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Sinn: The Euro Crisis Bailout Fund’s “New Clothes” Exposed

Sinn: The Euro Crisis Bailout Fund’s "New Clothes" Exposed

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Sinn: The Euro Crisis Bailout Fund's "New Clothes" Exposed Tyler Durden Sat, 07/25/2020 - 07:00

Authored by Hans-Werner Sinn via Project Syndicate,

The European Union's new €750 billion recovery fund is intended to tackle crises such as collapsing manufacturing output in southern member states like Spain and Italy. But money cannot solve the problem of distorted relative goods prices within the eurozone.

European Union leaders have reached agreement on a big €750 billion ($870 billion) recovery fund intended to help the EU member states hit hardest by COVID-19. But during the lengthy negotiations over the package, it became increasingly clear that Europe’s pandemic-induced economic crisis is an extension of the euro crisis that has been festering since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

In essence, this is a competitiveness crisis brought about by the distortion of relative prices within the eurozone, which is a result of inflationary overpricing in Southern European countries. This overpricing, in turn, stemmed from the flood of capital that entered these economies after they joined the euro.

The collapse of the euro bubble following the 2008 financial crisis reversed the direction of private capital flows, leading to several rounds of intense capital flight from the Mediterranean region to Germany. This was reflected in a surge in the so-called TARGET balances that measure net payment orders and provide a sort of public overdraft credit within the eurozone. And now COVID-19 has triggered another phase of capital flight that eclipses all the others.

After the pandemic struck earlier this year, international lenders refused to roll over their outstanding loans to Southern European countries and demanded repayment, subsequently investing the money in the eurozone’s northern members, particularly Germany. Southern European investors also shifted their investments to Germany, and transferred corresponding amounts of money. These two streams of payment orders have forced the Bundesbank to tolerate open credit positions so far amounting to €1 trillion.

In March 2020, German TARGET claims increased by €114 billion – by far the biggest monthly rise since the euro’s introduction in 1999. Capital flight during two previous high points of the euro crisis, in September 2011 and March 2012, also caused Germany’s TARGET balance to spike, but by only €59 billion and €69 billion, respectively. Although capital markets cooled off slightly in April and May of this year, German TARGET claims increased again in June, this time by €84 billion. Between February and June, they rose by a total of €174 billion, to reach a record-high €995 billion.

Conversely, Italian and Spanish TARGET debts increased by €152 billion and €84 billion, respectively, during the same period. That implied debts of €537 billion and €462 billion, respectively, at the end of June – or €999 billion in total. Both this figure and the German claims number are so close to the €1 trillion threshold that one cannot help but wonder what secret forces in the background might have pulled the emergency brake.

Investors fled Spain and Italy because they no longer viewed these countries as safe bets. And the two countries’ central banks made their flight possible by providing extra liquidity via national printing presses.

Part of this liquidity came from the European Central Bank’s various asset-purchase schemes, including the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP) and the long-established Asset Purchase Program (APP), which the ECB has increased temporarily in response to the current crisis. Although these programs had envisaged symmetrical asset purchases by the ECB and all national central banks in the eurozone, these institutions bought a disproportionately large volume of Italian assets.

The additional liquidity also comes from a special Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) program worth more than €500 billion that the ECB made available to eurozone banks in mid-June. The -1% interest rate on the TLTROs was extremely favorable – so favorable, in fact, that many banks borrowed the money and immediately redeposited it with their own central banks at a rate of -0.5%. This provided them with an immediate arbitrage gain that amounted to an open subsidy by the Eurosystem.

But Spanish and Italian banks needed the TLTROs in large part to compensate for the capital outflows. Or perhaps they used them simply to pay off private foreign loans that had less favorable terms. In that case, the loans that the Spanish and Italian central banks provided via their national (electronic) printing presses would not only have enabled capital flight, but also served as a means of driving private capital away by offering better terms.

Be that as it may, the eurozone remains internally unbalanced. This also becomes apparent if one looks at manufacturing output in Southern Europe. Unlike domestic sectors, the region’s manufacturers must compete internationally, and therefore have suffered the most from high relative prices. Even before the coronavirus crisis, manufacturing output in Italy was 19% below its level in the autumn of 2007, just before the real economy reacted to the financial crisis; in Spain, it was 21% lower. The downward trend has continued during the pandemic, widening the output gaps to 35% and 34%, respectively.

The new EU recovery fund is meant to address this fiasco, but money cannot solve the problem of distorted relative goods prices within the eurozone. Fixing it requires an open or real devaluation. But no one wants to talk about that. Instead, the EU’s strategy seems to be based on hope and prayer.

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Stock Market Today: Stocks turn lower as Treasury yield rise mutes earnings gains

A mixed set of big tech earnings, alongside modestly higher Treasury yields, has stocks moving lower into the start of the Wednesday session.

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Updated at 10:07 am EDT U.S. turned lower Wednesday, while Treasury yields crept higher and the dollar building gains against its global peers as investors reacted to the first wave of mega-cap tech earnings while continuing to track movements in the bond market. Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Free Report and Google parent Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Free Report kicked-off this week's run of earnings from the so-called 'magnificent seven' late Tuesday with a mixed set of September quarter results, reflecting both the power for AI technologies to boost near-term profits and the impact of surging interest rates on corporate spending. Microsoft's revenue growth in cloud computing, driven in part by its early investments in AI, lifted shares in the tech giant firmly higher in pre-market trading as it looks to add around 85 points to the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the opening bell. Google, meanwhile, slumped 6.6% following a mixed set of third quarter earnings that showed slowing cloud computing growth overshadowing record ad revenues of $59.65 billion. Facebook and Instagram owner Meta Platforms  (META) - Get Free Report posts its third quarter earnings after the bell later today, with magnificent seven stalwart Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report following on Thursday. In the bond market, a muted auction of $51 billion in 2-year notes yesterday, which drew softer demand from both foreign and domestic investors, drew a line under the recent Treasury market rally, which was also tested by a faster-than-expected reading for business activity by S&P Global over the month of October. Benchmark 10-year notes yields were last marked 5 basis points higher in the early New York trading at 4.901% while 2-year notes were pegged at 5.091%, 3 basis points higher than yesterday's auction levels, ahead of a $52 billion sale of 5-year notes later in the session. The U.S. dollar index, meanwhile, was marked 0.14% higher against a basket of six global currency peers and trading at 106.41 heading into the morning session. In other markets, global oil prices drifted modestly higher in early New York trading ahead of Energy Department data on domestic stockpiles and international exports later this morning. Brent crude contracts for December delivery were marked 23 cents higher at $88.31 per barrel while WTI contracts for the same month edged 13 cents higher to $83.87 per barrel. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was marked 42 points lower, or 0.99%, in the opening hour of trading while the Dow was down 133 points despite the impact of Microsoft's advance. The tech-focused Nasdaq, meanwhile, was down 186 points, or 1.43%, as the slump in Google shares offset a smaller gain for Microsoft. In overseas markets, Europe's Stoxx 600 was marked 0.28% higher in late-day Frankfurt trading amid another busy earnings session while Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.02% lower in London. Overnight in Asia, reports of a new trillion-yuan bond sale from the Chinese government, worth around $137 billion in U.S. dollar terms and aimed at adding further stimulus to the moribund economy, boosted sentiment and helped regional stocks eek out a modest 0.09% gain heading into the close of trading.
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People in Europe ate seaweed for thousands of years before it largely disappeared from their diets – we wonder why?

The decline of seaweed as part of the staple diet in Europe remains a mystery.

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Seaweed isn’t something that generally features today in European recipe books, even though it is widely eaten in Asia. But our team has discovered molecular evidence that shows this wasn’t always the case. People in Europe ate seaweed and freshwater aquatic plants from the Stone Age right up until the Middle Ages before it disappeared from our plates. Our evidence came from skeletal remains, namely the calculus (hardened dental plaque) that built up around the teeth of these people when they were alive. Many centuries later, this calculus still contains molecules that record the food that people ingested. We analysed the calculus from 74 skeletal remains from 28 archaeological sites across Europe. The sites span a period of several thousand years starting in the Mesolithic, when people hunted and gathered their food, through to the earliest farming societies (a stage called the Neolithic) all the way up to the Middle Ages. Our results suggest that seaweed was a habitual part of the diet for the time periods we studied, and became a marginal food only relatively recently. Unsurprisingly, most of the sites where we detected the consumption of seaweed are coastal. But we also found evidence from inland sites that people were ingesting freshwater aquatic plants, including lilies and pondweed. We also found an example of people consuming sea kale.

How are we sure people ate seaweed?

We identified several types of molecules in the dental calculus that collectively are characteristic of seaweed. We refer to these as “biomarkers”. They include a set of chemical compounds called alkylpyrroles. When we detect these compounds together in calculus, we can be fairly sure where they came from. The same goes for other compounds characteristic of seaweed and freshwater plants. To have become embedded in dental calculus, the seaweed and freshwater plants had to have been in the mouth and most probably chewed. Biomarkers do not survive in all our samples, but where they do, they’re found consistently across many individuals we analysed from different places. This suggests seaweed was probably a routine part of the diet.

Perceptions of seaweed

Today, seaweed is often seen as the scourge of beaches. It accumulates at the high-water mark where it can create a slippery and sometimes smelly barrier to the sea. But it is a wondrous world of its own. There are over 10,000 species of seaweed worldwide living in the intertidal zone (where the ocean meets the land between high and low tides) and the subtidal zone (a region below the intertidal zone that is continuously covered by water). Around 145 of these species are eaten today and in parts of Asia it is commonplace. Seaweed is edible, nutritious, sometimes medicinal, abundant and local. Although overconsumption can cause iodine toxicity, there are no poisonous intertidal species in Europe. It is also available all year round, which would have been particularly useful in the past, when food supplies were less reliable.

Reconstructing ancient diets

Reconstructing ancient diets is challenging and is generally more difficult as you go back in time. This helps explain why we’ve only just realised how much seaweed was being eaten by ancient Europeans. In archaeology, evidence for ancient diets often comes from physical remains: animal bones, fish bones and the hard parts of shellfish. Evidence for plants as part of the diet before farming, however, is rare. Techniques to study molecules from archaeological remains have been around for some time. A key method is known as carbon/nitrogen (C and N) stable isotope analysis. This is widely used to reconstruct ancient human and animal diets based on the relative proportions of these elements in bone collagen. But the presence of plants has been difficult to identify, due to their low nitrogen content. Their presence is masked by an overwhelming signal for animals and fish.

Hiding in plain sight

The evidence for seaweed had been present all along, but unrecognised. Our discovery provides a perfect example of how perceptions of what we regard as food influence interpretations of ancient practices. Seaweed was detected in chunks that had been chewed (and presumably spat out) at the 12,000-year-old site of Monte Verde, Chile. But when it is found at archaeological sites, it is more commonly interpreted as having been used for things other than food, such as fuel and food wrappings. In European archaeology, there is a longstanding perception that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers ate lots of seafood, but that when people started farming, they focused on food sourced from land, such as their livestock. Our findings hammer another nail into the coffin of this theory. Today, only a few traditional recipes remain, such as laverbread made from the seaweed species Porphyra umbilicalis in Wales. It’s still not clear why seaweed declined as a staple source of food in Europe after the Middle Ages.

What are the implications?

Our unexpected discovery changes the way we understand past people. It also alters our perceptions of how they understood the landscape and how they exploited local resources. It suggests, not for the first time, that we vastly underestimate ancient people. They had a knowledge, particularly about the natural world, that is difficult for us to imagine today. The finding also reminds us that archaeological remains are minute windows into the past, reinforcing the care required when developing theories based on limited evidence. The consumption of plants, upon which our world depends, has been habitually left out of dietary theories from our pre-agrarian past. Rigid theories have sometimes forgotten that humans were behind these archaeological cultures – and that they were probably similar to us in their curiosity and needs. Today seaweed sits, largely unused as food, on our doorstep. Making the edible species a bigger component of our diets could even contribute to making our food supplies more sustainable. The Conversation

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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EUR/AUD bearish breakdown supported by additional China fiscal stimulus and AU inflation

Weak PMI readings from the Eurozone, an increase in China’s budget deficit ratio, and renewed inflationary pressures in Australia may trigger a persistent…

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  • Weak PMI readings from the Eurozone, an increase in China’s budget deficit ratio, and renewed inflationary pressures in Australia may trigger a persistent bearish sentiment loop in EUR/AUD.
  • Watch the key short-term resistance at 1.6700 for EUR/AUD.
  • A break below 1.6250 key medium-term support on the EUR/AUD may trigger a multi-week bearish impulsive down move.

The Euro (EUR) tumbled overnight throughout the US session as it erased its prior gains against the US dollar recorded on Monday, 23 October; the EUR/USD shed -104 pips from yesterday’s intraday high of 1.0695 to close the US session at 1.0591, its weakest performance in the past seven sessions.

Yesterday’s resurgence of the USD dollar strength has been attributed to a robust set of October flash manufacturing and services PMI data from the US in contrast with weak readings seen in the UK and Eurozone that represented stagflation risks.

Interestingly, the Aussie dollar (AUD) has outperformed the US dollar where the AUD/USD managed to squeeze out a minor daily gain of 21 pips by the close of yesterday’s US session. The resilient movement of the AUD/USD has been impacted by positive news flow out from China, Australia’s key trading partner.

China’s national legislature has just approved a budgetary plan to raise the fiscal deficit ratio for 2023 to around 3.8% of its GDP which was above the initial 3% set in March and set to issue additional sovereign debt worth 1 trillion yuan in Q4. This latest round of additional fiscal stimulus suggests that China’s top policymakers are expanding their initial targeted measures to address the ongoing severe liquidity crunch in the domestic property market as well as to reverse the persistent weak sentiment inherent in the stock market.

In addition, the latest set of Australia’s inflation data surpassed expectations has also reinforced another layer of positive feedback loop in the Aussie dollar which in turn may put Australia’s central bank, RBA on a “hawkish guard” against cutting its policy cash rate too soon.

The less lagging monthly CPI Indicator has risen to an annualized rate of 5.6% in September, above consensus estimates of 5.4%, and surpassed August’s reading of 5.2% which has translated into a second consecutive month of uptick in inflationary growth.

In the lens of technical analysis, a potential bearish configuration setup has emerged in the EUR/AUD cross pair from a short to medium-term perspective.

Major uptrend phase of EUR/AUD is weakening

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Fig 1: EUR/AUD medium-term trend as of 25 Oct 2023 (Source: TradingView, click to enlarge chart)

Even though the price actions of the EUR/AUD have been oscillating within a major ascending channel since its 25 August 2023 low of 1.4285 and traded above the key 200-day moving average so far, the momentum of this up movement is showing signs of bullish exhaustion.

Yesterday (24 October) price action ended with a daily bearish reversal “Marubozu” candlestick coupled with the daily RSI momentum indicator that retreated right at a significant parallel resistance in place since March 2023 at the 65 level which suggests a revival of medium-term bearish momentum.

EUR/AUD bears are now attacking the minor ascending support

Fig 2: EUR/AUD minor short-term trend as of 25 Oct 2023 (Source: TradingView, click to enlarge chart)

The EUR/AUD has now staged a bearish price action follow-through via the breakdown of its minor ascending support from its 29 September 2023 low after a momentum bearish breakdown that was flashed earlier yesterday (24 October) during the European session as seen from the 4-hour RSI momentum indicator.

Watch the 1.6700 key short-term pivotal resistance (also the 50-day moving average) for a further potential slide toward the intermediate supports of 1.6460 and 1.6320 in the first step.

On the other hand, a clearance above 1.6700 invalidates the bearish tone to see the next intermediate resistance coming in at 1.6890.

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