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Preston Clive

Economic & News Monday: Can't Trust That Day

They can be manic, indeed. (CREDIT: someecards)

So it's Monday, traders, and what we have here is is a platter of issues to sift through as we approach Easter on this shortened workweek. 

First off we have more disturbing news on the goings-on vis a vis the crash of Germanwings flight to Dusseldorf from Barcelona. Bits and pieces of the cockpit voice recorder (one of the two so-called "Black Boxes," although heaven knows why they are thusly named, as they are spray painted a bright orange) have leaked out into the public. One piece of the scenario put out in the transcript leak--actually a leak of selected summary events deemed most critical which were leaked by the German newspaper Bild and translated by CNN-- illustrates Andreas Lubitz' technique of getting himself left alone in the cockpit: urging the captain to go to the restroom by reminding him he didn't have the chance to go while on the ground. According to the transcript:  

* There are 1.5 hours of sound on the voice recorder.

• The flight took off 20 minutes late, and Capt. Patrick Sondenheimer apologizes for the delay and says they will try and make up for it in the air.

• Even before takeoff, the captain tells co-pilot Andreas Lubitz that he didn't manage to go to the bathroom in Barcelona. Lubitz tells him he can go anytime.

• The plane reaches its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet at 10:27 a.m. local time.

• The captain asks the co-pilot to prepare the landing.

• After the check, Lubitz repeats to the captain, "You can go now." There is the sound of a seat moving backward. After that, the captain is heard saying, "You can take over."

This is where the captain leaves the cockpit. The door is heard clicking locked behind him. Shortly thereafter, radar indicates the plane dipped almost immediately into a descent. In what must have constituted eight minutes of horrific, stomach wrenching listening for the authorities after downloading the audio, the plane's ground proximity warning system (GPWS) kicks in and begins warning that the plane has engaged in a descent of above above-average feet-per-second. At this precise time the air traffic controllers tried to contact the plane, but of course received no answer. 

The CNN translation of the Bild timeline continues outlining the eight horrifying moments endured by passengers and crew, speeding down into the mountains with the captain yelling at the top of his lungs and frantically swinging an axe into the ironbound door in an attempt to breach the barrier .  .  .  to no avail .  .  .  and to the shrieks of the panicked passengers .  .  .  until the first contact with the mountainside is heard and finally the recording ends:

• At 10:32 a.m., air traffic controllers contact the plane and receive no answer. Almost at the same time, an alarm goes off in the cockpit saying "sink rate."

• Shortly after there is a loud bang on the door. The pilot can be heard screaming, "For God's sake, open the door!" Passengers can be heard screaming in the background.

• At 10:35 a.m., loud metallic bangs can be heard as though someone is trying to knock down the door. The plane is at about 23,000 feet.

• Ninety seconds later, another alarm goes off: "Terrain -- pull up!" The plane is at about 16,400 feet. The captain is heard screaming, "Open the damn door!"

• At 10:38 a.m., the plane is descending toward the French Alps, and the co-pilot can be heard breathing. The plane is at about 13,100 feet.

• At 10:40 a.m., it sounds like the plane's right wing scrapes a mountaintop, then screams can be heard one more time. Those are the last sounds on the voice recorder.

*          *           *

Also today, we have the entertaining news that former Fed Head Ben Bernanke has kicked off a blog of his own, at the Brookings Institution, and in his first post defended the Fed against the charge that they are keeping interest rates artificially low--and set of howls of derision and disagreement. He states:

If you asked the person in the street, “Why are interest rates so low?”, he or she would likely answer that the Fed is keeping them low. That’s true only in a very narrow sense. The Fed does, of course, set the benchmark nominal short-term interest rate. The Fed’s policies are also the primary determinant of inflation and inflation expectations over the longer term, and inflation trends affect interest rates, as the figure above shows.


To understand why this is so, it helps to introduce the concept of the equilibrium real interest rate (sometimes called the Wicksellian interest rate, after the late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Swedish economist Knut Wicksell). The equilibrium interest rate is the real interest rate consistent with full employment of labor and capital resources, perhaps after some period of adjustment. Many factors affect the equilibrium rate, which can and does change over time. In a rapidly growing, dynamic economy, we would expect the equilibrium interest rate to be high, all else equal, reflecting the high prospective return on capital investments. In a slowly growing or recessionary economy, the equilibrium real rate is likely to be low, since investment opportunities are limited and relatively unprofitable. Government spending and taxation policies also affect the equilibrium real rate: Large deficits will tend to increase the equilibrium real rate (again, all else equal), because government borrowing diverts savings away from private investment.

Which, as many are wont to say, is missing the point. We are at a point where vastly disproportionate amounts of cash flowing into the economy are coming from corporate profits, and an inflated market--versus everywhere else. With wages and consumer spending posting underwhelming numbers, we are essentially at a situation of Zero Interest Rates and Negative Interest Rates (Switzerland must be paid by lenders to borrow money) across this fair and twirling globe. With each crisis, the policy seems to be--"Pull out the air pumps and manufacture yet another bubble in the market, for record markets will surely solve this problem, yes? Yes?"

Yet another illustration of the federal collusion with corporate wealth to maintain a willful blindness to one simple fact--a blindness that will sustain the continued global brokenness of the economy:

Fat corporate profits without a thriving worker class will keep federal orders for cotton at highs--and currency will continue to be printed at record numbers across our fair and broad modern world. Because of course: cheap jobs with no benefits and ridiculous wages will continue to gnaw at the inner guts of the economy, like a botfly warble eating away at a dying squirrel, regardless of corporate profits and stock prices. The longer the fed pretends that corporate America is a suitable--or even paramount--source of revenue at almost the total expense of the common working man, the underpinnings of the entire monetary system will continue to weaken until ultimate collapse.

Ah, Monday. Just as the Mamas and the Papas say: "Can't trust that day. . . ."

Preston Clive


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