Monday, February 24, 2014

'Free-markets' have their costs; U.S. was no Different..

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Air Pollution a real Health Problem for the Chinese

Beijing’s air pollution reached eight times World Health Organization-recommended levels as smog in the city persisted for a fourth day, prompting China’s environmental protection regulator to send inspection teams to the capital and surrounding areas.
The concentration of PM2.5, fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health, was 198 micrograms per cubic meter near the Tiananmen Square in China’s capital at 11 a.m, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website. The WHO recommends levels of no higher than 25 micrograms per cubic meter in 24 hours.
China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said today it has dispatched 12 groups to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province to determine if local authorities have taken adequate measures against air pollution and whether curbs on steel, coal, glass panel and cement production are in place. The regulator also sent an urgent notice requiring local governments to better predict air quality and make timely disclosure to the public.
Beijing maintained its air pollution alert at orange, triggering orders for some enterprises to limit production and a ban on outdoor barbecues and fireworks, as smog levels were projected to stay hazardous until at least Monday morning.
Pollution in Beijing and Shanghai placed them among the least hospitable of 40 international cities listed in a report by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, which ranked China’s capital second from bottom, ahead of Moscow.
Smog will persist until Monday morning in Beijing, Tianjin, and parts of Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, Xinhua reported today, citing China’s meteorological agency. The agency forecast the smog will ease on Thursday when a cold front is expect bring winds.
Courtesy of Bloomberg online.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

In early March Obama plans to ask Congress to Cut tax advantages of Employer-sponsored retirement accounts for higher-income earners

B.O. wants to limit the value of all tax deductions, defined contribution exclusions and IRA deductions to 28% of income — and include an overall cap on all retirement accounts, including pensions, that could bring in $1 billion a year in new tax revenue, according to a Pensions & Investments report. Companies must now buckle-in for a 1-2 retirement punch.
According to the report, the proposals are designed to direct more of the tax preference for retirement savings toward getting more low- and middle-income people into the habit of saving.
Based on current tax brackets, Pensions & Investments reported that the 28% limit would reduce the tax advantages of retirement savings for people earning more than $183,000 or couples earning more than $225,000. And the overall cap for all tax-preferred retirement accounts would limit them to providing an annual retirement income of $205,000, which would currently cap tax-preferred accounts at $3.4 million, but could go lower as interest rates rise.
So, who might feel the effects of this proposal? Largely, the top 5% of tax payers. According to the Tax Policy Center, a partnership between the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, there are about 6.07 million Americans who earned above $200,000 in 2011 and they make up the top 4.2% of taxpayers, according to published reports. 
And what do experts have to say about what the president might propose? In the main, they say the rich need not worry that their tax breaks for saving for retirement will be cut.
“We’ve heard these kinds of proposals being discussed in policy circles for a couple of years now,” said Skip Schweiss, president of TD Ameritrade Trust Co. and managing director of TD Ameritrade Institutional. “It would not surprise me to see these ideas become more formalized through President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal.”
But even though experts expect the president to propose reductions to some of the tax advantages for employer-sponsored retirement plans for higher-income earners, few expect any congressional action. “Given the congressional divide, it’s hard to see something like this becoming law, but of course one never knows,” said Schweiss.
From his perspective, Schweiss said there are at least three problems with the proposal that should be considered carefully.
The first, said Schweiss, is that contributions to retirement plans are made on a tax-deferred basis, not a tax-deductible basis. “That is, while I may receive a tax deduction this year for making my contribution, the government will get its money down the road when I withdraw the funds in my retirement years,” he said. “And it will get more, as it will tax the earnings as well as the contributions.”
This stands, Schweiss said, in contrast to deductions like home mortgage interest and employer-sponsored health insurance premium deductions: once those deductions are received by the taxpayer, the government will not realize the tax revenues from those items, ever.
The second consideration, said Schweiss, is that if someone is in an upper-income bracket, say 35%, and only gets a 28% deduction on her retirement plan contributions, she will pay taxes on the other 7% this year, and pay taxes on those funds later when withdrawn in retirement. “So those income dollars would be taxed twice under this type of proposal,” he said.
And a third potential problem, said Schweiss, is that the more restrictions on tax benefits we impose on retirement plans, the less attractive it will become for a business owner to sponsor a plan. “And who loses then?” he asked “The worker, not the business owner.”
Lena Haas, senior vice president of retirement, investing and saving, for E*TRADE Financial, said those in the industry have a sense of what makes for a good individual retirement plan. And President Obama’s proposals might not be in the best interest of savers.
“There are many ways to encourage individuals to save for retirement: through education and guidance, automatic contribution features, or incentives in the form of tax advantages,” said Haas. “A successful plan uses a combination of these. If one of these features is reduced or taken away, these plan designers are going to have to rely more heavily on the other features to drive participation and engagement.”
“In this instance, less incentives means a greater reliance on education, guidance, or automatic contribution features,” Haas said. “Saving for retirement is hard — you can’t expect participants to participate without some sort of a helping hand.”
Others also say keeping tax breaks in place for saving are critical.
“Retirement security is a shared responsibility between government, business, and individual and a system that is designed to motivate all stakeholders will drive the best outcome for Americans to achieve retirement security, said Joe Ready, director of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust.
Ready said he’s hopeful there will be a thoughtful approach to strike a balance between the need for Americans to save and the budget deficit. “The reality is that it’s hard to ignore the fact that pretax advantages drives good retirement savings behaviors, and we need to remember that this is a tax deferral, and that once retirees begin to withdraw from their 401(k) accounts, they do pay taxes,” Ready said.
Although there are things that can be improved about the workplace retirement plan, Ready believes that if employees are given access and improve their savings rate, the system can significantly improve.
What sort of laws are really needed?
To be sure, there are new laws that should be proposed. “The U.S. needs more incentives for people to save for retirement, not fewer,” said Schweiss. “To do otherwise is to create yet more pressure on the social safety net down the road.”
In fact, Schweiss noted that we already have just over half of American workers with access to a retirement plan because many small businesses don’t sponsor one. “We should make it less burdensome and less expensive for a small business to allow its employees to save for retirement, not more,” he said.
So what’s needed? Ideas such as the “auto-IRA,” where employers open their payroll system for employees to contribute into an IRA account, would help, said Schweiss. “We know that if an American does not have access to a workplace retirement plan, only about 5% of them will save on their own,” he said. “We need to make it easier, not harder.”
Ready said legislative proposals that leverage the already existing plan designs would be best. “Of the almost 80 million 401(k) participants, 80% of them make less than $100,000 and are significantly benefiting from the 401(k),” he said. “From our research, we’ve seen that people with access to a 401(k) plan have saved three times more than those without access to a plan.”
According to Ready, one good example of changing the 401(k) plan design that is been discussed in the industry and would not greatly impact the middle class would be limiting the pretax deferral amount to $10,000 and then the balance of $7,500 after tax money could go into a Roth 401(k). “This would keep the $17,500 limit and the taxes from the Roth 401(k) would help with the fiscal budget,” he said.
By the way, just 5% of the roughly 60 million 401(k) plan participants contribute the maximum amount to their 401(k), which is $17,500 in 2014 for those under age 50 and $23,000 for those 50 and older. And roughly another 5% would contribute the maximum amount, if their companies let them.
And according to a Vanguard study of 2,000 401(k) plans with 3 million participants, 11% of 401(k) participants contributed the maximum possible amount in 2012. 
No matter what becomes law, Haas had this bit of advice for all: “One thing is clear: we face an uncertain future when it comes to tax treatments of retirement plans,” said Haas. “So in the same way that you want a diversified portfolio of various assets, you also want to consider diversifying your funds among the various retirement account types — taxable, tax-free, and tax deferred — to address that uncertainty.”
This piece is credited to Robert Powell of MarketWatch, February 21, 2014.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

House Leader John Boehner (R) Flaccid Again; S&P blips..

Elephants in the House of Representatives have supposedly folded and dropped their debt ceiling demands of the big Govt Donkeys.  
If nothing changes legislation will advance and Washington's borrowing authority will increase again. Many attributed today's bullish S&P action on this news.  
Most technicians agree that the S&P is short-term Overbought and expect a pullback. 
  • From Low to High the S&P is Up over 4.5% in just 5-trading days 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Communist Party of China (CPC) Derails U.S. Fed's Manipulative Policies; Futuristic~

Will there be any negative fallout for our money and markets if China's Shanghai
composite continues to break down, our crystal ball says Yes. 

A stock market panic in the Govt influenced Shanghai cross-contaminated other asset classes but specifically the banks; a master Power Grab solution was devised over several-months with the foundation that the CPC held about 23% of outstanding U.S. T-Notes. 

Since the U.S. Fed launched QE in late 2010 the superior performance of the S/P versus the Shanghai has been astounding and not coincidental in our opinion. 

Indirect consequences of hyper U.S. monetary policies are likely part of the reason why the Shanghai is on the verge of crashing to multi-year lows while the U.S. S/P is less than 4% from historic highs. 

  •     U.S. S/P index in green versus China's Govt influenced Shanghai index in blue, a 5-year chart

Chart forSSE Composite Index (000001.SS)

  • The 5-year Shanghai chart 

Chart forSSE Composite Index (000001.SS)

We must pay attention to all U.S. paper assets, but especially the 10-year T-Note the morning after the Shanghai closes below 1,950, an important level of support after 2,000. We'll be monitoring for any signs of stress related to volume, price, and T-Note yield if the Shanghai starts breaking large round-numbers. 

It's possible that no signs of stress appear until 1,900 or even 1,500. Yet our Capitalist Pig Bob is convinced the CPC is more than capable of throwing a U.S. Govt T-Note party on the shores of the East China Sea. This would work to cripple the economy while reasserting the CPC's stranglehold on the mainland's assets and people. 

The Fed under Bernanke has manipulated interest rates and choked off any chance of organic price discovery via an Exchange; some U.S. Exchanges like the Philadelphia have worked efficiently since 1790. 

The argument that Japan is performing QE many times more than the U.S. -on a relative basis- or that Europa's Mario Draghi is on board somehow justifies hyper to the nth degree monetary actions does not stand with any fiscal conservative.  

In a paradoxical twist the communist Chinese Govt is credited with being the most effective Tea Party after they dumped U.S. T-Notes in a staged panic in a Power Grab of the largest 'private/free-market' businesses; this triggered cascading events, nearly dethroning U.S. reserve currency status while rendering the Fed obsolete.

Staring further into our crystal ball we see China blamed it on the Shanghai panic. But in 2023 a Chinese diplomat admitted that the Shanghai crash was an orchestrated event to get retribution for U.S. monetary policies that exacerbated unbearable food and real estate inflation. China was in the early stages of sculpting an economic and global political identity that the red and almighty Govt felt was getting out of their preferred control; the experiment created too many young billionaires who were becoming a real threat to the status quo.  

The emblem of the Communist Party of China.
Today's classic emblem of the Chinese communist party.