Individual Economists

November 26 COVID-19 Test Results; Record Hospitalizations

Calculated Risk -

Note: The data will show a decline over the holiday weekend due to less reporting. Stay Safe!!!

The US is now averaging over 1 million tests per day. Based on the experience of other countries, for adequate test-and-trace (and isolation) to reduce infections, the percent positive needs to be well under 5% (probably close to 1%), so the US still needs to increase the number of tests per day significantly (or take actions to push down the number of new infections).

There were 971,302 test results reported over the last 24 hours.

There were 125,082 positive tests.

Over 32,000 US deaths have been reported so far in November. See the graph on US Daily Deaths here.

COVID-19 Tests per Day and Percent PositiveClick on graph for larger image.

This data is from the COVID Tracking Project.

The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 12.9% (red line is 7 day average).  The percent positive is calculated by dividing positive results by the sum of negative and positive results (I don't include pending).

And check out COVID Exit Strategy to see how each state is doing.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayThe second graph shows the 7 day average of positive tests reported and daily hospitalizations.

The dashed line is the previous hospitalization maximum.

Note that there were very few tests available in March and April, and many cases were missed, so the hospitalizations was higher relative to the 7-day average of positive tests in July.

• Record Hospitalizations.

Comcast To Impose 1.2TB Data Cap On Northeast Customers 

Zero Hedge -

Comcast To Impose 1.2TB Data Cap On Northeast Customers  Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 15:25

More people than ever have shifted to the digital economy as remote working becomes standard across corporate America. Internet service providers (ISP) have reported record internet traffic this year due to the online shift, with some warning that computer networks have been stressed due to the rapid increase in data usage among households. 

Demand for online video and chat tools, such as Slack, Zoom, and GoToMeeting, have been off the chart this year. Many of these online tools make work-at-home possible for millions of folks. Many of these tools are incredibly data-intensive, which is likely why Comcast has introduced data caps for customers. 

According to The Verge, Comcast will charge Xfinity customers in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, as well as parts of North Carolina and Ohio a fee of $10 per 50GB of data if they exceed 1.2TB in a given month. Customers will be eased into the data cap program in early 2021. 

Data Cap Area

The good news for customers fretting about a data cap and additional charges if the 1.2TB is breached is that 95% of the customer base has yet to exceed the level over the last six months. Median monthly data usage for customers this year has been around 300GB. Still, as the second wave of the virus pandemic continues to ravage many parts of the country and remote working continues to become a dominant working situation for many, Comcast expects data usage to surge during the COVID winter. 

"Comcast has quietly updated its online customer support website to reflect the forthcoming introduction of data caps to the last remaining major regions of the country where it has avoided imposing them for years," wrote Stop The Cap, an advocacy group against the ISP data cap. 

Stop The Cap said Comcast's data cap in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states could push customers to competitor Verizon FiOS. 

 

Snitchgiving: Americans Are Being Urged To Report Families Gathering For The Holiday

Zero Hedge -

Snitchgiving: Americans Are Being Urged To Report Families Gathering For The Holiday Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 15:00

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

Imagine you’re sitting around the table with your family, inhaling the aroma as grandpa begins to carve the turkey, and there’s a knock at the door.

Is it a late guest? A neighbor dropping by?

No, it’s a health official or the police there to quell your gathering because somebody snitched on you for making the decision to spend time with the people you love.

It certainly sounds dystopian, doesn’t it? Or like something from a country under enemy rule? But it is indeed the United States of America where government officials are urging people to rat out their neighbors for having more visitors on Thanksgiving than they see fit. Stay up to date with all the insanity by subscribing here.

We’ve already talked about the massive overreach of governments telling people how they are or are not allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own homes. Now let’s take it up a notch while watching our neighbors get turned into Brownshirts for “the greater good.”

Lots of folks are willing to narc on their neighbors.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking your neighbors wouldn’t do such a thing. More than a third of the people who took part in a Rassmussen poll would rat out the folks next door in a heartbeat.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and this year promises to be an enjoyable and festive day of “narcing out” your beloved neighbors!

According to a 2020 survey by Rasmussen, 36% of American patriots would be willing to call the cops on their neighbors if they noticed an egregious violation of government-mandated social-distancing rules. (source)

Here are just a few examples from the headlines. This list is by no means comprehensive. Totalitarianism is spreading faster than the virus.

Michigan

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) wants to “save lives” by requesting gatherings be limited and relying on individuals to report non-compliance.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new emergency order today that enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates.

Under this order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time. However, MDHHS strongly urges families to pick a single other household to interact with over the next three weeks, consistent with new guidance released by the department. The order is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gatherings where COVID-19 spreads rapidly. (source)

People should create “social pods” (I swear I could not make this up) to determine with whom you can “safely” spend time.

If you disobey and are busted having more than two households together at a time, you could face misdemeanor charges, thousand dollar fines, or even imprisonment.

For violations, MDHHS set forth rules instituting a civil fine up to $1,000. Violations may also be treated as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to six months. Michigan’s official website also provides information for individuals to report violators to the state.

“If MDHHS receives an allegation of a violation of the department’s order, the department will refer the matter to the local health department or law enforcement,” said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for MDHHS, as reported by Michigan Capitol Confidential.

“The first remediation method is to discuss the situation with the person responsible for the violation and attempt to resolve the situation without issuing a citation,” Sutfin told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “The local health department or MDHHS — as a referral from the Michigan State Police — may issue an administrative citation for violating the department’s order. The department hopes that residents will do the right thing and follow these orders to save lives and protect their family, friends and community from further spread of COVID-19.” (source)

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Albuquerque PD is spread thin but they’ll still dispatch officers if a large gathering is reported.

Because of COVID health concerns, the state public health order does not allow large gatherings. That includes Thanksgiving. KOAT asked how APD would handle it if someone called to report neighbors having a large gathering.

“It would ultimately be dispatched but it would be a lower priority than an emergency call with somebody being injured or a crime in progress,” said APD Deputy Chief Mike Smathers.

He says APD would make sure violators are aware of health concerns.

“To hopefully just educate people but if it came to it we would have to enforce the public health order,” Smathers said.

He said if people are warned but continue to disregard the health order, they could face a $100 fine. (source)

So remember, it’s cheaper to get busted in New Mexico than in Michigan.

New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said no more than ten guests can be present in a household but that enforcement is up to individual local authorities to enforce the mandate.

Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti said he’s not going to send officers around to patrol for violators, but they’ll “investigate” reports.

Of course, as is the case with any law enforcement agency, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office would investigate a complaint if one were lodged and provided it had someone available to respond.

When asked what a deputy might do if someone called in on a neighbor and alleged they had more people in their home for dinner than Cuomo’s executive order would allow, Filicetti replied, “If we responded to that type of complaint, we can certainly advise a homeowner of what the new protocol is. But as far as taking enforcement action, I just don’t see that.”

Filicetti said none of his deputies will be directed to enter homes and count heads, or order anyone away from the Thanksgiving table.

Filicetti noted this is also in part because his department has yet to receive any enforcement guidelines from the state when it comes to gatherings in private homes. (source)

Don’t hold your breath on New York remaining mellow on enforcement – NYC wants to pay people to snitch on those who park illegally and Mayor de Blasio already tried to start a tip line for social distance violators, so it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to believe they’d also welcome Thanksgiving snitching.

Oregon

Governor Kate Brown of Oregon heartily encourages citizens to call the cops and rat out their neighbors who have more than 6 people gathered.

Days before Thanksgiving, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she believes residents who know their neighbors are violating the most recent round of COVID-19 protocols, which includes capping the number of people allowed in your home at six, should call the police.

“This is no different than what happens if there’s a party down the street and it’s keeping everyone awake,” Brown said in an interview Friday. “What do neighbors do [in that case]? They call law enforcement because it’s too noisy. This is just like that. It’s like a violation of a noise ordinance.” (source)

Oregonian violators could “face up to 30 days in jail, $1,250 in fines or both.”

The University of Chicago

Reporting your fellow humans has never been easier than it is at the University of Chicago, where they’ve got a handy-dandy form you can fill out and snitch anonymously.

Please make sure you call 123 (on-campus phone) or 773.702.8181 (off-campus phone) for accidents to ensure the appropriate emergency response personnel are notified.

Involved individuals, supervisors, affected persons, or witnesses can submit reports. Anonymous reporting is available for events that do not require medical treatment. For more information about UCAIR, visit the FAQs page.

Please use this form to report any concerns about COVID-19 related public health violations (including anonymously, if preferred), such as:

*   Concerns about PPE usage
*   Concerns about social distancing and density
*   Concerns about cleaning and disinfection
*   Concerns about individuals at work who should not be (please describe)
*   Any other COVID-19 related public health concern

Vermont

Just in case teaching university age kids to snitch isn’t indoctrinating our youth early enough, Vermont has upped the game. Vermont has prohibited all gatherings of more than one household and Governor Phil Scott is urging schools to interrogate the kiddos when they return to school after the holiday.

According to Governor Scott there’s absolutely no excuse to have an in-person Thanksgiving this year.

At least one person in Vermont is grateful for the Stasi…I mean Mao…I mean Gov. Scott…for getting children to snitch on their parents. She made her thoughts known with this fawning reply.

Officials hope people will tell the truth.

Vermont Education Secretary Dan French told the Burlington Free Press that state officials hope that families will be honest in answering their questions about Thanksgiving plans.

“Schools operate on trust with their parents and their students, and we’re hopeful this guidance will give them some additional tools to help everyone do the right thing and keep school safe,” French said.

The outlet noted that the rules against households interacting does not apply in the workplace, at retail stores, or in schools. (source)

Happy Snitchgiving

With all the mistrust already brewing in our nation, this will be like throwing gasoline onto the fire.

Rabobank: "Should We Be Thankful For This Central-Bank Support?"

Zero Hedge -

Rabobank: "Should We Be Thankful For This Central-Bank Support?" Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 14:35

By Michael Every of Rabobank

Today is Thanksgiving in the US, a public holiday that generally confuses non-Americans, but which all understand involves markets and businesses closing. Most of America is therefore out today. Not that we weren’t short of news in the run-up, which all of us get to digest globally while Americans do the same with their Turkeys.

First and foremost, US economic data yesterday were not much to be thankful for in some key areas: initial claims in particular spiked again to 778K, far worse than the 730K expected; durable goods then surprised to the upside with a 1.3% rise and an upward revision to the previous month; that was followed by personal income, which collapsed -0.7% m/m while spending was up 0.5%; and then new home sales came in stronger than expected at 999K.

The FOMC minutes also underlined that fact. Nothing changed in election week, as expected. However, the message they send is that we are likely to see further changes (read ‘increases’) to QE as soon as the mid-December meeting.

Should we be thankful for this central-bank support or not? Where would we be without it? Yet where are we going with it? And what is it doing to us while we are doing it? It is akin to having a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of two whole cans of cranberry sauce alongside a small serving of Turkey with no trimmings: better than nothing if you are hungry, fun for some perhaps, and certainly a sugar high – but a great way to get acid reflux, diabetes, heart disease, and dental problems if you keep it up.

Thanksgiving is also traditionally a time of coming together and unity. However, despite the usual statesmanlike homilies for the same from the Biden camp, there is still little evidence of such today.

Out of the spotlight of a US media which has so many socks to look at and so little time, the Pennsylvania State Senate yesterday held a public hearing where the Trump legal team produced a flood of complaints of election irregularities (that only mentioned Hugo Chavez as a tangent); Michigan and Arizona legislatures will hold public hearings next week; a Nevada judge has allowed an evidentiary hearing on 3 December; the partial recount in Wisconsin drags on; new court cases have been filed over the constitutionality of the voting process in several states; and recall only after a state vote-count is certified can its public file an actual election contest – which will now surely follow. In short, this is probably going to drag on into December and could likely end up in the Supreme Court. Yes, a Trump legal reversal is still a long shot; but his defeat is going to be polarizing rather than uniting.

Relatedly, President Trump also elicited a bipolar response with a pardon for his ex-national security advisor Flynn yesterday (‘In like Flynn’ is now ‘Out like Flynn’): those who believe the 2016 election was somehow rigged are furious; those who believe the 2020 election was somehow rigged are ecstatic. Equally, initial Biden policy proposals being floated will appeal to his base but not Trump’s: amnesty for 11m illegal aliens; cancelling student loan-debt; and taxing ownership of guns. In short, K-street in DC, where the lobbyists play, is going to have a K-shaped economy and society as its backdrop: which it has long had, of course – but now it’s far, far worse. Is that an environment that says higher or lower rates? Does it say a stronger or weaker USD? Part of that depends on what the rest of the world is doing too, of course.

Isn’t the above also a backdrop that suggests the need for more unity via the one thing everyone in Congress now seems to agree on: China-hawkery? Which might explain why Beijing offered an olive branch yesterday via its press and its official congratulations to Biden. (And as an aside, note an official order from China’s Premier yesterday to “tell the truth” about the economy.)

Meanwhile, the rest of the world carries on as usual. That means further uncertainty over where we stand in the Brexit process, even as final deadline after final deadline continues to pass. The French are now accusing the British of foot-dragging, and the EU and UK sides remain “extremely far apart”, apparently. Well, there is a lot of that about. The coming days will be “decisive”, says the EU’s von der Leyen. How many times have we heard that one? Perhaps the Brits could try to synchronise with the US Supreme Court for maximum market attention(?)

Within the EU, the stand-off between Poland and Hungary (and Slovenia) over the rule of law element of the proposed Rubicon-crossing USD2 trillion fiscal stimulus package also continues. Hungary’s PM Orban has told German Chancellor Merkel that what she’s asking for is political ‘suicide’, and Orban and Polish leader Morawiecki will meet today. One wonders what they will say. Like I said, there is a lot of “extremely far apart” about.

Regardless, we do all have something to be thankful for – the virus vaccines that appear to offer some of us (at first) light at the end of at least one dark, cramped, locked-down tunnel. It’s just that the other end of the tunnel is still quite far off for many, very far off for poorer emerging markets, and still does not lead back into a landscape of sunshine and roses by any means, as we see above.

Yet markets really do have so much to be thankful for. The fear and greed index is all the way up to ‘greed’, longs are all in and short are all caught, and global equities continue to gorge themselves on can after can after can of quivering, crimson, tart-yet-sugary central-bank cranberry sauce. After all, in this case it is other people who will be getting the acid reflux, diabetes, heart disease, and dental problems.

Happy Thanksgiving!

11 Games You Can Play With The Family Remotely Over Zoom For Thanksgiving

Zero Hedge -

11 Games You Can Play With The Family Remotely Over Zoom For Thanksgiving Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 14:10

Authored by David Nield via Gizmodo.com,

Unless you spend every year sheltering in place and worrying about a global pandemic, the upcoming holiday season is going to be different for a lot of us.

Video calling apps like Zoom can keep us in touch with each other even while we’re apart, and these online and offline games will save you from having to make up small talk at the same time.

1) Codenames (Free)

Screenshot: Codenames

Codenames sees two teams compete on a shared online grid filled with words: The aim is to clear your team’s words as quickly as possible. Each team nominates a spymaster who must give clues to their teammates to guess as many words as possible each time—so “day” would be a clue for both “time” and “light” for example. The more words hit with the fewest clues, the quicker the board is cleared, and the greater your chance of victory.

2) Scavenger Hunt (free)

A good one for getting people up and moving, and even working in teams if there are several different people crowded around each laptop or webcam. You can make the scavenger hunt as long and hard or as short and easy as you like, with the objective to collect specific objects, or objects that match certain criteria, from around the home. Add points for speed and for the creativity of the choice of objects to keep it competitive. Good Housekeeping has a solid list of ideas for clues to start with.

3) Kahoot (freemium)

Screenshot: Kahoot

You can easily do a Zoom quiz with pens and paper of course, but if you want something digital then Kahoot can help. Essentially it lets you create a slideshow of multiple choice questions, which everyone shares through their web browser, and Kahoot handles all the admin when it comes to voting and tallying the scores. The free plan lets you share a Kahoot quiz with up to 10 people at once, with customized options for timing and points.

4) Wikipedia Races (free)

For this game every player needs to have Wikipedia open on a device, whether it’s a laptop, a tablet or a phone. You then give players the same starting page and ending page, and the person to make their way from one to the other in the quickest time is the winner. The key rule is that you can only get around the encyclopedia by clicking or tapping on Wikipedia links—so players need to think smartly about which links they decide to follow. The Wiki Game is a good site to use if you don’t want to come up with your own criteria.

5) Scattergories (free)

Screenshot: Swellgarfo

This particular online version of the classic game gives you and your fellow Zoomers a simple interface, which one person will have to screen share. As always, the aim of the game is to come up with words starting with the same letter that fit the categories listed: An animal, form of transport, place and object starting with M, perhaps. You can easily customize the number of categories required, and the time limit to come up with words.

6) Empires (free)

A classic group game that works fine over video chat: One adjudicator privately asks for a word or phrase from everyone else, which could be based on food, animals, movies, places, or anything else. The whole list then gets read out, and players take turns to match words or phrases to other players—guess right, and that person joins your ‘empire’ and you collectively get to guess again. The biggest empire when everyone is matched wins.

7) Drawful 2 ($10)

Screenshot: Drawful 2

Jackbox Games makes a ton of games suitable for sharing over Zoom, but Drawful 2 is probably our favorite, and it’s well worth the price of admission. Everyone needs access to two devices (like a laptop and a phone), and the game puts up weird and wacky individual prompts for you to draw quick sketches to. Players then guess the original prompts from the final pictures, with points dished out for both artistic prowess and guessing ability.

8) Charades (free)

Look, sometimes the classic games are the best—even if you’re only meeting family members over Zoom, you can still get a game of charades set up virtually. You’ll need to split everyone up into two or more teams, and then get together a list of prompts to act out or have people come up with their own. There are all kinds of variations you can come up with too, from making the prompts themed to limiting the sort of actions that can be used.

9) The Hike (free)

Screenshot: The Hike

Originally written as a team building exercise for employees working remotely, The Hike is now available for anyone to try for free. One storyteller guides the rest of the group, split up into competing teams, with shared slides that create a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience—you’ll need to make group decisions via an instant messaging platform of your choice to make sure your team survives the night and makes it out of the woods.

10) Pictionary (free)

You can make use of the shared whiteboard on Zoom for a game of Pictionary, where the aim is to get your teammates to be able to guess particular prompts from your drawing of them. The prompts could be words or phrases, or movies, or places in the world, or even members of the family. If drawing on the screen in Zoom isn’t something that everyone is comfortable with, then you can always use old-fashioned paper and pens instead.

11) No More Jockeys (free)

Screenshot: YouTube

As invented by three British comedians, this game requires nothing but imagination and a good memory. When it’s your turn, you name a well-known person (e.g. George Clooney) and a category they fit into (e.g. actors)—future submissions must then avoid all previous categories. You’ll quickly be limited in what you can say, as contestants suggest no more singers, no more left-handers, no more Biblical characters, or indeed no more jockeys.

"Zero Masks And Zero Concern": Underground Parties Rage In Los Angeles In Defiance Of COVID-19 Restrictions

Zero Hedge -

"Zero Masks And Zero Concern": Underground Parties Rage In Los Angeles In Defiance Of COVID-19 Restrictions Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 13:45

With COVID-19 cases continuing to spike throughout Los Angeles County - forcing bars, restaurants and nightclubs to shut their doors to remain in compliance with state mandates, 'underground parties with hundreds of people continue to take place every weekend,' according to FoxLA, which has been conducting an undercover investigation for several months.

As coronavirus case numbers continue to rise and we face tighter restrictions, it's restaurants that are paying the price. Restaurant owners have expressed fear that the outdoor dining ban, which kicked in Wednesday night, may put them out of business for good.

However, evidence shows it's private parties and large gatherings that are fueling the spread. And so far, nothing has been able to slow it down.

On Wednesday night in Beverly Hills, just hours before the outdoor dining ban kicked in for LA County restaurants, SkyFOX was over a large gathering with dozens of people congregated together. The type of gathering health officials haven't been able to stop. -FoxLA

According to the report, this past weekend alone they witnessed "masses of young people crowded into a house party like sardines drinking, dancing, not practicing social distancing," with "zero masks and zero concern."

"The partygoers scattered when gunshots rang out in front of our cameras."

Investigators with Fox11 also witnessed cops show up to a house in Pomona, talk with someone, then simply drive away. Later in the evening, the same cop came back a second time, spoke with a young man at the house - who was laughing - and then drove away again. The cop came out a third time as the party was wrapping up, and did nothing as the crowd "spills out into the streets."

In Van Nuys, another 'massive party was taking place' after it was promoted over social media.

"Different location but same story: no masks, no social distancing. A scene that would make any health official wince."

The Legacy Of Thanksgiving Is Free Enterprise

Zero Hedge -

The Legacy Of Thanksgiving Is Free Enterprise Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 13:20

Authored by Richard Ebeling via The American Institute for Economic Research,

Thanksgiving is normally a time of family festivities, when relatives and good friends come together for a fine meal, catching up with what has been happening in everyone’s life, and a general good cheer. A month later Christmas and New Year’s brings an end to the old year and the start of another. But things are very different this time around because of the coronavirus and the government response.

Government regulations restrict or ban other than minimal sized groups gathering in one place. Everyone is cautioned or commanded to wear face masks and stay at least six feet apart. And the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommends that people not travel for Thanksgiving, and instead isolate at home with no one else or only with the smallest number of others. 

The idea that people should be free and at liberty to make their own best judgments on such matters without the heavy-handed control and command of the government seems to be a thing of the past – at least for now. We far too willingly and easily allow our self-responsibilities and our self-governance to be taken away and transferred to the decision-making of political paternalists who presume to know how we should act, with whom, and for what purposes. 

Political Paternalism Thwarts Self-Responsibility

But don’t we need government to take on these duties and responsibilities for us, since we oftentimes seem irresponsible and thoughtless in our actions in general, and certainly in the company of others? But even if this may sometimes be so, how shall people be expected to learn how to act more wisely in terms of themselves and others, if the need and opportunity to act in more thoughtful and responsible ways are increasingly narrowed or taken away by government agents telling us, instead, what to do and not do, and where and when?

In one of his famous essays, the 19th century British social philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), suggested that less responsible people can only hope for a benevolent dictator to guide them until they have matured enough for self-rule. His British contemporary, the historian, Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859), replied that such a prescription reminded him of the fool in the old story who said that he would not go into the water until he knew how to swim. If you wait under paternalism until you are ready for self-responsibility, you will never have learned the lessons through the necessities of everyday life by which the ability for more mature and thoughtful decision-making are acquired. 

Now we are facing an acceleration of such paternalism with a new incoming presidential administration in Washington, D.C. starting in January 2021 that proposes and promises even more political paternalism at ever-increasing costs. These increasing costs will come not only in the form, perhaps, of higher taxes and increased business regulation and more income redistribution, but in the rising cost of less personal liberty of choice and decision-making in more corners of our lives. 

Embracing or Avoiding the Word, “Socialism”

The use of the word “socialism” is being bandied about in the face of these prospective political changes in the United States. There are some more radical “progressives” who say that we should embrace it and not be afraid. Others are afraid of it, not because they don’t support a more and bigger government, but due to the fact that it carries a negative connotation that some of those holding or running for political office do not want as an ideological albatross around their neck when facing the voters.

Others use “socialism” as a word of criticism and condemnation. But sometimes some of those using it in this fashion, it turns out, are conscious or unwitting advocates, themselves, for a larger orbit of activist government policies without thinking a bit that some of what they take for granted or propose are also aspects or variations on the socialist theme. 

Few are the voices, I would suggest, who really understand that a free society is one with a lot less, indeed, a far more minimal, government than most people realize or can conceive as feasible because they have lived so long under forms of political paternalism that they cannot imagine life without it. (See my book, For a New Liberalism [2019].)

The Plymouth Colonists Practiced Plato’s Communism

It is not surprising, then, how few Americans really know and appreciate the meaning and relevance of Thanksgiving in terms of its origin in the history of the Puritans – the “Pilgrim Fathers” – who came 400 years in November 1620 to the New World, landing at what today we know as Plymouth, Massachusetts. Desiring to turn their back on what they saw and considered as the material corruption of the Old World, they wanted to erect a New Jerusalem that would not only be religiously devout but be built on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism.

Their goal was the communism of Plato’s Republic, in which all would work and share in common, knowing neither private property nor self-interested acquisitiveness. What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked the land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood.

The less industrious members of the colony came late to their work in the fields, and were slow and easy in their labors. Knowing that they and their families were to receive an equal share of whatever the group produced, they saw little reason to be more diligent in their efforts. The harder working among the colonists became resentful that their efforts would be redistributed to the more malingering members of the colony. Soon they, too, were coming late to work and were less energetic in the fields.

Collective Work Equaled Individual Resentment

As Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony explained in his old English (though with the spelling modernized):

“For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could husbands brook it.”

Because of the disincentives and resentments that spread among the population, crops were sparse and the rationed equal shares from the collective harvest were not enough to ward off starvation and death. Two years of communism in practice had left alive only a fraction of the original number of the Plymouth colonists.

Private Property as Incentive to Industry

Realizing that another season like those that had just passed would mean the extinction of the entire community, the elders of the colony decided to try something radically different: the introduction of private property rights and the right of the individual families to keep the fruits of their own labor.

As Governor Bradford put it:

“And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end . . . This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

The Plymouth Colony experienced a great bounty of food. Private ownership meant that there was now a close link between work and reward. Industry became the order of the day as the men and women in each family went to the fields on their separate private farms. When the harvest time came, not only did many families produce enough for their own needs, but also they had surpluses that they could freely exchange with their neighbors for mutual benefit and improvement.

In Governor Bradford’s words:

By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

Rejecting Collectivism for Individualism

Hard experience had taught the Plymouth colonists the fallacy and error in the ideas that since the time of the ancient Greeks had promised paradise through collectivism rather than individualism. As Governor Bradford expressed it:

“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the Godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other ancients; — that the taking away of property, and bringing into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”

Was this realization that communism was incompatible with human nature and the prosperity of humanity to be despaired or be a cause for guilt? Not in Governor Bradford’s eyes. It was simply a matter of accepting that altruism and collectivism were inconsistent with the nature of man, and that human institutions should reflect the reality of man’s nature if he is to prosper. Said Governor Bradford:

“Let none object this is man’s corruption, and nothing to the curse itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

The desire to “spread the wealth” and for government to plan and regulate people’s lives is as old as the utopian fantasy in Plato’s Republic. The Pilgrim Fathers tried and soon realized its bankruptcy and failure as a way for men to live together in society.

They, instead, accepted man as he is: hardworking, productive, and innovative when allowed the liberty to follow his own interests in improving his own circumstances and that of his family. And even more, out of his industry result the quantities of useful goods that enable men to trade to their mutual benefit.

Giving Thanks for the Triumph of Freedom

In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. Whether our family gatherings this Thanksgiving be small or almost nonexistent due to the regulations and intimidations of government, we need to recall and remember the lesson to be learned from that first Thanksgiving.

Too many in the halls of higher education, from the bully pulpits of social and mass media, or from those newly elected in 2020 or already running for the elections in 2022, are making calls for the collectivism that those first Plymouth colonists learned to reject. It is 400 years, this year, since those Pilgrims arrived in America in November 1620 and began that failed “experiment” in socialism within the Plymouth colony.

It is time to take their experience to heart and celebrate not the collectivism with which they began their start in the New World, but the spirit of liberty, private property, self-responsibility, and freedom of enterprise which they and those who came to America in the following centuries left to us as a legacy of individual freedom, limited government, and the prosperity that only can come from the competitive liberty of the free and voluntary marketplace. 

AstraZeneca Plans New Global Vaccine Study, Germany Tops 1 Million Cases: Live Updates

Zero Hedge -

AstraZeneca Plans New Global Vaccine Study, Germany Tops 1 Million Cases: Live Updates Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 13:02

Summary:

  • Germany tops 1 million cases
  • WHO releases guidance on exercise
  • US cases near 12.8 million
  • Deaths hit 262k
  • BoJo delivers speech to UK
  • NY reports most new cases in 7 months
  • Delta launches pilot program for international flights on-site testing
  • Norway sovereign wealth fund head stricken with COVID
  • India outbreak sees marginal day over day rise

* * *

Update (1245ET): Germany has just become the 12th country to top 1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Thursday. Last night, Chancellor Angela Merkel said during an address that while the latest restrictions appeared to be slowing the pace of the virus, simply calling it a day now wouldn't be prudent.

World Health Organization guidelines released on Wednesday warned that exercise was more important than ever during the pandemic, and that 5 million deaths a year could be averted if people were simply "more active."

* * *

It's Thanksgiving Day in the US, and as millions of Americans ignore the CDC's warnings about traveling, AstraZeneca has just announced that it's likely to conduct another global trial after the data it has released so far has raised more questions than answers - and, to be sure, it also neglected to enroll enough elderly patients.

Yesterday, global COVID-19 cases topped 60 million, while global deaths recently topped 1.4 million. In the US, the confirmed case tally is nearing 12.8 million, while the death toll is at 262,446.

According to remarks from the CEO, the new trial will be launched instead of adding an arm to an ongoing US trial. It will be designed specifically to evaluate the lower "half dose" which was accidentally found to be more effective than a full dose.

"Now that we’ve found what looks like a better efficacy we have to validate this, so we need to do an additional study," said CEO Pascal Soriot in his first interview since the data were released. It will probably be another “international study, but this one could be faster because we know the efficacy is high so we need a smaller number of patients.”

Although Soriot said he didn’t expect the additional trials to hold up regulatory approvals in Europe and the UK, it's possible the FDA might take longer to approve the vaccine longer.

Even though this technically isn't good news, to the algorithms responsible for much of the trading in today's markets, any vaccine headline has the potential to spark another rotation into 'value'.

In other vaccine news, a group of doctors from around the world warned that side effects from COVID-19 vaccine administration could cause patients to miss a day or two of work. Doctors warned that these risks should be advertised so the public so they don't come as a surprise, and the CDC agreed to develop a plan for hospitals to avoid mass staff outages.

New York, meanwhile, topped yesterday's multi-month high in new cases Thursday morning when it reported hospitalizations in the state topped 3,000 to their highest level since June 1, and new infections hit 6,933, the highest tally for seven months.

Finally, with the risks tied to travel on everybody's mind, Delta Air Lines said Thursday it would test passengers for COVID on flights to Rome in a pilot program marking the latest attempt by the airline industry to open up trans-Atlantic travel.

And in the UK, PM Boris Johnson delivered a speech advising the country that while he is "sorry" about the return to the tiering system in England now that the countrywide lockdown is over (for now, at least), that for every Briton "your tier is not your destiny" and that a strong cooperative effort would make it easier to loosen restrictions around the holidays as planned.

Here's some more COVID-19 news from Thursday morning and overnight:

Nicolai Tangen, the chief executive officer of Norway’s $1.2 trillion sovereign wealth fund, tested positive for the coronavirus. The CEO said he took a test on Wednesday afternoon, “after feeling a bit under the weather, but my symptoms are mild" (Source: Bloomberg).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed England’s national lockdown will end next week, to be replaced by a tougher three-tier system of regional restrictions (Source: Bloomberg).

India reports 44,489 new cases in the last 24 hours, marginally up from 44,376 the previous day, bringing the national tally to 9.27 million. The death toll jumped by 524 to 135,223 (Source: Nikkei).

Ernst & Young Should Face Criminal Investigation Over Wirecard Work, German Regulator Recommends

Zero Hedge -

Ernst & Young Should Face Criminal Investigation Over Wirecard Work, German Regulator Recommends Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 12:55

Following revelations that Ernst & Young ignored warnings from whistleblowers and others, Germany's parliament is demanding more detailed reports from the 'Big Four' auditor about its time supervising Wirecard, the erstwhile fintech darling that was forced to file for bankruptcy protection earlier this year after an independent audit exposed a $2 billion hole in its balance sheet.

The result is possibly the biggest scandal involving a Big Four firm since the collapse of Enron, which took down Arthu Andersen's audit business (AA's consulting business was spun off and re-branded "Accenture"). Wirecard's former CEO Markus Braun has been arrested and is probably facing upwards of ten years in prison. The company's former COO, Jan Marsalek, is suspected of having absconded with a large sum of embezzled money. The executive has been exposed as a Russian intelligence asset who may be hiding out in Russia despite the Interpol red notice issued in his name.

What's more, on Thursday, Germany's audit watchdog reportedly told prosecutors that EY may have acted criminally during its work for Wirecard. The accusations "significantly escalates the legal and reputational risks for the accounting firm". It's just the latest sign that EY might not simply wash its hands of Wirecard as thousands of employees had expected.

Apas, Germany's auditor watchdog, recently sent a report to prosecutors, becoming the first international regulator to suggest that EY may have broken the law during its 10-year business relationship Wirecard.

Laypeople are probably wondering right about now: why aren't prosecutors taking EY's transgressions more seriously? Munich prosecutors told the Financial Times they were evaluating the evidence that was filed by Apas and had not yet come to a conclusion. Prosecutors have not launched a criminal investigation into current or former EY staff.

The report comes ahead of what's expected to be a contentious hearing Thursday afternoon, as EY partners are set to clash with German MPs over how much they are allowed to reveal about their work for Wirecard without violating strict confidentiality rules. Apas last year launched an investigation into EY’s work auditing Wirecard. EY Germany delivered the following comment to the FT:

EY Germany told the FT that it had “no knowledge of such an Apas document”, adding that “based on our current state of knowledge, our colleagues conducted the audits professionally and in good faith” and that there were “absolutely no indications for criminally relevant misconduct by EY auditors in the Wirecard case”.

After that, prosecutors in Munich also accused Wirecard of twisting their words once again .

However, Munich prosecutors on Thursday took issue with the statement, saying that EY had taken the quote out of context as it did not refer to the Apas letter. “We cannot confirm EY’s assessment that there are no indications for criminally relevant misconduct by EY in the Wirecard case as this is still being scrutinised,” the prosecutors added.

Fabio De Masi, an MP for Germany's leftwing Die Linke party, urged Merkel's government to “act immediately” and stop doling out government contracts to EY until all questions of criminal conduct have be approved. We can't help but wonder why Merkel's center-right government is taking such extreme steps to safeguard Wirecard. But it certainly seems reasonable that some punishment is in orderl

In Delusional Push, LBMA Threatens to Blacklist Entire Gold Trading Centers

Zero Hedge -

In Delusional Push, LBMA Threatens to Blacklist Entire Gold Trading Centers Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 12:30

Submitted by Ronan Manly, BullionStar.com

In a move in early November which is already causing controversy, self-styled gold market authority, the bullion-bank controlled London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), issued a letter to a group of leading bullion markets around the world, threatening to blacklist gold bullion from any country that fails to meet new LBMA recommendations covering gold sourcing and supply chains, the elimination of cash transactions, and the support for artisanal and small scale mining (ASM).

These recommendations, which have no legal standing, attempt to coerce the bullion markets into examining and verifying the supply chains of gold, while forcing co-operation with regional and international organizations.

The LBMA letter, dated 6 November, is addressed to national authorities in the following major bullion markets, markets which the LBMA refers to as International Bullion Centres (IBCs): China, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Japan, Singapore, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Ostensibly pitched as an initiative in support of both the OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains and the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) guidance on money laundering, the LBMA’s real agenda, as is often the case, is otherwise, with the letter and the LBMA’s recommendations taking particular aim at bullion centres in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) and India.

This is clearly illustrated in a report on ‘the Letter’ from none other than the LBMA’s favorite reporting mouthpiece – Reuters, and its LBMA embedded reporter Peter Hobson, who in an ‘exclusive’ dated 12 November titled “Gold market authority threatens to blacklist UAE and other centres” says that:

“The world’s most influential gold market authority is threatening to stop bullion from countries including the United Arab Emirates entering the mainstream market if they fail to meet regulatory standards, a letter seen by Reuters showed.”

Hobson then spends a good portion of the remainder of the Reuters article discussing Dubai, revealing that drafting the letter was a team effort, and that the main reason for this LBMA smokescreen is to target Dubai:

“The LBMA letter did not target any centre in particular, but four people involved in drafting it told Reuters the gold industry in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the main focus."

“The whole bullion centres initiative is because of serious issues in Dubai,” one of the sources said. “Unless they shape up, the LBMA by early next year will say refiners can’t source from Dubai.”

Some clues as to identities of the behind the scenes actors who influenced the writing of the LBMA letter are also provided by Reuters:

“The LBMA is a trade group rather than a state agency but it holds sway over the market because the large international banks that dominate gold trading typically only deal with metal from refineries the association has accredited."

The UAE is one of the world’s largest gold hubs and exports bullion worth billions of dollars to refiners accredited by the LBMA each year. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental anti- money laundering monitor, has criticised its controlsas have non-governmental organsations (NGOs).

Off the bat, we can therefore say that LBMA bullion banks, the OECD’s FATF, and the politically backed so-called NGOs are part of the behind the scenes influencers.

Elsewhere in the letter to the International Bullion Centres (a letter which by the way has not been published anywhere), Reuters reveals that the LBMA has asked:

recipients to declare their support for the LBMA’s standards by 11 December and share an action plan for their implementation by the end of January, if they have not been met.

If this sounds eerily similar to the ”you’re either with us or against us“ bullying tactics of major political powers when forcing unaligned powers into conflict, you would be correct – it is. But it gets worse, since the letter says that:

A lack of cooperation or unwillingness to publicly commit to these standards and share a proposed timeline with the LBMA will mean LBMA may no longer permit GDL Refiners to source material which has originated from or passed through the International Bullion Centre.

Sounding more like a head-mistress of a girls’ school than a CEO, the LBMA Chief Executive Ruth Crowell told Reuters: “We are also committed to act if there is not meaningful and effective improvement”.

Later on 12 November, the Financial Times picked up on the LBMA news in an article by Henry Sanderson titled “Bullion industry group threatens to blacklist suppliers that do not meet OECD standards”, where it too had a head-mistressesque quote from Crowell, to wit:

“’The ultimate stick is that we could say to these jurisdictions that they are no longer considered credible and therefore not responsible sources of gold’, Ruth Crowell, chief executive of the LBMA, told the Financial Times.”

Reeks of Hypocrisy

Beyond the fact that the LBMA is not a global authority on telling bullion markets what they can and cannot do, these latest moves show the gross hypocrisy of the LBMA in lecturing others about ethics and business practices when all the while some of the LBMA’s most powerful member banks, banks that essentially run and control the LBMA, have recently been prosecuted and fined for the manipulation of precious metals prices in both criminal and civil actions. Such actions have been brought by both the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

This includes two of the LBMA’s most powerful banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co, fined US $920 million in September 2020 for multiyear trading schemes to defraud gold and silver markets, and Scotiabank (The Bank of Nova Scotia) fined US $127 million in August 2020 for precious metals price manipulation. In 2018, the same US authorities (DoJ and CFTC) also fined other LBMA big hitters HSBCUBS and (formerly) Deutsche Bank for engaging in spoofing of precious metals prices.

Not to forget that in 2014, Barclays Bank was fined £26m by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for trading misconduct in precious metals prices. In the same year, the FCA also fined Swiss bank UBS for precious metals price manipulation.

All of these banks are and were the most powerful members of the LBMA. JP Morgan, Scotiabank, HSBC, and UBS are four of the five members of the LBMA’s London Precious Metals Clearing Limited (LPMCL), the group of banks which clears all precious metals trades in the London market. JP Morgan and HSBC operate the two biggest precious metals vaults in the LBMA’s London vaulting system.

JP Morgan Chase – The heaviest of heavy weights in the LBMA

JP Morgan, Scotiabank, HSBC, and UBS are all market making members of the LBMA. Market making members are the most important trading members of the LBMA. JP Morgan and HSBC are direct participants in the LBMA’s daily Gold Price and Silver Price auctions, the successors to the LBMA’s London Gold Fixing and London Silver Fixing auctions.

As recently as September 2020, two former Deutsche Bank precious metals traders were found guilty by the US DoJ of fraudulent and manipulative trading practices in precious metals futures contracts on the COMEX exchange. One of these individuals, James Vorley, was even a director of the London Gold Fixing company during the time period for which he has been convicted of precious metals price manipulation.

On 16 September 2019, the US Department of Justice charged JP Morgan traders with a multi-year market manipulation racketeering conspiracy to manipulate precious metals futures contracts. One of these traders is Michael Nowak, who was JP Morgan’s head of precious metals trading and who, when chargedwas on the LBMA Board! It was only after the DoJ charged Nowak, that the LBMA was forced to remove Nowak from the LBMA board on 20 September 2019.

Until recently, representatives from these powerful banks such as JP Morgan and Scotiabank were the core contingent (market making member representatives) on the Board of Directors of the LBMA.

In 2017, the LBMA implemented its Global Precious Metals Code, a code which claims to “promote a fair effective and transparent market” and a code to which all LBMA members, including JP Morgan, have attested their conformance to by signing a Statement of Commitment. In the words of LBMA CEO Rutch Crowell:

The Global Precious Metals Code is a code of conduct which promotes a fair effective and transparent market. It provides market participants with Principles and Guidance to uphold high standards of business conduct. All of this creates confidence in the market for all participants.

Despite this, manipulation in the precious metals markets continued, with LBMA heavy weights such as JP Morgan and Scotia involved in bigger and bigger gold and silver price manipulations.

This huge litany of criminal manipulations by the powerful bullion bank members of the LBMA shows that the LBMA is not supportive of the physical precious metals markets. In fact, quite the opposite. The banks which run the LBMA have been proven to be undermining the physical gold and silver markets on a global scale through price manipulation and market misconduct. The LBMA is also Orwellian in calling for transparency and ethics, yet stacked to the rafters with criminal bullion banks whose opaque bullion dealings around the world go unchecked.

Dubai’s DMCC is not Impressed

It didn’t take long for some of the bullion centres on the LBMA hitlist to retort with their responses, responses which basically boiled down to:

  • How do the LBMA have the audacity thinking that they can blacklist and cut off major financial centres from the bullion market?
  • On what basis does the LBMA think that it’s the global authority on precious metals?
Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of Dubai’s DMCC

Not surprisingly, the most forceful response to date has come from Dubai, specifically from the executive chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), Ahmed Bin Sulayem. In a strongly-worded post dated 17 November which will raise a few eyebrows, Bin Sulayem writes that:

LBMA’s authoritarian approach to maintain its majority control through conjecture and double standards has worn out its welcome with the rest of the world which increasingly believes it is time for a fully transparent regulator, composed of an international coalition that is equipped to authorise or blacklist stakeholders based on meritocracy and not self-serving interests.

Bin Sulayem goes on:

“Should LBMA make good on its proposed strategy, it will be the first time a market or state authority has raised the possibility of cutting off the bullion industry in a major financial centre, a ploy akin to changing the rules of Monopoly on a discretionary basis in order to keep other players off the board.

I wonder if anyone at LBMA is concerned about being sued by the World Trade Organisation or UK Courts for attempting to maintain its cartel-like control over an industry by imposing its own discretionary brand of blacklisting, without being a democratically elected trade body?"

Similarly, to the NGOs that peddle the same narrative with zero accountability, there is an increasing awareness that LBMA’s purpose has become one of industrial hegemony with an agenda to disrupt any centres that threaten its market share."

And there’s more. Bin Sulayem continues:  

“In a sense, LBMA’s approach is understandable, given its origins in a bygone era where control was seized, not negotiated and while the British Empire may have had the power to enforce its position a hundred years ago, it is certainly less compelling in today’s increasingly transparent marketplace.”

perhaps it is time for the sun to set on LBMA and its delusional leadership in order for it to make way for an effective, untied, democratically elected regulator that functions under a policy of inclusion, not subjugation.”

In his response, Bin Sulayem also highlighted the double standards of the LBMA, asking why the the London based association did not call for a ban on gold imports from the United States when two former LBMA member refiners based in the US, Republic Metals Corporation and NTR Metals, declared for bankruptcy “after being unable to account for large amounts of precious metal or be charged by federal prosecutors in Miami for buying $3.6bn in illegal gold from criminal groups in Latin America respectively”.

The Indian Reaction

Across the Arabian sea to the east of Dubai, Indian financial publication MoneyControl, in an article dated 13 November, captures the Indian bullion sector’s reaction to the LBMA letter, saying that:

The LBMA letter has irked the Indian bullion industry, which feels that the London body has acted arbitrarily. There are suggestions that the Indian bullion trade join hands with Dubai trade and come out with their own standards that will be widely acceptable.”

The LBMA letter has also led to fears that it could lead to vested interests monopolising the trade and this is one reason why Indian players think that main gold buying nations such as India and China could come together and set new norms in bullion trade.

The article continues that the Indian sector is suspicious about why the LBMA is only targeting selective bullion trading markets such as Dubai and India, and not the gold mining countries (such as in Africa) that it has issues with over the origin of gold.

According to MoneyControl, the general view from the Indian bullion sector is that LBMA is an association set up to protect the interest of its members and that “the initiative should probably come from the United Nations Security Council in the [same] way it passed a resolution on “blood” diamonds.

further article from the same Indian publication, dated 20 November, says that the Indian bullion sector is now also “questioning the LBMA letter on the grounds that the London association is trying to implement monopolistic policies” and that the Indian bullion industry is in discussions on formulating its own policy. The same article also reveals that “Russia has also questioned LBMA’s letter", according to trade sources”.

Delusions of Grandeur

At this conjuncture let’s consider how the LBMA can think that it is the “global authority for precious metals”, as is frequently claimed on the LBMA website and in the various LBMA publications such as here.

Because at the end of the day, the LBMA is all about the world’s most powerful banks controlling the global bullion market. Remember that the LBMA was set up in 1987 by a group of powerful bullion banks at the behest of the Bank of England. The founding banks were the six powerful banks involved in the London bullion market, namely N.M. Rothschild & Sons, Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York (part of JP Morgan), J.Aron & Company (now part of Goldman Sachs), Mocatta & Goldsmid Ltd (acquired by Scotia), the old Sharps Pixley (acquired by Deutsche Bank), and Rudolf Wolff & Company. The original registered office of the LBMA when it was established in December 1987 was N.M. Rothschilds’ offices in New Court, St Swithin’s Lane, London.

Upon establishment, the consortium expanded to include the powerful Swiss bullion banks UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as the long-standing Midland Montagu and Edmond Safra’s Republic (both of which were subsumed into HSBC). Along the way additional banks came on board, such as Barclays (tapped by Rothschild), Standard Chartered, and Standard Bank –  evolving into the cartel of banks that you see more recently in the composition of the LBMA Board, the LBMA market makers lists (JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia, UBS Goldman Sachs, ICBC Standard, Standard Chartered, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas, Merrill Lynch, Toronto-Dominion Bank), and the LBMA bank members of the unallocated metals clearing system LPMCL (JP Morgan, Scotia, HSBC, UBS and ICBC Standard).

The LBMA is an association so dominated by bullion banks that it might be more correctly called the London Bullion Bank Market Association. In short, the LBMA is a joint-venture and a cartel, a consortium of banks that between them control everything about the bullion market, from the gold mines which these banks finance, to the control of gold price discovery using unallocated gold and gold futures, to the control of the international cross-border gold flow trade, and through to gold refining. And all under the watchful eye of the Bank of England.

LBMA is the global authority for precious metals only because it (the trade association that fronts the bullion bank cartel) says so. Why should the LBMA be the global regulator of the gold market?

In regards to the LBMA’s call for international bullion centers to eliminate cash transactions, this is also a demand which primarily serves the vested interests of its bullion bank members. Of course the establishment international bullion banks want to eliminate cash transactions, precisely because they want to control all financial transactions and be judge and jury on who can trade or not.

OECD – LBMA – COVID Opportunism

So where has this new attack by the LBMA arisen from and how has it been pitched?

Following the publication of its letter to the International Bullion Centres (IBCs) in early November, the LBMA issued a press release on 17 November, stating that its letter and recommendations that it expects bullion markets “to adopt” was undertaken so as “to support the OECD Due Diligence Guidance framework and recognise the key findings from the Financial Action Task Force”.

As a reminder, the OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the globalist club of rich countries headquartered in Paris. The Financial Action Task Force of FATF is a construct of the Group of Seven (G7) western industrial nations (including the US, UK, Germany and Canada), which focuses on money laundering and terrorist financing, and has a remit to police the global financial sector. The FAFT Secretariat is also, surprise, surprise, located in the OECD headquarters in Paris. In this context, the OECD and FATF are two sides of the same coin.

The main question is why the LBMA is bringing up the OECD/FATF guidelines now? The most recent edition of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains (3rd edition) was published in April 2016. The 1st edition of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains was published all the way back in July 2011 (adopted May 2011). That’s nearly 10 years ago. The OECD gold supplement to its guidance was published in February 2012. That’s almost 9 years ago.

The FATF recommendations on money laundering that the LBMA now refers to are not recent in the slightest, having been published in July 2015 as the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risks and Vulnerabilities associated with Gold. That’s over 5 years ago.

Like the EU war against physical gold transactions, FATF, using the money laundering risk narrative, is on a mission to crack down on cash transactions for gold because the international fiat banking system is not able to control the ultimate money which has no counterparty risk – gold. Hence, the LBMA targeting of bullion markets which it says process large amounts of recycled gold, and the smokescreen accusation about money laundering.

 

FATF head honchos at the OECD in Paris, France

Why then is the LBMA latching on to this OECD – FAFT narrative now? The answer is that, like governments and globalist organizations around the world such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations (UN) who are conveniently using the COVID pandemic to push forward their agendas, the OECD has lost no time in opportunistically issuing a “COVID-19 Call to Action for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains” (on 6 May 2020), to push forward its own agenda.

This OECD Covid-19 Call to Action was issued in the form of a statement from what the OECD calls its ”Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group” the committee in charge of pushing forward this OECD guidance. This “call to action” statement can be read in the pdf document here, and is nothing more than a Covid smokescreen to push the existing OECD guidance. The LBMA then took this OECD pronouncement and ran with it.

Not surprisingly, LBMA is a member of this Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group. Not only that, but the LBMA’s CEO Ruth Crowell is vice-chair of this Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group. Interestingly, Dubai’s DMCC is also a member of the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group, but for how much longer?

NGOs – Peddling the Narrative

Another group or entities aligned with the LBMA letter and the OECD Covid bogeyman ‘call to action’ are the so-called Non-Governmental Organisations, many of which have their headquarters in Washington DC and London, and which as you will recall from above, the DMCC’s Bin Sulayem describes as “the NGOs that peddle the same narrative [as the LBMA] with zero accountability”.

These NGOs (including Global Witness, The Sentry, IMPACT, and RESOLVE), are increasingly making an appearance in this LBMA overreach drama, from being quoted in the mainstream media (Reuters and FT), to being cosignatories of the OECD Covid call to action, and importantly, to being prominent speakers in the LBMA webinars about responsible sourcing that have taken place this year. Global Witness (headquartered in London) and IMPACT (headquartered in Ottawa, Canada) are also members of the above OECD Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group.

Per the above Reuters article“This [LBMA] initiative has the leverage that could meaningfully impact conflict gold traders and refiners,” said Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy at The Sentry, an NGO which published a report on Dubai’s gold industry on Tuesday.” The Sentry report in question can be seen here and it states that most gold from artisanal gold mining and refining in conflict areas of eastern and central Africa “is traded through Dubai in the United Arab Emirates”. Convenient for the LBMA. Note that the Sentry is headquartered in Washington DC, and was cofounded by George Clooney and John Prendergast (a long time high level US Government insider).

Per the above FT article: “If the public and the markets are to have faith that the gold certified by the LBMA is not tainted by human rights abuses or money laundering, then it will need to flex its muscles and suspend those not playing by the rules,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, of the London-based NGO Raid.

The Sentry co-founders – George Clooney and John Prendergast

RAID is another prominent ‘NGO’ which is critical of gold sourcing and the refinery sector. RAID is also headquartered in London, and in July called for the LBMA to suspend the LBMA membership of MMTC-PAMP (the only Indian refinery on the LBMA Good Delivery List for gold).

Perhaps most interestingly, in April this year the LBMA held a series of webinars on “Responsible Sourcing”. The webinars can be seen here. Among the featured lineup was a FATF and OECD insider (Mark Pieth), a policy director from The Sentry (Sasha Lezhnev), a US State Department advisor (Pamela Fierst-Walsh), a director of RESOLVE (Jennifer Peyser), and an executive director from IMPACT (Joanne Lebert). Like The Sentry, RESOLVE operates out of Washington DC.

For anyone observing these things, the recent threats from the LBMA towards bullion markets around the world were signaled at least a few months ago in the LBMA’s first Responsible Sourcing Report published in September 2020. That report, on page 32, laid out everything that is in the LBMA recommendations, saying that “LBMA will be calling on pre-identified International Bullion Centres to support five key recommendations” and that “more detail will be provided in Q4”, but did not however mention the subsequent bullying nature of those calls.

The LBMA inaugural Responsible Sourcing Report, page 32

The Focus on Dubai

For large gold trading and gold refining centres, it’s notable that not one gold refinery in Dubai or in the wider United Arab Emirates (UAE) (and there are over ten refineries) is accredited by the LBMA, and that only one gold refinery in India, a joint venture between Swiss PAMP and India’s MMTC (called MMTC-PAMP) is LBMA accredited. And there are at least twenty gold refineries in India if not more.

In October, gold refinery expert Corey Keller was interviewed for the BullionStar Perspectives video series, and prophetically, we discussed a lot of the issues which the latest LBMA maneuvering has raised as regards the Dubai refineries, the LBMA as a refining accreditor, and the role of the NGOs in criticizing gold sourcing.

As regards Dubai, Corey explained that the DMCC’s qualifications are exactly the same as the LBMA. The DMCC has the DMCC list, and their certification has the exact same standards that every refiner has to go through. I asked Corey if it is political that refineries in India and Dubai are not on the LBMA Good Delivery List. He replied as follows:

 “Originally the LBMA had a great idea, and I think they are exclusive and not inclusive currently, and that’s why refineries are being left out, because they are being exclusive.

I don’t know whether it’s a political [issue], as more of a protectionist, protectionism in the group [LBMA]”.

See BullionStar video section “The LBMA and the representativeness of the Gold Delivery List” here.

As regards the NGO’s, I also asked Corey did he think that there might be political pressure being funneled through by bullion banks into those entities, Global Witness and RAID, just to target e.g. Dubai or India, because they want to protect the existing establishment?”

Corey’s response: “Yes..  They are absolutely politically motivated, …they [the NGOs] should be discharged with the vigor that they attack the industry with.” See section “Protectionism and the complaints of NGOs such as Global Witness” here.

That the bullion bank establishment has a vendetta against Dubai refineries was brought into focus a few months ago when on 31 July without explanation, the CME Group removed Dubai DMCC’s Al Etihad gold refinery from the COMEX GC 100 gold brand refiner list, having only approved and added the same refinery to the COMEX approved refiner list on 9 July, a mere three weeks earlier. Market rumor at the time had it that Al Etihad was removed from the COMEX approved gold refiner list due to an intervention by JP Morgan.

Despite what the LBMA may want the world to believe, Dubai, through the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) does have gold refinery accreditation initiatives, in fact it has two such initiatives, namely Dubai Good Delivery (DGD) and Market Deliverable Brand (MDB), and the Al Etihad and Emirates Gold DMCC refineries are on the current DGD list.

Per the DMCC website:

“The DGD standard was developed by DMCC in 2005 and is regarded as the international benchmark for quality and technical specification for the production of gold and/or silver. For gold refineries, the certification also includes responsible sourcing of gold in accordance with the ‘DMCC Rules for Risk-Based Due Diligence for Gold and Precious Metals’.”

The standard says that the DMCC is also aligned with the globally accepted OECD Guidance on Responsible Sourcing. DMCC also has an “Independent Governance Committee (IGC) for Responsible Sourcing which oversees the DMCC Authority (DMCCA) Responsible Sourcing of Gold and Precious Metals Programme".  In fact, Matthew Keen, previously an LBMA insider and Deutsche Bank gold fixing director, has recently, through his Evidens Consultancy DMCC, been on this DMCC Independent Governance Committee.

Beyond its Mandate

These latest attacks from the LBMA and its demands do indeed appear to be the delusional rantings of a power-hungry dictator. Not content with managing its own Good Delivery List of approved refiners, LBMA is now going after entire bullion markets in various countries, and with threatening language.

On 17 November, the LBMA CEO Ruth Crowell also made a presentation to the OECD about the LBMA initiative against the targeted bullion markets. In the presentation slides (page 10), the language used is also inflammatory and tyrannical, such as “LBMA will only permit”,  “Centres must develop and adopt an Action Plan”, and “failure of International Bullion Centres to adopt these recommendations”.

 

LBMA presentation to OECD about its moves against bullion markets, Page 17  


In the case of the UAE and India, as well as not having any of their refineries on the London Good Delivery List (save the MMTC-PAMP joint venture), the LBMA is now putting pressure on the actual governments of these jurisdictions and threatening to exclude all the gold from these centers being allowed into LBMA accredited refineries. This also goes against the entire concept of OECD responsible sourcing, whose very thrust is to approve responsibly sourced gold (from anywhere) making it to market.

And how in practice does the LBMA think it can enforce any of these threats against sovereign governments? As well as being delusional, courts of law would most likely rule that this is illegal and in breach of international trade agreements.

An organization whose most powerful members have engaged in criminal corruption against the interests of the physical precious metals market and its investors and participants (as per the above DoJ and CFTC cases), therefore cannot be trusted to be a global authority on anything related to the international bullion markets.

The LBMA states in its ‘Call to Action” (17 November) that:

Currently, not all IBCs operate to the same responsible sourcing standards. These inconsistencies in standards could have a significant impact on the international market should they remain unaddressed.”

What then about LBMA bullion bank members being criminal enterprises? The membership of the LBMA by powerful banks which have been prosecuted for precious metals price manipulation is also an inconsistency in standards which could have a significant impact on the international bullion market should it remain unaddressed.

The LBMA is untrustworthy and it is not credible. The LBMA works against the interests of the physical precious metals industry, not for the physical precious metals industry.

As the LBMA has issued recommendations to the ‘International Bullion Markets”, we would like to issue some recommendations to the LBMA. These recommendations to the LBMA are as follows:

  • Support the actual physical gold market instead of just the paper gold market run by and manipulated by your criminal member banks.
  • Support the continued use of cash transactions in the international physical bullion markets as this eliminates counterparty risk by avoiding exposure to the electronic banking system run by these criminal banks.
  • In line with the LBMA Global Precious Metals Code which prohibits precious metals price manipulation, penalize and remove from your membership LBMA member banks that have been prosecuted and charged by the DoJ the CFTC and that are in breach of the LBMA Global Precious Metals Code.

This article was originally published on the BullionStar.com website under the same title "In Delusional Push, LBMA Threatens to Blacklist Entire Gold Trading Centers"

EU Rift Widens Into Diplomatic War: Hungary Agrees Not To Accept Budget If Poland Doesn't

Zero Hedge -

EU Rift Widens Into Diplomatic War: Hungary Agrees Not To Accept Budget If Poland Doesn't Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 12:05

The internal European Union rift has widened and is threatening to turn into full diplomatic war as Poland and Hungary have remained resolute in blocking the new EU budget.

On Thursday Hungary's Prime Ministery Viktor Orbán announced that after Germany's failed attempt to "harmonize positions" over the proposed 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget, he signed a joint statement with his Polish ally pledging that neither will accept unless both do.

Prior file image of Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki (R) and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban (L), via EPA/EFE

"Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Thursday said his country would have Poland’s backing in the continued row over the European Union’s insistence that its member states respect the rule of law or lose access to budget funds," Reuters reports.

Both are standing firm against linking 'Rule of Law' and the 'financial interests' of the Union, which remains the central issue they want to press in debate before the European Council, which appears a political ploy to undermine sovereignty of member states.

"Orban, standing alongside Poland’s premier Mateusz Morawiecki, said in a press statement in Budapest that the current proposal on the EU's table was unacceptable to Budapest and Warsaw, who will form a tandem in the debate after a joint veto, which Orban called a legitimate tool in the dispute," Reuters continues.

This after mounting pressure in the past few days which saw the French and German Ambassadors to Warsaw demand that Hungary and Poland "show solidarity" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What's turning into an EU game of chicken over the vital budget is fairly straightforward, which perhaps has made each side harden in their demands:

Hungary and Poland, with the backing of Slovenia, remain adamant in their refusal to approve the bloc’s $2.1 trillion budget while rule-of-law conditions remain in place for countries to receive money from a separate $750 million coronavirus recovery fund. 

Brussels and western Europeans seem equally determined to leverage coronavirus relief money to force compliance with the standards they say are necessary to block democratic backsliding by Hungary and Poland.  

The EU has targeted both countries as part of an investigation related to the independence of courts and the media

Poland and Hungary are taking an aggressive stand against what many see as the European Union's attempt to "force foreign values upon member nations" - this after West European nations have frequently derided Polish President Andrzej Duda and Hungary's Orbán as "authoritarian regimes" - something also echoed widely in US and UK media.

The current budget and coronavirus relief proposal before the EU would block funds to member countries seen as not adhering to "democratic standards". This language was put in place from the start of November, thus Hungary and Poland see signing off on it as self-destructive, as it would be further detrimental to their own sovereignty. 

Previously Orbán told a state radio broadcaster that "Hungary can’t be blackmailed," explaining further that: "The rule-of-law debate sounds like it’s about the law but it’s a political debate."

Be Safe. Happy Thanksgiving. 

The Big Picture -


Source:  Covid Tracking Project

 

Some good and bad news this week in COVID-19.

The three vaccine updates show real promise of creating herd immunity. That means there is an end point in sight.

The rest of the news this week was pretty awful: Spikes of 1.2 million cases, mostly in the Midwest, with more than 2,000 deaths each day, and 90,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19. But after weeks of sharp increases, data shows a peak and decline beginning.

And that horrible stuff above is the good news. The bad news is travel this week has the potential to lead to a massive surge in cases.

Maybe we will get lucky. Perhaps people are getting smarter about this. How hard is it to mask up? Can we hope that more people are taking this seriously, realize it is not a hoax, and do something about it?

Maybe no one wants to die with this vaccine close.Let’s hope people are learning from prior mistakes.

~~~

Be Safe and have a happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 


Source:  Covid Tracking Project

 

 

These are two weeks old, and you can see some massive increases since.

 

 

Nationwide COVID-19 Metrics by Week (through November 11)


Source: COVID Tracking Project

The post Be Safe. Happy Thanksgiving.  appeared first on The Big Picture.

Biden: Americans Need To 'Forgo' Holiday Traditions This Year

Zero Hedge -

Biden: Americans Need To 'Forgo' Holiday Traditions This Year Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 11:40

As Democrat leaders across the country arrogantly ignore their own COVID-19 restrictions (over and over and over), their leader - Joe Biden - has asked Americans to "forgo" holiday traditions this year.

In a monotone Thanksgiving eve address against a yellow "Office of the President Elect" backdrop (an office which doesn't actually exist), the presumptive president-elect said that every American has "a responsibility" to take coronavirus seriously and 'redouble our efforts' to fight the disease.

"This year we are asking Americans to forgo so many of the traditions that have long made this holiday," said Biden, before urging people to limit travel and practice social distancing to reduce the risk of exposure - noting that he and wife Jill Biden will be spending Thanksgiving with their daughter and son-in-law, while their other children will be doing their own thing "in small groups" (which may include hookers and crack).

"I know how hard it is to forgo family traditions," Biden added. "But it is so very important. Our country’s in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. We are now averaging 160,000 new cases a day."

Five Economic Reasons to be Thankful

Calculated Risk -

First, thanks to all the healthcare workers and first responders that have been on the front lines saving lives. And to the essential workers that have kept the economy going. Thank you!

Even with these difficult times, here are five economic reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving. (Hat Tip to Neil Irwin who started doing this several years ago)

1) Household Debt Burdens are at Record Lows.

Household debt burdens have declined sharply.

The Household debt service ratio (red) was at 13.2% in 2007, and has fallen to a series low of 8.69% in Q2 2020 (most recent data).

Financial ObligationsClick on graph for larger image.

This graph, based on data from the Federal Reserve, shows the Total Debt Service Ratio (DSR), and the DSR for mortgages (blue) and consumer debt (yellow).

The consumer Debt Service Ratio (yellow) decreased in Q2 2020, and is near a series low.  Note: The financial obligation ratio (FOR) declined in Q2 and is at a series low (not shown).

The DSR for mortgages (blue) is also at a series low (since at least 1980).  This ratio increased rapidly during the housing bubble, and continued to increase until 2007.

With low interest rates, and a high savings rate, this data suggests aggregate household cash flow has improved.

2) New Home sales are at a Cycle High.

New Home SalesThis graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.

New home sales were at 999 thousand SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in October, and 1.002 million SAAR in September (highest sales rate since 2006).

Sales are up almost four-fold from the cycle low of 270 thousand SAAR in February 2011.

Housing has been a strong sector during the pandemic, including new home sales, existing home sales and housing starts.

3) A Falling Unemployment Rate.

unemployment rateThe unemployment rate was at 6.9% in October. The unemployment rate is down from 14.7% in April 2020 (the highest since the Great Depression).

Unfortunately the unemployment rate significantly understates the current situation. Not only are 11 million people unemployed, another 3.7 million have left the labor force since February. And there are 2.3 million additional involuntary part time workers than a year ago

Still, this is significant improvement since April.

4) Falling unemployment claims.

This graph shows seasonally adjust continued claims since 1967.

Continued claims decreased to 6.038 million (SA) last week, down from a peak of almost 25 million in May 2020.

This is a huge decline in regular unemployment claims.

Note: There are an additional 9,147,753 receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that increased from 8,681,647 the previous week. This is a special program for business owners, self-employed, independent contractors or gig workers not receiving other unemployment insurance.

An additional 4,509,284 are receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) that increased from 4,376,847 the previous week. These last two programs are set to expire on December 26th - so there is more disaster relief needed soon.

5) Science!

And finally, thanks to all the infectious disease experts and epidemiologists that have provided guidance on how to mitigate the risks of COVID (washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing, etc).
And thanks to the volunteers at the COVID Tracking Project. Data is essential in understanding what is happening. See: Data Heroes of Covid Tracking Project Are Still Filling U.S. Government Void

And thanks to the scientists developing therapeutics and vaccines.   There is now a light at the end of the tunnel.  Thank you.

A Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to All!

Sweden Unexpectedly Expands QE By 40%

Zero Hedge -

Sweden Unexpectedly Expands QE By 40% Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 10:25

Back in 2017, Sweden made a mistake: the Governor of the Swedish Riksbank, Stefan Ingves, described the use of negative interest rates an "experiment" never tried before, and with inflation in the Scandinavian country surging, he said that the experiment was officially over, with the Riksbank beginning a hiking cycle in late 2018 which pushed the Swedish repo rate back to 0 last December, and making another trip into negative rates virtually impossible without the Riksbank's reputation suffering a terminal hit.

While the impact of the negative rates on the domestic inflation rate was small (and in fact probably contributed to wholesale deflation as we have shown previously), the effects of negative rates on the housing market - where prices exploded amid the ultra-loose conditions making housing unaffordable, and on household debt levels are large. As a result, imbalances which had already begun to materialize before the Global Crisis have worsened. Real estate prices rose rapidly, contributing to rising wealth inequality (and yes, a central bank was explicitly at fault), while household debt reached record levels. Ironically, even though the exchange rate of the Swedish krona has depreciated by more than 10%, with no major impact on the domestic rate of inflation.

In short, as Professors Fredrik Andersson and Lars Jonung wrote in May, Sweden's negative rates "created an economy with signs of ‘overheating’. However, this is likely a short-run gain. The Riksbank will face a major challenge to calibrate its policy during the next downturn."

Their conclusion on Sweden's negative rates experience was simple: "Don’t do it again!"

There is just one problem: when the Riksbank resumed tightening and pushed rates back to 0%, both its and Europe's economy were recovering, and it seemed there was limited risk from another contraction. And then the covid pandemic hit, crippling both Europe - which is facing a double dip recession following the latest round of lockdowns - and Sweden's economy.

And since the world's oldest central bank could not cut rates again without risking a huge reputational and credibility blow after it triumphantly ended its "negative rates experiment" several years ago, eager to halt the dramatic appreciation in the Swedish Krone which is up more than 6% YTD, the central bank had just one option: expand QE even more.

Which is precisely what the Sweden’s central bank did this morning when it surprised markets with a bigger-than-expected expansion of its asset purchase program, and said there’s room to deliver more stimulus between scheduled meetings. Specifically, the Riksbank announced that it was expanding its quantitative easing program to 700 billion kronor ($82 billion), which is 200 billion kronor more than its earlier target. With economists at SEB predicting a 100 billion-krona QE expansion, while most others expected no change in policy, the krona immediately sank up to 0.5% against the euro although it remains dramatically higher YTD.

Meanwhile, the key interest rate was kept at zero, as expected, and will probably stay there in "the coming years," the bank said, clearly not willing to risk reversing on its promises to not go back to NIRP.

And since it no longer has the capacity to cut rates "for years" absent a complete economic crash, the Riksbank not only expanded its QE target, but also said it will step up the pace of asset purchases next quarter, as the Executive Board also decided to step up the quarter-on-quarter pace of its purchases during the first quarter of 2021, committing to buy SEK120bn over that quarter, which means QE will only keep rising as long as negative rates remain off the table.

The surprising decision to expand the asset purchase program prompted "reservations" from two Executive Board members advocating for later action: Breman advocated that the program should instead be expanded by SEK100 billion during the second half of 2021; Floden thought that the Riksbank should pledge that monetary policy will remain expansionary as long as necessary without deciding now on purchase sums for the second half of 2021. Their opposition to the QE expansion was duly noted... and ignored.

At the press briefing, Governor Stefan Ingves said the extra 200 billion kronor in QE won’t be put toward reinvestments, but also assured markets that the Riksbank will continue to reinvest in bonds affected by its program.

"If the world changes, if there’s turbulence for various reasons and if we conclude that we need to do something between meetings, we will do so," Ingves said during a virtual press briefing in Stockholm on Thursday.

As Bloomberg notes, and confirming the above, "Ingves has repeatedly underscored his preference for asset purchases over rate cuts to support the economy. The Riksbank ended half a decade of negative rates almost a year ago, and Ingves has shown a reluctance to delve below zero again, amid financial stability concerns."

Alas, Sweden shows just what happens when a central bank is virtually out of ammo, and worse - it main policy tool, interest rates, is now limited to the zero lower bound. Meanwhile, the country is now bracing for a dark winter as the pandemic spreads, intensive-care beds fill up and curbs on movement increase. The government has already warned that the next few months will be tougher on the economy than first feared.

Fearing that much worse is yet to come, the Riksbank tried to pretend as if it never said all those bad things about "experimental" negative rates, knowing full well it will have no choice but to go NIRP again, sooner or later. As a result, the Riksbank said the repo rate "can be cut if this is assessed to be an effective measure, particularly if confidence in the inflation target were to be threatened." The irony, of course, is that years of negative rates did nothing to boost inflation to hit the target; instead what NIRP did is create a massive housing and debt bubble, which the Riksbank scrambled to shortcircuit before everything came crashing down.

And now it faces a dismal dilemma: reflate the biggest asset and credit bubble ever (which even the Riksbank has admitted is it own doing), ensuring that the next crash - when it comes - will be truly devastating, or step back and allow the economy to crumble. Meanwhile, inflation remains well below the Riksbank’s 2% target, coming in at just 0.3% in October.

The Riksbank’s surprise decision to expand its stimulus program came just two weeks before the European Central Bank is expected to unveil more support measures.

"We are neighbors with an elephant and when the elephant moves it affects us,’ Ingves said. “I can’t comment on what they’ll do and in what way, but basically everything the ECB does to keep the euro zone economy running and to bring up inflation is good for Sweden as well."

“But what they’ll do and how, we’ll have to see further ahead, because we are not party to that decision-making process,” Ingves said.

Well, Stefan, we can tell you: the ECB will almost certainly expand its emergency pandemic QE by hundreds of billions in December, as today's ECB minutes hinted.

Meanwhile, In Thursday’s statement, the Riksbank cut its forecast for gross domestic product this year and now sees a contraction of 4%, compared with 3.6% previously. The rebound in 2021 will also be smaller than earlier thought, with growth seen at 2.6%, compared with the 3.7% seen earlier.

* * *

But going back to the problem at hand, the Riksbank revised down its growth forecasts to -4.0% (compared to the -3.6% forecast in September) for 2020 and 2.6% (3.7%) for 2021. At the same time, inflation will remain below the bank’s 2% target throughout the forecast period, which extends into 2023. The Riksbank expects unemployment to peak at 9.4% in 2021—a 0.2pp upward revision from the September MPR—before falling back subsequently.

Looking ahead, the MPR reiterated that the "possibility of a repo rate cut cannot be ruled out" although to do that and to crush what little credibility it has left, would require a true economic shock. The Riksbank cited the exchange rate, how fast the supply side of the economy recovers, and the pass-through of the repo rate to interest rates in the broader economy as factors it will consider when assessing the usefulness of an interest rate cut, clearly forgetting its admission as recently as 2018 that NIRP was an "experimental" mistake.

US Army Fires Rockets Capable Of Striking Crimea Into Black Sea

Zero Hedge -

US Army Fires Rockets Capable Of Striking Crimea Into Black Sea Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 10:00

A US Army rocket test in Eastern Europe connected to NATO exercises in Romania has ratcheted tensions with Russia given the close proximity to its border.

The US this week conducted rocket-launch tests of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket (HIMARS) vehicles, which had been transferred from Germany.

The rocket test was close enough to Russia for its Defense Ministry to deploy what Russian media described as "advanced hardware" on the Crimean peninsula should it be needed to neutralize any "surprise missile attack."

M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket (HIMARS) launchers previously in exercises in Poland, via US Army.

It was also provocative enough for Forbes to introduce the maneuvers in the following way:

The U.S. Army sneaked a pair of long-range rocket launchers near Russia’s Black Sea outpost on Thursday, fired off a few rockets then hurried the launchers back to the safety of their base in Germany. All within a few hours.

The one-day mission by the Army’s new Europe-based artillery brigade was practice for high-tech warfare. It clearly also was a message for Moscow. The U.S. Army in Europe has restored its long-range firepower. And it wants the Russians to know.

According to Russian media reports over 130 NATO soldiers and 30 units of military equipment were involved. The missile salvos were reportedly fired into the Black Sea.

And further according to Forbes, "The [US] brigade’s rapid deployment to Romania last week could prove even more provocative. Especially considering the new munitions the Army is developing for the HIMARS and MLRS. These include an anti-ship missile and a replacement for ATACMS that can travel as far as 310 miles."

Via NPR

"It’s just 250 miles across the Black Sea from the Romanian coast to Crimea. Army HIMARS flying in and out of Romania pose a serious, and unpredictable, threat to Russian forces in the region," the report underscores further.

All of this suggests the standoff over both Ukraine and Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea (which was done after a popular referendum) is far from over. Further, Russia has long slammed NATO for encroaching right up to its border, violating key agreements from the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed. 

UK Travel Agency Boycotts Qantas Over "No Vaccine, No Flight" Policy

Zero Hedge -

UK Travel Agency Boycotts Qantas Over "No Vaccine, No Flight" Policy Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 09:35

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A UK travel agency has announced it will be boycotting Australian airline Qantas over its ‘no vaccine, no flight’ policy, saying travelers should have freedom of choice.

Last week, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced the airline would implement a policy barring anyone who has not had the COVID-19 vaccine from using their service.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say, for international travelers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” he said.

This policy has since been backed up by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said passengers who didn’t take the vaccine before entering Australia would be subject to two weeks quarantine.

Other airlines such as Korean Air have also signaled they will require vaccination, while the industry in general appears to be moving towards a digital ‘Common Pass’ that will carry details of vaccination status.

However, the backlash has already begun, with one travel agent in the UK announcing a blanket boycott of Qantas over its vaccine policy.

Tradewinds Travel posted a statement on their website asserting that “bodily autonomy with regard to medical intervention is a personal choice and not something to be forced onto people by businesses.”

“We are not anti-vaccination but we are pro-choice. There is a huge difference between coercion and making a free choice,” says the statement.

The company also noted how Qantas “code share(s) flights with Emirates” to the far east and that Emirates has not announced it will follow the same policy, prompting the question, “We wonder if this has been discussed with Emirates prior to the announcement by Qantas?”

“Never before in the history of aviation has there been a requirement to have an injection before boarding a plane,” the statement adds.

“If Australia as a nation makes the decision to not allow entry to people without a vaccination then that is within their rights, and people can make an informed choice as to whether they wish to visit the country. But it is not up to an airline to enforce this upon customers.”

The company said it had received “much support” over its stance.

In a related development, European airliner Ryanair has signaled that it will not require fliers to take a coronavirus shot before allowing them to travel.

Chief executive Eddie Wilson pointed out that mandating a vaccine would be pointless since people can travel between different European countries by car or train.

“With short haul and freedom of movement of people in Europe… I think we’ll see an entirely different landscape come spring and early summer, not really relevant for short haul and European travel,” said Wilson.

“In Paris, if you were to choose no vaccination… you’d just get a train instead,” he added.

*  *  *

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Apple Orders Foxconn To Shift Some MacBook and iPad Production From China To Vietnam

Zero Hedge -

Apple Orders Foxconn To Shift Some MacBook and iPad Production From China To Vietnam Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 09:15

According to sources cited by Reuters, Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, has been ordered by Apple to shift some iPad and MacBook production lines to Vietnam from China. 

Foxconn is building assembly lines for Apple's iPad tablet and MacBook laptop at its plant in Vietnam's northeastern Bac Giang province, to come online in the first half of 2021, the person said, declining to be identified as the plan was private.

The lines will also take some production from China, the person said, without elaborating how much production would shift.

"The move was requested by Apple," the person said. "It wants to diversify production following the trade war." -Reuters

Foxconn was not at liberty to discuss "company policy and for reasons of commercial sensitivity" behind the shift in production lines. 

The Nikkei recently learned that Foxconn is set to invest $270 million into new production facilities in Vietnam. 

Amid President Trump raising tariffs and hurling Twitter threats at China - Apple has taken steps to add geographic diversity to its supply chain in China. Apple suppliers in Vietnam already manufacture the company's AirPods and AirPods Pro. 

Other Apple suppliers, such as Pegatron and Compal Electronics, "are also considering building plants in Mexico," the source continued. Companies continue to reduce reliance on China as they diversify supply chains. 

In August, Foxconn Chairman Liu Young-way told investors that Trump's trade war had fractured the world into two - indicating his firm had to develop "two sets of supply chains."

Even with Trump upending decades of American trade policy in four years - the lasting effects are starting to be realized.

Despite that rhetoric of a Biden presidency would mean China would "own America" - and in some respects they already do - messaging from the Biden camp suggests they would continue the tough approach on Beijing.

"Stand Up To Your Racist Family" At Thanksgiving, UVA Student Paper Op-Ed Urges

Zero Hedge -

"Stand Up To Your Racist Family" At Thanksgiving, UVA Student Paper Op-Ed Urges Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 08:50

Authored by Benjamin Zeisloft via Campus Reform,

An opinion columnist at the University of Virginia’s student newspaper encouraged her readers to “stand up” to “ racist family” at Thanksgiving.

Emma Camp, who writes a regular opinion column for the Cavalier Daily, asserted that “white progressives must privilege their principles over personal comfort” in conversations with family during the holiday season. In order to fulfill this mandate, they “need to stand up to their racist loved ones.”

Though Trump, who Camp defines as a “proto-fascist," who has "been defeated," she argues that “the hateful rhetoric, conspiratorial thinking and virulent racism, xenophobia and sexism he espoused during his tenure remain deeply entrenched in American political discourse.”

“When we sit silent over our uncle’s QAnon rants or our high school friends’ xenophobic comments,” she continues, “it shows that we value our own comfort over what we know to be our ethical duty.”

She again admonishes readers to prove that their “moral principles” are more important than their “relationship with racists.”

“No matter the outcome, standing up for your principles disrupts the presumption of agreement so often assumed by bigots,” concludes Camp.

“Hateful beliefs may continue — but at the very least you can make it clear that they are not welcome to at least one person at the dinner table.”

University of Virginia undergraduate Deven Upadhyay told Campus Reform that “calling white progressives to action at Thanksgiving turns social activism into a game, eliciting frivolous accusations and burning bridges with loved ones.”

“Today’s progressives have developed a savior complex that has become so sensitive, diluting the severity of real instances of xenophobia, sexism, and racism,” he added.

“As this piece pins this task on white people, it seems that people of color need to be ‘saved’ by our white friends."

Upadhyay, who is Indian-American, says that he does not “need to be saved or pandered to. By playing along with the policing of white progressives, we grant them a position of superiority and false sense of accomplishment.”

“If the purpose of activism is to make change, telling your uncle Steve he’s a white supremacist surely won’t win you a Nobel prize,” he added.

Campus Reform reached out to Camp for comment and will update this article accordingly.

Crypto Crashes Overnight As Whales Move Bitcoin To Exchanges

Zero Hedge -

Crypto Crashes Overnight As Whales Move Bitcoin To Exchanges Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 08:25

In the biggest crash since March, Bitcoin prices collapsed by over $3000 overnight (from just shy of $19500 to $16300 at the morning's lows)...

Source: Bloomberg

Many analysts had already warned that the recent gains were due for a pullback, among them CNBC host Brian Kelly and trader Tone Vays, who forecast a dip to $14,000 on Thursday; but while the rest of the crypto space is also under pressure, November remains a big month with Bitcoin up 25%...

Source: Bloomberg

CoinTelegraph's William Suberg notes that the sudden price drop came in tandem with large-volume investors depositing BTC to exchanges - presumably with the aim of taking profit near Bitcoin’s $20,000 all-time highs.

“All Exchanges Inflow Mean increased a few hours ago. It indicates that whales, relatively speaking, deposited $BTC to exchanges,” Ki Young Ju, creator of on-chain analytics resource CryptoQuant, summarized to Twitter followers.

“But long-term on-chain indicators say the buying pressure prevails. I still think we can break 20k in a few days.”

Exchange inflows in November. Source: CryptoQuant/ Twitter

At the same time, major exchange OKEx announced that it had reinstated withdrawals. Ki Young Ju, founder of on-chain analytics service CryptoQuant, highlighted increased outflow activity from OKEx to both wallets and other exchanges.

“BTC flows from OKEx to all other exchanges hit 493 BTC at that time,” he wrote in his latest Twitter update.

“83% of total outflows went to non-exchange wallets like custody. It could be a bullish signal in the long-term.”

image courtesy of CoinTelegraph

Finally, additional bearish fuel came from Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, who commented on recent rumors that the United States plans to introduce new regulation governing self-hosted cryptocurrency wallets.

“If this crypto regulation comes out, it would be a terrible legacy and have long standing negative impacts for the U.S. In the early days of the internet there were people who called for it to be regulated like the phone companies. Thank goodness they didn’t,” he warned.

At time of writing we note that Bitcoin is around $1000 off its intraday lows as Bitcoin’s fundamental indicators support the bullish theory going forward with the mining difficulty set for a 7.3% uptick in three days’ time and hash rate continuing to grow.

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