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The Strangest Thing About “Semi-Fascist” Trump

The Strangest Thing About "Semi-Fascist" Trump

Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via,

Of the last three presidents, Trump was…



The Strangest Thing About "Semi-Fascist" Trump

Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via,

Of the last three presidents, Trump was either the most indifferent or the most obstructed when it came to using government agencies for his own partisan political advantages or to neuter his enemies.

For the Left, Donald Trump is synonymous with “fascism” (or “semi-fascism,” as Joe Biden put it the other day). And for Liz Cheney and most of the NeverTrumpers, he remains an existential threat to democracy

But to quantify those charges, what exactly has Trump done extralegally - as opposed to his bombast and braggadocio about what he might have wished to have done? 

And what are the standards by which to judge this supposed menace?

Did Trump illegally and with a mere signature nullify over $300 billion of contracted student loans—to firm up his college-student and college-graduate base nine weeks before the midterm elections?

Did Donald Trump weaponize the feared IRS, the logical place to find fascistic tendencies of any president bent on using government to punish his enemies? Did he push through a plan to add 87,000 new IRS investigative agents at a time of national discord?

For the last five years, Trump was rumored to be under investigation by the IRS. Currently, his accountant is facing felony sentencing for advising improper write-offs. 

Certainly, from the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop and the remarks of Hunter’s associates like Tony Bobulinksi, the Biden family raked in millions of foreign dollars. Evidence so far suggests Joe Biden was a recipient (as the “Big Guy”) of 10 percent of these quid pro quo payments. At times, Bobulinksi may have sent a strapped and broke Hunter thousands of dollars in cash gifts. Were any of these stealthy transactions taxed? Does the recently heavily Biden-endowed IRS care?

If Trump wished to abuse his power over the IRS, he would have followed the Obama model of weaponizing it during a reelection year to go after his ideological enemies. 

In Obama’s case, the tax agency slow-walked or denied nonprofit status for groups whose ideology was deemed not helpful to Obama’s campaign in 2012. There was a reason Lois Lerner invoked the Fifth Amendment, and it was not to protect Donald Trump.

Politicized National Security

Did Trump blatantly use the national security apparatus of the government to enhance his own reelection bid in 2020?

That is, did he do anything analogous to Obama’s gambit with Vladimir Putin in 2011? 

Was Trump ever caught on a hot mic promising a Russian president that he would try to ease Russian worries about Eastern European missile defense if only the Russians would give him space during his 2012 campaign for president against Mitt Romney?  

What we forget about the 2011 Seoul, South Korea hot-mic Obama exchange with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was that all the conditions outlined in their hushed 2011 recap were adhered to by both parties: Obama did dismantle plans for a joint U.S.-Eastern European long-range missile defense—a system that might be now of advantage to the U.S. and its allies. Putin did stay quiet during the Obama campaign cycle. Obama did get reelected. And Putin did invade Ukraine and Crimea only after Obama was elected (or, a cynic might put it, because Obama was reelected). 

A current Trump “collusion” critic, mutatis mutandis, might have surmised that a colluding Barack Obama put the national security of the United States and its allies at risk in order to use his office to massage campaign advantages over Mitt Romney in 2012. And the ultimate result of such machinations was a loss of U.S. deterrence that in part explained Russian aggression in 2014.

Weaponizing Justice

Did Trump weaponize the FBI? That is, did the FBI go after journalists, former Obama officials, or Democratic Party activists who variously were attacking Don Jr. or Ivanka on the pretenses of retrieving one of their lost laptops or diaries? 

Did Trump use Republican National Committee firewalls to transfer money to private lobbyists and law firms to find dirt on Hillary Clinton in 2016, and then turn it all over to the FBI to launch a Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Clinton, centered around a Trump-hired ex-spy who became a paid FBI informant? 

Are there texts of Trump-era FBI agents talking about how to “stop” Hillary Clinton’s or Biden’s election bid?

Did Trump’s FBI, in the predawn hours, burst into the homes of New York Times reporters—in James O’Keefe -style—and march them outside in their underwear, all for the possible “crime” of receiving a stolen draft of the Supreme Court early draft of the Dobbs decision? Which is the greater “crime”—trafficking in clearly stolen confidential Supreme Court papers or looking at the abandoned, lost, and lurid diary of a wayward presidential daughter?

Did the Trump Justice Department start an investigation of the suspected illegal lobbying of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, who used the former’s political connections to win large cash payments from foreign governments? Were there Trump officials in the permanent Justice Department who went after his various political opponents on the pretexts of the Logan Act?  Or did the Trump Administration help spread the allegations of any hired anti-Clinton ex-spies and salt them around the bureaucracies?

Speaking of Trump and threats to the democratic order, did any Trump attorney general refuse a congressional subpoena, as former Attorney General Eric Holder did? Was anyone held in contempt of Congress, as Holder was? Did any simply refuse to honor subpoenas and withhold requested documents from Congress, as the Obama Administration did time and again?

Did Trump order an FBI raid on the Obama home, on rumors that there were thousands of documents under dispute with the National Archives in his possession, especially given the Obama record of fiercely fighting any Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to release his documents? 

Was a John Podesta put in leg irons by the FBI? Was Robbie Mook’s house stormed to learn of what he knew about Hillary Clinton’s missing emails? 

Was Jake Sullivan’s phone grabbed by the FBI at an airport to determine his role in the Russian collusion hoax? 

Or, with a look ahead to his own reelection, did Trump in 2018 order a raid on the Biden home, in search of “lost” Biden vice presidential documents, supposedly improperly removed after Biden’s tenure that might have shed light on the Biden family’s extracurricular foreign lobbying?

Where Is Trump’s Deep State?

Are there now any former Trump loyalists who, as “anonymous” officials in cabinet agencies or obstructionists on the National Security Council, are writing op-eds about their stealthy daily efforts to undermine Biden’s executive orders or his administration’s action?

Is anyone listening to Biden’s phone calls with foreign leaders while working with Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee and while prepping a “whistleblower” to find grounds for impeachment based on some of the things Biden has allegedly said to foreign leaders? 

Did Pfizer rush prematurely to announce a viable COVID-19 vaccination to aid Trump’s reelection—or in contrast, did it slow walk a viable vaccination’s rollout until after the election to massage the result?

Are there now “50 former intelligence officials” who signed affidavits in support of Trump’s allegations about the authenticity of Hunter’s laptop? Are there dozens of retired four-stars now opportunely blasting Joe Biden’s historic humiliation of the United States in Kabul? Have any retired admirals mocked the Uniform Code of Military Justice to write New York Times op-eds suggesting a befuddled Biden leave office “the sooner, the better”?

Are there former Trump officials writing in Foreign Policy that Biden is a disaster who could be removed by impeachment or the 25th Amendment—or more rapidly by a military coup? Are retired officers writing to General Mark Milley urging him to act should he feel in the next election that a likely Republican loss seems suspicious?

Election Interference and Denial? 

Between 2017 and 2020, did Trump’s team systematically seek to change the voting laws in key states to radically transform traditional balloting, in a mail-in or early voting revolution, in which only 30 percent of the electorate would vote on Election Day?

If Trump improperly questioned the ballot result of the 2020 election, then he sinned in the long tradition of presidential ballot objectors, including former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), January 6 committee chairman himself Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and Hillary Clinton, who claimed Trump was an illegitimately elected president and advised Biden not to concede if he lost the 2020 popular vote. A defeated Stacey Abrams toured the country claiming she was the “real” governor of Georgia, yet nobody smears her as an “election truther.”

Was there any “dark money” effort analogous to the efforts of corporate and tech money along with DNC activists and Biden operators in what Time magazine’s Molly Ball described as a “conspiracy” to ensure the defeat of Trump’s opponent? 

Did Trump’s team coordinate with right-wing billionaires to infuse hundreds of billions of dollars to modulate street protests, to absorb the work of state and local registrars in key precincts, and to censor unfavorable stories on social media? 

Trump impotently railed and bayed to the wind about the “fake news” reporters at his rallies. By contrast, the Left, both private elites and public officials, kept quiet and injected half a billion dollars to alter the way people voted and effectively to censor the way people produced and consumed the news.

Restoring Our Norms?

How about Trump’s efforts to revolutionize the very system of government? Did he promote a court-packing scheme to ensure he might not just get a 5-4 majority, but perhaps an 11-4 conservative advantage in a new 15-justice Supreme Court? 

Did he keep mum while right-wing demonstrators swarmed the homes of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan? Did his attorney general ignore the obvious felonies involved in such threatening tactics? Did Trump work with his Republican Congress in 2017 to end the filibuster to ensure his legislation would not be stonewalled? Did he dream up ways of getting rid of the Electoral College so the “blue wall” might never return? 

It’s alleged that Trump was insincere when he approved the request for thousands of federal troops to be available to local law enforcement on January 6, or that he did not really mean it when he instructed pro-Trump demonstrators on January 6 to “Peacefully and patriotically march to the Capitol.” 

Perhaps even the hint of encouraging any type of protest was reckless in such partisan times. But just days after violent protestors attacked Secret Service agents manning barricades and had sought to storm onto the White House grounds, did Trump boast to the nation of the ongoing demonstrations, as did Kamala Harris, soon to be a vice presidential candidate?

They’re not going to stop. And everyone beware, because they’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop before Election Day in November, and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And that should be—everyone should take note of that, on both levels, that they’re not going to let up, and they should not, and we should not.

Was that a sober or insurrectionary thing to advise in a summer of rioting that saw 120 days of violence, $2 billion in damage, 35 dead, and hundreds of police officers injured?

Did Trump as president meet with CIA and FBI directors who, in their weekly and daily briefings, apprised him of efforts to monitor, spy, and infiltrate the campaign of Joe Biden?

Was there, after 2017, a Republican majority committee investigating the former Obama role in launching Operation Crossfire Hurricane, or Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s secret meeting with Bill Clinton while she was investigating Hillary Clinton? And if there were, would Obama loyalists in the House be excluded by the Republican speaker from participating in House investigations that also would allow no hostile or even neutral witnesses, no general counsel’s report, and no cross-examinations?

The strange thing about Trump was that he did not use extraordinary powers to investigate anyone unlawfully. He boasted, he railed, he screamed, he whined, he became at times crude and obnoxious. But he did not use the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department, or the IRS to go after the Obamas, the Clintons, or the Bidens. 

Instead, he became the most investigated, probed, smeared, and autopsied president in modern history. Trump’s legislative agenda did not include revolutionary changes in the Electoral College or the filibuster, or radical changes to the Supreme Court.

In fact, of the last three presidents, Trump was either the most inept or indifferent, or the most obstructed concerning any issue of using government agencies for his own partisan political advantages or to neuter his enemies. 

In truth, the entire apparatus of permanent government—the Pentagon hierarchy, the Washington elites at the FBI and CIA, the permanently entrenched at the Justice Department, and the apparat at the IRS all despised Donald Trump. And they did not just hate him but acted on their antipathy by using their powers of government to destroy his campaign in 2016, to undermine his transition, to either obstruct or sabotage his initiatives while president, and to hound him as an ex-president. As ex-felon and FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith put it of his own illegal effort to destroy a president, “Viva le [sic] resistance.” Is that the sort of FBI we want—a cadre of self-described revolutionaries?

Donald Trump was impeached for raising the question of Biden family corruption in Ukraine with the Ukrainian president and delaying offensive military aid that had never been approved by a Democratic president.

Evidence since Trump’s impeachment suggests he was prescient in his warning to the Kyiv government to stay out of domestic American politics. Everything thing we know since that 2021 impeachment vote solidifies—not contradicts—Trump’s point that the Biden family was corrupt, and Hunter Biden was receiving large sums of money from Ukraine and China solely because Joe Biden had been vice president and was seen as a possible or even likely future president worthy of such corrupt investment. Or to put it another way, why would those with contacts with the Ukrainian government ever pay millions to an incompetent, drug-addicted miscreant like Hunter Biden, if not for pay-for-play influence?

In that context, Joe Biden’s early boast that he got a Ukrainian attorney general fired, most likely for probing too deeply matters involving his family, gives credence to Trump’s instincts. So does the fact that both Obama and Biden for a time stopped shipments of offensive weapons to Ukraine, while Trump for a time only delayed them but eventually gave them what they wished.

The result of this unprecedented effort to accuse Trump of using government fascistically while fascistically using government to destroy a president is all too clear in the destroyed careers who sought to undermine constitutional government. What John Brennan, James Clapper, Kevin Clinesmith, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and a host of retired flag officers and intelligence operatives share is not just their venomous antipathy toward an elected president and their efforts rhetorically and often concretely to neuter him, but their subsequent disgrace even among those who once cheered them on.

Tyler Durden Mon, 08/29/2022 - 18:20

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‘Forgetful’ Fauci Could Not Recall Key Details Of COVID Crisis Response During Deposition: Louisiana AG

‘Forgetful’ Fauci Could Not Recall Key Details Of COVID Crisis Response During Deposition: Louisiana AG

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The…



'Forgetful' Fauci Could Not Recall Key Details Of COVID Crisis Response During Deposition: Louisiana AG

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Dr. Anthony Fauci said he could not recall key details about his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to one of the officials who questioned him on Nov. 23.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks in Washington on May 11, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Fauci, the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984 and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, was deposed by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, both Republicans.

“It was amazing, literally, that we spent seven hours with Dr. Fauci—this is a man who single-handedly wrecked the U.S. economy based upon ‘the science, follow the science.’ And over the course of seven hours, we discovered that he can’t recall practically anything dealing with his COVID response,” Landry told The Epoch Times after leaving the deposition. “He just said, ‘I can’t recall, I haven’t seen that. And I think we need to put these documents into context,'” Landry added.

“It was extremely troubling to realize that this is a man who advises presidents of the United States and yet couldn’t recall information he put out, information he discussed, press conferences he held dealing with the COVID-19 response,” Landry added later.

Fauci and NIAID did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Landry declined to provide more details about the deposition until it is made public, which will happen at a future date. But he said officials would be able to take some of what they learned to advance their case.

Landry and Schmitt sued the U.S. government in May, alleging it violated people’s First Amendment rights by pressuring big tech companies to censor speech. Documents produced by the government in response bolstered the claims. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, the Trump appointee overseeing the case, recently ordered Fauci and seven other officials to testify under oath about their knowledge of the censorship.

Doughty concluded that plaintiffs showed Fauci “has personal knowledge about the issue concerning censorship across social media as it related to COVID-19 and ancillary issues of COVID-19.”

While Fauci qualified as a high-ranking official, the burden of him being deposed was outweighed by the court’s need for information before ruling on a motion for a preliminary injunction, Doughty said.

Wednesday was the first time Fauci testified under oath about his interactions with big tech firms, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Before the deposition, Landry said in a statement, “We all deserve to know how involved Dr. Fauci was in the censorship of the American people during the COVID pandemic; tomorrow, I hope to find out.”

“We’re going to follow the evidence everywhere it goes to get down to exactly what has happened, to get down to the fact that our government used private entities to suppress the speech of Americans,” Landry told The Epoch Times.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (C) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 22, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Great Barrington Declaration

Jenin Younes with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, another lawyer representing plaintiffs in the case, said that Fauci claimed he did not worry about a document called the Great Barrington Declaration.

Penned in October 2020, the document called for focused protection on people most at-risk from COVID-19 while rescinding the harsh restrictions that had been imposed on children and others at little risk from the disease. Two of its authors, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, are plaintiffs in the case.

I have a very busy day job running a six billion dollar institute. I don’t have time to worry about things like the Great Barrington Declaration,” Fauci said, according to Younes.

Fauci, though, has spoken multiple times about the declaration.

In internal emails that were later published, Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, Fauci’s former boss, both criticized the declaration. “There needs to be a quick and devastating published takedown of its premises,” Collins wrote, prompting Fauci to send him a Wired magazine article he claimed “debunks this theory.”

In another missive, obtained by The Epoch Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, Fauci said the declaration reminded him of AIDS denialism.

Fauci also talked about the declaration in public, including defending his criticism during a congressional hearing in May.

I have come out very strongly publicly against the Great Barrington Declaration,” Fauci wrote to Dr. Deborah Birx in another email.

Other Depositions

The government moved to block some of the depositions, but not Fauci’s. It just won an order blocking the depositions of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, and Rob Flaherty, a deputy assistant to Biden.

Similar efforts to block the depositions of former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and FBI official Elvis Chan have been unsuccessful.

Chan is scheduled to answer questions next week. Psaki is scheduled to be deposed on Dec. 8.

Chan was involved in communicating with Facebook, LinkedIn, and other big tech firms about content moderation, according to evidence developed in the case and public statements he’s made. Psaki publicly said while still in the White House that platforms should step up against alleged mis- and disinformation.

Plaintiffs have already deposed several officials including Daniel Kimmage, an official at the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.

That center worked with Easterly’s agency to create a coalition of nonprofits called the Election Integrity Partnership, which pushed social media companies to censor speech.

Kimmage was also responsible for meetings during which censorship was discussed, with State Department official Samaruddin Stewart acting on his orders, according to documents produced by LinkedIn.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/26/2022 - 13:30

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COVID Lockdown Protests Erupt In Beijing, Xinjiang After Deadly Fire

COVID Lockdown Protests Erupt In Beijing, Xinjiang After Deadly Fire

Protests have erupted in Beijing and the far western Xinjiang region…



COVID Lockdown Protests Erupt In Beijing, Xinjiang After Deadly Fire

Protests have erupted in Beijing and the far western Xinjiang region over COVID-19 lockdowns and a deadly fire on Thursday in a high-rise building in Urumqi that killed 10 people (with some reports putting the number as high as 40).

Crowds took to the street in Urumqi, the capitol of Xinjiang, with protesters chanting "End the lockdown!" while pumping their fists in the air, following the circulation of videos of the fire on Chinese social media on Friday night.

Protest videos show people in a plaza singing China's national anthem - particularly the line: "Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!" Others shouted that they did not want lockdowns. In the northern Beijing district of Tiantongyuan, residents tore down signs and took to the streets.

Reuters verified that the footage was published from Urumqi, where many of its 4 million residents have been under some of the country's longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.

In the capital of Beijing 2,700 km (1,678 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small-scale protests or confronted their local officials over movement restrictions placed on them, with some successfully pressuring them into lifting them ahead of a schedule. -Reuters

According to an early Saturday news conference by Urumqi officials, COVID measures did not hamper escape and rescue during the fire, but Chinese social media wasn't buying it.

"The Urumqi fire got everyone in the country upset," said Beijing resident Sean Li.

According to Reuters

A planned lockdown for his compound "Berlin Aiyue" was called off on Friday after residents protested to their local leader and convinced him to cancel it, negotiations that were captured by a video posted on social media.

The residents had caught wind of the plan after seeing workers putting barriers on their gates. "That tragedy could have happened to any of us," he said.

By Saturday evening, at least ten other compounds lifted lockdown before the announced end-date after residents complained, according to a Reuters tally of social media posts by residents.

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/26/2022 - 12:00

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US Jobs and Eurozone CPI Highlight the Week Ahead

Two high-frequency economic reports stand out in the week ahead:  The US November employment report and the preliminary eurozone CPI. The Federal Reserve…



Two high-frequency economic reports stand out in the week ahead:  The US November employment report and the preliminary eurozone CPI. The Federal Reserve has deftly distanced itself from any one employment report. As a result, it would take a significant miss of the median forecast (Bloomberg survey) to alter market expectations for a 50 bp hike when the FOMC meeting concludes on December 14.

Economists are looking for around a 200k increase in US non-farm payrolls after 261k in October. In the first ten months of the year, the US has created 4.07 mln jobs. This is down from 5.51 mln in the Jan-Oct period last week but a strong performance by nearly any other comparison. In the same period before the pandemic, the US created about 1.52 mln jobs. Non-farm payrolls rose by an average of 150k in 2018 and 2019. It is averaging more than twice that now.

Average hourly earnings have increased in importance now with greater sensitivity to inflation and fears among policymakers that it could get embedded into wage expectations. The year-over-year increase in average hourly earnings peaked in March (when the Fed began hiking rates) at 5.6%. It has fallen or been unchanged since and fell to 4.7% in October. Economists expect the pace to have slowed to 4.6%. The 4% rate, seen as more consistent with the Fed's goals, assumes 2% productivity, which has been difficult to sustain outside crises (around the Great Financial Crisis and Covid) since the middle of 2004.

The ECB is a different kettle of fish. Nearly all the voting members at the Fed that have spoken, including the leading hawks, seem to accept a downshifting from 75 bp to 50 bp. However, at the ECB, there appears to be a genuine debate. It hiked rates by 75 bp at the last two meetings after starting the normalization process with a half-point move in July. As a result, the month-over-month headline inflation surged by 1.2% in September and 1.5% in October. The year-over-year rate stood at 10.7% in October, 300 bp above the US. On the other hand, core inflation was 5% above a year ago in the eurozone compared with 6.3% in the US. The median forecast in Bloomberg's survey sees the headline rate easing to 10.4%, with the core rate unchanged.

This is leading some, like the Austrian central bank governor Holzmann to suggest that unless there is a sharp fall in the November report, he would be inclined to support another 75 bp hike when the ECB meets on December 15. The preliminary estimate of November CPI will be released on November 30, but the final reading will not be available until the day after the ECB's meeting. That said, revisions tend to be minor. While Holzmann is perceived to be one of the more hawkish members of the ECB, the more dovish contingent seems to be pushing for a slowing the pace to 50 bp. It is a bit too simple to make it into a North-South dispute. The ECB's chief economist, Lane, from Ireland, is in the 50-bp camp. The swaps market sees a little more than a 30% chance of a 75 bp hike next month. Countering the elevated price pressures is recognizing that the eurozone is slipping into a recession. Still, officials say it will likely be short and shallow, arguably giving them more latitude to adjust rates.

To be sure, the US also reports inflation. The Fed's targeted measure, the PCE deflator for October, will be released the day before the employment report. But, in this cycle, in terms of the Fed's reaction function, it seems to have been downgraded, and the thunder stolen by the CPI. Indeed, when Fed Chair Powell explained why the Fed hiked by 75 bp instead of 50 bp in June as it had led the market to believe, he cited CPI and the preliminary University of Michigan consumer inflation expectation survey (which was later revised lower). While the methodologies and basket of the PCE deflator are different than CPI, the former is expected to confirm the broad developments of the latter. A 0.3% rising in the headline PCE deflator will see the year-over-year pace slip below 6% for the first time since last November. It peaked at 7.0% in the middle of the year. The core rate is stickier and may have eased to 5% after edging up in both August and September.

The US economic calendar is packed in the days ahead. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller house prices 20-city index are expected to have fallen for the third consecutive month (September). That has not happened for a decade. The FHFA house price index is broadly similar. It fell by 0.6% in July and 0.7% in August. The median forecast (Bloomberg survey) is for a 1.3% decline in September. If accurate, it would be the largest monthly decline since November 2008. The October goods trade balance and inventory are inputs into GDP forecasts. There continues to be a significant gap between the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow tracker (4.3%) and the median estimates in Bloomberg's survey (0.5%).

The JOLTS (Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey) has become a popular metric in this cycle and has often been cited by Fed officials. It peaked in March at nearly 11.86 mln. It has erratically trended lower and stood slightly below 10.72 mln in September. It is forecast to have softened in October. The low for the year was set in August at 10.28 mln. In the three downturns since 2000, the peak in JOLTS has come well before a recession, and the bottom after the recession has ended.

While the cost-of-living squeeze is impacting consumption, the supply chains are normalizing, which is a powerful tailwind. This is at least partly the story in the auto sector. US auto sales reached 14.9 mln (SAAR) in October, the best since January and almost 15% from October 2021. In fact, in the three months through October, US auto sales are running 8.8% above the same three-month period a year ago. Still, US auto sales have averaged 13.73 mln through October, nearly 11% lower, at an annualized pace in the first ten months of 2021. Still, S&P Global Mobility analysis warns of softer November figures (14.1 mln). However, if the projection is accurate, it would be about 9.6% more than in November 2021.

There was some optimism that after the 20th Party Congress, China's Xi would have the authority and inclination to pivot on Covid, property, and foreign relations. Yet, Chinese and international medical experts have warned that China is woefully unprepared to relax its Covid policy regarding inoculation rates and medical infrastructure. The surge in cases has seen restrictions imposed on an area responsible for more than a fifth of the country's GDP. China's composite PMI has been falling since the year's peak at 54.1 in June. It fell below the 50 boom/bust level in October for the first time since May, and Q4 GDP appears to be slowing from the 3.9% quarter-over-quarter jump in Q3 after the 2.7% contraction in Q2. The world's second-largest economy may be growing around a third of the pace in Q4, with risks to the downside. The median forecast (in Bloomberg's survey) is for Q1 23 growth of 0.9%.

Aid to the property market may help stabilize the sector in the short term. Iron ore prices surged by more than 27% at the end of October through November 18 amid the optimism. However, this seemed anticipatory in nature as many of the new measures are slowly rolling out. Many observers share our doubts that the excesses of a couple of decades have been absorbed or alleviated. News that separate from the list of 16 measures to support the property market announced earlier this month, the PBOC is considering a CNY200 bln (~$28 bln) of interest-free loans to commercial banks through the end of Q1 to induce them to provide matching funds for stalled property markets, seems to be a subtle recognition that more efforts are needed. While new supply has stalled, we are concerned that the more significant issue is effective demand.  

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, unexpectedly contracted (-1.2% annualized rate) in Q3 but appears to be rebounding, likely aided by the new support measures (JPY39 trillion or ~$275 bln). Japan reports October employment figures. The unemployment rate has been 2.5%-2.6% since March. Japan has been successful in boosting the labor force participation rate. It was at 61.8% in early 2020 before Covid and has been at 62.9%-63.0% for four months through September. This is the highest since at least 2001. Retail sales, reported in terms of value (nominal prices), rose 1.3% and 1.5% in August and September, respectively. Another strong report would not be surprising. Government travel subsidies were widened in October. 

Japanese businesses were pessimistic about the outlook for industrial output in October. They anticipate a 0.4% decline after production fell 1.6% in September. The auto sector is a source of pessimism. Supply chain disruptions were cited for the dour outlooks of Toyota and Honda. Foreign demand is weakening, and Japanese exports are slowing. Japan's preliminary November manufacturing PMI slipped below the 50 boom/bust level to 49.4, its lowest in two years. 

Australia reported October retail sales and some housing data, but the newly introduced monthly CPI may have the most significance. The market is not sure that the Reserve Bank of Australia will hike rates at the December 6 meeting. The futures market has a little better than a 60% chance of a quarter-point hike. The cash rate is at 2.85%. In September, CPI made a new cyclical high of 7.3%. The trimmed mean measure stood at 5.4%, which was also a new high. We would subjectively put the odds higher than the market for a quarter-point hike. The next RBA meeting is on February 9, which seems too long for Governor Lowe to make good on his anti-inflation commitment.

Canada reports Q3 GDP and the November jobs. The Canadian economy is downshifting after enjoying 3.1% and 3.3% annual growth rates in Q1 and Q2, respectively. The pace is likely to be a little less than half in Q3 and appears to be slowing down more here in Q4. The median forecast (Bloomberg's survey) is for the Canadian economy contract in the first two quarters of next year. Canada created an impressive 119k full-time positions in October. Adjusted for the size of the economy, this would be as if the US created 1.3 mln jobs. In four of the past five quarters, Canadian job growth has been concentrated in one month. As one would expect, the following month has been a marked slowdown, and twice there were outright declines in full-time positions. After hiking by 100 bp in July, the Bank of Canada slowed its pace to 75 bp in September and 50 bp in October. The central bank meets on December 7, and the swaps market seems comfortable with a quarter-point hike.

Lastly, we turn to the Taiwanese local elections on November 26. The key is the mayoral contest in Taipei. It is seen as the most likely path of the presidency when Tsai-Ing's term ends in 2024. The great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek is the candidate for the KMT, which wants closer ties to Beijing but rejects claims it is "pro-China." The DPP candidate is the health minister and architect of the country's Covid policy. The Deputy Mayor of Taipei is running as an independent candidate, but it looks like a two-person contest. Despite the US and Chinese defense officials agreeing to improve their practically non-existent dialogue, there is unlikely to be a meeting of the minds about Taiwan. Changes in the constellation of domestic political forces within Taiwan seem to be the most likely component that may change what appears to be an inexorable deteriorating situation. Both Beijing and Washington have good reason to believe the other is trying to change the status quo. 


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