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International Forecaster

Saturday, May 3, 2014
05/03/14 #1
For correspondence to us:

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final or total catastrophe of the currency system involved."
-- Ludwig von Mises


Key Economic Indicators and What They Really Mean
By James Corbett
The New York Times tells us that the Labor Department's new jobs report “Shows Resurgence of Hiring but Has Downbeat Notes.” Confused? Good. You should be. Once you read the article you discover that what is meant by this curiously oxymoronic mix of “resurgence” and “downbeat notes” is nothing other than a sign of what we've been writing about for years, i.e. the total manipulation of the statistical data to show that black is white, up is down and “resurgent” is “downbeat.”
In this case, the trick is one we've identified before: the unemployment rate fell to its lowest rate since the Lehman Collapse—a respectable-sounding 6.3%—on the back of an additional 288,000 jobs that were added to the economy in April...but a startling 806,000 left the labor force, bringing the labor participation rate to its lowest levels since 1978. Translation: the unemployment rate is a figure that does not reflect the labor force reality, and that reality includes a whole lot of unemployed people who are not looking for work and who are not classified as “unemployed.” Sadly, even the BLS had to admit it is “puzzled why so many unemployed people are not looking for jobs.” As the Times fails to admit (but ZeroHedge points out), it's even worse: the only age group that gained jobs in April was those over 55; those under 55 lost a combined 259,000 jobs last month. And to make matters even worse, the unspoken truth behind all of these numbers is that they are merely preliminary results, and are routinely revised months later in statistical corrections that are barely reported on at all.
So take the much-ballyhooed jobs report for what it's worth: next to nothing. If it does have an impact on the real world, it will only be due to the hype effect. In the wake of a “good news” event (like this jobs report is being reported as), consumer and business sentiment can buoy, thus causing people to open their wallets a little further or go into debt a little deeper, or bosses to hire new staff on the basis of those increased expectations. In this way bull markets tend to keep growing and hiring sprees tend to keep going until the disconnect between the cooked numbers and the reality on the ground becomes too great.
But if this latest payrolls report is not nearly so meaningful as the economic lamestream media is suggesting, how can we get the pulse of the economy? What other measurements, signs or indicators should we be looking at?
GDP figures come to mind, and not only because the US Q1 GDP report was released this week. Of course GDP numbers, too, are highly manipulatable and highly manipulated, and since so much emphasis is placed on them bad numbers have to be spun away quickly. Such is the case with the latest US GDP figures, which came in far under expectations at a pathetic 0.1% for the first quarter. The explanation for the dismal performance? The weather, of course, because we are now expected to believe that economists have somehow forgotten to take into account snow days and cold snaps when thinking about how the economy will perform in the winter. We are also expected to forget that cold weather actually increases economic activity in some sectors (by increasing heating costs, for example, which in turn increased real GDP growth by 0.7%) and that one of the strongest growth sectors was (of course) government spending, which accounted for another 0.7% of real GDP growth.
The figures are little more reliable around the world. As we've outlined a number of times in these pages, leaked documents show that the current Premier of China, Li Keqiang, admitted privately back in 2007 that the country's GDP figures were “manmade” and not to be used for economic calculations. Of course, we didn't need any sort of leaked documents in order to discover this fact; China's provincial GDP data famously consistently fails to add up to the national total. But still, it is good to have it in black and white from one of the top politicians in the country.
So if GDP numbers are similarly unreliable, how can we judge the overall economic activity of a country? Interestingly, Keqiang suggested that he himself used three alternate data points to gauge his province's real economic condition: electricity consumption, rail cargo volume and bank lending. Think of what such a rubric would tell us about the economy of the Eurozone, where credit  creation hit a new all-time low earlier this year, or the implications for the world economy that shipping indexes from Baltic Dry to Capesize to Supramax are all falling. But of course, this is exactly the type of data that the central banks don't want you thinking about, at least not while they're officially pushing the “recovery” line.
Another GDP alternative is “PPP,” or purchasing power parity. As the World Bank helpfully explains:
“PPPs are used in producing a reliable set of estimates of the levels of activity between countries, expressed in a common currency. A PPP is defined as the number of units of B’s currency that are needed in B to purchase the same quantity of individual good or service as one unit of A’s currency will purchase in A.”
OK, I was joking about 'helpfully,' but perhaps this explanation is (slightly) more helpful:
“Purchasing Power Parities show the ratio of the prices in national currencies of the same good or service in different economies. For example, if the price of a hamburger in France is €4.80 and in the United States it is $4.00, the PPP for hamburgers between the two economies is $0.83 to the euro from the French perspective (4.00/4.80) and €1.20 to the dollar from the U.S. perspective (4.80/4.00). In other words, for every euro spent on hamburgers in France, $0.83 would have to be spent in the United States to obtain the same quantity and quality—that is, the same volume—of hamburgers.”
In other words, PPP helps us not to gauge an economy in isolation, but to compare it to other economies around the world. Since it provides a common currency standard for comparing prices between countries it can help to get at the hard-to-measure pricing advantage that developing nations have over developed nations in domestic goods. Unfortunately, it doesn't take into account the corresponding disadvantage that developing nations have in purchasing import goods, which are not priced in domestic currency but contingent on exchange rates, and completely fails to reflect the overall poverty of a nation. Thus, newly-released PPP figures show India has leapfrogged over several countries, including Japan, to become the world's third largest economy. However, it is not really the third largest economy, especially when the raw PPP number is divided among India's population of nearly a billion people. That yields a per capita PPP ranking of 127th in the world, which perhaps more accurately reflects the average economic clout of the average Indian citizen on the global stage.
We could go on to talk about other oft-cited indicators and their manipulation: PMIs, CPI, M1, GNP and a whole host of other acronym-laden economic numbers that are alternatively paraded before the public or swept under the rug depending on what story the latest figures tell about the state of the economy. But what about some of the other harbingers and signals that can be used to gauge where the economy is headed?
Earlier this year we talked about a strange parallel that was developing in the DJIA chart of 1928-1929 and 2012-2013, which seemed to be culminating in a 1929 style crash that would hit sometime in Q1 2014. That didn't happen, obviously, but the chart did make the rounds at the time. We've also discussed the “Hindenburg Omen,” the technical analysis pattern that supposedly predicts stock mark crashes. It's very tech-y, involving the NYSE 52 week highs and lows, the 10 week moving average and a negative McClellan Oscillator, but suffice it to say it has been historically reasonably successful in predicting a move of more than 5% to the downside within 30 days of its appearance. Last year there were at least two “confirmed” omens (two or more omens in a 30 day window), one in June and another in August, but again the big correction failed to materialize in the expected time frame. Either something is wrong with these predictors or something is wonky in the economy these days that is causing previously reliable indicators to become meaningless. Given the amount of tinkering in the economy by the Plunge Protection boys and the statistical manipulators and the high frequency traders these days, my money is on the latter.
Wolf Richter over at the Testosterone Pit has uncovered his own harbinger of economic destruction: a margin-debt reversal after a record-breaking spike. As he points out on his own blog, the stock market crashed the last two times this happened, in March 2000 when margin debt hit 2.66% of GDP before an April decline and subsequent dotcom crash, and July 2007 when it hit 2.6% of GDP before an August decline and subsequent housing crash. Now in February of this year margin debt hit an all-time record high of 2.73% of GDP before a March decline. So are we about to see a crash? And if so, where? Richter is pointing to the housing bubble 2.0 and noting that home sales are slipping and inventories rising in six previously hot markets, so perhaps we're already seeing the leading edge of such a crash. The real worry, of course, is the bond bubble, the largest (and intentionally inflated) bubble in history as even the Bank of England admits. Once rates start spiking, it's time to get your escape plan in order.
Yet another ominous indicator comes from a different, and somewhat unlikely source: Thomas Piketty, the darling of the 21st century Keynesian/Marxian crowd. He's the author of the viral economic superhit (is there really such a thing, or are we just being told that there is?) Capital in the Twenty-First Century. He points to rising income inequality in the US to make an argument for a host of new income and wealth taxes that he believes will get the economy back on track (along with a revamped governmental bureaucracy), hence the Keynesian/Marxian approval. However, as a compelling article by Hunter Lewis on the Mises Daily blog notes, the 100 year chart of US income inequality from 1910-2010 does not show a steadily rising degree of income inequality, but in fact two significant spikes where the top 10% of income earners accounted for 50% of the national income. One such spike occurred in 1929, right before the crash, and the other in 2008, right before the crash. Perhaps worryingly, the number is now spiking toward the 50% level again, another potential indicator of a coming downturn.
So with all of this dark, ominous news, is there any ray of sunshine in the economic world? Any indicator that points to good times ahead? Never fear, Business Insider has found one! Thoroughbred sales! As silly as it sounds, BI is noting that sales at Keeneland, the leading thoroughbred horse auctioneer, tracked the recessions of 1990-1991 and 2008-2009 accurately and provide a convincing proxy for investment in nonresidential real estate (minus one year). The causal mechanism, they say, is confidence related. Thoroughbreds are a big ticket speculative investment, and no one wants to take on the burden of buying one during a downturn. So rising sales means a rising economy (or so the theory goes).
So what does the thoroughbred auction indicator say these days? Apparently there's nothing to worry about, everyone! Median prices at this year's April auction hit an all-time high of $200,000 per horse, a 30% spike from last year, so let the good times roll!
I'm not exactly betting the farm on the horse sale indicator myself, but I have to say I do trust it quite a bit more than I trust the chimps running the Fed, so here's to hoping we're in for a good year! 

BP left exposed as Russia warns of sanctions over Ukraine
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
BP is being drawn ever deeper into its costly Russian venture with oil giant Rosneft, quietly extending a five-year loan to help the company lower debt costs despite escalating US sanctions against Russia.
The move leaves BP increasingly exposed as the crisis spins further out of control in eastern Ukraine. Eleven cities are in the hands of pro-Russian paramilitary forces. The Ukrainian government openly admits that it has no means of regaining the region.
The Obama administration has already extended the sanctions blacklist to Rosneft’s chairman, Igor Sechin, a former KGB officer and chief architect of Russia’s energy strategy. A group of 20 Republican senators has introduced a bill on Capitol Hill calling for the company itself to be named as well, along with Gazprom, VTB bank, Sberbank, and Russian Railways, a move that would prevent any Western bank from handling its transactions.
The Russian newspaper Vedomosti said BP is providing a loan of $1.5bn (£880m) to $2bn jointly with the trading group Vitol to help Rosneft raise funds at a time when global capital markets are closed to Russian companies. BP owns 19.75pc of Rosneft equity under a legacy deal from its defunct TNK-BP venture. The company declined to comment on the loan, handled by Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Bank of China.
Sources close to BP say the arrangements pre-date the Ukraine crisis and are routine in the energy business. The loan is at 200 basis points over Libor. The original plan has been cut from $4bn as the geopolitical clash goes from bad to worse.
The loan comes after a threat by Russian president Vladimir Putin to hit back at Western oil and gas companies. “The Russian government has already proposed some retaliatory steps. I don’t consider these necessary. But if this continues, we will have to ask who is working and how in key sectors of the Russian economy, including energy,” he said.
The warning leaves BP with the invidious choice of putting more money at risk to show goodwill or trying to extricate itself and risking the wrath of the Kremlin. “It looks as if BP is taking out a hedge against retaliatory action,” said one banker.
Rosneft is the biggest traded oil company in the world, producing 2.5m barrels of crude and paying $75bn a year in taxes to the Russian state. The company’s spokesman, Mikhail Leontyev, said there was no truth to reports that it was facing trouble refinancing loans. Rosneft has slashed its debt by $10bn to $44.5bn since the BNK-BP deal and has a cash reserve of $20bn.
Russian banks, companies, and state bodies have $712bn of foreign debt, mostly in dollars. They must refinance an estimated $10bn a month. Chris Weafer, from Macro Advisory in Moscow, said the market has been shut since the crisis began. “Very little is rolling over. We are close to the point when the state’s Reserve Fund will have to step in to avoid the first defaults.”
Mr Weafer said the fund has $40bn to $50bn available for such contingencies. Russia’s foreign reserves have fallen by $50bn to $470bn since February if swap contracts are included, but are still ample.
A report by Fitch Ratings said Russia could muddle through for 12 to 18 months if the global market stays shut, with only six companies out of the 55 it covers facing potential trouble this year.
Mr Weafer said the risk is a return to late Soviet-era stagnation if the country remains cut off from foreign funding for long. Investment and Western technology is badly needed just to keep oil and gas output from falling, let alone for complex drilling in the Arctic “High North”.
Russian banks are heavily exposed to Ukraine where the risk of default lingers despite a $17bn bail-out package agreed by the International Monetary Fund, with an immediate payment of $3.2bn this week.
The controversial package offers no debt relief for Ukraine and imposes strict austerity measures that risk further inflaming the crisis on Ukraine’s streets. The country is already in depression.
The IMF tranches are “front-loaded” to help cope with the emergency, in stark contrast to past bail-outs when it demanded strict compliance from Kiev first. The fund said with studied understatement that Ukraine may need extra money if the country breaks apart, losing its industrial core in the east.
The IMF is in a delicate position. It is has agreed to lend eight times Ukraine’s quota – far more than normal loan packages – to a provisional government in what amounts to a civil war. It is acting as a financial fireman for what could appear to be Western strategic interests, though China has endorsed the bail-out. “This programme does have risks,” said the IMF’s managing-director, Christine Lagarde.


Lipstick Kills
By Bob Rinear
So we got the Non Farm Payroll report on Friday, and boy did they paint that pig. But before we dive into jobs, Ukraine and the worlds push to distance itself from the US, let us play here for a second. 
A week or so ago, I mentioned that we would start to see much better economic news hitting the wires. It wasn’t because the economy was warming up, because it isn’t. It wasn’t because the Fed’s QE programs had finally worked, they didn’t. It was because our Government is corrupt to a level one generally associates with old world Russia. See, Obama’s legacy is one of abject failure. His approval rating is in the toilet, and the Democrats that stood by his side for years are now facing a mid term election that many will lose. 
The Government won’t fix the economy. They could if they did the right things, but therein lies the problem…our band of misfit criminals will not do the right things. Ever. So, since they cannot truly fix anything, what they can do is lie about it, and ESPECIALLY….drive the stock market higher. Because most people have been trained to think that a rising market means the economy is good, the directive from the “top” has been to keep this pig all shined up. Spackle it with lipstick. Make it squeal. That way the Dem’s can point to it and say “see, the stock market is up on our policies! You’re 401K is up because of us and Obama! We’re really great don’t ya see??” 
So Friday we got the jobs report. We supposedly gained 288K jobs. That is the number you will hear for the next five days or so, over and over and over. Yet it is a complete fabrication. The BLS “birth/death” model added 234K jobs to that total. Jobs that don’t exist.  For all of you who don't know what that is, here's the Readers Digest version of it in a nutshell. The powers to be figure that for every "X" amount of people laid off from a job, some percentage of those people will go out and open a business and hire folks. Now there's no proof these jobs might exist, no tax receipts or any 1099's or anything. It's just a wild assed guess. This month they guessed that these unemployed people with too much debt, no savings...went out and hired 235K people. Yeah. Right. You bet they did.
But, just making up fake jobs is nothing really. What is more important is the conclusions drawn from the “real” numbers. For instance labor force participation fell to its lowest level IN RECORDED HISTORY. This is where we got the big drop in the unemployment rate from 6.7% to just 6.3%. See folks, when they changed the way unemployment is measured so they could make it look better, they determined that if someone “gave up” looking for a job, they were no longer considered unemployed. Wow. Really? Really. So, 806K people simply gave up looking for work. 
Wait it gets better. If you break down the reporting, you see some insanely disturbing things. The only people getting hired are “old people”. The 25 – 55 year old segment actually lost about 200K jobs. But you will NOT hear that on your 6 pm news. Your pretty blonde news anchor will breathlessly tell you how wonderful the economy is recovering, how unemployment is at 2008 levels and how we’re creating “almost 300K jobs per month”. And every word is a huge lie with a dump truck full of lipstick. 
As we move closer to the November elections, you can absolutely expect more ridiculous Government statistics. That is, unless we are bogged down in a true war with Russia. At that point there will be no elections and Obama will declare emergency rights and become the dictator he’s always dreamed of being. 
If you’ve been reading my letters for any length of time, you know that I’m calling for a global ‘reset” on the currency front. This isn’t something I dreamed up yesterday or some band wagon I hopped on because someone else thought of it. Way back in 2011 when the first vicious attacks on gold took place, we explained the whole US dollar/China problem and laid out what we saw as “coming down the pike”. Well what we saw was China telling the US it was tired of them debasing the dollar, and that they wanted a way to use up dollars for a real asset, mainly gold. With Gold rising so much, it was putting tremendous pressure on the US dollar, so we killed two birds with one stone. We manipulated the price of gold downwards, to get the weak hands to sell it and stop competing with dollars, and it let the Chinese exchange worthless dollars, for the asset they actually wanted instead of wholesale dumping them on the global market and destroying us. 
Now some three years later, we’re so close to “it” happening you can smell it, feel it, almost touch it. The Chinese have aligned themselves with multiple nations to do business in the Yuan ( their money) and bypassing the need for the US dollar. Do not forget the whole reason that the US dollar is the Global reserve currency is because EVERYONE needs oil, and oil could only be purchased with dollars. This was the “peto-dollar” that was set up decades ago. Thus, every nation had to keep a stock pile of US dollars so they could import oil. 
Well China makes no bones about the fact they don’t’ want dollars. They want their own currency to be an important global player and they want to ultimately back it with Gold. So, they’ve created alliances around the world to do trade in native currencies instead of the dollar. We are literally just days from “full convertibility” where the Yuan will be exchangeable for any currency.  They see a day where a yuan, backed by gold, will be seen as the most stable global currency, and no more will US politicians be able to just create all the dollars they want. 
But now the situation has accelerated. The botched “coup” of Ukraine by the US and the European monetary dopes, has pushed Russia and China ever closer. Russia knows full well it cannot trust the slimy US politicians, and that 90% of what he’s done is twisted and bent into making him out as a ghoul, a KGB strongman, a tyrannical despot. He’s tired of our BS and rightfully so. Thus, they’ve been turning their sights east. Forget the West. 
Trade between Iran and China was estimated at 45 billion last year. Not a penny of it in US dollars. Russia has a 20 billion dollar a year “oil for goods” program with Iran, and again not a penny of it in US dollars. Whether we look at Brazil, Iran, Turkey,North Korea, etc you see that Russia is actively making deals, all with the aim of Supplying energy to areas outside of Europe. Consider this folks, the Russians have agreed to dismiss 10 billion in Soviet era debt by North Korea, in return for agreements to run pipelines and rail to South Korea, parts of China, and even Japans northern Islands. NONE of that will include using a penny in US funds. 
Here’s the bottom line. Parts of the world that produce “real” assets like oil, coal, copper, etc are dog tired of having to deal with dollars, dollars that our Fed destroys the buying power of. They’re tired of “exchange” rates that change daily because the global currency isn’t fixed to something solid like Gold, instead it “floats” minute by minute. So, just to do a deal they have to watch the tickers every minute to see where currencies are trading just to lock in a deal. They’re tired of it all. They’re smart, they want to “peg” a currency to gold and set a price that their currency will ALWAYS be worth. And it is coming, sooner than most think. 
I suggest that sometime this month, yes in May, Russia is going to announce a sweeping deal with China concerning supplying them with enormous amounts of natural gas and even oil. I also think that we’ll hear from China that they’ve set up much stronger alliances with the Saudi’s, as those oil producing nations read the writing on the wall and abandon the US. 
Thus our guess is that the US didn’t foment this Ukraine coup solely to place Nato forces closer to Russia’s borders. Sorry, the risk wasn’t worth the reward. This was the desperate measures of a nation in decline. A lashing out, like a young boy who’s no longer included in the neighborhood clique, and is on the outside looking in. They can’t fix the dollar, they can’t stop China. All they can hope is to disrupt the alliances, get Europe to stand firm with us in defending the dollar and the Euro, and if war is the way, war it will be. 
The US realizes that the dollar standard is on the ropes. The US understands that the moment that the globe no longer needs Benji bucks, we’re finished. We’re cornered like a rat, and now the teeth are out and the claws sharpened. It is sad to watch this once proud gal, sinking into desperation. It didn’t have to happen, and when the storms all pass and the dust settles, I truly hope enough people are finally jarred awake to finally begin to understand what has been done to them, and why we lost the greatest country ever created on this planet. 
So, the lies will continue. Russia will be portrayed as the big bad bear, with a madman at the helm. Our Economic reports will be tarted up like a London prostitute. The people will be given more football and Kardashians to distract them from the fact that their parents had good jobs and careers, while they happen to live in mom’s basement living on EBT cards. Our taxes will rise to pay for the millions of unemployed, while inflation will eat our buying power. Meanwhile China and Russia will become joined at the hip and create a “petro-yuan” that is backed by gold. 
Just understand this folks. Here’s the point. The economy is a black hole, and the Fed’s plans have failed us. Yes they’ve kept the heart beating in a zombie economy, but it needs a constant flow of juice to keep it going. Economic reports will be doctored to look better than they are, while bankers allow subprime to dominate the lending scene. We’re into the desperation portion of the decline, and their ability to do stupid things will astound you. Use your head and think clearly. Don’t get swept up in any craziness. Continue to swap out of dollars and into real assets. Buy gold and silver on this latest smack down. If there’s a particular real estate you’ve wanted, consider it. 
A lot of things are going to play out over the next two years, and some of it could be dramatic. Play safe. 

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Going Postal: Gov-co Stocks up on Ammo 
By Alfred Adask
Going postal just took on a whole new meaning.  Apparently, Postal Emloyees are no longer content to shoot each other and are therefore preparing to shoot the public.
  We know this because the USPS has joined the list of federal agencies that are stocking up on ammunition and firearms. 
  For example, the Social Security Administration put in a request for 174,000 rounds of .357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow-point bullets.  Do they fear that the retirees are about to grab their walkers and storm the SSA buildings?
  The Department of Agriculture requested 320,000 rounds.   Do they fear farmers and ranchers-or an attack by cows and pigs?
  The Department of Homeland Security has requested 450 million rounds.  That's enough bullets to shoot every American about 1.5 times.
  The FBI has sought 100 million hollow-point rounds.
  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also requested 46,000 rounds.  Why does a weather service need ammunition?
  To date, some two billion rounds of ammunition have been purchased or ordered by a variety of domestic federal agencies. 
  If only one agency purchased ammunition, we might write it off as an aberration.  But when seemingly inexplicable purchases are made by a significant number of agencies, we can assume we are witnessing evidence of a general governmental policy.  It's not just the FBI, DHS or even the USPS that wants to stockpile ammo-it's the government, itself.
  As a result of this stockpiling, many wonder what government has planned for the American people.  Confusion and conspiracy theories abound.
  Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said: 
  "We're seeing a highly unusual amount of ammunition being bought by the federal agencies over a fairly short period of time. To be honest, I don't understand why the federal government is buying so much at this time.  I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but [purchasing all this ammunition] doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  The amount of ammunition they're buying up far exceeds their needs. It far exceeds what they'll use-they'll never use it all."
  Well, let's hope Gottlieb is right.  Let's hope the government will never use all of those bullets within The United States of America.
  But Gottlieb can't be right when he says that purchasing all this ammunition "doesn't make a whole lot of sense."  
  In fact, major purchases of ammunition by a wide variety of domestic governmental agencies costs money.  The government is largely broke.  It won't spend more money if it doesn't have to.   It seems extremely unlikely that government would spend so much money on ammo without a compelling reason to do so. 
  The government is generally distrusted and viewed with contempt.  It's on shaky political ground.  The political implication of domestic governmental agencies stockpiling all that ammunition is that government is preparing for a major armed conflict within the USA.  Thus, those purchases must cause a further loss of public confidence in the government.  It seems extremely unlikely that government would risk the political fallout of purchasing so much ammo without a compelling reason to do so. 
  Purchasing all that ammunition may seem incomprehensible to most Americans.  However, given the financial and political costs associated with stockpiling two billion rounds of ammunition, it's apparent that those purchases must "make a whole lot of sense" to somebody in a very high position of power.  
  Gottlieb may be right to say that purchasing all of that ammunition doesn't make sense under current, publicly-perceived economic and political conditions.  
  But maybe government isn't looking at current conditions.  Maybe government is instead looking forward towards a moment when future conditions may become conducive to widespread social disorder and even public violence against government. 
  To understand those possible future conditions, let's consider reasons why government might stockpile two billion rounds of ammo. I can imagine three: 
  • ¥ To subsidize the ammunition industry;
  • ¥ To reduce the supply of bullets so the public can't buy them;
  • ¥ To stock up on bullets to be used to attack or defend against the American people. 
Clearly, the anti-gun-rights Obama administration is not intending to subsidize the ammunition industry.
  Reducing the public's supply of ammunition presupposes that the government
expects an armed conflict with the public and wants the people disarmed. Stocking billions of bullets implies that the government expects an armed conflict with the public and wants to ensure that gov-co has enough ammo to deal with potentially
millions of armed dissidents.  I.e., gov-co doesn't need billions of bullets to deal with a few "lone gunmen".  Gov-co needs billions to deal with, at least, tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, potentially several million armed Americans who are furious with, and firing at, government.Billions of bullets implicitly anticipates a widespread public revolt.
   Whatever the exact explanation for stockpiling two billion rounds of ammunition may be, it seems certain that the government views the probability of a widespread and violent confrontation with the American people as growing.
  OK-why might such confrontation take place? 
  • ¥ Because Congressmen are corrupt?
  • ¥ Because Obama is black?
  • ¥ Because taxes are too high?
  • ¥ Because liberty is being lost?   Or,
  • ¥ Because the economy has collapsed, people are starving and therefore rioting against government?
As Bill Clinton once said, "It's the economy, stupid."
  Americans don't much care about corruption, the President's race (or even place of birth), taxes or liberty.  They care about their money, standard of living and the economy.   If there's going to be a violent confrontation between government and the people, that confrontation will be based on some sort of sudden and significant economic decline or even collapse.
  Government's purchase of two billion bullets for the apparent purpose of shooting the public, indicates that government fears a near-term decline in the US economy that's sufficiently sudden and deep to cause lots of people to shoot. 
  Therefore, I don't view government's purchase of two billion bullets as a political anomaly or irrational act.  I see it as a reliable economic indicator that tells us that
government believes there's a growing probability that an economic collapse may soon occur that's sufficient to trigger widespread violence.
  *  We can have a scholarly (or heated) debate on the economic significance of the unemployment rate, the inflation rate, and the price of gold.  When that debate is over, we can go home, order a pizza and watch some TV.
  But it's hard to engage in a scholarly debate on the economic significance of domestic government agencies buying two billion bullets.  Two billion bullets tells us that it's not time for pizza-it's time to stockpile whatever you can afford that you think you'll need if the economy tanks:  food, water, guns, ammo, silver and gold. You needn't believe me.  But you should certainly consider the economic and political implications of multiple government agencies seeking to purchase over two billion rounds of ammo.   Those purchases cause predictions of economic collapse to rise from the level of mere conspiracy theories to the level of a government-validated, growing probability.  

Rents Soar To Record High As Homeownership Rate Plunges To 19 Year Low
By Tyler Durden
Each quarter, when we perform our regular update on trends in US homeownership and rents using Census Bureau data, we say that "The American Homeownership Dream is officially dead. Long live the New Normal American Dream: Renting." One thing we added in 2013 is that the American Dream has now officially became a full-blown nightmare after mortgage rates exploded, even if declining modestly afterward, and in the process pummeling the affordability of housing as well as grounding any new mortgage-funded transactions to a complete halt (don't believe us - just ask the tens of thousands of mortgage brokers let go by the TBTF banks in the past 6 months) while sending mortgage origination activity to record lows. Which is why it was not at all surprising to find that the just updated Q1 homeownership rate was 64.8% - the lowest in 19 years!

Two Giant Banks, Seen as Immune, Become Targets
Federal prosecutors are nearing criminal charges against some of the world’s biggest banks, according to lawyers briefed on the matter, a development that could produce the first guilty plea from a major bank in more than two decades.
In doing so, prosecutors are confronting the popular belief that Wall Street institutions have grown so important to the economy that they cannot be charged. A lack of criminal prosecutions of banks and their leaders fueled a public outcry over the perception that Wall Street giants are “too big to jail.”
Addressing those concerns, prosecutors in Washington and New York have met with regulators about how to criminally punish banks without putting them out of business and damaging the economy, interviews with lawyers and records reviewed by The New York Times show.
The new strategy underpins the decision to seek guilty pleas in two of the most advanced investigations: one into Credit Suisse for offering tax shelters to Americans, and the other against France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, over doing business with countries like Sudan that the United States has blacklisted. The approach applies to American banks, though those investigations are at an earlier stage.
In the talks with BNP, which has a huge investment bank in New York, prosecutors in Manhattan and Washington have outlined plans to extract a criminal guilty plea from the bank’s parent company, according to the lawyers, who were not authorized to speak publicly. If BNP is unable to negotiate a lesser punishment — the bank has enlisted the support of high-ranking French officials to pressure prosecutors — the case could counter congressional criticism that arose after the British bank HSBC escaped similar charges two years ago.
Such criminal cases hinge on the cooperation of regulators, some who warned that charging HSBC could have prompted the revocation of the bank’s charter, the corporate equivalent of the death penalty. Federal guidelines require prosecutors to weigh the broader economic consequences of charging corporations.

Exclusive: Meet the Secret Fed Cybersecurity Unit Keeping Trillions of Dollars Safe From Hackers
If the U.S. central banking system is ever hit with a crippling cyber attack, a group of roughly 100 government employees working in a three-story fortress-like building next door to a Buick dealership in East Rutherford, N.J., will be among the first to know about it. That's where, almost entirely out of sight, a team from the Federal Reserve System's crack cyber security unit is constantly on watch for malicious hackers, criminals, and spies trying to breach the computer networks of the Fed, its regional banks, and some of the most critical financial infrastructure in America.

Statement Regarding Purchases of Treasury Securities and Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities
On April 30, 2014, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) directed the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to purchase additional agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) at a pace of about $20 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of about $25 billion per month, beginning in May 2014.  The FOMC also directed the Desk to maintain its existing policies of reinvesting principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of agency debt and agency MBS in agency MBS and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.  The Committee’s sizable and still-increasing holdings of longer-term securities should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative. 
Purchases of agency MBS will continue to be concentrated in newly-issued agency MBS in the To-Be-Announced (TBA) market, and purchases of longer-term Treasury securities will continue to be distributed using the existing set of sectors and approximate weights.  For operational efficiency, the Desk will reduce the number of individual Treasury operations per month.  The distributions of agency MBS and Treasury purchases could change if market conditions warrant. 

Are You Ready for a Driver’s License for the Internet?
By Colin Wood
The White House is leading efforts for a new authentication system that would have users prove their identity with a single ID across the Web. And states are starting to pilot the system.
Government is raising its expectations. While it hasn’t been uncommon in the past for governments to consider money wasted by fraud, mismanagement or inefficiency as an expense of doing business, times are changing. New technologies are preventing such waste and initiating cultural change in the public sector. At the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), that transformation is being realized through the adoption of an online authentication tool the agency is using to ensure that the benefits it issues, like food assistance, are going to the right people.
Such incarnations of online authentication technology are sprouting up in state government agencies around the country, led by a White House vision of a new, central form of identification, what some are calling “a driver’s license for the Internet.”
The DCF reported that in 2013 it saved about $14.7 million through the use of an online authentication tool, with an initial investment of about $1 million and a total contract of just under $3 million. The tool and subscription service was purchased from LexisNexis and operates similarly to the systems used by financial institutions to verify the identity of loan or mortgage applicants. Now when people apply for various programs online, they are prompted with identity verification questions about their previous employers or the names of streets where they lived.
The DCF says the technology is saving so much money because it saves staff the time of verifying identities manually, and even better, there’s been a reduction in cases of identity fraud.
The agency began its move to online services in 2012, said Andrew McClenahan, director of the Office of Public Benefits Integrity at DCF. “It’s changing the way that people are looking at public assistance fraud and how to maintain the integrity of these public benefits systems," he said. "[It’s] changing the mindset that fraud is no longer considered a cost of doing business. These modernizations, data analysis and predictive modeling and now this customer authentication tool that works with identity verification, these are all realities that we as a state and other states are having to face, and I think it’s here to stay.”
The move away from authenticating people in person began two years ago when the state started centralizing its physical offices to one per county. That move, McClenahan said, prompted more online usage, but also introduced a new problem: The state had no reliable way of verifying identity online and the result was a lot of waste – wasted time and wasted benefits issued to illegitimate applicants. So the agency began piloting the system in Orlando, and in August 2013, the system was spread throughout the state.
It was important to get away from the old model, McClenahan said, and it’s easy to see why. Fraud and abuse of government services in general has been common for years, and especially so in Florida. In 2007, federal officials randomly visited 1,600 businesses in Miami that had billed for “durable medical equipment” and found that 481 of those businesses didn’t even exist, accounting for $237 million of fraud in just one year.
In 2012, the attorney general announced that the Medicare Fraud Strike Force had arrested more than 100 people, including doctors, nurses and other health professionals, accounting for more than $452 million in fraud across seven cities.
These instances of fraud, enabled for decades by a lack of government oversight or technological wherewithal, has cost taxpayers untold sums. In 2010, the Government Accountability Office released a report in which it identified $48 billion in “improper payments” for the previous year.
But, of course, fraud doesn’t only happen in Florida. In 2011, the White House started looking at the issue differently when it released the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). The program outlines a framework for an online identity verification system that would attempt to reduce fraud, while creating a convenient way, federal officials say, for Internet users to prove their identity, without the need to remember passwords. The New York Times called it “a driver’s license for the Internet.” Even better, the White House reported that such a system would improve the Web economy by bolstering public confidence in security and authentication of online businesses and services.
In fall 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the agency overseeing the program, awarded $1.3 million and $1.1 million in pilot funding to Michigan and Pennsylvania, respectively. Rather than develop entirely new systems or even some form of comprehensive Internetwide identification system, the implementations in each state look at how existing systems can be used to simplify authentication across departments. These pilots are just the beginning – NIST is awarding pilot funding to 10 additional organizations, which will be announced in August.
Pennsylvania is developing an implementation that would allow users to operate a single identity across state departments, rather than requiring users to manage usernames and passwords for each department, which is the case today. In a pilot scheduled to run from this spring through September, Deloitte will bridge various departments and agencies, each of which would require varying levels of authentication on behalf of the user, according to GCN. For example, if a user only wants a fishing license, he could simply authenticate his identity at a low level, but if he later wanted to use that same online ID for welfare benefits, he would need to raise the authentication level by providing more information in order to access those services. But he would only need one set of credentials to access any state service.
In a pilot scheduled to run May to September, Michigan will use the funding to establish an online authentication system for residents who use its MI Bridges portal to access services like food and cash assistance programs, the same kinds of services for which Florida developed its authentication system.
Identity verification for MI Bridge is done manually today using several different types of identity proofing to verify each applicant. For that reason, there's little fraud in that program, according to an agency spokesperson. However, reducing the work needed to verify the identity of an online user could save the agency money.
Michigan's project is expected to operate similarly to the system that was launched in Florida’s DCF, asking the user various questions similar to what might be seen during an online application for a mortgage or loan.
The success of the NSTIC pilots will be determined by analysis conducted by nonprofit RTI International, funded with $300,000 from NIST. The organization will compare the efficacy of the new system compared to the old manual processes of identity verification. If the pilots are successful, they could end up being the first step toward a single set of standardized credentials that Internet users provide to prove who they are.
A single ID that can be used across the entire Internet is an idea that has been talked about for a long time, and since the 1980s, the technology world has known that the password model is inadequate, said technology analyst Rob Enderle. A single set of credentials that could be used to verify identity would be far superior to what's used today, he said, and the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace would lead the Internet toward that goal.
“Given that we don’t have that on the Web and there is a substantial amount of fraud and identity theft going to the core of it, having a validatable ID is, you would think, a very high priority,” Enderle said. “It should be a higher priority than it is.”
This isn’t just a good idea, Enderle said, it’s a necessity. “If you can’t create a method to ensure a person is who they say they are, then you really can’t secure bank accounts, identities, anything that’s done on the Web,” he said. “Moving to something else would seem to be decades overdue.”
Though the White House created the program to begin research around such a system, the government is generally not good at developing these kinds of technologies or working within a fast timeframe, Enderle said – a successful technology like this needs to come from the private sector.
“It has to be driven by the market. Remember, we were supposed to be on the metric standard decades ago and we aren’t,” he said. “There have to be some penalties involved for not doing it. I think after a couple major breaches where the liability is passed to the organization that didn’t properly assure the identities of the people that were accessing it, that motivation will probably drop into place.”
The technology for this is here, Gartner analyst Avivah Litan said, it’s just a matter of getting the market properly aligned. “People have been talking about it for years,” Litan said. “The main issue is you have to get identity providers standing behind it and backing up the identities, and you have to solve the business model. In other words, if they get the identity wrong, who’s liable? It’s a great concept, but it hasn’t taken place because no one’s willing to be the identity provider or issue the identity. It’s not a technology issue, it’s a business issue.”
Proposed legislation in the United Kingdom shows that the market is demanding better authentication online, not just to curtail fraud, but to restrict access to certain content. The proposed law would require that websites hosting adult content take better measures of authenticating age than just using the honor system. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is the existing legislation that requires U.S. websites hosting adult content to require the user to enter an adult’s age before proceeding, a standard that websites in other countries also have adopted. But the problem is that it simply doesn’t keep young users out. A quick lie is all that’s needed to proceed. The thinking behind the proposed legislation is that the rules that apply offline should also apply online.
Not everyone thinks a driver’s license for the Internet is a great idea. Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is skeptical whether the government’s main motivation with such a program would even be fraud prevention – and not tracking.
“We think it’s a terrible idea,” Tien said. “The main substantive issue is that much of what we do on the Internet is plain old speech: writing comments, posting on blogs or whatever. And one of the things about speech in the United States, especially under the First Amendment of the Constitution, is that you have a right to speak anonymously. The EFF has long believed that it’s really important to preserve and protect that right to speak anonymously on the Internet. Any mandatory type of ID online runs really directly counter to that.”
Even a voluntary online ID could be problematic, Tien said. If the ID became popular, it could still become a de facto requirement that people would need to access a variety of services, and the result, again, would be loss of privacy and anonymity. The thing that’s unclear about such a solution, he said, is how this form of authentication would prevent various types of fraud in a way that others cannot. If there is a difference, Tien said he doesn’t know what it is.
“One of the great things about modern cryptography is that if it’s implemented well, you can have highly secure transactions, and you can have cryptographic proof for verification as to whether or not a person is or isn’t who they represent themselves to be in a mathematically secure manner,” he said. “A lot of times the issue is not fraud. The issue for government is that they want to track, regardless of fraud.”

Speculative fever is back to 2008, with compound interest
We are in a colossal bubble once again. It is worse than 2008 on many indicators, though the epicentre of risk is ever more concentrated in sovereign debt, especially the debt of those countries without a central bank (you all know who I mean).
Today’s chart from Andrew Lapthorne as Societe Generale is remarkable. It tracks the nominal yield on a classic mix of different assets held by funds. The return on SG’s Quality Index is close to an all-time low of 2.4pc (though this of course pick up pre-deflation fears, as well as speculative mania).
He says there has been a rotation out of momentum stocks – ie, the US tech sector – and into value stocks and those with high dividend yield. That is not as comforting as it sounds.

This week’s Closing Numbers

Weekly change
S & P
Natural Gas
Swiss Fr
Canadian Dollar
Disclaimer:  IF does Not make a market in any of these securities nor does it have any incentive relationship with any of the listed securities.  IF does Not own any of the listed securities.   All investors are encouraged to discuss all transactions with their financial advisers before making any purchases to be sure they fit their financial objectives & goals. Investors should understand all risks associated with buying & selling securities as well options transactions.   Investors should abide by money management principals & never risk more than they can afford to lose. 

LONG    LIST  05-01-2014

As of the close Thursday May 01, 2014 We advise subscribers to consider the following 
LONG POSITIONS.  The first price is where we recommend Buying, the second is the objective, & the third is today's price.

Agnico Eagle................(AEM)..............45.32..................76.00...................29.58
Pretium Resources.......(PVG)...............15.29..................16.00....................6.36
Coca Cola......................(KO)..................39.62..................50.00..................40.79
United Armour................(UA)...................57.35................135.00................102.26**
                        ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 102.26   Profit taken
Exxon Mobile..................(XOM)................88.20................112.00.................101.41
Kinder Morgan...............(KMP)................81.16..................92.00..................75.37
                         ** Position Sold 04-10-2014  @133.98  Profit taken 
Valero Energy.................(VLO)................40.73..................72.00...................57.70
Sherwin Williams............(SHW)..............142.00................225.00............... 190.11**
                        ** Position Sold 04-10-2016 @ 190.11 Profit taken
Campbell Soup...............(CPB)................35.09.................50.00....................45.22
Dollar General................(DG)...................50.07.................71.00.....................56.65
Anheuser Busch.............(BUD).................95.35................125.00..................106.67
                       ** Position Sold 04-12-2014 @ 72.46  Profit taken 
Eli Lilly.............................(LLY)...................50.90.................65.00..................59.52
                        ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 59.16  Profit taken
General Electric.............(GE)....................22.43..................35.00..................26.76
Sirius Radio...................(SIRI)...................2.72......................5.00....................3.10**
                          ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 3.10 Profit taken         
                           ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 77.51 Profit taken             
General Mills..................(GIS)...................49.31..................70.00...................52.68
                             ** Position Sold 04-24-2014@ 96.02  Profit taken
Kellogg Co......................(K)......................64.43..................82.00...................65.38
Clorox Co.......................(CLX)...................88.53..................122.00................89.41
Bristol Myers..................(BMY)..................41.18...................72.00..................49.30**
                         ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 49.30  Profit taken
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD)............12.84....................27.00...................17.18**
                         ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 17.18  Profit taken
Papa John Pizza..........(PZZA)..............61.43.....................75.00...................44.29
J C Pennys......................(JCP).................5.98.......................15.00.................8.52**
                               ** Position Sold 04-10-2014 @ 8.52  Profit taken      

                           This is a direct Hedge against a Depreciating U.S. Dollar.
                               *** 1.   Swiss Foreign Government Bonds ***                                      .
                                   *** 2.  Australian Foreign Government Bonds***
                                   *** 3.   New Zealand Foreign Government Bonds***   
There are various Maturity dates  & various coupons.  Check with your financial adviser for further data,  or contact International Forecaster for more information.

AS of the close Thursday May 01, 2014 We advise subscribers to consider the following  SHORT  POSITIONS

Intuitive Surgical..........(ISRG)....................386.78................250.00...................540.63*
                                       * position closed 04-03-2014 @ 540.63
Tesla Motors.................(TSLA)..................147.53....................80.00...................207.93
                                  * positioned closed 03-06-2014 @ 1364.40


Britain should leave the EU if Europe's judges trample on our basic protections
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has come close to destroying the last good reason for Britain to stay in the European Union. Judges in Luxembourg seem no longer willing to uphold the integrity of the EU single market. Or rather, they seem complicit in subverting it.
Stripping away a veneer of technicalities, the ECJ has signalled in a test ruling on the Financial Transaction Tax that it will not defend the City of London against assault by eurozone states, who are determined to muscle through their economic ideology, even when in breach of the "Four Freedoms" that have always underpinned the European Project. One of them is free moment of capital within the EU.
"They are playing with fire," said Mats Persson, from Open Europe, a body that has been warning for months that this case is a watershed moment for Britain's future in Europe.
The judges could hardly have acted with more explosive effect in the insurrectional climate gripping the UK, just three weeks before the electoral reckoning in late May. It is a gift for UKIP's Nigel Farage, his party already leading both Labour and the Tories at 31pc - and soon to have far too many euro MPs to fit in its favourite little dining room at la Tête de Lard in Strasbourg. How many times must Britain must be "kicked in the teeth by the ECJ", he asked, before we all agree that enough is enough?
The case is not about the rights and wrongs of this so-called Tobin Tax, which levies a 0.1pc fee on sales of stocks and 0.01pc on derivatives. "It is a matter of whether Britain can still trust the ECJ to uphold the single market. There are other cases pending that may be even more important," said Mr Persson.

German Businesses Urge Halt on Sanctions Against Russia
Angela Merkel is carrying a clear message from Germany's business lobby to the White House: No more sanctions.
Several of the biggest names in German business—including chemical giant BASF SE, engineering group Siemens AG, Volkswagen AG, Adidas AG and Deutsche Bank AG—have made their opposition to broader economic sanctions against Russia clear in recent weeks, both in public and in private. 
As a result, Germany's position on additional, tougher sanctions is unlikely to shift, barring a dramatic escalation of the conflict in Ukraine—a message Ms. Merkel is expected to deliver to President Barack Obama when they meet in Washington on Friday, officials in Berlin say.

BoE warns that housing bubble risks derailing economy
The Bank of England has given its strongest warning yet that a housing bubble threatens to derail the UK economy, saying that spiralling property prices were “the brightest [hazard] light” on its dashboard.
In a speech in London on Thursday evening, Sir Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor, said the danger signs resembled “a movie that has been seen more than once in the UK”.

Man-made earthquakes Pumped up
Oil extraction may have triggered fatal earthquakes in Italy
In May 2011 something routine happened at the Cavone oilfield in northern Italy. Padana Energia, its operator, started pumping more high-pressure water into their wells, to squeeze more oil out. This unremarkable event may, though, have had remarkable consequences. A year later, on May 20th and 29th 2012, two nearby earthquakes killed 27 people and injured hundreds more. A report made public on April 15th by the International Commission on Hydrocarbon Exploration and Seismicity in the Emilia Region (ICHESE), a six-strong panel of geoscientists, says the pumping and the earthquakes may be connected.
Most earthquakes are caused by movements in geological faults, places where two bodies of rock are being pushed in different directions but nevertheless remain (mostly) locked together by friction. When the pushing becomes forceful enough to overcome the friction, however, the fault slips, the pent-up energy is released and the earth quakes.

Struggling Italian economy poses potential threat to whole of Europe
Italy could quickly descend into chaos if new government fails to turn around struggling economy, threatening whole of Europe
Italy may be the land of fast cars, high fashion and stunning design. But the country has been living the good life for far too long. It is now living on borrowed time.
Italy's economy is in dire straits. The country is struggling to emerge from its longest post-war recession. Unemployment is at record levels. The nation is burdened by a groaning mountain of public debt.
Italian politics remain a powder keg. Unless Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's centre-left government comes up with quick fixes, Italy will be heading for a new crisis. It could be the crisis that plunges the euro zone into a new realm of uncertainty and calamity.

Spain Economic Recovery 'Gathering Pace'
By Ciaran Giles
Spain's economic recovery will gather pace this year but unemployment is set to remain above 20 percent until 2017, according to government predictions Wednesday.
Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said Spain's economy should grow by 1.2 percent in 2014 and 1.8 percent in 2015 as the country recovers from a double-dip recession that ended late last year and destroyed millions of jobs. The growth figures were upwardly revised from the previous predictions of 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent.
De Guindos said the government hoped to reduce the unemployment rate from 26.1 percent at the close of 2013 to 24.9 percent this year, and 23.3 percent in 2015. However, it won't be until 2017 before unemployment falls below the 20 percent threshold.
Spain's economy, like others that have the euro as their currency, has suffered as the government imposed harsh austerity measures in order to get its public finances into shape. The country's Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro said the government was now aiming to achieve a 2014 budget deficit worth 5.5 percent of Spain's annual gross domestic product, down from a previously forecast 5.8 percent.
Predictions for the following years were left unchanged at 4.2 percent in 2015 and 2.8 percent in 2016 — just below the eurozone ceiling of 3 percent.
Spain's economy began to crumble in 2008 with the collapse of its bloated real-estate sector. Government spending cuts and tax increases as well as wide-ranging economic reforms has helped restore investor confidence and the country's borrowing costs have dropped from perilously high levels in 2012 to pre-crisis rates.
The government forecasts came on the day the National Statistics Institute said the economy grew at its fastest rate in six years in the first quarter. It said the economy expanded by 0.4 percent January through March, the best quarter since the first three-month period of 2008, when the economy grew by 0.5 percent.
The first quarter rate was double that of the previous three-month period.
Compared with a year earlier, the economy grew by 0.6 percent in the quarter, the first annual growth figure after nine quarters of contraction.

Probed Swiss bank UBS ‘bans staff from travelling to France’
UBS has asked several of its private banking staff to stay away from France, where the Swiss-based international bank is under investigation for alleged fraud, Swiss broadcaster RTS has reported.
According to “several sources” at UBS contacted by the Swiss broadcaster, a number of asset managers working with French clients were summoned for a meeting last month and urged to stop travelling to France.
RTS said the ban concerned up to “several dozen employees” and included family visits and shopping trips across the border between the two countries. Staff were reportedly threatened with dismissal if they did not comply.
The French authorities opened an investigation last June into alleged fraud committed by UBS. The bank is accused of illegally offering secret Swiss bank accounts to French clients so that they could evade tax.
A UBS spokeswoman declined to comment on the latest reports, telling Reuters: “There is an ongoing investigation; we are cooperating with the French authorities.”
The French probe is just the latest in a string of investigations targeting the Swiss bank.
In 2009, UBS agreed to pay $780 million in fines and give the names of thousands of clients to US authorities in order to avoid criminal prosecution over undisclosed bank accounts in Switzerland.

Switzerland, Norway are world's most expensive economies
By Krista Hughes
Switzerland and Norway are the world's most expensive economies, followed by Bermuda, Australia and Denmark, according to a new ranking by the World Bank.
The economies with the lowest prices are Egypt, Pakistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Laos, according to a review of economic data which seeks to compensate for exchange rate effects and measure spending power across countries.
The United States, the world's largest economy, was in relatively affordable 25th place, lower than most other high-income countries.
The richest countries, or those with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita on a purchasing power parity basis, were Qatar, Macao, Luxembourg, Kuwait, and Brunei.
Eight countries, including Malawi, Mozambique and Liberia, had GDP per capita of less than $1,000.
Almost half the world's $90.6 trillion in total economic output in 2011 came from low- and middle-income countries, the World Bank said.
Compared to the last time the exercise was done in 2005, with a slightly different methodology and mix of countries, middle-income countries gained a bigger share of the world economy, at the expense of both high- and low-income peers.


Japan’s Worst Auto Sales in 16 Months Show Hangover Begins
By Craig Trudell, Masatsugu Horie and Ma Jie
Call it Japan’s Great Hangover.
Vehicle deliveries last month in Asia’s second-largest auto market fell to the lowest since December 2012 after Japan raised its consumption tax for the first time 17 years, according to industry figures released yesterday. In the run-up to the levy being increased 3 percentage points to 8 percent on April 1, sales had surged for seven straight months.
More broadly, the figures may foreshadow the extent of the consumer backlash resulting from the higher taxes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe imposed to counter the world’s biggest debt burden. Economists estimate that this quarter, Japan will see its biggest economic contraction since the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country three years ago.
“Any sane person was buying big-ticket items in February or March rather than in April,” Martin Schulz, an economist at Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo, said by telephone. “The Japanese carmakers will have to prove how much they really can work this very difficult market.”
Total sales fell 5.5 percent to 345,226, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and Japan Mini Vehicle Association. The slump may deepen this month as poor weather prevented some customers, who placed orders before the sales tax increase, from getting their cars delivered until April.
Yearlong Slump
The delay made industry sales for April artificially high, and the numbers could turn “very grave” starting this month, Yoshitaka Hayashi, a director at the dealer association, told reporters yesterday.
Carmakers are bracing for a yearlong slump, with the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association’s forecasting a record 16 percent sales decline for the fiscal year ending in March 2015.
Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Mazda Motor Corp. delivered their fewest number of vehicles since 2011, according to the industry figures. Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru cars, saw sales tumble 41 percent to a record low, based on data stretching back to 1993.
Nissan Motor Co. (7201), Honda Motor Co., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. bucked the slump by posting gains. Sales rose 7.1 percent for Nissan, 12 percent for Honda, 11 percent for Suzuki and 27 percent for Mitsubishi.
Shares of Japanese automakers, except for Honda and Daihatsu Motor Co. (7262), fell today in Tokyo trading as the benchmark Topix Index slipped 0.1 percent.
March Binge
Prior to the April 1 tax increase, consumers went on a binge as they helped push deliveries to more than 783,000 vehicles in March, the highest monthly tally in eight years. Japanese household spending in March jumped the most since 1975, even though real disposable incomes for working families dropped 3.2 percent, according to government figures released today.
A prolonged slump would undercut the benefits that automakers such as Toyota -- headed for a record profit this fiscal year -- have reaped from exports due to a weaker yen.
“There may be a temporary hangover,” said Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst at Bloomberg Industries in Skillman, New Jersey. “Japanese automakers’ production and earnings are at risk.”
Department Stores
A slew of retail data will be released in the coming weeks will shed more light on Japan’s downturn in consumption. Takashimaya Co.’s department store sales dropped 13 percent in April and J. Front Retailing Co.’s Daimaru Matsuzakaya saw a 15 percent decline, according to the companies yesterday. Japanese department store same-store sales surged 25 percent in March, the biggest gain since 1989.
Manufacturers are reining in output and cutting orders after the sales-tax increase, the Markit Economics and Japan Materials Management Association said this week. Their purchasing managersâ index for manufacturing in Japan fell to 49.4 in April, the lowest in 14 months. A reading of less than 50 signals contraction.
In the corner of a Toyota dealership this week in Osaka, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of the company’s headquarters in Toyota City, a space usually reserved for celebrating customers’ purchases and seeing them off was occupied by a Prius waiting to be fixed.
“It’s been several months since we have been so free,” said Isao Nakamura, a sales manager at the dealership, who estimates orders fell about 20 percent in April.
The last time Japan increased its consumption tax -- to 5 percent from 3 percent -- in April 1997, domestic car sales dropped 15 percent and declined for 21 months in a row.


For nearly a decade May is the month in which we reflect on the many benefits of medicinal and culinary herbs. This year International Herb Day falls on May 3, 2014 and countries around the world will hold workshops and other events to educate people about the health benefits obtained from herbs. This celebratory day has expanded from a grassroots movement to improve health and overall well being to an international event. Just about every coalition, council and association involved with herbs is taking part in some way in Herb Day. Those with a passion for herbs have an opportunity to rub elbows with professionals from all facets of herb life; gardeners, authors, teachers and herbalists. What tidbit of information will Herb Day provide us this year? Let’s find out.
In 1991 the celebration of Herb Week began around Mother’s Day. The goal was to perk up public interest in herbs, create an International network of herbal experts and usher in an annual holiday to celebrate herbs. Each year the International Herb Association (IHA) selects an “herb of the year.”  The herb(s) are selected and they highlight their benefits. How do they select the herb winner? Members on the IHA horticulture committee select the herb that meets the criteria of their three guidelines; medicinal, culinary and decorative. After the selection the herbs are publish in booklet. The booklet will have more detailed information about the herb such as indigenous areas for growing the herb, medicinal benefits and recipes. IHA members receive a complimentary copy and the booklet is also for sale to the general public. Last year the 2013 winner was Elderberry and for 2014 the winner is Tarragon and Wormwood.
Tarragon can be found in most kitchens the world over. The French include the herb in their béarnaise sauce. You will also see it listed as an ingredient in some prepackaged foods for added flavor. This herb has a flowery fragrance and is also used in cosmetics. Although it seems to have started out as a spice for culinary use, by the 1600’s its medicinal qualities appeared such as for; arthritis, digestion, tooth ache, sleep and as a diuretic. Wormwood on the other hand seems to have been used medicinally for some time to kill intestinal parasites and as a digestive aid and liver remedy. Wormwood has a bitter taste and was once added to vermouth in the early 1900’s. This herb has volatile oils and bitters which are believed to paralyze parasites giving the body time to expel them. According to German studies, wormwood has the potential for protecting the liver from acetaminophen (Tylenol ®) damage. The FDA has taken wormwood off its safe list as large doses can be a problem causing nausea, vomiting, vertigo and possible seizures. However, the FDA approves of using wormwood in foods and teas. Wormwood does cause allergic reactions in some people especially if allergic to daisies. Last year’s herbal winner, elderberry, is primarily used for fluid retention, inflammation and colds. If using elderberry it is recommended to stick with the berry and avoid the leaf and stem known to contain the poisonous substance called cyanide. 
Although there is value in all herbs and spices I prefer to focus on and stock the herbs that fit my Herb Day criteria such as; herbs for pandemics, toxin removal and immune support. Having herbs such as these on hand can be used to stop the jaws of death. Also these herbs can be used in different combinations for other benefits covering a broader range of use. 
Folks are wondering what herbs they should stock for daily and emergency use. This is an excellent question. First, consumers should know that most supplement pills will have a short shelf life of about two years. Think about that when stocking up. Herbal powders will have a shelf life of five years if properly stored. Herbal tinctures will have the longest shelf life of ten years when stored in an environmentally controlled area. If you are concerned about having herbs for an emergency then you’ll want the herbs with power and in professional strength concentrations. I would bypass the watered down, fractionalized plant chemicals stuff sold in stores. In other words, you don’t want the “standardized” formulas. Don’t let the term “standardized” fool you into thinking that means it is a quality product. You want herbal products that go above and beyond the wimpy standardized formulas. You’ll want the powerful formulas that chiropractors, naturopaths and integrative medical doctors are stocking and you don’t need to be a clinician to get them. The other thing folks must consider is portability. First aid kits are ok but you’ll also need to go beyond them and also have herb kits that can draw out venom, disinfect wounds, regenerate skin and stop bleeding and heart attacks. 
In my world every day is Herb Day. I’m always looking for a better way to utilize God’s good herbs to shorten the duration of illness and reduce health risks. At Apothecary Herbs you’ll notice a few things such as their certified organic herbal products, which have a long shelf life and include important information for use. In our hectic world portability is a must and you’ll have several herbal kits to choose from at Apothecary Herbs.  There is also a section to help guide you while stocking up while on a budget. They have different categories for the everyday stuff such as cold, flu, allergy, pain relief, energy, depression, body care and so on. Be sure to check out their Herb Kits and the Budget Stock Up sections. When you want to get serious about using herbs call the folks at Apothecary Herbs toll free 866-229-3663, International 704-885-0277, where your healthcare options just became endless. Save money by using their Herb Medicine Options coupons (click the green button on the home page). Or if you don’t want to bother with coupons, set up a customer account while checking out to receive redeemable points to save on your purchases. 


Apothecary Herbs is introducing their version of the HMO (Herb Medicine Options). Unlike insurance companies, our HMO is not about drugs, co-pays and deductibles. Our HMO is about a healthy lifestyle without drug dependency. Our HMO members are savvy and can often take advantage of the HMO discounts. There are no member fees and you can simply request to sign up by emailing or calling Apothecary Herbs or 866-229-3663, International 704-885-0277.  Current members can take advantage of discounts. I like discount coupons but they tend to expire. HMO members you can use your discount when they want.
HMO1 offers FREE ground ship on orders over $75 (US orders)
HMO2 offers 15% off orders over $100.00 
HMO3 offers $15.00 off plus FREE ground ship on orders over $250.00 (US orders)
*These discounts will be active for about 3 months and will change. Members will also receive special offers on selective items in our store.

People have lots of questions about herbs and often ask, “What herb can I use for…? Now you can find out with a phone call or click of a mouse with our Herbal Detective. Visit and click on the Herbal Detective banner or call toll free 866-229-3663. 

The powers in government are at it again to control (harmonize) your nutrition and the US is bent on ushering in the Codex Alimentarius. Their new angle is the make changes to the labeling guidelines and the nutritional panel. The agenda is to reduce the RDA values on nutrients in supplements and foods. The changes won’t happen right away.  These are proposed changes and are not final, yet. Secondly, the FDA is accepting comments from the public for a ninety-day period, which ends on June 2, 2014.  You should weigh in with your opinion, now.
Anyone who is opposed to this Proposed Rulemaking send their comments electronically to the FDA at!submitComment;D=FDA-2012-N-1210-0002 or in writing to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5360 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, Maryland 20852. Mention Docket No. FDA-2012-N-1210.
The National Health Federation has given us permission to use the following outline when communicating with the FDA on this very important issue:
“On Docket No. FDA-2012-N-1210, I am adamantly opposed to your proposed reduction of vitamin-and-mineral Reference Daily Intakes as shown in your Table 2, on page 11931.  At a time when toxin intake is increasing and nutrient intake is decreasing, Americans need more vitamins and minerals on a daily basis, not less. Your unsupported goal of harmonizing our food laws to Codex standards and guidelines has been specifically prohibited by Congress, and I demand that you obey the law and immediately withdraw Table 2 and all supporting paragraphs of your Proposed Rulemaking for revision in line with modern nutritional science, which shows that we need a higher daily intake of  B and other vitamins as well as more magnesium and other minerals such as selenium.  Please act immediately to correct your serious errors.”
If people ignore this opportunity to be heard, the supplement industry will have two years to comply with the label changes and are estimated to cost more than $2 billion, which will be passed onto consumers like you. So, you will not only pay more for your supplements but they will contain less nutrition. Don’t delay in fighting for your health and contact the FDA today.

See our new sections online for stocking up on a budget and if not on a budget. New sections for energy, cardio, depression & anxiety, allergies, digestion and diabetes make it easier to find what you need at

“NEW” from Apothecary Herbs POWER GREENS FOR PETS – Keeps you away from the vet.  Natural herbs for dogs and cats. Because we want organic pets
Power Greens is a blend of organic plants and natural herbs containing vitamins, minerals and 22 amino acids found naturally in these whole-food plants. Easy to digest with healthy digestion enzymes. You will notice the vibrant color of the greens and other ingredients in Power Greens for Pets because it is made with certified organic herbs grown to Tilth Standards (the highest organic standards in the industry). Compared to Dinovite®, Power Greens for Pets is made with superior grade ingredients and will produce much faster and better results in the health of your pet. No need for large scoops of our Power Greens for Pets to get results. Depending on the size of your pet 1/2 teaspoon to one tablespoon is all you'll need. Your pet will be healthier and you'll save money. For more info call 866-229-3663

MORE HERB SECRETS IN THE POWER HERBS e-BOOK. By popular demand The Power Herbs e-book is available with symptom/herb reference guide, information on organ cleansing and how to make your own herbal tinctures plus a whole lot more. Go to and click on Books. You must have email to order and receive the e-book a PDF version of The Power Herb book for just $14.99. At this time, we do not offer this title in hard copy.
Herbalist Wendy Wilson on Herb Talk Live
Saturday morning show:
7 am EST on GCN
5/10/14 Dr. Rebecca Carley 
Weekday show:
7 pm EST on AVR
5/20/14 Dr. Rebecca Carley
Shortwave show 8 pm EST WWCR 4840
Go to Herb Talk Live & Radio Archive area for network link access and past shows to download and share. For Android users you can download a FREE app for Herb Talk Live on GCN. See the download link under radio archives at top of page.

All content is copyright © Independent News Journalist Disclaimers of FARE USE Copyright
Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, "Fair Use" Allowance is made for purposes such as: Criticism, Comment, News Reporting, Teaching, Scholarship, and Research. "Fair Use" is a use permitted by Copyright Statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, Educational or Personal use tips the balance in Favor of "Fair Use". Conclusions drawn from these articles or audio files do not necessarily represent the Opinions/Beliefs of those subjects People/Participants/Entities therein. "Fair Use" says it all....Produced by FREELANCE AUTHOR.

The information contained herein is not intended to diagnosis, treat, prevent or cure disease. Seek medical advice from a licensed medical physician (if you dare) before using any product or therapy.

Try Dandelion Root Tincture for inflammation, blood purification, respiratory infections, digestion and cancer protection at  
Do you have your Pandemic Kit yet? Here is what folks are saying about the 100% organic Pandemic Kit made by Apothecary Herbs. "I have this kit and recommend everyone have at least one on hand (or more depending on family size) for a pandemic." Rebecca Carley, MD, Hickory, NC and “I have one and glad I do; just in case. I like the long shelf life.” Melody Cedarstrom, Port Matilda, PA (more customer feedback at or call 866-229-3663 to order your kit today.
Pure energy is organic and instantly absorbed – transporting nutrition to every cell in your body. It is a super food for the body to repair, build and fortify itself. Where do you get it? It’s called Body Foundation Food Mix and is at Apothecary Herbs 866-229-3663, International 704-885-0277 This pure energy food source is so efficient; you won’t feel hungry between meals and can safely lose weight. 
Apothecary Herbs has released a new product called Liver Detox Tea. You can layer this tea with Milk Thistle Tincture for a gentle yet effective liver cleanse. This is a nice option if you can’t do the Liver/Gall Bladder Flush using olive oil. You will find this new product under Herbal Teas at Also new is the Liver & Gall Bladder Tincture with dandelion root for more anticancer protection. This formula is available in 1 oz, 2 oz and 4 oz sizes. You will find this item under Organ Body Cleanses at You can layer this tincture with the Liver Detox Tea and be well! 
Being prepared is never a waste of time. Get your own organic garden growing and stock as much healthy foodstuffs as you can. You’ll also need backup medicine but the over-the-counter and prescription medicines have a limited shelf life of two years or less. However, your organic medicines have a ten year shelf life without side effects. Call the folks at Apothecary Herbs for their Natural Medicine Starter Stock-up Package or make sure you get one of their many herb kits for boosting immune system and protecting you from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. Call Apothecary Herbs 866-229-3663, International 704-885-0277 online, where your healthcare options just became endless.
If you suffer from allergies (sneezing, itchy watery eyes, stuffy or runny nose, sinus pressure or sinus infections) try the Echinacea Deluxe formula and Herbal Eyewash both around $20.00 from Apothecary Herbs. Call now toll free 866-229-3663
You already know that you can save on the half and full case discounts in the Vitamin Vault area at Apothecary Herbs has added a new item called the Natural Medicine Starter Stock-up Package. This package is designed for those preparing for their medical future and contains immune boosting, pain & inflammation, organ cleanses, vitamin, mineral, amino acid and protein products plus a Pandemic Kit and it comes with a savings. Visit or call toll free to order your Starter Stock-up Package 866-229-3663, International 704-885-0277.   
MALE & FEMALE ORGAN CLEANSES KITS – Don’t give disease a foothold. You will have the power to cleanse the bowel, urinary, liver, gall bladder and blood system with this cleanse package. For added cleansing, ask about how you can upgrade your order to include the prostate cleanse for men or the Kidney/Bladder cleanse for females.  Go to or call their 24-hour live customer service line 866-229-3663, International 704-885-0277. 
See Apothecary Herbs One Year Supply of Herbal Medicine at or call 866-229-3663, 704-885-0277. Call for a customized year supply or to set up installment payment for this package. 

Canola is the new margarine - throw it all out
Remember when margarine was the substitute for butter? Hey, I can't believe it's not butter! Wow. Margarine is a molecule away from being plastic, and we wonder why so many old folks in America have Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The plastic fat is clogging their brain veins. No oxygen to the brain means expensive 24/7 nursing care, lots of pharmaceutical medications and hundreds of thousands of dollars for sick care. Do you see where this is leading?
America loves their canola! Who would really eat it if they knew that it was made with hexane vapor -- a gasoline constituent? Even organic canola that's "expeller-pressed" comes from something we're not even supposed to eat in the first place -- rapeseed. Canola is not a plant, or at least not until some mad scientists got a hold of rapeseed and altered it. Yes, I know, this is harsh for most people to address. Their canola oil food bar will be dead to them. Forget all those salads -- the potato salad, the chicken salad, the tuna salad and the egg salad. Forget the macaroni salad and the pasta salad, all creamy with chunks of other (GMO) food stuff.


Confronting Russia and China Militarily

Rising Food Prices May Cause Consumer Indigestion

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