who want to try to maintain some semblance of some money and the rest of Europe that would like to print and drown themselves in debt as far as the eye can see. It's important to watch China, which is a giant house of cards, that's on the verge of collapse, and that will ricochet around the world in terms of the countries that supply it. Australia, Korea, the so-called emerging markets, and what it'll do to the theory, which I think is false that China is the engine of growth in the world, it is not. It is the biggest speculative disaster in human history.
*  *  *
David Stockman: Well, the crisis is unfolding by the day. It is not too late to start preparing right noW. Now is the time to begin to save if you can and minimize your outlays for unnecessary luxuries. This is going to be a devastating crisis, and people will be happy down the road if they take the steps to prepare today.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: March 2, 2015, 9:11 pm
One year after the great stock market crash in 1987, US President Ronald Reagan launched the "Working Group on Financial Markets." Conspiracy theorists believe, however, that the real task of this committee is to protect against a renewed slump in the stock market. In the jargon of Wall Street, the working group is known as the "Plunge Protection Team."
One glimpse at a few days suring 2007/8 and it is clear that 'someone' with infinitely deep pockets was able to support markets on several critical days - though, of course, anyone proclaiming intervention was propagandized away as a conspiracy theory wonk. However, as Dr. Pippa Malmgren - a former member of the U.S. President’s Working Group on Financial Markets - it is not conspiracy theory, it is conspiracy fact: "there's no price discovery anymore by the market... governments impose prices on the market."
*  *  *
In this 38 minute interview Lars Schall, for Matterhorn Asset Management, [4]speaks with Dr Pippa Malmgren, a US financial advisor and policy expert based in London. Dr Malmgren has been a member of the U.S. President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (a.k.a. the “Plunge Protection Team”). They address, inter alia:
Full interview:

Source: GoldSwitzerland.com [4]

*  *  *
Still don't believe?
Here is Scott Nations in 2008 getting "Schiff'd" by the CNBC anchors (Liesman) and some other guest muppet when he dares to suggest the Fed is intervening and that the President's Working Group (i.e. Plunge Protection Team) is hard at work...

"look at the market action on the 10th and 28th and tell me what else might have generated a 100 point rally in the S&P under that situation?" Liesman fobs him off as some conspiracy wonk...
Yep looks normal to us... 10/10/2008
 [6]

and 10/28/2008
 [7]

Those are 100 point moves on a 700/800 S&P!! Nothing to see here eh Liesman, Kiernan, Quick?
*  *  *

And of course there's last October's Bullared bounce... the longest most consistent trend higher in stocks ever. [8]

Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: February 25, 2015, 6:59 pm
With the world's oldest central bank - Sweden's Riksbank - taking the plunge into negative rates, there have been 19 'eases' by central banks this yearMorgan Stanley warns of "ghosts of the 1930s." With competitive 'easing' stoking fears of international currency wars, The Telegraph noteshowever that looser monetary policy is not the order of the day everywhere in the world, and herein lies potential danger for the world economy.

The world's interest-rate policies...
Click image for interactive version
Looser monetary policy is not the order of the day everywhere in the world (see map above), and herein lies potential danger for the world economy.

The expectation of a normalisation of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve has resulted a sustained rally in the US dollar. Such strength in the world's reserve currency has simultaneously applied pressure on economies pegged to the greenback.

Meanwhile rate hikes from the Fed - which are expected to begin later this year - will naturally leader to tighter monetary conditions in economies everywhere from Mexico to Hong Kong.

It is this divergence in the actions of the world's major central banks which could lead to a new global liquidity crisis,according to the governor of the Bank of England.

Despite robust job creation and economic output in the domestic economy of the US, the trend towards lower global interest rates will probably slow the extent of the Fed's rate hikes once it finally gets off zero, according to Kit Juckes at Société Générale.

"The best we can hope now is that the dollar’s advance is orderly and the impact on global capital flows is limited" said Mr Juckes.
The 19 Policy 'eases' so far... (or 24 if Romania's 2 and Denmark's 4 are counted)
Jan. 1 UZBEKISTAN
Uzbekistan's central bank cuts its refinancing rate to 9 percent from 10 percent.
Jan. 7/Feb. 4 ROMANIA
Romania's central bank cuts its key interest rate by a total of 50 basis points, taking it to a new record low of 2.25 percent. Most analysts polled by Reuters had expected the latest cut.
Jan. 15 SWITZERLAND
The Swiss National Bank stuns markets by scrapping the franc's three-year-old exchange rate cap to the euro, leading to an unprecedented surge in the currency. This de facto tightening, however, is in part offset by a cut in the interest rate on certain sight deposit account balances by 0.5 percentage points to -0.75 percent.
Jan. 15 INDIA
The Reserve Bank of India surprises markets with a 25 basis point cut in rates to 7.75 percent and signals it could lower them further, amid signs of cooling inflation and growth struggling to recover from its weakest levels since the 1980s.
Jan. 15 EGYPT
Egypt's central bank makes a surprise 50 basis point cut in its main interest rates, reducing the overnight deposit and lending rates to 8.75 and 9.75 percent, respectively.
Jan. 16 PERU
Peru's central bank surprises the market with a cut in its benchmark interest rate to 3.25 percent from 3.5 percent after the country posts its worst monthly economic expansion since 2009.
Jan. 20 TURKEY
Turkey's central bank lowers its main interest rate, but draws heavy criticism from government ministers who say the 50 basis point cut, five months before a parliamentary election, is not enough to support growth.
Jan. 21 CANADA
The Bank of Canada shocks markets by cutting interest rates to 0.75 percent from 1 percent, where it had been since September 2010, ending the longest period of unchanged rates in Canada since 1950.
Jan. 22 EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK
The ECB launches a government bond-buying programme which will pump over a trillion euros into a sagging economy starting in March and running through to September next year, and perhaps beyond.
Jan. 24 PAKISTAN
Pakistan's central bank cuts its key discount rate to 8.5 percent from 9.5 percent, citing lower inflationary pressure due to falling global oil prices. Central Bank Governor Ashraf Wathra says the new rate will be in place for two months, until the next central bank meeting to discuss further policy.
Jan. 28 SINGAPORE
The Monetary Authority of Singapore unexpectedly eases policy, saying in an unscheduled policy statement that it will reduce the slope of its policy band for the Singapore dollar because the inflation outlook has "shifted significantly" since its last review in October 2014.
Jan. 28 ALBANIA
Albania's central bank cuts its benchmark interest rate to a record low 2 percent. This follows three rate cuts last year, the most recent in November.
Jan. 30 RUSSIA
Russia's central bank unexpectedly cuts its one-week minimum auction repo rate by two percentage points to 15 percent, a little over a month after raising it by 6.5 points to 17 percent, as fears of recession mount following the fall in global oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Feb. 3 AUSTRALIA
The Reserve Bank of Australia cuts its cash rate to an all-time low of 2.25 percent, seeking to spur a sluggish economy while keeping downward pressure on the local dollar.
Feb. 4 CHINA
China's central bank makes a system-wide cut to bank reserve requirements -- its first in more than two years -- to unleash a flood of liquidity to fight off economic slowdown and looming deflation.
Jan. 19/22/29/Feb. 5 DENMARK
The Danish central bank cuts interest rates a remarkable four times in less than three weeks, and intervenes regularly in the currency market to keep the crown within the narrow range of its peg to the euro.
Feb. 13 SWEDEN
Sweden's central bank cut its key repo rate to -0.1 percent from zero where it had been since October, and said it would buy 10 billion Swedish crowns worth of bonds
February 17, INDONESIA
Indonesia’s central bank unexpectedly cut its main interest rate for the first time in three years
February 18, BOTSWANA
The Bank of Botswana reduced its benchmark interest rate for the first time in more than a year to help support the economy as inflation pressures ease.
The rate was cut by 1 percentage point to 6.5 percent, the first adjustment since Oct. 2013, the central bank said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
*  *  *
Not exactly the actions of a world on the verge of escape velocity growth...

It doesn't seem to be working... have central banks lost control?
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: February 19, 2015, 2:14 pm
Operation Choke Point is an initiative of the DoJ that was announced in 2013 which investigates bank interactions with certain businesses believed to be at higher risk for fraud and money laundering. When first disclosed it was heavily criticised for bypassing due process with critics warning that "it's a thinly veiled ideological attack on industries the Obama administration doesn't like, such as gun sellers," and precious metals dealers. However, as Mike Maloney explains, it is far worse than that... "it violates the most fundamental principles of the rule of law and accountable, transparent government."
*  *  *
From: Staff Report, 113th Congress, December 8, 2014
"At a minimum, Operation Choke Point is little more than government-mandated de-risking.

FDIC, in cooperation with the Justice Department, made sure banks understood – or in their own language, “got the message” – thatmaintaining relationships with certain disfavored business lines would incur enormous regulatory risk.

The effect of this policy has been to deny countless legal and legitimate merchants access to the financial system and deprive them of their very ability to exist.

Accordingly, Operation Choke Point violates the most fundamental principles of the rule of law and accountable, transparent government."
*  *  *
We strongly suggest you are not holding anything sharp while you watch these clips....
Mike Maloney digs into the details... (Introduction)

And the follow-up "it's far worse than we thought" - Must Watch!!

Links: 
Hawkins Guns Targeted By Operation Chokepoint: http://usconsumers.org/hawkinsguns/
Wikipeida entry for Operation Chokepoint: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Choke_Point
Operation Choke Point is an initiative of the DoJ that was announced in 2013, which is investigating banks in the United States and the business they do with payment processors, payday lenders, and other companies believed to be at higher risk for fraud and money laundering.

This operation, first disclosed in August 2013 Wall Street Journal story has been criticized for bypassing due process; the government is pressuring the financial industry to cut off the companies' access to banking services, without first having shown that the targeted companies are violating the law. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, critics believe "it's a thinly veiled ideological attack on industries the Obama administration doesn't like, such as gun sellers and coal producers."

The operation itself is now under investigation by two federal agencies.
*  *  *

Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: February 18, 2015, 2:37 pm
Since 2001, a group of hackers - dubbed the "Equation Group" by researchers from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab - have infected computers in at least 42 countries (with Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Syria most infected) with what Ars Technica calls "superhuman technical feats" indicating "extraordinary skill and unlimited resources."
The exploits - including the 'prized technique' of the creation of a secret storage vault that survives military-grade disk wiping and reformatting - cover every hard-drive manufacturer and have many similar characteristics to the infamous NSA-led Stuxnet virus.
According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on.

Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up.

"The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over," lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.

...

Kaspersky's reconstructions of the spying programs show that they could work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen companies, comprising essentially the entire market. They include Western Digital Corp, Seagate Technology Plc, Toshiba Corp, IBM, Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
The group used a variety of means to spread other spying programs, such as by compromising jihadist websites, infecting USB sticks and CDs, anddeveloping a self-spreading computer worm called Fanny, Kasperky said.
Fanny was like Stuxnet in that it exploited two of the same undisclosed software flaws, known as "zero days," which strongly suggested collaboration by the authors, Raiu said. He added that it was "quite possible" that the Equation group used Fanny to scout out targets for Stuxnet in Iran and spread the virus.
Which, as Reuters reports, strongly suggests the "extraordinary skills and unlimited resources" were funded by the NSA...
The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world's computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.

The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran's uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky's analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.
The global coverage is clearly focused in a particular region (and not in the US)...
As Kasperskey exposes, victims generally fall into the following categories:
•     Governments and diplomatic institutions
•     Telecommunication
•     Aerospace
•     Energy
•     Nuclear research
•     Oil and gas
•     Military
•     Nanotechnology
•     Islamic activists and scholars
•     Mass media
•     Transportation
•     Financial institutions
•     Companies developing cryptographic technologies
As an interesting note, some of the “patients zero” of Stuxnet seem to have been infected by the EQUATION group. It is quite possible that the EQUATION group malware was used to deliver the STUXNET payload.
So far, Kaspersky have identi?ed several malware platforms used exclusively by the Equation group. They are:
EQUATIONDRUG  – A very complex attack platform used by the group on its victims. It supports a module plugin system, which can be dynamically uploaded and unloaded by the attackers.
DOUBLEFANTASY  – A validator-style Trojan, designed to con?rm the target is the intended one. If the target is con?rmed, they get upgraded to a more sophisticated platform such as EQUATIONDRUG or GRAYFISH.

EQUESTRE  – Same as EQUATIONDRUG.

TRIPLEFANTASY – Full-featured backdoor sometimes used in tandem with GRAYFISH. Looks like an upgrade of DOUBLEFANTASY, and is possibly a more recent validator-style plugin.

GRAYFISH  – The most sophisticated attack platform from the EQUATION group. It resides completely in the registry, relying on a bootkit to gain execution at OS startup.
FANNY  – A computer worm created in 2008 and used to gather information about targets in the Middle East and Asia. Some victims appear to have been upgraded ?rst to DoubleFantasy, and then to the EQUATIONDRUG system. Fanny used exploits for two zero-day vulnerabilities which were later discovered with Stuxnet.
EQUATIONLASER  – An early implant from the EQUATION group, used around 2001-2004. Compatible with Windows 95/98, and created sometime between DOUBLEFANTASY and EQUATIONDRUG.
Although the implementation of their malware systems is incredibly complex, surpassing even Regin in sophistication, there is one aspect of the EQUATION group’s attack technologies that exceeds anything Kaspersky has ever seen before.
This is the ability to infect the hard drive ?rmware.
The plugin version 4 is more complex and can reprogram 12 drive “categories”

 
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So to summarize:
1) US sanctions Russia

2) a Russian-based research group (Kaspersky Lab is an international group operating in almost 200 countries and territories worldwide. The company is headquartered in Moscow, Russia, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom. Kaspersky Lab currently employs over 2,850 qualified specialists) reveals that through Equation group's code, there is NSA presence across the supply chain of the highest margin US products .

3) As Reuters notes, the exposure of these new spying tools could lead to greater backlash against Western technology,particularly in countries such as China, which is already drafting regulations that would require most bank technology suppliers to proffer copies of their software code for inspection.

4) And Peter Swire, one of five members of U.S. President Barack Obama's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, said the Kaspersky report showed that it is essential for the country to consider the possible impact on trade and diplomatic relations before deciding to use its knowledge of software flaws for intelligence gathering. "There can be serious negative effects on other U.S. interests," Swire said.
It appears the 'boomerang' is boomerang-ing...
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Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: February 17, 2015, 3:58 pm