828cloud

Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Daily Archives: March 25, 2022

Chart: U.S. Pending Home Sales MoM and YoY Declined in February 2022

Source : Bloomberg

Chart: Major Indices of U.S. University of Michigan Survey Down to Multi-year Low in March 2022

Source : Bloomberg

Chuckles of the Day





The Freudian Slip

Two old geezers, Bill and Bob were shooting the breeze.

Bill sez, “You ever made a Freudian slip?”

Bob sez, “What’s that?”

Bill: “Well, I’ll give you an example. The other day I was at the airport, and the woman at the airline counter was quite well endowed. I meant to say, ‘I’d like two tickets for Pittsburgh. But it came out, ‘I’d like two pickets for Tittsburgh.'”

Bob: “Ahh, gotcha Bill. That happened to me this morning. My wife and I were having breakfast, and I meant to say, ‘Dear, could you please pass the marmalade.’ But it came out, ‘You old hag, you’re ruining my life.'”

* * * * * * *

The Old Rancher

A big-city lawyer was representing the railroad in a lawsuit filed by an old rancher. The rancher’s prize bull was missing from the section through which the railroad passed. The rancher only wanted to be paid the fair value of the bull.

The case was scheduled to be tried before the justice of the peace in the back room of the general store.

The attorney for the railroad immediately cornered the rancher and tried to get him to settle out of court. The lawyer did his best selling job, and finally the rancher agreed to take half of what he was asking.

After the rancher had signed the release and took the check, the young lawyer couldn’t resist gloating a little over his success, telling the rancher, “You know, I hate to tell you this, old man, but I put one over on you in there. I couldn’t have won the case. The engineer was asleep and the fireman was in the caboose when the train went through your ranch that morning. I didn’t have one witness to put on the stand. I bluffed you!”

The old rancher replied, “Well, I’ll tell you, young feller, I was a little worried about winning that case myself, because that durned bull came home this morning.”







Say Hello to Russian Gold and Chinese Petroyuan

Pepe Escobar wrote . . . . . . . . .

It was a long time coming, but finally some key lineaments of the multipolar world’s new foundations are being revealed.

On Friday, after a videoconference meeting, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and China agreed to design the mechanism for an independent international monetary and financial system. The EAEU consists of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Armenia, is establishing free trade deals with other Eurasian nations, and is progressively interconnecting with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

For all practical purposes, the idea comes from Sergei Glazyev, Russia’s foremost independent economist, a former adviser to President Vladimir Putin and the Minister for Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Commission, the regulatory body of the EAEU.

Glazyev’s central role in devising the new Russian and Eurasian economic/financial strategy has been examined here. He saw the western financial squeeze on Moscow coming light-years before others.

Quite diplomatically, Glazyev attributed the fruition of the idea to “the common challenges and risks associated with the global economic slowdown and restrictive measures against the EAEU states and China.”

Translation: as China is as much a Eurasian power as Russia, and they need to coordinate their strategies to bypass the US unipolar system.

The Eurasian system will be based on “a new international currency,” most probably with the yuan as reference, calculated as an index of the national currencies of the participating countries, as well as commodity prices. The first draft will be already discussed by the end of the month.

The Eurasian system is bound to become a serious alternative to the US dollar, as the EAEU may attract not only nations that have joined BRI (Kazakhstan, for instance, is a member of both) but also the leading players in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well as ASEAN. West Asian actors – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon – will be inevitably interested.

In the medium to long term, the spread of the new system will translate into the weakening of the Bretton Woods system, which even serious US market players/strategists admit is rotten from the inside. The US dollar and imperial hegemony are facing stormy seas.

Show me that frozen gold

Meanwhile, Russia has a serious problem to tackle. This past weekend, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov confirmed that half of Russia’s gold and foreign reserves have been frozen by unilateral sanctions. It boggles the mind that Russian financial experts have placed a great deal of the nation’s wealth where it can be easily accessed – and even confiscated – by the ‘Empire of Lies’ (copyright Putin).

At first, it was not exactly clear what Siluanov had meant. How could the Central Bank’s Elvira Nabiulina and her team let half of foreign reserves and even gold be stored in Western banks and/or vaults? Or is this some sneaky diversionist tactic by Siluanov?

No one is better equipped to answer these questions than the inestimable Michael Hudson, author of the recent revised edition of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of the American Empire.

Hudson was quite frank: “When I first heard the word ‘frozen,’ I thought that this meant that Russia was not going to expend its precious gold reserves on supporting the ruble, trying to fight against a Soros-style raid from the west. But now the word ‘frozen’ seems to have meant that Russia had sent it abroad, outside of its control.”

“It looks like at least as of last June, all Russian gold was kept in Russia itself. At the same time, it would have been natural to have kept securities and bank deposits in the United States and Britain, because that is where most intervention in world foreign exchange markets occurs,” Hudson added.

Essentially, it’s all still up in the air: “My first reading assumed that Russia must be doing something smart. If it was smart to move gold abroad, perhaps it was doing what other central banks do: ‘lend” it to speculators, for an interest payment or fee. Until Russia tells the world where its gold was put, and why, we can’t fathom it. Was it in the Bank of England – even after England confiscated Venezuela’s gold? Was it in the New York Fed – even after the Fed confiscated Afghanistan’s reserves?”

So far, there has been no extra clarification either from Siluanov or Nabiulina. Scenarios swirl about a string of deportations to northern Siberia for national treason. Hudson adds important elements to the puzzle:

“If [the reserves] are frozen, why is Russia paying interest on its foreign debt falling due? It can direct the “freezer’ to pay, to shift the blame for default. It can talk about Chase Manhattan’s freezing of Iran’s bank account from which Iran sought to pay interest on its dollar-denominated debt. It can insist that any payments by NATO countries be settled in advance by physical gold. Or it can land paratroopers on the Bank of England, and recover gold – sort of like Goldfinger at Fort Knox. What is important is for Russia to explain what happened and how it was attacked, as a warning to other countries.”

As a clincher, Hudson could not but wink at Glazyev: “Maybe Russia should appoint a non-pro-westerner at the Central Bank.”

The petrodollar game-changer

It’s tempting to read into Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s words at the diplomatic summit in Antalya last Thursday as a veiled admission that Moscow may not have been totally prepared for the heavy financial artillery deployed by the Americans:

“We will solve the problem – and the solution will be to no longer depend on our western partners, be it governments or companies that are acting as tools of western political aggression against Russia instead of pursuing the interests of their businesses. We will make sure that we never again find ourselves in a similar situation and that neither some Uncle Sam nor anybody else can make decisions aimed at destroying our economy. We will find a way to eliminate this dependence. We should have done it long ago.”

So, ‘long ago’ starts now. And one of its planks will be the Eurasian financial system. Meanwhile, ‘the market’ (as in, the American speculative casino) has ‘judged’ (according to its self-made oracles) that Russian gold reserves – the ones that stayed in Russia – cannot support the ruble.

That’s not the issue – on several levels. The self-made oracles, brainwashed for decades, believe that the Hegemon dictates what ‘the market’ does. That’s mere propaganda. The crucial fact is that in the new, emerging paradigm, NATO nations amount to at best 15 percent of the world’s population. Russia won’t be forced to practice autarky because it does not need to: most of the world – as we’ve seen represented in the hefty non-sanctioning nation list – is ready to do business with Moscow.

Iran has shown how to do it. Persian Gulf traders confirmed to The Cradle that Iran is selling no less than 3 million barrels of oil a day even now, with no signed JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement, currently under negotiation in Vienna). Oil is re-labeled, smuggled, and transferred from tankers in the dead of night.

Another example: the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), a huge refiner, just bought 3 million barrels of Russian Urals from trader Vitol for delivery in May. There are no sanctions on Russian oil – at least not yet.

Washington’s reductionist, Mackinderesque plan is to manipulate Ukraine as a disposable pawn to go scorched-earth on Russia, and then hit China. Essentially, divide-and-rule to smash not only one but two peer competitors in Eurasia who are advancing in lockstep as comprehensive strategic partners.

As Hudson sees it: “China is in the cross-hairs, and what happened to Russia is a dress rehearsal for what can happen to China. Best to break sooner than later under these conditions. Because the leverage is highest now.”

All the blather about “crashing Russian markets,” ending foreign investment, destroying the ruble, a “full trade embargo,” expelling Russia from “the community of nations,” and so forth – that’s for the zombified galleries. Iran has been dealing with the same thing for four decades, and survived.

Historical poetic justice, as Lavrov intimated, now happens to rule that Russia and Iran are about to sign a very important agreement, which may likely be an equivalent of the Iran-China strategic partnership. The three main nodes of Eurasia integration are perfecting their interaction on the go, and sooner rather than later, may be utilizing a new, independent monetary and financial system.

But there’s more poetic justice on the way, revolving around the ultimate game-changer. And it came much sooner than we all thought.

Saudi Arabia is considering accepting Chinese yuan – and not US dollars – for selling oil to China. Translation: Beijing told Riyadh this is the new groove. The end of the petrodollar is at hand – and that is the certified nail in the coffin of the indispensable Hegemon.

Meanwhile, there’s a mystery to be solved: where is that frozen Russian gold?


Source : The Cradle

Chart: New York – New Way of Work

Source : Chartr

Shanghai’s COVID ‘Slice and Grid’ Model Comes Under Pressure as Cases Surge

David Stanway wrote . . . . . . . . .

Shanghai’s bespoke approach to tackling coronavirus outbreaks is coming under strain as new cases rise in the Chinese metropolis, with authorities reluctant to impose a comprehensive lockdown as other cities have done.

The city of 26 million has become a testing ground for China’s ability to control flare-ups of the more contagious but less deadly Omicron variant while keeping the economy steady in an approach it describes as “slicing and gridding”, which involves screening neighbourhoods one by one.

Shanghai’s handling of the latest COVID-19 wave was an opportunity to showcase its virus-tackling ability without imposing the blanket closures that have brought major Chinese cities such as Xian and Changchun to a standstill.

Zhang Wenhong, who leads Shanghai’s COVID prevention team, said on Thursday that while Omicron was harder to eradicate, it wasn’t as “scary” as earlier strains, and in future, keeping life normal in the city should be as high a priority as curbing the virus.

On Friday, he said there were signs the city’s methods were bringing COVID under control and if the proportion of new cases outside locked-down districts continued to drop, an “inflection point” in the outbreak would come soon.

Residents have grumbled about seemingly endless cycles of testing and the piecemeal approach to ending transmission chains, with some saying the cost of zero-COVID had become too high.

On Friday, a hospital said a nurse had died after COVID restrictions meant she could not get emergency treatment for asthma. The case was featured in social media criticism of Shanghai’s policies.

While some residents said China must start “coexisting with COVID”, others said a thorough, city-wide lockdown should be imposed instead of the ongoing “payment in instalments” method.

Signals from the central government in Beijing are mixed.

China’s zero-tolerance policy has kept its borders all-but-shut for two years, even as most countries adapt to living with COVID-19.

Last week, President Xi Jinping said that while preventing outbreaks was a priority, it was necessary to “work hard to pay the lowest price to achieve the biggest prevention and control results.”

But there are concerns the stealthier and more infectious Omicron has already broken through.

Shanghai’s locally transmitted asymptomatic infections surged to a record 1,582 on March 24, up from 979 a day earlier, but just 29 new symptomatic cases were recorded, up from 4.

“Shanghai feels it cannot do a city-wide lockdown because it is not only tantamount to admitting the failure of the Shanghai model, but also feels like it is disobeying Xi Jinping’s directive,” said Yanzhong Huang, global health specialist at the Council On Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank.

Shanghai is caught between the need to stay as close to “zero-COVID” as possible while keeping the country’s most important financial hub ticking over.

“You can have all this policy innovation, but it is all subject to the constraints of zero-COVID,” Huang said.


Source: Reuters

An Anti-inflammatory Diet May be Your Best Bet for Cognitive Health

As people age, inflammation within their immune system increases, damaging cells. A new study shows that people who consumed an anti-inflammatory diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, beans, and tea or coffee, had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. The research is published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“There may be some potent nutritional tools in your home to help fight the inflammation that could contribute to brain aging,” said study author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, PhD, of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “Diet is a lifestyle factor you can modify, and it might play a role in combating inflammation, one of the biological pathways contributing to risk for dementia and cognitive impairment later in life.”

The study looked at 1,059 people in Greece with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.

Each person answered a food frequency questionnaire that is commonly used to determine the inflammatory potential of a person’s diet. The questionnaire sought information on the main food groups consumed during the previous month, including dairy products, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, legumes, which include beans, lentils and peas, added fats, alcoholic beverages, stimulants and sweets. A possible dietary inflammatory score can range from -8.87 to 7.98, with higher scores indicating a more inflammatory diet, which includes fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, beans and tea or coffee.

Scarmeas notes that multiple nutrients in all foods contribute to the inflammatory nature of a person’s diet.

Researchers divided the participants into three equal groups: those with the lowest dietary inflammatory scores, medium scores and highest scores. Those in the group with the lowest scores of -1.76 and lower, indicating a more anti-inflammatory diet, ate an average per week of 20 servings of fruit, 19 of vegetables, four of beans or other legumes and 11 of coffee or tea per week. Those in the group with the highest scores, 0.21 and above, indicating a more inflammatory diet, ate an average per week of nine servings of fruit, 10 of vegetables, two of legumes and nine of coffee or tea.

Researchers followed up with each person for an average of three years. Over the course of the study, 62 people, or 6%, developed dementia. The people who developed dementia had average scores of -0.06, compared to average scores of -0.70 for those who did not develop dementia.

After adjusting for age, sex and education, researchers found that each one-point increase in dietary inflammatory score was associated with a 21% increase in dementia risk. Compared to the lowest third of participants who consumed the least inflammatory diet, those in the top third were three times more likely to develop dementia.

“Our results are getting us closer to characterizing and measuring the inflammatory potential of people’s diets,” Scarmeas said. “That in turn could help inform more tailored and precise dietary recommendations and other strategies to maintain cognitive health.”

The study was an observational one, not a clinical trial. It does not prove that eating an anti-inflammatory diet prevents brain aging and dementia, it only shows an association.

An additional limitation is the short follow-up time of three years. Longer studies are needed to confirm and replicate these findings.


Source: American Academy of Neurology