Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Empire is falling apart at the seams

Retail Apocalypse’ Causing More Than 3,500 Stores to Close: What You’re Not Being Told

20 September, 2017

(ANTIMEDIA) In the latest blow to traditional retail sales, this week Toys R’ Us filed for bankruptcy, following in the footsteps of an increasing number of other brick-and-mortar chains. But the giant toy outfitter is not the only company suffering losses, as a recent report from, a consumer analysis site details.

Though separate statistics show that more stores will open in 2017 than will close, the type of stores making gains suggests frugality is the norm U.S. consumers amid a continuously harsh economy. compiled a list of retail stores that announced closures of physical shops this summer. Sears said at the end of August that “in fiscal year 2017, [they] have closed approximately 180 stores previously announced for closure, and an additional 150 stores previously announced for closure are expected to be closed by the end of the third quarter of 2017.” They will also be closing 28 K-Mart locations, citing a desire to change their business model so “the physical store footprint and [their] digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members.”

Vitamin World filed for bankruptcy last week and plans to close 51 of 334 stores, which are located mostly in malls; Gap said in a press release earlier this month it will close 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores (and open 270 Old Navy shops); Perfumania filed for bankruptcy in August, moving to close 64 of 226 stores; Starbucks announced at the end of July it will close all of its 379 Teavana shops by next year; Gymboree plans to close roughly 350 stores following its bankruptcy in June; True Religion filed for bankruptcy in July and moved to close 27 stores; the Ascena Retail Group, parent company of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Justice, and other chains, announced in June it would shutter over 250 stores by 2019 (in addition to the 71 it had already closed this year). The group noted they could close up to a total of 667 of their 4,500 various locations.

The summer trend follows even more closures in 2017 — in March, Business Insider noted roughly 3,500 stores would shut down this year. Macy’s revealed plans to shut down 68 locations in January, J.C. Penney announced it would close 138 stores back in March, and Abercrombie and Fitch told investors it planned to close 60 locations, bringing the total closed to 169. Other retailers closing stores are Bebe, Guess, Crocs, Guess, American Apparel (which has filed for bankruptcy twice), RadioShack, Staples, CVS, and Gamestop.

Wet Seal and Limited are closing all or nearly all of their locations this year.

Many blame Amazon and the popularity of online retail, especially amid the general collapse of America’s once prominent shopping malls, and the news media has repeatedly sounded the alarm of the “retail apocalypse.”

But a recent report from the IHL Group, a global retail and hospitality analysis and advisory firm, argues there is no retail apocalypse. Rather, they contend, customer preferences are simply shifting. In “Debunking the Retail Apocalypse,” the analysts point out that more major retailers and restaurants are opening 4,080 more stores than they are closing this year.

Nevertheless, many of the closing stores have been mainstays of American retail culture for decades, and those finding the most success are focused on budget pricing. Stores like the Dollar Tree are making major gains, a trend also reflected in Gap’s decision to close their more expensive stores, including Banana Republic, to focus on Old Navy, which offers a much lower price point.

As the IHL report notes, “According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, since 1996, overall inflation in core consumer goods and services has averaged 55% over the 20 year period of 1996-2016.

Prices on college tuition and textbooks have gone up 200%. Costs have increased for child care (125%) healthcare (120%), food and beverage (65%), and housing (60%). In contrast, products like cell phone services, TVs, toys, and software have become cheaper.

IHL explains that “products and services that are more likely to be considered as necessities have grown significantly in costs over the last 20 years and items that are typically in the luxury category have gone down in price.

In a vacuum, these prices don’t tell us much,” they explain. “However, when compared with income growth over the same period we can see that a much higher percentage of consumers cannot keep up with inflation, thus are shopping more at lower cost retailers and less at higher image/brand stores.

IHL notes that 40% of Americans have not been able to keep up with inflation, and as a result, the higher costs for basic necessities have affected their shopping habits. So has student loan debt, the decline of the middle class, the growth of e-commerce, and the fact that large retailers have prioritized store expansion over customer experience.

Considering the economic situation, it’s unsurprising that the types of businesses opening the most chains are mass merchants — like Target, Wal-Mart and Dollar General — and convenience stores. IHL also notes that 2,026 fast food stores opened this year. Interestingly, more cosmetics stores are opening than closing (cosmetics become more popular when economic times are tough).

Ultimately, IHL notes, retail sales are up $121.5 billion from July 2016. However, Americans are carrying roughly $1 trillion in credit card debt against very little savings. While total retail sales may be growing, those making profits and finding success are doing so amid a climate of overall economic decline. While the “retail apocalypse” may not have come to total fruition, Americans’ financial futures certainly seem to be on the downturn.

The Everything Bubble Is Ready To Pop

20 September, 2017

It wasn’t always this way. We never used to get a giant, speculative bubble every 7–8 years. We really didn’t.

In 2000, we had the dot-com bubble.
In 2007, we had the housing bubble.
In 2017, we have the everything bubble.

I did not coin the term “the everything bubble.” I do not know who did. Apologies (and much respect) to the person I stole it from.

Why do we call it the everything bubble? Well, there is a bubble in a bunch of asset classes simultaneously.

And the infographic below that my colleagues at Mauldin Economics created paints the picture best.

I don’t usually predict downturns, but this time I bet my reputation that a downturn is coming. And soon.

When there’s nothing left but systemic risk, everyone’s portfolio is on the line.

To that end, I’ve put together a FREE actionable special, Investing in the Age of the Everything Bubble, in which I discuss ways to prepare for the coming bloodbath (download here).

The West Begins To Panic Over China's OBOR Trade System

From July

There is always another $27 billion lying around, it seems, when Lockheed Martin needs more money for expensive weapons system

As if it couldn't get anymore obvious. LATAM and Communist entities like Russia and China have been in unison for years on a goal of lessening dependence  on USD for trade. Now in the past month you have seen Mexico consider remonetizing its Libertad, A "gold backed" Yaun / Oil contract, and now, Venezuela is jumping ship. And why shouldn't they?

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Venezuela began publishing prices for its oil in Chinese yuan in a bid to avoid the US dollar and counter US sanctions, the country’s President Nicolas Maduro said.
We are already pricing [oil] in Chinese yuan … because of the sanctions which were facilitated by [opposition politician] Julio Borges and which were adopted by [US President] Donald Trump. They have caused great damage … And we are forced to defend ourselves,” Maduro said Friday while aired by the Telesur broadcaster.
Maduro has already said in the past that Venezuela was going to free itself from the “vice of dollar.”

The Entire Economic Recovery Is One Big Myth

The Global Debt Crisis Is Much Worse Than We Are Being Told

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People
A new book by economist Peter Temin finds that the U.S. is no longer one country, but dividing into two separate economic and political worlds

by Lynn Parramore, April 20, 2017, via Institute for New Economic Thinking

20 September, 2017

You’ve probably heard the news that the celebrated post-WW II beating heart of America known as the middle class has gone from “burdened,” to “squeezed” to “dying.”  But you might have heard less about what exactly is emerging in its place.

In a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, draws a portrait of the new reality in a way that is frighteningly, indelibly clear:  America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

Two road diverged

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

The two sectors, notes Temin, have entirely distinct financial systems, residential situations, and educational opportunities. Quite different things happen when they get sick, or when they interact with the law. They move independently of each other. Only one path exists by which the citizens of the low-wage country can enter the affluent one, and that path is fraught with obstacles. Most have no way out.

The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure: our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan. But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing

In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration – check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check.

In the developing countries Lewis studied, people try to move from the low-wage sector to the affluent sector by transplanting from rural areas to the city to get a job. Occasionally it works; often it doesn’t. Temin says that today in the U.S., the ticket out is education, which is difficult for two reasons: you have to spend money over a long period of time, and the FTE sector is making those expenditures more and more costly by defunding public schools and making policies that increase student debt burdens.

Getting a good education, Temin observes, isn’t just about a college degree. It has to begin in early childhood, and you need parents who can afford to spend time and resources all along the long journey. If you aspire to college and your family can’t make transfers of money to you on the way, well, good luck to you. Even with a diploma, you will likely find that high-paying jobs come from networks of peers and relatives. Social capital, as well as economic capital, is critical, but because of America’s long history of racism and the obstacles it has created for accumulating both kinds of capital, black graduates often can only find jobs in education, social work, and government instead of higher-paying professional jobs like technology or finance— something most white people are not really aware of. Women are also held back by a long history of sexism and the burdens — made increasingly heavy — of making greater contributions to the unpaid care economy and lack of access to crucial healthcare.

How did we get this way?

What happened to America’s middle class, which rose triumphantly in the post-World War II years, buoyed by the GI bill, the victories of labor unions, and programs that gave the great mass of workers and their families health and pension benefits that provided security?

The dual economy didn’t happen overnight, says Temin. The story started just a couple of years after the ’67 Summer of Love. Around 1970, the productivity of workers began to get divided from their wages. Corporate attorney and later Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell galvanized the business community to lobby vigorously for its interests. Johnson’s War on Poverty was replaced by Nixon’s War on Drugs, which sectioned off many members of the low-wage sector, disproportionately black, into prisons. Politicians increasingly influenced by the FTE sector turned from public-spirited universalism to free-market individualism. As money-driven politics accelerated (a phenomenon explained by the Investment Theory of Politics, as Temin explains), leaders of the FTE sector became increasingly emboldened to ignore the needs of members of the low-wage sector, or even to actively work against them.

America’s underlying racism has a continuing distorting impact. A majority of the low-wage sector is white, with blacks and Latinos making up the other part, but politicians learned to talk as if the low-wage sector is mostly black because it allowed them to appeal to racial prejudice, which is useful in maintaining support for the structure of the dual economy — and hurting everyone in the low-wage sector.  Temin notes that “the desire to preserve the inferior status of blacks has motivated policies against all members of the low-wage sector.”

Temin points out that the presidential race of 2016 both revealed and amplified the anger of the low-wage sector at this increasing imbalance. Low-wage whites who had been largely invisible in public policy until recently came out of their quiet despair to be heard. Unfortunately, present trends are not only continuing, but also accelerating their problems, freezing the dual economy into place.

What can we do?

We’ve been digging ourselves into a hole for over forty years, but Temin says that we know how to stop digging. If we spent more on domestic rather than military activities, then the middle class would not vanish as quickly. The effects of technological change and globalization could be altered by political actions. We could restore and expand education, shifting resources from policies like mass incarceration to improving the human and social capital of all Americans. We could upgrade infrastructure, forgive mortgage and educational debt in the low-wage sector, reject the notion that private entities should replace democratic government in directing society, and focus on embracing an integrated American population. We could tax not only the income of the rich, but also their capital.
The cost of not doing these things, Temin warns, is incalculably high, and even the rich will end up paying for it:

Look at the movie, Hidden Figures: It recounts a very dramatic story about three African American women condemned to have a life of not being paid very well teaching in black colleges, and yet their fates changed when they were tapped by NASA to contribute to space exploration. Today we are losing the ability to find people like that. We have a structure that predetermines winners and losers. We are not getting the benefits of all the people who could contribute to the growth of the economy, to advances in medicine or science which could improve the quality of life for everyone — including some of the rich people.”

Along with Thomas Piketty, whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century examines historical and modern inequality, Temin’s book has provided a giant red flag, illustrating a trajectory that will continue to accelerate as long as the 20 percent in the FTE sector are permitted to operate a country within America’s borders solely for themselves at the expense of the majority. Without a robust middle class, America is not only reverting to developing-country status, it is increasingly ripe for serious social turmoil that has not been seen in generations.

A dual economy has separated America from the idea of what most of us thought the country was meant to be. 

A warning for America

Anonymous - A WAKE UP MESSAGE FOR AMERICA... (2017-2018)

Use of tactical nukes in Korea was discussed

Mattis: Use of tactical nuclear weapons discussed with South Korea

18 September, 2017

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed Monday that the U.S. and South Korea have discussed employing tactical nuclear weapons as an option to defend against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The acknowledgment from Mattis comes as the U.S. and international community grapple with increasingly aggressive nuclear weapons testing by North Korea.

In the last few weeks, North Korea has tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland and tested a hydrogen bomb, according to U.S. Strategic Command’s assessment of the program.

Last Thursday, as Mattis was at STRATCOM assessing the U.S. nuclear posture, North Korea fired another intermediate range missile over Japan, sending millions of Japanese citizens into shelters.

On Monday, Mattis said there are military options to use against North Korea that would not result in mass casualties for Seoul, but he would not go into specifics.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo told his parliament he had requested the U.S. consider the return of tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula during a U.S. visit with Mattis earlier this month.

On Monday, Mattis confirmed the exchange, but did not provide further details.

We discussed the option,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

We have open dialogue with our allies on any issue they want to bring up.”

However, the risk of reintroducing the weapon to the peninsula could be grave, said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, STRATCOM commander, who met with reporters during Mattis’ visit.

I think it is actually a very dangerous term to use, because I think every nuclear weapon that is employed is strategic,”

The U.S. has around 500 B-61 low-yield, or “tactical” nuclear gravity bombs ― some with yields as small as 0.3 kilotons in their arsenal, said James McKeon, a nuclear weapons analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

However, it’s not the size that determines their tactical or strategic status, McKeon said. The bombs are tactical ― and not governed by the 2010 new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START treaty ― if they are delivered on a tactical aircraft, such as an F-16 or F-15 fighter jet, McKeon said.

The weapons become strategic if delivered via on of the nation’s strategic assets, such as the B-2 or B-52 nuclear-capable bombers.

Tactical nuclear weapons were removed from the South Korean Peninsula in 1991 in a previous attempt to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

To Hyten, the weapons are the same regardless of delivery or yield, because of the risk that North Korea would also choose to employ a low-yield device and bring both nations into an escalated, nuclear conflict.

To call it a tactical weapon brings into the possibility that there could be a nuclear weapon employed on a battlefield for a tactical effect,” Hyten said. “It’s not a tactical effect. If somebody deploys what is a non-strategic nuclear weapon or a tactical nuclear weapon, the United States will respond strategically, not tactically because they have now crossed a line ― a line that hasn’t been crossed since 1945.”

Spring in Australia: crops in NSW are being abandoned

These articles are designed to conceal as much as they reveal.

You would think that crop failures in New South Wales would be major headlines but no, it is only in one minor publication across the whole internet.

The SMH article says it is going to be ‘quite hot’ and fails to mention that days into spring this is completely unprecedented; another record falls.

Only right in the middle of the article where it is designed to be overlooked is the punchline:

NSW has never had a 40-degree day recorded in September, and the latest model runs are putting such a temperature in play, according to the Bureau of Meteorology”

Seasonal outlook: NSW crops abandoned

CROPS have being abandoned in parts of NSW after months of severe frosts combined with poor rainfall and warm spring temperature

21 September, 2017

The NSW Department of Primary Industries’ latest seasonal outlook, released last week, painted a bleak picture for some major cropping regions in the state.
NSW DPI seasonal conditions co-ordinator Ian McGowen said crops west of the Newell Highway have been “virtually written off”.
Across north western and central western NSW and areas of the Riverina, many crops have been abandoned,” the DPI report said.
In eastern areas, a combination of warm daytime temperatures and multiple frosts put pressure on crops, progressively reducing the yield potential of winter cereals and canola.”
The report also said more than one-third of the state received below-average rainfall last month, with the north east receiving the lowest falls.
And topsoil moisture modelling from the DPI and CSIRO showed while it remained stable in western and central NSW, there were major declines across the north and the central to north coast.
Mr McGowen said growers in the worst-affected regions were turning livestock onto crops, after poor rainfall and severe frosts stunted winter pasture growth.
He said the Bureau of Meteorology had reported that Condobolin had suffered up to 25 more frosts than average this year from the start of August until last week, when the temperature dipped below 2C.
We’ve seen head frosting in cereals, and some stem frosting,” he said. “In canola and pulses there has been flower and pod abortion.”
It’s very difficult to assess how much damage a frost has done until its ready to harvest.”
Condobolin farmer Peter Dowling told The Weekly Times dying canola, wheat and barley had been sprayed out in his district “for weed control and to keep cover on the ground”.
A Kikoira near, near West Wyalong, Mark Hoskinson said conditions were “shocking” and that if he didn’t receive rain in the next week he would put livestock on grain crops.
What’s not frosted is under severe moisture stress. It looks like it will be a complete wipe-out here unless there is a rain soon,” he said.
It wasn’t all bad news. Mr McGowen said topsoil moisture improved across the south, eastern and central Riverina, Monaro and south east of the state.
Corowa grower Pat Drum said his crops were starting to “dry off a bit” after very good rain in autumn, but he wasn’t too concerned yet about the cropping season.

SEVERE Heatwave about to grip Queensland

Forecast maximums for Saturday via OCF

HigginsStorm Chasing,
20 September, 2017

After the non-existent and dry Winter for Queensland, we are about to be dealt a harsh blow as a prolonged heatwave is forecast to lash the State starting on Thursday in the West and Friday in the East! Above image – Saturday Forecast Maximums via OCF

A high pressure system is forecast to be situated off the Queensland Coast, staying near stationary from Thursday until Sunday. On Monday and Tuesday the high is expected to slowly drift towards the East however the ridge is likely to extend back towards the State. This high is likely to combine a series of low pressure troughs moving through NSW, SA and Southern parts of Queensland, generating a very constant and very dry North-Westerly flow across the region which will see temperatures skyrocket.

Forecast pressure and winds on Friday via WindyTV showing the high in the Pacific, trough over NSW and North-West winds feeding in between both.
From Thursday onwards, temperatures are expected to scorch into the mid to high 30’s across Western parts of the State. By Friday, the heat (35ºc+) should cover the majority of Inland QLD, with 30-35ºc across Eastern parts of the State. On Saturday we could see temperatures rise ito around 40ºc across South-Western QLD with the majority of Inland QLD sitting above 37ºc and places like Ipswich, Beaudesert and Gatton rising into the mid to high 30’s.

A cooler change is forecast to move through the Southern districts later on Sunday / early Monday however temperatures are likely to remain above 30ºc for most areas (well above average for this time of year). Temperatures across the South-East corner, Central and Northern districts are likely to stay very hot for this time of year (35ºc+).

The increase heat is expected to also lead to a significant increase in fire danger potential. Fire danger threats should reach at least very high levels, potentially severe across several districts throughout the heatwave period (Thursday to Wednesday).

Sydney weather: 'Quite hot' conditions this weekend as NSW records in play

Saturday's expected maximum temperatures.
20 September, 2017

Temperatures in Sydney will climb into the 30s in coming days as very warm air from inland Australia gets drawn to the coast, setting up potentially NSW's first 40-degree day recorded in September.

A "vast area" of the state will have very high fire danger by the weekend, with some areas tipping into "severe" risks, Ben Shepherd, a spokesman for the NSW Rural Fire Service, said.

The mercury will begin a steady rise from Wednesday's relatively chilly - though bang on average - forecast top of 20 degrees in the city to 25 degrees by Thursday as the sunshine increases.

By Saturday, Sydney will be looking at a top of 33 degrees but most of inland suburbs will be reaching higher temperatures, including 36 degrees in Penrith, according to the updated Bureau of Meteorology forecasts.

"It's really going to be quite hot in Sydney," Jacob Cronje, senior meteorologist at Weatherzone, said.

The worst of the heat, though, will be felt in the state's north-west, where are a large region is likely to endure 39 degrees or hotter conditions on Saturday.

Wanaaring, which holds the current NSW record for September at 39.6 degrees in 2004, is among the expected hotspots.

NSW has never had a 40-degree day recorded in September, and the latest model runs are putting such a temperature in play, according to the Bureau of Meteorology

Mr Cronje said that each wave of cold fronts moving across the country at this time of year tends to draw in the hot, dry conditions building over central Australia. So far, there's little sign of a break of that pattern of heat pooling in the red centre.

"I don't think that heat is going anywhere," he said.

Alas for those holding out for rain, there are few signs of more than the odd shower for most parts of NSW over the coming week, including Sydney.

So far Sydney has recorded just 24.4 millimetres of rain since the start of July.

That tally - if not added to by more than 3.7 millimetres by the end of the month - would be the city's second driest July-September period on record, trailing only 1907, Blair Trewin, senior climatologist with the bureau, said.

Fire risks to be elevated

Along with the dry conditions and rising temperatures, winds are also likely to strengthen in coming days, Mr Cronje said, adding to the fire risks.

Fire authorities are gearing up for a more active and early fire season.

As of Wednesday, the state had more than 50 fires burning, nine of them uncontained, Inspector Shepherd said.

Sydney has already had its first total fire ban day, with last Wednesday's 33.8 degree maximum the first time the mercury had topped 33 degrees in the city by the first half of September in almost 160 years of records.

While it's too early to say whether the city will have another day of total fire ban during the coming warm patch, Inspector Shepherd said it may only take the increase in forecast wind speeds of a couple of kilometres per hour to nudge Sydney into that category.

As it is, areas of north-west NSW stretching into the Hunter are likely to have severe fire danger ratings for the weekend, he said.

Image may contain: food

Via Facebook

Another day, another very warm to hot and windy day along the coast and in the northeast of NSW.

Expecting to see things heat up dramatically this week into the weekend and I will be bringing comprehensive details on the dangerous fire weather expected this weekend in a lot of NSW and southern QLD.

Very hot and dry northwesterly winds will extend down into these regions later in the week into the weekend and this coupled with extremely low humidity and very dry vegetation, fire weather warnings are almost a certainty across vast areas of these states.