You Mean They Actually Have to Live Up to the Agreements They Made?

Greece has never really left the news, except that Americans have mostly been ignoring it in favor of more entertaining stuff. Greece fails to reach bailout deal with eurozone finance ministers

Depending on the article you read, Greece has either gotten, a deal, won’t get a deal, or will have any deals pushed off until after the German election in September.

Some people want Greece to do more. Some think that isn’t realistic. But this quote caught my eye.

Brussels wants all previously agreed reforms implemented.

Greece has been bailed out 3 or 4 times. In each case they have made promises, such as raise taxes, or sell nationalized industries to private concerns. They have done some of this, but not nearly all of this because it is hard. And in some cases they have passed laws that will do the hard stuff later this year or next. (Of course they can always change their minds which leaves some people feeling like it is another dodge.)

Why the delay related to Germany’s election? Because Angela Merkel would like to be re-elected. And the average German-in-the-street isn’t happy about all the money she loaned gave to Greece. And if she admits it was a gift and not a loan…. She is already facing a pretty tight election.

Meanwhile, in the Socialist Paradise of Venezuela…

Venezuela is teetering on the brink. Venezuela’s oil production is on the brink of collapse – Business Insider

If oil production collapses in the country, they won’t have a dime. They are already in a really bad way.

The inflation rate, according to the IMF, will balloon to 720 percent this year. Food shortages have been common for quite some time, but are deepening and wearing down the population. Three out of four people surveyed by the WSJ reported involuntary weight loss last year. Hospitals have completely broken down.

No food, no medical care. (What? I thought health care was a right. How could this happen in a socialist paradise?)

So why is oil production declining? Because the .gov used the oil money to buy and keep power, and spent none of it on maintenance. But there is a funny thing about oil equipment… it breaks down.

Crude oil production is down 18 percent since 2015 and is expected to decline 10 to 15 percent this year. Venezuelan oil refineries are also breaking down, unable to obtain spare parts.

The litany of decay goes on from there. Unpaid bills. Oil sent abroad, not kept for domestic use. The security services of the country are getting restless too. (They have families who can’t eat after all.) As Margaret Thatcher would have said, they have reached the point where they’ve run out of other people’s money.

Oh No! People Might Be Expected to Pay Off Loan$

It used to be that keeping a promise – even to a bank – was a virtue. 400,000 were promised student loan forgiveness. Now they are panicking – May. 18, 2017

Panicking because they might actually have to do what is they promised to do; pay off a loan.

Thanks at least in part to the Dept. of Education, the cost of a college degree has risen astronomically. So students are saddled with debt, that in many cases they are struggling to paying back. But then perhaps they should have thought of that before they ransomed their futures to get a degree in Whatever Studies.

I don’t want to have a debate about whether or not we need folks with degrees in stuff like French Literature. (Not chosen at random – I know someone with a degree like that.) But we don’t need millions of folks with that degree, and the 1 person I know had to settle for raising his family in backwoods place – granted a college town – where his wife is not happy. That doesn’t count the number of people with like degrees who are working in retail.

If you want to get a college degree in Whatever Studies, that’s great. Figure out how you are going to pay for it outside of “Getting a loan through the Dept. of Education and then having the .gov pay it off.

God Bless Wolfgang Schaeuble

Everyone in the EU is talking about how debt relief is being readied for Greece. Everyone except Wolfgang Schaeuble, the finance minister of Germany. Germany says no debt relief being prepared for Greece | Reuters

Greece is once again complaining about the terms of their last bailout. They took the money and made promises, but the promises are “hard.” So they don’t think they should have to abide by the promises. (And the money is gone – no giving that back!)

The German finance minister, has a different view. You see Greece has never lived up to any of the sets of promises made after any of the bailouts. (I can’t even remember right now if it is 3 or 4 bailouts.) Other countries were bailed out, and it seems they are doing OK.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Durban, South Africa that the European Union needed to “exert pressure on national governments to implement … much-needed reforms.”

“Those countries which received help under European assistance programmes, and therefore had to actually implement unpleasant reforms, and those countries which have kept to the agreed rules are among the most successful countries in the EU today,” he said.

“The problem is therefore not with the rules, but with the lack of implementation of them.”

At least there is one man in Europe who is still willing to tell uncomfortable truths.

Puerto Rico: The New Greece

Another bankrupt government. This one a little closer to home. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/us/puerto-rico-insolvency-business-owners-anxiety.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Another government borrowed money that they really had no chance of paying back. And the population went along with it. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Faced with a $123 billion debt it cannot pay, Puerto Rico filed for a kind of bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, a move that sent shivers down the spines of everyone from bond holders fearful of staggering losses to street sweepers and public employees whose already meager paychecks are likely to dwindle.

The story – being in the New York Times – paints how bad everyone has it because of the eeeevil bankers. Or something. There is only limited discussion of the way the island ended up in these straights. For example, when the current governor, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló, took office, it wasn’t clear how much debt there was.

When he took office, Mr. Rosselló said his first task was to determine “how deep the rabbit hole went.” He expected a $3 billion deficit, and instead found a deficit of $7.5 billion

That is a pretty glaring lack of information.

Oil Prices Collapse, then Rebound a Bit

The Price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil went through a crash. Though prices have mostly recovered now, this might mean lower prices at the pump. Oil went through a flash crash overnight

The chart shows the price for WTI crude overnight. When it dipped below $45 per barrel, it triggered a selling storm. Margin calls, stop loss, and probably some short selling as well. (Isn’t technology wonderful?)

Traders tell CNBC there were no major headlines pushing prices below key technical levels, though a disappointing report on U.S. crude stockpiles and news of higher output in Libya has weighed on market sentiment this week.

“Disappointing” in this context means that the supply is high, and so prices are low. For those of us who aren’t trading oil futures, low prices of crude, usually presage low prices at the gas pump. Not a bad thing.

The international bellwether, Brent Crude, also went through a flash crash, though it has rebounded a bit more. Brent controls the price of petrol in the UK and EU more than it influences what happens in the US, though it can have an impact on the price of gasoline.

I haven’t seen any news on the 3rd benchmark – Dubai crude. But then it might just not be on reporters’ radar.