Thousands of spiders ‘bleed out of the walls’ and force family from home
A family was driven from their suburban St Louis home by thousands of venomous spiders that fell from the ceiling and oozed from the walls.
Brian and Susan Trost bought the $450,000 home overlooking two golf holes at Whitmoor Country Club in Weldon Spring in October 2007. Soon after that, they started seeing brown recluse spiders everywhere, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Susan Trost told St Louis television station KMOV-TV that in 2012 the spiders “started bleeding out of the walls”, and at least two pest control companies were unable to eradicate the infestation.
The couple filed a claim in 2008 with their insurance company, State Farm, and a lawsuit against the home’s previous owners for not disclosing the brown recluse problem.
At a civil trial in St Charles County in October 2011, University of Kansas biology professor Jamel Sandidge – considered one of the nation’s leading brown recluse researchers – estimated there were between 4,500 and 6,000 spiders in the home. Making matters worse, he said, those calculations were made in the winter – when the spiders are least active.
The jury awarded the couple slightly more than $472,000, but the former owners declared bankruptcy, the insurance company still didn’t pay anything and the couple moved out two years ago.
The home, now owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association, was covered with nine tarps this week as workers filled it with a gas that permeated the walls to kill the spiders and their eggs.
“There’ll be nothing alive in there after this,” said Tim McCarthy, president of the company hired to fix the problem once and for all.
Welcome To The Oligarchy – US Leads The Developed World In Low Wage Jobs
Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,
In an apparent attempt to advise investors on how they can take advantage of America’s transformation into a neo-feudal oligarchy in a 50-page research report, Morgan Stanley has put together some very interesting charts.. We will be sharing many of them in the next few days but none is more telling and depressing than the one that shows how the U.S. leads the developed world in the share of low wage jobs...
Of course, this shouldn’t come as any surprise to readers. I have covered the death of America’s middle-class for many years now, most notably in the post from last summer: How Does America’s Middle Class Rank Globally? #27.
As the middle-class has been destroyed, and the poor placated temporarily by various government benefits, the oligarchy has had free reign to thieve and expand its wealth at a dizzying pace. The Federal Reserve fueled stock market has been a key tool in the process of keeping the 1% silent, as the chart below demonstrates:
While I can’t say the above is surprising, it certainly seems to confirm my prior contention that the stock market is merely: Food Stamps for the 1%.
U.S. policy is all about keeping the 99.9% quiet and distracted, while the oligarchs strip-mine the nation. Unfortunately, that strategy is working... for now!
Billionaires are hoarding piles of cash
Billionaires are holding mountains of cash, offering the latest sign that the ultra-wealthy are nervous about putting more money into today's markets.
According to the new Billionaire Census from Wealth-X and UBS, the world's billionaires are holding an average of $600 million in cash each—greater than the gross domestic product of Dominica. That marks a jump of $60 million from a year ago and translates into billionaires' holding an average of 19 percent of their net worth in cash.
"This increased liquidity signals that many billionaires are keeping their money on the sidelines and waiting for the optimal moment to make further investments," the study said.
Indeed, billionaires' cash holdings far exceed their investments in real estate. Their real-estate holdings average $160 million per billionaire, or about one-fifth of their cash holdings.
Simon Smiles, chief investment officer for Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Wealth Management, said that the billionaire families and family offices he talks to are focused largely on the same question: What to do with all their cash.
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"The apparent safety of cash, reinforced by the painful psychological experience of the 2008-09 global financial crisis and the subsequent troubles within the European Monetary Union, likely reinforces the tendency to favor this cautious allocation strategy," Smiles said in the report.
But he said creeping inflation threatens to erode cash values, so he's advising clients to take on "considered amounts of risk" with interest rate swaps, credit default swaps, or selling rates or foreign exchange derivatives.
Read MoreChinese millionaires plan to leave in droves: Poll
Yet in today's increasingly frothy market environment, and after the hangover of 2009, today's billionaires prefer a return of their assets rather than a return on assets. And in fact, they may be happy with a small loss rather than risk a larger one.
Smiles said that the large cash holdings aren't specific to billionaires—millionaires and multimillionaires are also holding cash hordes, on the order of 20 percent to 30 percent of their net worth.
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The wealthy are still traumatized by the financial crisis in 2009, when many wealthy families were scrambling for cash, he said. What's more, many wealthy families missed out on the big financial-market rallies in 2012 and 2013 and feel like they missed the best chance to invest.
"It's the combination of many people having been under-invested in equities and under-invested in wide risk assets having seen rallies and missed those rallies," he said. "Things are no longer cheap, and it's emotionally hard to get invested now."
You Can’t Feed a Family With G.D.P.
The most important thing to know about the state of the United States economy was revealed in a report Tuesday morning that Wall Street barely noticed.
Every year, the Census Bureau delivers a sweeping set of numbers that give the richest annual picture of how much Americans are making, how many are living in poverty, and how many have access to health insurance. The numbers are backward-looking, covering conditions from a year ago. But the new numbers,released Tuesday, in many ways tell us more about how well the economy is serving — or failing — the mass of Americans than data that create hyperventilation in the financial markets.
The census numbers on what American families made last year are as mediocre as they are predictable. We now know that if your household brought in $51,939 in income last year, you were right at the 50th percentile, with half of households doing better and half doing worse. In inflation-adjusted terms, that is up a mere 0.3 percent from 2012. If you’re counting, that’s an extra $180 in annual real income for a middle-income American family. Don’t spend your extra $3.46 a week all in one place.
Going back a little further, the numbers are even gloomier. The 2013 median income remained a whopping 8 percent — about $4,500 per year — below where it was in 2007. The 2008 recession depressed wages for middle-income Americans, and they haven’t recovered in any meaningful way. And 2007 household incomes were actually below the 1999 peak.
There are a few sunnier points in the report. The poverty rate fell to 14.5 percent, from 15 percent. And as the White House Council of Economic Advisers points out, incomes rose a good bit more in 2013 for the median family — that is households where people who are related live together — than they did for the more widely cited measure of households, which includes singles and roommates.
But the new evidence that pay is stagnant for middle-income families strikes us as the most important thing contained in this report. That’s partly because it is supported by so much other evidence, some of which we have written about recently.
This simple fact may be the most important thing to understand about today’s economy: Around 1999, growth in the United States economy stopped translating to growth in middle-class incomes. In the last 15 years, median income has been more or less flat while there was far sharper growth in, for example, per capita gross domestic product.
There are various potential reasons. Evolving technology favors those with the most advanced skills and allows companies to replace formerly middle-class workers with machines. Declining union power gives workers less power at the bargaining table over wages. Cultural norms have shifted such that top executives and financiers are paid much more compared with regular workers than they used to be.
But there really is no mystery as to why public opinion has been persistently down on the quality of the economy for years. You can’t eat G.D.P. You can’t live in a rising stock market. You can’t give your kids a better life because your company’s C.E.O. was able to give himself a big raise.
The rubber-meets-road measure of whether the economy is working for the mass of Americans is median real income and related measures of how much money is making its way into their pockets and what they can buy with that money.
And the newest census numbers show that the nation experienced virtually no progress on that frontier in 2013, and remains far behind where we were seven years ago. Americans feel disappointed by the economy; the new data show that they have good reason.
The Most Important Company In Europe: Gazprom
There is a reason why in the past we have referred to Russia simply as Gazpromia . Here is why...
And a little more color on this soon-to-be-critical company... Pages 10-12 are of particular importance...
Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat
Russia threatened to dump its U.S. treasuries if America imposed sanctions regarding Russia’s action in the Crimea.
Zero Hedge argues that Russia has already done so.
But veteran investor Jim Sinclair argues that Russia has a much scarier financial attack which Russia can use against the U.S.
Specifically, Sinclair says that if Russia accepts payment for oil and gas in any currency other than the dollar – whether it’s gold, the Euro, the Ruble, the Rupee, or anything else – then the U.S. petrodollar system will collapse:
Indeed, one of the main pillars for U.S. power is the petrodollar, and the U.S. is desperate for the dollar to maintain reserve status. Some wise commentators have argued that recent U.S. wars have really been about keeping the rest of the world on the petrodollar standard.
The theory is that – after Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, which had made the dollar the world’s reserve currency – America salvaged that role by adopting the petrodollar. Specifically, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil and gas would be priced in dollars, so the rest of the world had to use dollars for most transactions.
But Reuters notes that Russia may be mere months away from signing a bilateral trade deal with China, where China would buy huge quantities of Russian oil and gas.
Zero Hedge argues:
Add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.
As we noted last year:
The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is less than 40 years.
But what about “reserve currencies”, like the U.S. dollar?
JP Morgan noted last year that “reserve currencies” have a limited shelf-life:
As the table shows, U.S. reserve status has already lasted as long as Portugal and the Netherland’s reigns. It won’t happen tomorrow, or next week … but the end of the dollar’s rein is coming nonetheless, and China and many other countries are calling for a new reserve currency.
Remember, China is entering into more and more major deals with other countries to settle trades in Yuans, instead of dollars. This includes the European Union (the world’s largest economy) [and also Russia].
And China is quietly becoming a gold superpower…
Given that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil, Saudi Arabia is moving away from the U.S. … and towards China. (Some even argue that the world will switch from the petrodollar to the petroYUAN. We’re not convinced that will happen.)
In any event, a switch to pricing petroleum in anything other than dollars exclusively – whether a single alternative currency, gold, or even a mix of currencies or commodities – would spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
For that reason, Sinclair – no fan of either Russia or Putin – urges American leaders to back away from an economic confrontation with Russia, arguing that the U.S. would be the loser.
Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce “Holy Grail” Gas Deal With China
If it was the intent of the West to bring Russia and China together - one a natural resource (if "somewhat" corrupt) superpower and the other a fixed capital / labor output (if "somewhat" capital misallocating and credit bubbleicious) powerhouse - in the process marginalizing the dollar and encouraging Ruble and Renminbi bilateral trade, then things are surely "going according to plan."
For now there have been no major developments as a result of the shift in the geopolitical axis that has seen global US influence, away from the Group of 7 (most insolvent nations) of course, decline precipitously in the aftermath of the bungled Syrian intervention attempt and the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea, but that will soon change. Because while the west is focused on day to day developments in Ukraine, and how to halt Russian expansion through appeasement (hardly a winning tactic as events in the 1930s demonstrated), Russia is once again thinking 3 steps ahead... and quite a few steps east.
While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the "Holy Grail" energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may regain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.
Here is what will likely happen next, as explained by Reuters:
Igor Sechin gathered media in Tokyo the next day to warn Western governments that more sanctions over Moscow's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine would be counter-productive.
The underlying message from the head of Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances.
The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West.
More details on the revelation of said "Holy Grail":
State-owned Russian gas firm Gazprom hopes to pump 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year to China from 2018 via the first pipeline between the world's largest producer of conventional gas to the largest consumer.
"May is in our plans," a Gazprom spokesman said, when asked about the timing of an agreement. A company source said: "It would be logical to expect the deal during Putin's visit to China."
Summarizing what should be and is painfully obvious to all, but apparently to the White House, which keeps prodding at Russia, is the following:
"The worse Russia's relations are with the West, the closer Russia will want to be to China. If China supports you, no one can say you're isolated," said Vasily Kashin, a China expert at the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) think thank.
Bingo. And now add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China's largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.
As reported previoisly, China has already implicitly backed Putin without risking it relations with the West. "Last Saturday China abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote on a draft resolution declaring invalid the referendum in which Crimea went on to back union with Russia. Although China is nervous about referendums in restive regions of other countries which might serve as a precedent for Tibet and Taiwan, it has refused to criticize Moscow. The support of Beijing is vital for Putin. Not only is China a fellow permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with whom Russia thinks alike, it is also the world's second biggest economy and it opposes the spread of Western-style democracy."
This culminated yesterday, when as we reported last night, Putin thanked China for its "understanding over Ukraine." China hasn't exactly kept its feelings about closer relations with Russia under wraps either:
Chinese President Xi Jinping showed how much he values ties with Moscow, and Putin in particular, by making Russia his first foreign visit as China's leader last year and attending the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi last month.
Many Western leaders did not go to the Games after criticism of Russia's record on human rights. By contrast, when Putin and Xi discussed Ukraine by telephone on March 4, the Kremlin said their positions were "close".
The punchline: "A strong alliance would suit both countries as a counterbalance to the United States." An alliance that would merely be an extension of current trends in close bilateral relations, including not only infrastructure investment but also military supplies:
However, China overtook Germany as Russia's biggest buyer of crude oil this year thanks to Rosneft securing deals to boost eastward oil supplies via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline and another crossing Kazakhstan.
If Russia is isolated by a new round of Western sanctions - those so far affect only a few officials' assets abroad and have not been aimed at companies - Russia and China could also step up cooperation in areas apart from energy. CAST's Kashin said the prospects of Russia delivering Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets to China, which has been under discussion since 2010, would grow.
China is very interested in investing in infrastructure, energy and commodities in Russia, and a decline in business with the West could force Moscow to drop some of its reservations about Chinese investment in strategic industries. "With Western sanctions, the atmosphere could change quickly in favor of China," said Brian Zimbler Managing Partner of Morgan Lewis international law firm's Moscow office.
Russia-China trade turnover grew by 8.2 percent in 2013 to $8.1 billion but Russia was still only China's seventh largest export partner in 2013, and was not in the top 10 countries for imported goods. The EU is Russia's biggest trade partner, accounting for almost half of all its trade turnover.
And as if pushing Russia into the warm embrace of the world's most populous nation was not enough, there is also the second most populated country in the world, India.
Putin did take time, however, to thank one other country apart from China for its understanding over Ukraine and Crimea - saying India had shown "restraint and objectivity".
He also called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the crisis on Tuesday, suggesting there is room for Russia's ties with traditionally non-aligned India to flourish.
Although India has become the largest export market for U.S. arms, Russia remains a key defense supplier and relations are friendly, even if lacking a strong business and trade dimension, due to a strategic partnership dating to the Soviet era.
Putin's moves to assert Russian control over Crimea were seen very favorably in the Indian establishment, N. Ram, publisher of The Hindu newspaper, told Reuters. "Russia has legitimate interests," he added.
To summarize: while the biggest geopolitical tectonic shift since the cold war accelerates with the inevitable firming of the "Asian axis", the west monetizes its debt, revels in the paper wealth created from an all time high manipulated stock market while at the same time trying to explain why 6.5% unemployment is really indicative of a weak economy, blames the weather for every disappointing economic data point, and every single person is transfixed with finding a missing airplane.
Chinese Stocks Enter Bear Market Following 2 More Defaults Overnight
Following the default of 2 more corporations last night, Hang Seng's index of China Enterprises plunged to 8-month lows and officially entered bear market territory. Overnight angst in the Chinese currency markets (which saw the Yuan trade back to 1-year lows) has sparked broad commodity weakness (as CCFD unwinds en masse) with copper giving back most of yesterday's major short squeeze gains back. Chinese corporate bond prices also tumbled to one-month lows.
Hang Seng's China Enterprise Index (the most liquid vehicle for trading Chinese stocks for foreigners) has entered a bear market
as cash-for-commodity financing deals continue the unwind,
The Dominoes Begin To Fall In China
Submitted by Tim Staermose of Sovereign Man blog ,
Forget tapering. Forget Ukraine. The largest single risk to the world economy and financial markets right now is China.
What’s going on in China reminds me a lot of what I witnessed firsthand when I lived in South Korea in the 1990s, before that economy’s crash in 1998.
Just as China now, South Korea was an immature, state-controlled financial system funneling cheap money to well-connected and politically favored large enterprises.
Fuelled by a steady diet of cheap money, these companies kept adding capacity with no regard to profitability or return on capital. They simply focused on producing more stuff and expanding their size. They employed more people, and everyone was happy.
But, all the while, they were borrowing more and more money, until eventually they collapsed under the debt load when liquidity dried up.
Before Korea, the exact same thing happened in Japan, and a giant, unsustainable debt binge brought the “miracle economy” to its knees.
But the Korean and Japanese debt bubbles are nothing compared to what we see in China today.
Consider this: in the last five years, the Chinese created $16 TRILLION in credit that is now circulating in the economy… financing ghost cities and useless infrastructure projects.
Floor space per capita in China is now 30 square meters (about 320 sq. ft.) per person. Japan was at that level in 1988. And the economy burst the following year.
More astounding, this $16 trillion in credit is DOUBLE the $8 trillion in credit that China created in the previous 5,000+ years of its existence.
The Chinese government recognizes it has a problem. It realizes it can no longer keep the dam from breaking. And in the past week, it bit the bullet.
In the last two weeks, Chaori Solar and Haixin Steel were allowed to default, i.e. they weren’t bailed out.
This is the first time in China’s modern history they’ve had a default, let alone two. They can no longer keep the game up, and the dominoes are beginning to topple.
I cannot stress this enough. What we’re witnessing is a major paradigm shift.
Of course, the Chinese government claims they can control the impact of these “relatively minor” corporate defaults.
But as we saw during the sub-prime crisis in the Unites States, the complex web of inter-linkages in the financial system means they are playing with fire.
I expect many more defaults in China in the coming weeks and months. I expect some important Chinese financial institutions to get into trouble.
And I expect the Chinese government will completely lose control over the situation.
My recommendations are 2-fold:
1. If you have any exposure to Chinese stocks, or the Chinese Yuan, I strongly suggest you reconsider.
2. If you have investments in iron ore or copper producers, get out.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s going to take time for China to suffer through this crisis. But, if the Chinese government lets the dominoes fall where they may, the country will be better off in the long term.
The lessons from markets such as South Korea and Indonesia, in aftermath of the 1997-1999 Asian economic crisis, are clear.
If China frees up and liberalizes its financial markets in the face of a crisis, writes off bad loans, and closes down insolvent banks, it will emerge in a much stronger position once the crisis blows over.
And there will be lots of money to be made buying good-quality Chinese shares during the crisis. But, for now, it’s time to brace for the downturn.