Alexis Sanchez – Chile v Venezuela 2017

So good I had to watch the replay several times to appreciate the skill.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal vs Hungary 2017

Always thought he was a bit of a show pony but these two goals against Hungary are out the top drawer.

What makes a good life?

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

Hat tip to Barry Ritholz

Is the Coalition prepared to die defending the housing bubble?

I don’t always agree with David Llewellyn-Smith but love his pithy style. Here he takes the Turnbull government to task over their housing and immigration policies.

Cross-posted with kind permission from Macrobusiness:

….Because that’s what it looks like.

We all know that the Coalition hearts the housing bubble. Everything it does spells undying infatuation:

  • protecting property tax rorts;
  • focusing only on supply-side reform and even then doing pretty much nothing;
  • shelving any and all policy reform that might disrupt its smooth and burgeoning progeny, plus
  • running a staggeringly huge immigration program despite widespread economic damage.

It’s the last point that I want to focus on today because that’s the one where Coalition bubble-love rubber hits the road for its electoral prospects.

Since the WA election, Coalition polling has been devastated. A little bounce in Newspoll has been wiped out by landslides against the government in Ipsos and Essential polls. Moreover, the carnage has been just as apparent in the Coalition’s primary vote which has hemorrhaged voters to One Nation. The latter has been unaffected by the WA election despite doing less well than expected.

The major change in politics since the state result has been a commitment by One Nation to never ally with the Coalition again. The fringe party has realised that such pragmatism is lethal to its prospects.

This simple truth seems yet to have filtered through to the federal Coalition. As One Nation takes a material portion of its vote, and that vote refuses point blank to ally with it, there is ZERO chance of the Coalition winning a federal election ever again, and probably not at the state level either. While One Nation exists in this form, the Coalition has effectively ceased to exist as a political force.

One might have thought that the prospect of NEVER WINNING ANOTHER ELECTION might be enough to trigger some soul-searching in the party. And it has done a little. Do-nothing Malcolm has switched from toying with random ideas to deploying random ideas but it’s still all at the margins and is meaningless:

  • 18c reform won’t move the needle;
  • contradictory coal and hydro investment won’t move the needle;
  • a retrograde company tax cut won’t move the needle;
  • a supply-side housing affordability Budget won’t move the needle.

All together they might nudge it a little but it won’t be enough. Nothing like it.

Indeed, I’ll go so far as to say that the Coalition could do the following immensely popular policies and it would still get clubbed from office:

  • abolish negative gearing;
  • install gas reservation;
  • offer tax cuts.

The problem is that these are all cyclical fixes for what is a structural shift to One Nation driven by one very simple truth: Australians are done with high immigration.

That’s Pauline Hanson’s primary appeal. She makes little sense on other issues and is bat shit crazy on many. But her one great power, the one that vibrates deep in the bowels of every Australian that is marginalised by house prices, falling wages, can’t get a job, is fearful of Islam or just a bigot, or is just plain pissed off at the direction of the country, is the deep and legitimate truth that running a mass immigration program during a period of high unemployment is treasonous economics.

Thus there is only one policy shift that can change the Coalition’s fate and it is as plain as the nose on Pauline Hanson’s face: cut immigration and cut it hard.

Cutting immigration back to 70k per year or less would completely shift every electoral parameter as the Coalition:

  • finally had a housing affordability policy to put up against Labor’s negative gearing reforms;
  • finally had an environmental policy to put up against the immigration-hypocritical Greens;
  • could gut One Nation overnight and go to work on wiping it out by exposing the loons as weakening polls divide them.

This one policy shift would put the Coalition instantly in the running for the next election even if it were Do-nothing Malcolm that did it.

So, why does the Coalition suffer from such suicidal bubble-love that it can’t or won’t grab this lifeline?

  • many Coalition MPs are personally leveraged to the bubble so they’ve their own financial interests in mind;
  • as yesterday’s revelations about the MPs that prevented negative gearing reform showed, they are political hacks with terrible policy judgement;
  • they are bereft of the intellectual depth and corporate memory to contemplate alternative economic models. Cutting immigration to 70k would take pressure off eastern capital house prices enabling further rate cuts and a lower currency;
  • the Howard and Costello myths make this even worse,
  • and, the Coalition is closely wedded to the business interests in banking, retail and construction that benefit from high immigration even as the net result is negative for the wider economy.

I’ll add one more factor which appears increasingly important. Career politicians don’t care for their own political party or its nominal values as they used to. The dominant ideology of unglued self-interest comes with the wonderful fringe benefit of not having to take responsibility for anything. Contemporary Coalition MPs see party membership as a gravy train to private sector riches in board positions, lobbying roles and other forms of ‘control fraud’ in the very sectors that thrive on the bubble. So, for them, arbitraging the fate of the party for personal gain is all just a part of being a good liberal.

Backing self-interest used to work in political forecasting but does this rabble even have that in them?

The Chip on China’s Shoulder | WSJ

…..Fully 70% of Chinese television dramas have plots related to war with Japan, he tells us, and in 2012 alone 700 million imaginary Japanese were killed in Chinese movies. Mr. French’s findings on this count are ominous: “Up until the present day,” he writes, “East Asia has never proven large enough for two great powers to coexist peacefully.”

….he points to the enormous demographic shift under way in China as the population ages and birthrates fall far short of replacement. China is on course to have more than 329 million people over the age of 65 by 2050, while the younger, working-age population is set to plummet. The inexorable aging of the population will, Mr. French predicts, restrain the country’s ability to project power in the future. It will halve the size of the military-age population while saddling workers and the government with enormous expenses to care for the elderly. He suggests that the incredible pace with which China is currently trying to assert control over the South China Sea is driven by President Xi Jinping’s awareness that the country has a window of at most 20 or 30 years before demographics catch up to it and such an expansion becomes impossible.

China’s attempt to dominate East Asia (if not Asia) brings it into direct conflict with Japan. Expect increased militarization of Japan as China attempts to expand its sphere of influence. The Korean peninsula and Vietnam are simply sideshows.

Source: The Chip on China’s Shoulder – WSJ

More evidence of a bull market, except in Australia

One of my favorite indicators of financial market stress is Corporate bond spreads. The premium charged on the lowest level of investment-grade corporate bonds, over the equivalent 10-year Treasury yield, is a great measure of the level of financial market stress.

Moodys 10-year BAA minus Treasury yields

Levels below 2 percent — not seen since 2004 – 2007 and 1994 – 1998 before that — are indicative of a raging bull market. The current level of 2.24 percent is slightly higher, reflecting some caution, but way below elevated levels around 3 percent.

The Financial Stress Index from St Louis Fed measures the degree of stress in financial markets. Constructed from 18 weekly data series: seven interest rate series, six yield spreads and five other indicators. The average value of the index is designed to be zero (representing normal market conditions); values below zero suggest low financial stress, while values above zero suggest high market stress.

St Louis Financial Stress Index

Current levels, below -1, also indicate unusually low levels of financial market stress.

Leading Index

The Leading Index from the Philadelphia Fed has declined slightly in recent years but remains healthy, at above 1 percent.

Philadelphia Fed Leading Index

Currency in Circulation

Most recessions are preceded by growth in currency in circulation falling below 5 percent, warning that the economy is contracting.

Currency in Circulation

Current levels, above 5 percent, reflect healthy financial markets.

Australia

On the other side of the Pacific, currency growth is shrinking, below 5 percent for the first time in 7 years. A sustained fall would warn that the economy is contracting.

Australia: Money Supply

Further rate cuts, to stimulate the economy, are unlikely. The ratio of Household Debt to Disposable Income is climbing and the RBA would be reluctant to add more fuel to the bonfire.

Australia: Household Debt

There is no immediate pressure on the RBA to raise interest rates, but when the time comes the impact on the housing market could be devastating.

Erik Satie – Once Upon A Time In Paris

The music of Erik Satie with paintings by Edouard Cortes.

Songs ~ Gymnopedies ~ Gnossiennes #1,3,4,5
Album ~ Satie: Works For Piano Solo And Piano Duet

Dow warns of a correction

The commentator’s curse. Three days after I posted that Dow Jones Industrial Average was consolidating in a bullish narrow band below resistance at 21000, the Dow breached support at 20800. Downward breakout warns of a correction with support at 20000. Declining 21-day Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term selling pressure. Follow-through below 20600 would strengthen the (medium-term) bear signal but the primary trend remains up.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

The false break above 21000 was a hint that all was not well with the trend. Unfortunately we often only see what we expect and miss the subtle clues.

The Dow is in Stage III of a bull market. This is confirmed by a primary up-trend on the Transportation Average, although the current month shows a correction.

Dow Jones Transportation Average

Small Caps indexes like the Russell 2000 also display a strong up-trend, reinforcing the Stage III conclusion.

Russell 2000 Small Caps

Likewise, the Nasdaq 100.

Nasdaq 100

I have not drawn conventional trendlines, on the above charts, through the lowest points in the up-trend. Instead I have dragged a linear regression line down to “touch” the mid-point lows. I find this offers a better fit in many cases where there is an initial (bounce) spurt at the start of the trend.

Gold benefits from Dollar fall

The Dollar Index continues its downward path, having breached support at 100. Follow-through below the rising trendline at 99 would warn of a test of primary support at 93.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold has benefited. Currently testing resistance at $1250/ounce, narrow consolidation is a bullish sign. Follow-through above $1260 would confirm a target of $1300. Crossover of 13-week Momentum to above zero is also bullish, suggesting a primary up-trend.

Spot Gold

ASX stalls at 5800

Banks have run into resistance, with the ASX 300 Banks Index retreating below 9000. The recent false break (above 9000) is a mildly bearish sign but the long-tail on this week’s candle is mildly bullish. Follow-through above 9100 remains more likely and would signal an advance to 9500*.

ASX 300 Banks

* Target medium-term: 9000 + ( 9000 – 8500 ) = 9500

This is not a criticism of the policy, but recent rate hikes on investor mortgages become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Concerns about the housing market lead banks to hike rates. Higher rates discourage new borrowing, leading to a contraction in demand. Which in turn leads to lower house prices.

Miners continue their downward path. The ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index has broken its long-term rising trendline, while Declining Twiggs Money Flow peaks below zero warn of strong selling pressure.

ASX 200

With its two biggest sectors meeting resistance, the ASX 200 is stuck at 5800. But rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow (above zero) signal buying pressure. Breakout above 5800 is likely and would signal a test of 6000*. Reversal below 5600 is unlikely but would warn of a correction.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5800 + ( 5800 – 5600 ) = 6000

Who controls the media? Google is about to find out

From The Age:

Google’s advertising crisis went global after some of the biggest marketers including AT&T and Johnson & Johnson halted spending on YouTube and the internet company’s display network, citing concern their ads would run alongside offensive videos.

The controversy erupted last week after the London-based Times newspaper reported that some ads were running with YouTube videos that promoted terrorism or anti-Semitism.

….Search represents the lion’s share of Google’s advertising revenue, which totalled $US79.4 billion ($104 billion) last year.

Google is about to discover who controls media. Noam Chomsky was right all along. The media is not controlled by shareholders — nor the Illuminati as conspiracy theorists would have us believe — but by advertisers.

No private media outlet is going to bite the hand that feeds and run material that offends its biggest advertisers. That explains why mainstream media, instead of being at the forefront, were the last to discover that tobacco smoking is harmful to your health. And still haven’t awoken to the enormous social damage caused by alcohol. Because Tobacco and Alcohol were (and in the latter case still is) some of the biggest advertisers in mainstream media.

Watch how quickly Google responds to the current furore by changing its censorship of offensive content.

S&P 500 Bollinger Band Squeeze

John Bollinger says that a Band Width squeeze has preceded many spectacular moves on the S&P 500. A Bollinger Band squeeze highlights when the bands contract into a narrow “neck” indicating low volatility. The squeeze is normally signaled by a fall in the Band Width indicator to below 2.0%.

S&P 500

Upward breakout from a narrow “squeeze” in late January flagged a strong advance, from 2280 to 2400.

Now we have the opposite, with breakout below 2360 warning of a correction. But Bollinger warns that the market often starts with a fake move, in the wrong direction, before the real move commences. So we need to be cautious.

Dow breaches support

The commentator’s curse. Three days after I posted that Dow Jones Industrial Average was consolidating in a bullish narrow band below resistance at 21000, the Dow breached support at 20800. Downward breakout warns of a correction. Expect support at 20000. The false break above 21000 was a hint that all was not well with the trend. Unfortunately we often only see what we expect to see and miss the subtle clues.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

The Dow is in Stage III of a bull market, with long-term Twiggs Money Flow signaling strong buying pressure. Chances of a (primary trend) reversal seem low.

[Correction: Breach of support was at 20800, not 21800.]

Value capture: a good idea to fund infrastructure but not easy in practice

Marion Terrill and Owain Emslie are the authors of the new Grattan Institute report, What price value capture?

….Federal ministers from the prime minister down are enthusiastic about value capture and are pushing the states to embrace it. Only last week, Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher reiterated that the Commonwealth does not want to be “just an ATM” for the states. But if the federal ministers face up to some home truths, they may find value capture less to their liking.

Value capture is a tax

Home Truth No. 1 is that a value-capture scheme is a tax. That’s how it raises revenue…..

Which brings us to Home Truth No. 2: to raise a reasonable amount, a value-capture tax would need to include the family home….. A tricky question of who’s in and who’s out.

Home Truth No. 3 is that many taxpayers are likely to feel aggrieved…..Drawing a boundary around a new piece of infrastructure to distinguish between those who must pay the new tax and those too far away to benefit is bound to involve rough justice.

Broad-based land tax is better still

A better answer still could be a broad-based land tax. Such a tax is highly efficient, because land is an immobile tax base (see the chart below).

While it would not zero in on the beneficiaries of new infrastructure, a land tax would capture the effects of all infrastructure, old and new, as these translated into land values, making it scrupulously fair. A broad-based land tax would also be simpler to administer than a value-capture tax. That’s because there would be no requirement to police the geographic boundary of the catchment area.

So a broad-based land tax has some distinct advantages over a value-capture tax…..

One of the biggest dangers with any tax is complexity. It promotes the perception of unfairness and makes collection difficult.

Funding infrastructure is a headache for government. Benefits from increased indirect taxes like personal and company taxes may prove elusive. “User pays” taxes, like road tolls, tax direct users but assume that every user benefits by the same amount. And they have no way of taxing others who indirectly benefit — landowners who build a new shopping centre for example.

A broad-based land tax is far more efficient than indirect taxes and fairer than narrowly-focused direct taxes, while encouraging broader use of new infrastructure assets.

An example of the pitfalls surrounding infrastructure funding is the Skye Bridge in Scotland, a road bridge which connects the Isle of Skye via the A87 to the mainland. The bridge was built by a private consortium and opened in 1995.

Skye Bridge

Locals objected to the tolls charged (a round trip cost £11.40). Mass protests followed and a prolonged non-payment campaign. Despite numerous prosecutions, by 2004 the issue had become such a political hot potato that the Scottish government purchased the bridge for £27m and abolished the tolls.

Land taxes would have stood a better chance of success, especially if weighted towards land and businesses that would receive the greatest benefit. They also ensure public ownership of monopoly assets that may be exploited by private operators.

Source: Value capture: a good idea to fund infrastructure but not easy in practice

Skye Bridge: Wikipedia

Sensex breakout

India’s Sensex broke through resistance at 29000, signaling another advance. Twiggs Money Flow swung upward, the trough above zero indicating strong buying pressure. Resistance at the 2015 high of 30000 may yet prove stubborn, but the target for the advance is 32000*.

Sensex Index

* Target: 29000 + ( 29000 – 26000 ) = 32000

Europe advances

Germany’s DAX is testing the band of resistance between 12000 and its April 2015 high of 12400. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow indicate strong buying pressure. Breakout is expected but we are likely to experience consolidation below 12400, or a moderate correction, ahead of this.

DAX

The FTSE 100 followed through above resistance at 7350, signaling another advance. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow indicate strong buying pressure. Target for the advance is 7600*.

FTSE 100

* Target: 7350 + ( 7350 – 7100 ) = 7600

Don’t Believe the Hype: China’s North Korea Policy is All Smoke and Mirrors

Dr. Van Jackson is an Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and author of the book Rival Reputations: Coercion and Credibility in US-North Korea Relations:

Social media is abuzz with news that China’s Ministry of Commerce announced it will suspend coal imports from North Korea as part of U.N. Security Council sanctions enforcement for the North’s most recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests in violation of prior Security Council resolutions. So China is finally standing arm-in-arm with the United States and international community to actually do something about North Korea. That’s great, right? Wrong.

China’s suspension of coal imports is smoke and mirrors; an act of geopolitical misdirection. The United States is being played, as it has in the numerous past instances when China supported sanctions resolutions against North Korea at the United Nations only to fail to implement them….

….China’s “emotions” toward North Korea don’t drive its policy. China has a long tradition of paying lip service toward cooperation with the United States and the international community while largely failing to apply any meaningful pressure on North Korea, and for good reason: It doesn’t want a nuclear-armed neighbor on its border to become a nuclear-armed enemy. We ignore China’s enduring strategic interests in North Korea at our peril.

Source: Don’t Believe the Hype: China’s North Korea Policy is All Smoke and Mirrors

The Catch-22 in U.S.-Chinese Relations | Carnegie-Tsinghua Center

Paul Haenle served as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolian Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama prior to joining Carnegie:

When, at the no-necktie summit in California in 2013, Xi [Chinese President Xi Jinping] put forward the [strategic partnership] concept, he mentioned three foundational principles: no conflict and no confrontation; mutual respect, including for both countries’ core interests and major concerns; and win-win cooperation. The United States has long reiterated that the relationship should be based not on slogans but on the quality of the cooperation.

….But China’s call for respect for core interests has been a showstopper in Washington, seen as an indication that what China really seeks is U.S. concessions on areas of long-standing disagreement between the two countries.

Historically China has defined its core interests as including Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang (the Uyghur Autonomous Region) but these have lately expanded to include the South China Sea (9-dash line) and Diaoyu (Senkaku) islands administered by Japan.

Vladimir Lenin advocated: “Probe with a bayonet. If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”

Any attempt at conciliation would encourage further expansion.

Source: The Catch-22 in U.S.-Chinese Relations – Carnegie-Tsinghua Center – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace