How to Do WoW Gold Collection

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Fishy Economic Data and the China Crash

Wolf Richter

An unrelenting, horrid wave of scandals about toxic ingredients in foods and medicines in China shows that regulators are unwilling and incapable of controlling it. It also shows a penchant—some evil tongues say it’s cultural—for pandemic cheating in order to get ahead in some way. And Chinese economic data falls into that category.

Every country has its own bureaucratic madness in pursuing obfuscation. In the US, one of the hardest things to get is a truthful, or at least a somewhat realistic, or at the very least a not totally fabricated unemployment and jobs number. But at least, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues a slew of supplemental data. So, in addition to the nearly worthless headline numbers that media and politicians wave in proclaiming victory, we get numbers that point at deeper fissures [for a fun head-butting on this issue, read Yves Smith’s post].

But in China, the art of data manipulation is such that even the government might not know the true status of the economy. Officials even at the local level are rewarded, promoted, or demoted, based on achieving their economic quotas as measured by tax receipts, business revenues, real estate developments, and so on. Hence, the incentive to fudge the numbers on an individual basis is high. According to the New York Times, “The officials do so by urging businesses to keep separate sets of books, showing improving business results and tax payments that do not exist.”

As the fudged numbers flow upward and are consolidated, they aggregate into a fudged whole, inflating GDP by 1 to 2 percentage points. But it might be a lot worse, and sometimes it’s just the way it’s counted.

Auto sales, for example. A crucial economic data set. But the way they’re reported, even if they were accurate, make them useless for estimating the health of the auto industry or the consumer. In May, they jumped 23%, higher than analysts had expected. The media drooled. Toyota and Honda nearly doubled their sales. Ford pushed 23% more units out, GM 21%. BMW sales soared 32%. Everything was simply outstanding.

Alas, they’re wholesales to distributors, not to consumers. In the US, auto sales are based on sales by dealers to retail and commercial customers. In Europe, they’re based on new vehicle registrations—when customers get the tags. This is even more accurate than dealer sales; just before cutoff, dealers scramble to push every possible unit into the system to beat the other dealers in town, and in the process, a few half-baked units slip through; later, when the down-payment check bounces or whatever, the sale will have to be backed out, showing up as a negative sale the next month. So the fudged numbers are small and self-correcting.

But in China, auto sales are reported as wholesales—when vehicles leave the plant. And while these numbers were stunning and glorious, at dealerships the scenario was gruesome: sales in May couldn’t digest the flood of production. Inventories on lots across the country ballooned from 45 days’ supply at the end of April to 60 days’ supply by the end of May—a dizzying 33% increase in just 30 days. And the ballyhooed 23% increase remained unsold. Added to inventory. Channel stuffing. Rampant overproduction and weak retail sales [for that whole debacle, read… China: A Mixed Bag Turns Very Ugly].

So, to feel their way through the inaccurate data fog, many foreign observers, and also Chinese officials, have been trying to find alternative measures that are less prone to cheating and manipulation. And electricity generation has been seen as a reliable, no BS indicator of what’s really happening in the economy. Such basic industrial data is hard to manipulate.

Not for the Chinese. Turns out, stockpiles of coal, the main fuel for Chinese power plants, has reached record levels as demand from power plants, which should have been increasing in a growing economy, has plummeted as a function of plummeting demand for electricity. And now, according the New York Times, even the government is investigating the signs that reported electricity output was exaggerated.

When the economy is hot, there is less incentive to cheat, but when it’s slowing down, though the quotas don’t allow for it to slow down, cheating becomes a career imperative. And “Government officials don’t want to see the negative,” said a chief executive. So these officials pressure the industry to wipe away any decline in consumption by reporting it as flat.

In Shandong and Jiangsu, where heavy industry plays a big role, electricity consumption has plunged more than 10% in May compared to prior year. Similar trends have been observed in Western China. While official data has been showing a slowdown of the Chinese economy from its torrid pace to a growth rate that would still be stunning in the US, electricity consumption suggests that the slowdown is much steeper. Anecdotal evidence to that effect has been popping for a while—to be negated by decent official numbers. And one wonders how long this charade, even in China, can be kept up before reality sullies it.

China has been the biggest winner of globalization. But populist and nationalist movements sweeping the world are threatening China and are a visceral rejection of China as the world’s biggest exporter. Read…. Death Of Globalization Will Shatter China.

36,000 Chinese engineers, tradesmen, and technicians fled Libya when NATO began bombing. Though China opposed the NATO intervention, it’s back in good graces with the rebels. But China wants much more than Libya’s crude. It sees the country as the springboard to a bigger prize—control of Africa’s massive oil reserves. Part of its “grand plan” to buy up energy resources, writes Marin Katusa. And now two superpowers with conflicting interests are battling it out on the world stage again. Only this time, it’s not about ideologies. It’s about survival. Read…. The New Cold War.

Bill Buckler On Keynesian Religion As World War… And The One "Good" Thing About It

Courtesy of Bill Buckler, author of The Privateer

If It Doesn’t Work – Keep Trying It Until It Does:

Those running the big investment banks and trading floors today bear an uncanny resemblance to the generals on both sides of the conflict in WWI. There is an old military saying about the folly of fighting the “next” war by the methods of the last war. In modern times, the best illustration of the truth of that adage is what happened on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918.

When 1914 dawned, Europe had not seen a continental war for a century. Most of the generals and the vast majority of their political masters on both sides had not noticed that the years since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 had seen what was and remains the greatest technological revolution in the history of the world. Both sides had seen the US Civil War of 1861-65, a war which proved beyond all shadow of a doubt that a frontal assault on an established defensive position was almost guaranteed to fail. Both sides completely ignored the lesson. The literal “cannon fodder” on both sides paid a gruesome price.

The result of this stubborn ignorance, as the history books so voluminously recount, was the antithesis of “bliss”. It was mass carnage. When an attack by 50,000 men proved impotent to the task, the numbers were raised to 100,000 and then 250,000. When an hour of preliminary shelling of the target proved insufficient, it was raised to an entire morning and then to a day and then to the best part of a week. The “big” battalions got bigger and Bigger and BIGGER. The trenches proliferated. The barbed wire proliferated. The casualties proliferated. The destruction proliferated.

The men on the firing line on both sides quickly realised the futility of what those who commanded them were attempting to do. But there was no escape for them. They died in their millions while the generals and the politicians clung tenaciously to the goal of trying to make the unworkable “work”. Any suggestion of a deviation from the frontal assault was fiercely resisted. On the few occasions when it was actually tried, such as the Cambrai offensive with its use of tanks and no preliminary bombardment, it was done over protest and the means supplied were intentionally insufficient to the task. The end came as it was always going to come, with exhaustion.

Four Years Of False Dawns

WWI lasted 51 months, from August 1914 until November 1918. If we go back 51 months from the present, we reach late March 2008 – six months before the Lehman crisis hit. From that day to this, has there been ANY more deviation from the “approved” method of extracting the world from its financial morass than was shown by the WWI commanders in extracting themselves from their military morass?

The answer is crystal clear. There has been NO such deviation. There has simply been more of the same. When half a $US TRILLION in annual deficits proved insufficient to the task, the number was raised to $US 1 TRILLION and then the best part of $US 2 TRILLION. When central bank interest rates equalling the lowest in history didn’t work, interest rates were eradicated altogether. When existing methods of bailing out insolvent banks proved insufficient to the task, new methods were invented in an ever increasing stream. When the results of the inevitable financial carnage became too big to ignore, the figures which reported it were adulterated or simply suppressed completely.

With every new year that has dawned since 2008, the powers that be everywhere have announced that THIS TIME, the recovery is “real”. In March 2012, French President Sarkozy was announcing that: “Today, the problem is solved!” Christine Lagarde over at the IMF proclaimed that: “Economic spring is in the air.” Not to be outdone, President Obama was telling his fellow Americans that: “The recovery is accelerating, America is coming back!” The same songbook was followed in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

It was followed in WWI too, long after the contrast with the REAL situation had gone far beyond the grotesque. Today, there is only ONE place left in the world which still clings to its long-fostered stubborn ignorance. That place is the financial markets. They STILL believe in the BIGGER batallions.

The One “Good” Thing About A Big War:

A “big” war becomes the almost exclusive centre of attention to all those engaged in it, whether on the front or keeping the “home fires burning”. It is impossible to pretend that it is not happening and equally impossible to cover up the devastation in lives and property which it causes. Many people don’t come home from BIG wars, leaving those left behind with agonising and very REAL losses. War causes destruction which is immediate and visible. It is not something that can be swept under the carpet.

Today, we are in the midst of a financial debacle which is more truly global than any world war. There are no lines of trenches, no shattered towns and cities, no casualty lists in the papers and no “we regret to inform you” telegrams being delivered. The carnage is real but it is invisible. No lives have been lost. All that has happened is that the living of life has become more difficult and the ability to rely on the fruits of past efforts for future comfort and “security” has been all but extinguished. The vast majority of the people are cannon fodder in this financial debacle. Like the real thing in the trenches of the Western Front, they have long since realised the futility of the efforts of their “generals”. They know that the “recession” is not over. They are starting to realise that it will never be over as long as the same methods which produced it are being used to get out from under it. But most see no escape, having become used to looking to those same “generals” to tell them what to do.

To an extent which goes far beyond even the politicians and the bankers, the “market makers” want to fight this new financial war with the methods of the old ones. In WWI, the generals held to the end that if your shelling made a big enough noise, the danger of an attack would go away. The “market makers” figure that if they stuff enough new freshly-printed money in their ears, they won’t have to hear the sound of the economy falling away from underneath them. “Less Talk – More Stimulus?” That is a message that the generals of WWI would have understood very well. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now.

Wolfgang Schäuble: Ask Not What Germany Can Do For You, Ask How Many Government Workers You Can Fire

And it seemed like the most innocent case of detached retina ever. On Friday, newly elected Greek PM Samaras had to be rushed to the hospital due to the rather peculiar ocular complication, only to be followed promptly by the new Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos fainting and also being given urgent medical care. Both are procedures that require a few hours of inpatient treatment. Yet judging by the implications these two freak occurrences have had, one would image that both patients are comatose and on the same ventilator that kept former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak half alive, half dead a week ago. The punchline, however, is that this may be the only case of detached retina in modern history that costs a country €5 billion.

From Kathimerini:

“The health problems of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and new Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos this weekend are changing the government’s timetable and postponing the visit of the representatives of Greece’s creditors by a week, according to state-run TV. The hospitalization of the two very people the inspectors of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – collectively known as the troika – wished to meet, means that the latter had to put off their visit that was originally planned for Monday.”

In other words, the Troika which was supposed to come to Greece tomorrow to evaluate what little progress may have happened in order to release more cash to the insolvent country, will not have to wait until after the latest and greatest European summit, where while everyone was expecting for absolutely nothing to be decided (and certainly not the European Federalist state which is the only development that can keep the Eurozone together), suddenly the very fate of Greece in the Eurozone is once again at stake and may be decided as soon as next Friday.

State television channel NET reported on Saturday that the troika will now arrive early next month, which is after the European Union summit scheduled for June 28-29 in Brussels.

This will of course postpone further the disbursement of the next loan tranche for Athens, that was due for June and amounts to 5 billion euros.


Given that Samaras and Rapanos will stay in hospital until Monday – the former in order to recover after an eye surgery and the latter for tests to establish the reasons of his fainting on Friday – it remains unclear whether Samaras will be able to travel to Brussels for the summit and when Rapanos will swear in as Finance Minister.

Well, the detached retina may have been a fluke, and surely anyone would faint when seeing the Greek cash ledger, but adding insult to injury, and making some wonder about the odd timing of these events, is that it is suddenly becoming public knowledge what was previously only whispered in dark corridors:  namely that Greece was pretending to be reforming in exchange for money that Europe was pretending to be paying Greek society.

An AFP report observes that “Greece breached the rules of its EU-IMF loan agreement by taking on some 70,000 public sector staff in two years, undermining efforts to reduce the state payroll, a report said on Sunday.”

To Vima weekly said the hirings in 2010 and 2011 were highest in local administration, health, the police and culture, where the number of employees actually increased.


It cited a report from a permanent mission to Athens of the so-called ‘troika’ of international creditors, the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank, and data given by outgoing finance minister George Zannias.


An unidentified troika official told the daily: “While they legislated rules to reduce the number of civil servants, they were bringing people in through the window.”

It appears that all those myths of austerity were just that (as we have explained time and time again): myths.

The official added that over 12,000 people were hired by local councils even as a cost-cutting initiative merging municipalities was underway.


Zannias’ report to the new government coalition after June 17 elections allegedly reveals that although over 53,000 civil servants retired in 2010, the overall number of state staff was almost steady at 692,000 people, To Vima said.


In this case, most of the vacancies were filled immediately, the daily said.


Similarly, although another 40,000 staff left in 2011, the net reduction on the payroll was only 24,000.


By this time, Greece had promised to only hire one civil servant for every five that left.


But over 16,000 people were hired instead of the allowed 8,000, To Vima said.


The report came ahead of an expected EU-IMF audit starting on Monday.

And while it is true that the bulk of the Greek “bailout” money went primarily to pay Greek creditors and the ECB, a good 20% of the cash did make its way into the Greek economy… Somewhere. Perhaps soon someone will ask just where. Did the politicians in charge of the country in the past two years steal all of that cash as well?

What happens when the Greek society, now with absolutely no hope left, and more despondent than ever, finds out that its leaders once again betrayed it? Just how many Golden Dawn members will there be in the next government election, once this government too tumbles.

Tying it all together, however, and making sure that Samaras’ cabinet is doomed before the ink of its formation documents is even dry, is everyone’s favorite Schrodinger finance minister (Now you see a bailout, now you don’t): Germany’s Wolfgang Schauble who just told Greece for the final time: no mas.

From Reuters:

Greece’s new government should stop asking for more help and instead move quickly to enact reform measures agreed to in return for previous bailouts from its European partners, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Sunday.


Schaeuble told Bild am Sonntag in unusually blunt language that Greece has forfeited much of Europe’s trust during the sovereign debt crisis, as reflected in an opinion poll covering the euro zone’s four biggest nations and published in the paper.


“The most important task facing new prime minister (Antonis) Samaras is to enact the programme agreed upon quickly and without further delay instead of asking how much more others can do for Greece,” said Schaeuble, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Europe’s most powerful finance minister.


Greece’s new three-party coalition government said on Thursday it would renegotiate the terms of the 130-billion-euro bailout deal that is helping the country avoid bankruptcy.


The coalition’s platform particularly challenges euro zone paymaster Germany, which has offered to adjust the lifeline’s terms to make up for time lost as a result of two Greek elections since May, but refuses to revise it radically.


In a separate interview on Sunday published in Der Spiegel news magazine, Schaeuble again ruled out any form of collectivised debt such as euro bonds and defended the German government’s hard line on that.


“It’s because you cannot separate the responsibility for decision-making from the liability,” he said when asked why Germany was so adamantly opposed. “That’s true for almost everything but especially when it comes to money.


“Anyone who has the chance to spend someone else’s money will do that,” he added, before telling the reporter: “You’d do that and so would I. The markets know that. And so from that point of view they wouldn’t be convinced by euro bonds.”

So while wild speculations about this and that and the other future of the Eurozone continue, here is the bottom line:

Germany will continue pushing every peripheral country closer to the brink (which helps Germany courtesy of increasing pressure on the EURUSD, which benefits the only real net exporter and mercantilism beneficiary in the Eurozone – Germany – by now only absolute economic dilettantes don’t seem to understand this) until such time as PIIGS (and then all the other formerly core – here’s looking at you socialist “fairness doctrine” entrants) come begging for any scrap that whoever is in charge of Germany will be willing to hand them, in the form of a Debtor In Possession loan of course, and thus accretive to Bunds. If that means presenting their gold to the German Cash4Gold pawn shop under the guise of a Redemption Fund or whatever it is called, so be it. Unless of course, everyone keeps demanding that Germany bail them out. In which case Merkel will just unpack that brand spanking new shipment of DEMs and be done with it.

The only winner out of this: Syriza’s Tsipras who is sitting and cackling like a madman as everything is happening precisely as had been anticipated. Until the moment, that is, when he is elected to lead the country. At that point we are not sure whose life will be more of a living nightmare: his… or whoever is elected president in the US 2016 elections.

The ECB Is Delighted That Three Of Its Sponsored Teams Have Made It To The Euro2012 Semi-Finals

They may not be doing much of anything else lately (except for now proudly accepting Spiderman towels are collateral of course), but the European Central Bank sure is a fan of football, and the fact that three of the four teams in the Semi-finals come from countries officially funded by the ECB. We do have the feeling that letting Germany slip into the congratulatory tweet below was a mistake that will cost someone their taxpayer funded job.

Congratulations to Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy #euro2012

— Eur. Central Bank (@ecb_europa_eu) June 24, 2012

Ironically, while it has been the world against Merkel in bailoutnomics for the past several months, the key battle for Europe has now shifted to the football stadium as well. 

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