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Friday, September 16, 2016

GOOD NEWS: Venture Capital Firms Raising Record Funding

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Sapphire Raises $1 Billion for Investment in Start-Ups

Sapphire Ventures has closed on a $1 billion fund to invest in privately held start-ups, easing fears about a downturn in the venture capital industry.

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Sapphire Ventures, a venture capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif., with more than $2.4 billion in assets under management, has only one investor, the business software maker SAP. Sapphire Ventures was the corporate venture arm of SAP, and it has operated as a stand-alone firm since 2011.
For the last year, investors have worried that the venture industry had become overheated and that there would be a freeze in fund-raising. But like Sapphire Ventures, several firms have raised more than $1 billion this year, giving them firepower to write big checks for start-ups, whose valuations peaked around the end of 2015.
Last month, Technology Crossover Ventures announced a $2.5 billion fund. Earlier this year, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers raised $1.4 billion across two funds and Andreessen Horowitz raised $1.5 billionFounders Fund also raised $1.3 billionAccel Partners garnered $2 billion and Norwest Venture Partners raised $1.2 billion.
In the United States alone, the venture industry raised nearly as much money in the first half of 2016 as it did in all of 2015, according to data from Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association.
Sapphire Ventures invests in start-ups that are past their earliest stages, and 38 of the companies that it has put money into went public or were sold since 2011, including the online storage company Box, the wearables maker Fitbit and the mobile payments company Square.
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The New York Times

Thursday, September 15, 2016

ALERT: Sovereign Debt #Downgrades at Record Levels

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2016’s already a record year for country downgrades—watch out for more: Fitch

With over three months to go, 2016 looks set to be a record year in terms of the number of sovereign downgrades by Fitch Ratings. 
Twenty countries have had their ratings cut so far this year by the major ratings agency. So far, this matches the tally for the whole of 2011 and the most since Fitch started record keeping in 1994.

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Furthermore, the number of countries on "negative outlook" — at risk of downgrade — outstrips those on "positive outlook" across the world. In developed markets, for instance, Belgium, Japan and the U.K. are on negative outlook by Fitch.
At a conference in London Tuesday, Fitch's head of sovereigns said that developed countries, particularly European ones, faced unfavorable debt dynamics despite low funding costs.
James McCormack highlighted that real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the U.K., France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Canada was lower than the real effective interest rate, posing challenges to repayment of debt. Meanwhile, Japan, the U.S., France, Spain and the U.K. have primary deficits (defined as the fiscal deficit, which is the difference between government revenue and expenditure, minus interest payments).
Among the challenges facing Europe included "austerity fatigue," euroskepticism (criticism of the European Union or membership of the euro zone), high levels of migration and security concerns, McCormack said.
The U.K., meanwhile, faced a weaker growth outlook and prolonged legal and regulatory uncertainty after its vote to leave the European Union in June. Fitch downgraded the country to AA with negative outlook from AA+ immediately after the referendum.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

EYE on the World - "Teacher Seeks Pupil"- Ishmael

 Stories Going Beyond The Mainstream 


"Teacher Seeks Pupil"- Ishmael

Without Gorilla Will There be Hope For ...? 

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Earth's Future At Risk As Great Apes Face Extinction

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Four out of six great apes one step away from extinction – IUCN Red List

Today’s IUCN Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra due to illegal hunting, and the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species. Thirty eight of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed for this update are listed as Extinct and four other species have been listed as Extinct in the Wild, meaning they only occur in cultivation.
The IUCN Red List now includes 82,954 species of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction.
Mammals threatened by illegal hunting

The Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) – which is made up of two subspecies - has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered due to a devastating population decline of more than 70% in 20 years. Its population is now estimated to be fewer than 5,000. Grauer’s Gorilla (G. b. graueri), one subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – has lost 77% of its population since 1994, declining from 16,900 individuals to just 3,800 in 2015. 

Realty Check: The Whole Economic System Is On Welfare

Central Banks = Welfare for the Wealthy

Central banks can only do one thing, and that's provide monetary welfare for the wealthy.

The fact that central banks provide welfare for the wealthy is now entering the mainstream. The fact that all central bank policies since 2008 have dramatically increased wealth and income inequality is now grudgingly being accepted as reality by mainstream economists and the financial media.
The central banks' PR facade of noble omniscience on behalf of the great unwashed masses has cracked wide open. Even The Wall Street Journal is publishing critiques of Federal Reserve policies that suggest the Fed has no idea how the U.S. economy actually works because their policies have failed to help the bottom 95%.

Suncor Unloading Oil-Sands Assets

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Suncor Energy Seeks Permission to Abandon Some Oil-Sands Assets

Suncor Energy Inc., SU -0.58 % Canada’s largest oil producer, is in talks with government officials for permission to “strand,” or abandon, some high cost and greenhouse gas-intensive crude-oil deposits, the company’s chief executive said Wednesday. The Calgary-based company is seeking an easing of rules designed to maximize oil-sands production from leases on government land, CEO Steve Williams said at a Barclays BCS -0.66 % energy conference in New York, reiterating a strategy he first announced in July. “We’ve begun to have conversations with the government of Alberta and the current regulators about the design of their policy, which actually requires the maximum amount of resource to be extracted regardless of the economic or environmental value,” he said. The request comes as Suncor and other oil producers struggle to cut costs...

The Wall St Lambs: Wells Fargo Terminates 5,300 Rank & File Banksters

What About These Guys?

"The Oversight Dream Team"

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Major Problems Announced At One Of The Largest Too Big To Fail Banks In The United States

Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation's largest banks, has been hit with $185 million in civil penalties for secretly opening millions of unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts that harmed customers, federal and state officials said Thursday. 

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  Top Global Bonds Manager Positioning For Higher Rates

Unusual move sees manager Richard Woolnough protect £15 billion M&G Optimal Income fund from high bond prices and rising inflation.

Woolnough moves to 'negative duration' on UK bonds

The country’s leading bond manager, Richard Woolnough, has moved to ‘negative duration’ on UK debt for the first time in response to the rising threat of inflation and the surge in bond prices since the EU referendum.
Expressed in years, duration is the measure used to show a bond fund’s sensitivity to interest rate changes.
The current overall duration  for  Woolnough's  15 Billion M&G Optimal Income fund is currently at a low 2.6 years, reflecting the view that interest rates in the developed world are expected to slowly rise following the first increase in US rates at the end of last year.

Rigged Stock Markets Won't Signal Economic Collapse

These are the signs of an economic collapse

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What does the beginning of an economic collapse look like?
Do you see grocery stores closing? Do you see other retailers, like clothing stores and department stores, going out of business?
Are there shuttered storefronts along your Main Street shopping district, where you bought a tool from the hardware store or dropped off your dry cleaning or bought fruits and vegetables?
Are you making as much money annually as you did 10 years ago?

Future Grid Electricity Cannot Rely On Intermittent Renewables

Many people are hoping for wind and solar PV to transform grid electricity in a favorable way. Is this really possible? Is it really feasible for intermittent renewables to generate a large share of grid electricity? The answer increasingly looks as if it is, “No, the costs are too great, and the return on investment would be way too low.” We are already encountering major grid problems, even with low penetrations of intermittent renewable electricity: US, 5.4% of 2015 electricity consumption; China, 3.9%; Germany, 19.5%; Australia, 6.6%.
In fact, I have come to the rather astounding conclusion that even if wind turbines and solar PV could be built at zero cost, it would not make sense to continue to add them to the electric grid in the absence of very much better and cheaper electricity storage than we have today. There are too many costs outside building the devices themselves. It is these secondary costs that are problematic. Also, the presence of intermittent electricity disrupts competitive prices, leading to electricity prices that are far too low for other electricity providers, including those providing electricity using nuclear or natural gas. The tiny contribution of wind and solar to grid electricity cannot make up for the loss of more traditional electricity sources due to low prices.

Fed Policy Now Requires Houdini Magic To Avoid #Collapse

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The Fed’s Only Escape Is to Trash the Dollar

Harry Houdini was the greatest escape artist of the 20th century. He escaped from specially made handcuffs and underwater trunks, and once escaped from being buried alive. Now, Janet Yellen will try to become the greatest escape artist of the 21st century.

Yellen is handcuffed by weak growth, persistent deflationary trends, political gridlock, and eight years of market manipulation from which there appears to be no escape. Yet, there is one way for Yellen and the Fed to break free of their economic handcuffs, at least in the short run. Yellen’s only escape is to trash the dollar. Investors who see this coming stand to make spectacular gains.
Yellen and the Fed face as many constraints as Harry Houdini did in trying to escape a potential collapse of confidence in the U.S. dollar and a possible sovereign debt crisis for the United States. Let’s look at some of the constraints on Yellen – and the possible “tricks” she might use to escape.
The first and most important constraint on Fed policy is that the U.S. economy is dead in the water. Quarterly GDP figures have been volatile over the past three years, with annualized real growth as high as 5% in the third quarter of 2014 and as low as minus 1.2% in the first quarter of 2014. We have not seen persistent growth or a definite trend – until now. Finally, there is a trend, and it’s not a good one.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Reality Check: Despite Economic Numbers We Are Getting Poorer

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If Everything Is So Great, How Come I’m Not Doing So Great?

While the view might be great from the top of the wealth/income pyramid, it takes a special kind of self-serving myopia to ignore the reality that the bottom 95% are not doing so well.
We're ceaselessly told/sold that the U.S. economy is doing phenomenally well in our current slow-growth world -- generating record corporate profits, record highs in the S&P 500 stock index, and historically low unemployment (4.9% in July 2016). 

While GDP growth is somewhat lackluster by historical standards—less than 2% in 2016—it's growth nonetheless. And the rate of consumer-price inflation is hovering around 1%; negligible by historical standards.
But this uniformly positive statistical view of the U.S. economy raises a question among those not in the top 0.1%: If everything’s going so great, how come I’m not?
Whether it's struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, a 0% return on savings, working longer hours while real wages stagnate, scrimping to pay back education loans, despairing at the abuses of power in our banking and political systems, or lamenting the loss of nourishing social interaction in our increasingly isolated and digital lifestyle — most "regular" people find their own personal experiences to be at odds with the rosy "Everything is awesome!" narrative trumpeted by our media.

The Scorecard
To get a more concrete understanding of this gap, let's establish a scorecard we can individually fill in to make an assessment of just how well we’re doing.