Jordan receives $71m from IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it had disbursed $71 million to Jordan after its Executive Board completed its first review of the country’s economy. In a statement issued today, the fund said that total payments to Jordan under an extended loan programme amounted to $141.9 million. In August 2016, the IMF Executive Board approved arrangements for Jordan for a period of three years, whereby the Kingdom would receive a loan of $723 million, representing 150 per cent of Jordan’s interest in the Fund. Read: ‘Jordan cannot deal with more Syrian refugees’ In its statement, the IMF affirmed that the extended loan facility will support the Kingdom’s economic and financial reform programme aimed at controlling public finances, reducing public debt and […]

If BlackRock And Pimco Are Right, “Another Fed Shock Looms”

Discussing the market’s ongoing reaction to the schizophrenic split between the hawkish Fed and a market which now sees a 50% lower terminal Fed Funds rate than the FOMC, yesterday Jeff Gundlach said that the flattening yield curve could become a concern for US economic growth when two and three-year notes yield about the same.

“Lower CPI in the next couple of months will be a cold bucket of water for the Fed tightening dreams,” Gundlach said. “Commodities are super weak, with the dollar down year-to-date, no less.”

In not so many words, an error is forming: either “policy error” by the Fed, or one by the market, which will be forced to reconcile its dovish stance, potentially in violent fashion, with the Fed’s relentless “data independence.”

It was this issue that was the topic of a note by Bloomberg’s macro commentator Garfield Reynolds, who noted in his overnight Macro View note, that in addition to the Gundlach “quandary”, if recent commentary by BlackRock and Pimco is right, then “another Fed shock looms.”

His full note below:

Another Fed Shock Looms If BlackRock, Pimco Right: Macro View


Once bitten, twice eager sounds like a contradiction but it can often seem like standard operating procedure in global markets – just look at the money piling into bets that the Federal Reserve is going nowhere soon with monetary tightening. It’s as if the February shock – when a deluge of Fedspeak made traders realize their bets against a March hike were wrong – never happened. 


Even after Fed Chair Janet Yellen made it clear she anticipates further rate increases, the “policy error” narrative is going full bore. Eurodollar options and fed funds futures signal no more moves for at least three months and no more than one more this year. 


Inflation is stubbornly low. Continuing sluggishness in U.S. data (surprise indexes are at about full disappointment settings) could stay the Fed’s hand, especially if employment joins the pity party. 


But BlackRock and Pimco, who between them manage more than $6.5 trillion, indicated separately this week that weaker data may not necessarily be the end-all and be-all for the rate outlook. 


Fed officials have noted their mandate goes beyond just looking at the current pace of inflation. That means the “excessive obsession some market watchers have with the Fed hewing to its 2% inflation target is shortsighted,” according to Rick Rieder, BlackRock’s global chief investment officer of fixed-income. 


Pimco’s Joachim Fels says Yellen may be willing to accept lower inflation as she continues with the Fed’s policy path because for one thing it would then give greater scope for policy action down the road, and it could enhance financial stability amid concerns of rates being too low. And he cites interesting theories about higher nominal rates leading to higher longer-term inflation. 


The complacency in the bond market (10-year yields are heading for their narrowest monthly range since 2004!) and elsewhere seems especially brave considering how recently the market completely failed to read the Fed.

Of course, there is another explanation, one offered by BofA earlier this week which suggested that the decoupling between the Fed’s tightening intentions and the underlying economy has little to do with the data, and everything to do with the market bursting the stock market bubble. As BofA’s chief strategist David Woo said, “Can it be the case that its hawkishness was prompted by something other than its reading of the economy? For example, is it possible that the Fed has become concerned about the recent surge in the equity market, especially tech stocks that has been feeding off low interest rates and low volatility?” If so, a “market shock” is indeed inevitable, the question is when.  

Then again, the market may be doubly-right: if Yellen does indeed “shock” the market, sending yields surging and risk assets tumbling, then a recession is virtually assured. As such, bond bulls are predicting not only its own near-term demise, but their long-term vindication after the shake out that will follow the “post shock” period.

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Heavy fighting in northeastern Congo, several wounded — residents

Thu, 2017-06-22 12:32

KINSHASA: Exchanges of heavy weapons fire erupted in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday between the army and militia fighters, and several students sitting exams were wounded in an explosion at a school, residents said.
The fighting in and around the city of Beni between Congo’s army and what is believed to be a new coalition of armed groups, the National Movement of Revolutionaries (MNR), erupted early in the morning and kept residents trapped in their homes, local activist Teddy Kataliko said.
Gilbert Kambale, another local activist, said that the bodies of three militia fighters were lying on the street, not far from the mayor’s office. An army spokesman in the zone said: “The situation is not good,” but declined to comment further.
The fighting followed a breakout by more than 900 inmates, many suspected militiamen, from Beni’s main prison this month — one of a series of mass jailbreaks that has underlined the security situation further since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December.
Kataliko and Kambale also said unidentified assailants set off an explosive device at a local secondary school, wounding several students sitting for exams. A hospital source said at least three student were injured in the blast.
Eastern Congo contains dozens of armed groups that prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves. Millions died there between 1996 and 2003 in a regional conflict from violence, hunger and disease.

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New Hamas chief Al-Senwar faces a tripartite alliance

Things are getting clearer and need little further analysis. The electricity crisis that has been exacerbated in the Gaza Strip recently was not a transient stage caused by the economic considerations of the Palestinian Authority. Nor was it the result of the PA leadership’s political options or the desire of President Mahmoud Abbas to clear issues with Hamas. The reality is that it was the implementation of an Israeli strategy aimed at reducing the margin for manoeuvre available to the new Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip in order to deter the movement from a new military confrontation. Abbas and head of the regime in Cairo, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, played the main roles in this strategy, although they had no […]

Removing Assad no longer priority in Syria: Macron

Thu, 2017-06-22 12:11

PARIS: France no longer sees the departure of President Bashar Assad as a priority in the Syrian conflict, President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday, making the policy official for the first time.
The new French leader said instead that fighting jihadists such as the Daesh group had to be the international community’s number one goal in a conflict that grew out of protests against the Syrian president in 2011 but has since become increasingly complex and multifaceted.
“The real change I’ve made on this question, is that I haven’t said the deposing of Bashar Assad is a prerequisite for everything,” Macron said in an interview with several European newspapers, including Britain’s Guardian, Spain’s El Pais and Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
“Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor,” said the French president, who took office last month.
“My line is clear: one, a total fight against terrorist groups. They are our enemies… We need the cooperation of everyone to eradicate them, particularly Russia. Two: stability in Syria, because I don’t want a failed state.”
Macron said the international community had made a “collective error” in thinking the conflict could be solved “only with military force,” adding: “My deep conviction is that we need a political and diplomatic roadmap.”
But he repeated his warning that the use of chemical weapons and the violation of humanitarian corridors set up to deliver aid to desperate Syrian civilians were “red lines” and that France would be willing to act alone in response.
France was among Western nations pushing most vocally for Assad to go at the start of the conflict, which has since left more than 320,000 people dead and forced millions from their homes.

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PA participation in Israel’s security conference is an obscene celebration of Palestine’s isolation

Despite last year’s outrage at its attendance, the Palestinian Authority is once again participating in the Herzliya Conference in Tel Aviv. In the current climate of Mahmoud Abbas aligning himself overtly with the oppressor, the move should not come as a surprise. The 17th annual “security” conference — which is themed “Israel’s strategic balance ahead of the 70th year of Independence: opportunities and risks” — focuses on three main aspects: the Middle East, the global landscape and the domestic arena. Palestine’s visibility in this conference exhibits compatibility with Abbas’s vision of a non-existent Palestine, in which Palestinians are constructed as an alien abstract, completely dissociated from history. One item on the agenda is: “Peace or no peace with the Palestinians? […]

Buffett Stuns Market After Berkshire Acquires 38.4% Of Home Capital Group, Provides C$2 Billion Loan

In a stunning development involving Canada’s largest alternative lender which as recently as a month ago was facing virtually certain insolvency after a furious depositor run drained it of liquidity, overnight Home Capital Group said billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway will indirectly acquire C$400 million ($300 million) of the firm’s shares in a private placement through its Columbia Insurance unit, for about a 38.4% stake, and will aso provide a new C$2 billion ($1.50 billion) line of credit to its unit Home Trust Co, ending the Canadian lender’s strategic review process.

“Home Capital’s strong assets, its ability to originate and underwrite well-performing mortgages, and its leading position in a growing market sector make this a very attractive investment,” said Warren Buffett, Berkshire chairman and CEO.

Aside from the rescue loan, Berkshire will make an initial investment of C$153.2 million to buy 16 million common shares and an additional investment of C$246.8 million to purchase 24 million shares through a private placement.  In total, Berkshire will hold an about 38.39% equity stake in Home Capital after buying 40 million shares at an average price of about C$10.00 per common share, a 33% discount compared with yesterday’s closing price of C$14.94.

The investment “is a strong vote of confidence,” in the long-term value of the business, Brenda Eprile, Home Capital’s chairwoman, said in the statement. Canada’s biggest non-bank lender also said it will continue to explore further asset sales and financing deals over the next year, but has concluded its strategic review process that began in April.

Many market watchers were stunned by this news, and were scratching their heads at why Berkshire would take the reputation risk of having exposure to a company which as recently as a month ago was in the regulator’s crosshairs for peddling “liar loans.” As a reminder, last week, Home Capital reached a C$30.5 million settlement with the Ontario Securities Commission, settled a class action lawsuit and accepted responsibility for misleading investors about problems with its mortgage underwriting procedures.

Once upon a time, Buffett would run from companies such as this; now he is actively drawn to them.

In any case, the move will likely assure an interim turnaround in the 30-year-old lender after a regulator in April accused it of misleading shareholders on mortgage fraud, which sent its shares tumbling, sparked withdrawals and threatened to disrupt Canada’s real estate sector. Earlier this week, Home Capital agreed to sell a clutch of commercial mortgages to affiliates of KingSett Capital Inc. for C$1.16 billion in cash.

“This investment from Berkshire not only addresses Home Capital’s near-term requirements for additional liquidity and a lower-cost credit agreement, but also facilitates what the Board feels is the best available path to long-term success,” Home Capital’s Chair Brenda Eprile said.

According to Bloomberg, the deal replaces an existing emergency credit facility on better terms, Home Capital said. The share purchase will be done in two parts: an initial investment of C$153 million for about a 20 percent equity stake, then an additional investment of C$247 million taking the stake to about 38 percent. The second phase requires extra approvals. Berkshire will not be granted any rights to nominate directors and has agreed to only vote shares representing 25 percent of the company’s stock, Home Capital said.

Home Capital shares have more than doubled since bottoming in April when its troubles began to accelerate but remain about 73 percent down from their peak in 2014. The company last week took full responsibility over allegations the lender misled shareholders about mortgage fraud and agreed with three former executives to pay more than C$30 million to reach settlements with regulators and investors.

So why is the octogenarian taking on the credibility risk through this particular investment? For the same reason as explained two months ago in “Warren Buffett Now Selling US Houses To Chinese Oligarchs” – Berkshire is seeking offshore housing markets, and after seeking access to the “desirable” Chinese homebuyer universe  with its HomeServices unit, it now is hoping to access Canada.

He may find a cool reception: Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is wading into a tense Canadian housing market, with Toronto house prices cooling after being hit with a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers and tighter mortgage regulations, and confidence shake by the Home Capital drama. Meanwhile, prices are surging in Vancouver again after being sideswiped by similar policy moves.

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As Mohammad Bin Salman moves closer to the Saudi throne, the region faces a bleak future

There is never a dull moment in the politics of the Middle East, says the old adage, and this week has been no different. After a lot of speculation, it is now official; Mohammad Bin Salman, the 31 year-old son of the King of Saudi Arabia has become the crown prince of the kingdom, replacing his 57 year-old cousin Mohammad Bin Nayef. Bin Salman is now the second most powerful man in Saudi Arabia. The move is reminiscent of what happened in Jordan when the dying King Hussein, in his final days, announced on 25 January 1999 that his brother, the long-serving Crown Prince Hassan Bin Talal, was being replaced by his British-educated son Prince Abdullah. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin […]

China needs patience to fight costly war against soil pollution -govt

Thu, 2017-06-22 10:21

BEIJING: China must show patience in its “long war” against widespread soil pollution, the environment ministry said this week, with the country facing a clean-up bill that could reach as high as 1 trillion yuan ($146.39 billion).
Beijing has promised to draw up new policies and set up a dedicated fund to deal with large stretches of polluted soil caused by overmining, industrial wastewater runoffs or excessive pesticide and fertilizer use.
But it said in an action plan published last year that it would aim to “stabilize” worsening soil pollution by the end of this decade and only start to make improvements by 2030.
Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Qiu Qiwen, head of the soil environment department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), said the cost of cleaning up one mu (0.066 hectares) of polluted farmland in China could reach as much as 20,000 yuan ($2,928.86).
According to the last nationwide survey published in 2013, about 50 million mu (3.33 million hectares) of China’s farmland — an area the size of Belgium — was too polluted to grow crops. That would put total clean-up costs at 1 trillion yuan.
“Soil pollution does not form overnight and the problem cannot be solved overnight,” said Qiu, adding that China “must have patience to fight the long war ahead.”
Analysts say China’s soil clean-up will provide lucrative business opportunities for a growing number of specialist environmental firms, but it is still unclear who will foot the bill, especially in the countryside.
Qiu said Beijing has already allocated a budget of 14.6 billion yuan to cover nationwide soil remediation projects from last year until the end of the first half of 2017.
One firm already benefiting from that fund is Beijing Geoenviron Engineering & Technology, which said last month that a 121.9 million yuan project in southwest China to remediate soil contaminated by heavy metals would be financed by the government.
“Treating and recovering polluted soil is very difficult and costly, and requires a long cycle,” Qiu said.
He said China would publish the results of its latest survey on soil pollution after 2020. It will also identify polluted farmland and assess its impact on the quality of agricultural products by the end of next year.
Some of the measures being considered to clean up China’s soil include rotating crops and turning farmland into forest, Qiu said. ($1 = 6.8310 yuan)

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