Hackers release files indicating NSA monitored global bank transfers

Hackers released documents and files on Friday that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks. The documents and files were released by a group calling themselves The Shadow Brokers. Some of the records bear NSA seals. Also published were many NSA programs for attacking various versions of the Windows operating system, at least some of which still work, researchers said.

— source reuters.com

Oh Thats one of the reason Modi puppet is pushing for digital money in india.

Banks are lending to buy houses, not build businesses

The days of the credit crunch can seem to be well and truly behind us. 2016 was the second successive year when bank lending to the economy was in positive territory – that is the total loans issued were greater than repayments. In total bank (net) lending in 2016 was £79bn, up from £39bn in 2015.

But there’s clear signs that the banking system still isn’t working as effectively as it should to support the real economy:

the scale of lending is still low
the largest area of lending is to mortgages
lending to firms remains incredibly weak, even if it was positive this year
manufacturers barely get a look in, with lending to agriculture higher in seven out of the last eight years

In the meantime firms are increasingly relying on other sources of corporate financing. These facts don’t bode well for the British economy. And they aren’t good for workers in retail banking either, with serious worries that the UK retail banking sector is being run down.

Total bank lending

The latest figures show that overall lending was positive across the board. Financial corporations, households and businesses (chart below) all saw increases in the amount lent by banks.

But as the chart below sets out, lending is still weak compared to the pre- crisis period. And businesses (the green bar in the chart) are faring worst, with lending increasing by just £15bn over the last year.
Bank lending to all sectors, annual change £ billion

[NB these figures are derived from Bank of England lending statistics, based on the structure of the industry breakdown in Table F from the very helpful Money and Credit release, with fuller data in ‘Bankstats’ Table C1.2 and using the interactive database. Bank (strictly bank and building society) lending corresponds to new (net) lending over the year, rather than the stock of outstanding lending. The annual totals here are derived by summing quarterly change, which is the recommended approach for calculating annual changes – see BoE methodological note.]

Lending to households

The main area where lending is growing is still lending secured on dwellings – that is, mortgages. In fact this has been the only consistently positive category throughout the post-crisis period.

The scale of reliance on mortgage lending is significantly larger than ahead of the crisis – in 2016 mortgage lending accounted for 51% of all lending, almost double the share ahead of the crisis (27% over 1998-2007).

Consumer credit is also gradually creeping larger– the cash increase of £10.0bn for 2016 is the largest since £11.2bn in 2005. But this is still a way below the heady £16bn annual average over 2000-2004.

(Throughout this discussion there is a tension between inadequate lending and wider concerns about excess debt – this is addressed in the last section.)

Lending to business

The significant fall in lending to non-financial businesses must still be the biggest worry. The next chart looks at lending to non-financial business by industry. Again industry lending is positive across the board for the first time in eight years, though there is still a marginally negative figure for manufacturing (-£68million) – which is seemingly still a no-go area for lending. The largest category of industry lending is business services, accounting for nearly half of the total. Lending on real estate was also in positive territory for the first time since before the crisis (when it was the counterpart to excess in commercial property).

Bank lending to non-financial businesses, annual change, £ billion

Relative to the size of the industry, lending to agriculture has been particularly robust in recent years (though perhaps this is more about real estate than farming activity). In fact lending to agriculture has been higher than lending to manufacturing in seven out of the last eight years. To give an idea of why we might think that’s strange, note that while 387K people have jobs in agriculture, 2.6M work in manufacturing.

Lending to agriculture v manufacturing, £millions

Discussion: bank and other lending

At one level it seems contradictory to worry that there is too much private debt (see e.g. here) but not enough bank lending. But the hope must be that sensible lending should boost corporate income down the line and so lending as a share of income would remain under control. Either way the present skew to lending secured on property seems particularly unbalanced – and for too many years, the only game in town. No matter what happened this year, corporate lending is in the serious doldrums.

Up to a point firms are borrowing from other sources, notably capital markets – the Bank of England figures are summarised on the chart below. As widely understood, corporate bonds (yellow) are taking up the vast majority of the slack, and are vastly more important to total corporate borrowing than ever before. There is also the possibility that firms are resorting to ‘shadow banking’ – i.e. other sources of lending outside the formal/traditional banking sector – which is less regulated and perhaps more unstable and potentially not well accounted for in the Bank of England figures.

Net finance raised by non-financial companies, £ billions

In the meantime on the high street banks are being shut and jobs are being lost. Yet retail banks have been the foundation of a viable financial system for centuries. It seems doubtful that this is a sound place to be.

— source touchstoneblog.org.uk By Geoff Tily

Boycott the Banks, the Funders of Dakota Access Pipeline

Those are water protectors with the Red Warrior Camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, singing at a protest at the Chase Sapphire lounge here in Park City. Chase Manhattan Bank is one of the Sundance Film Festival’s leading sponsors. Monday’s protest targeted the bank’s investment in the Dakota Access pipeline.

Shailene Woodley talking:

I can’t speak for the tribe. I also can’t speak for those that are at camp. But I can speak from my own perspective, which is, it doesn’t actually matter what the president of the United States decides to do, it doesn’t matter what his administration decides to move forward with, if there is no money invested in this pipeline. As we all know, it’s one thing to sign a petition. It’s one thing to retweet something or to talk about it or to take a stance on something. But it’s another thing to actually create change through your actions. And the best way to do this is with our money. We have to put our money where our mouth is. We have to divest from these giant corporate banks that are invested in the Dakota Access pipeline, so that when that time comes for this pipeline to be put in the ground, if that’s what this administration is going to follow through with, they won’t be able to, because there’s no money invested. So, from my perspective, regardless of what the tribe wants and the water protectors on the ground in North Dakota want, we have to ensure, as a population, that if we want clean drinking water, because it shouldn’t be a privilege—it’s not a privilege; it’s something that should be available for all human beings; it’s a human right—we have to ensure that there’s no money invested in the pipeline, and by withdrawing our money by Chase Bank and Bank of America and Citibank—and there’s a list. There’s like 19 large corporate banks that are invested in this pipeline.

we’re at Sundance Film Festival right now. Sundance, in itself, is a ceremony amongst Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people, which the Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock Reservation are a part of. And it’s a very important ceremony in their traditions. Sundance Film Festival, for since the origins of its creation, has been a huge supporter of indigenous communities. And yet, one of the largest sponsors of this film festival is Chase Bank, which is investing in the Dakota Access pipeline, which directly affects the indigenous communities in America.

I think we’re beyond the point of—and I keep saying this, but we’re beyond the point of looking at the facade. We have to look at what’s behind the scenes. We have to think outside of the box. And so, even though perhaps the people of the Sundance Film Festival didn’t register, didn’t think about how Chase was actually detrimental to indigenous communities through its actions and decisions, it is. And so, we, as a population, as a film festival, as different corporations that do stand with indigenous people, have to start thinking about the corporations that don’t stand with them, and take a firm stance and say—and draw the line and say that, you know, we have to—we have to, again, put our money where our mouth is.

I think this protest just shows that the mobilization is not going to end anytime soon. The women’s marches in D.C. showed us a lot about how our country feels about the current administration. And the fact that so many people showed up—it doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, it doesn’t matter if you’re progressive, it doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or Republican or Democrat. Clean drinking water is necessary for human survival. And without it, none of us can survive. We have to start thinking about that. We have to start digesting that and acting upon that. And I think the thousands of people who, within hours, decided to show up in New York City are proving that when the people stand together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve. And people are ready for that. Complacency is out the door. Apathy is out the door. It’s time to be empathetic, even if it’s not on our front doorstep. This is a fight that belongs to all of us. This is the fight of our lives.

I don’t want to speak too much about the environmental impact statement, because I don’t feel like I’m the best representative for that. But I do know that because that has been enacted and because that is in place, it will be more difficult for Trump’s administration to do something about the Dakota Access pipeline, but it’s not going to prevent it from being installed all the way, which is why the camp in North Dakota so important.

And the water protectors, who are there in subzero-degree temperatures—I haven’t been there for about a month, but the last time I was there, there was a whiteout blizzard. There were people who were dealing with hypothermia. There were people who were snowed in in their tipis and their tents. And yet they still persevered, because they understood the importance of showing up.

And I think another thing that’s important, especially for people who are watching this right now, is there’s a lot of emphasis on showing up and being in North Dakota, which is incredibly important, but oftentimes I think we overlook the fact that the front lines don’t only have to be in North Dakota. The front lines can be in your wallet. It can be, again, with divesting from a particular bank. It can be calling a certain congressman or your senator. It can be putting pressure on this administration as a citizen of the United States of America, demanding the drinking water that you want not only for this generation, but future generations.

The people give me so much hope. I’m the eternal optimist, but it really boils down to the people. And I think, for centuries in this country, we have been so complacent. And I use the word “apathy” a lot, because unless, again, it’s on our doorstep, we don’t tend to do anything about it. But we don’t have time to let apathy get in the way anymore. We don’t have time to let the color of our skin, to let our beliefs, whether it’s our religious beliefs, the ideals that we’ve grown up with, get in the way of human rights and social justice. And I think the millions of people who are standing together around this country, in a way that we have not seen in centuries, is really powerful and sends a powerful message out to the world and to our current administration, that we’re not going to be complacent.

I got involved with it, A, because I’m a true believer in switching over to renewable energy and transitioning from fossil fuels immediately. But I also got involved with this particular pipeline over other pipelines because of the direct effect on indigenous communities in our country. For since the time of colonization, we have not only ignored, but been very ignorant to the history that we all are taught. We are taught a Western narrative of what happened when this land was colonized. We don’t know the truth. I don’t even know the whole truth still, and I’ve spent a year in the trenches with indigenous people. It’s our responsibility to recognize that we may not know what side of history our ancestors were on, but to learn about the history of this country, the true history of this country, and move forward in a good way, move forward with allies that don’t necessarily look like us. And maybe we have different belief systems, and maybe we have different backgrounds, but we have to take down those barriers. And that’s why I initially was encouraged by the Dakota Access pipeline movement, not only because of the indigenous communities, but because it was led by indigenous youth. And that’s something that I think we need to start paying more attention to.

I was arrested for engaging in a riot and for criminally trespassing. I was the only person out of 300 people who were participating in a particular action to be arrested. I was live-streaming. There was 40,000 people who were watching on my Facebook live stream, when I was picked out of the crowd of 300 people and specifically arrested.

Actually, on the live stream, you can hear me say, “If I stand here, I won’t get arrested, right?” And everyone—you can hear probably 10 voices say, “No, you can’t get arrested if you’re standing here.” And I still got arrested.

I was walking to my vehicle. I was with my mom and a few friends. And there were two large tanks outside of the RV that I was in and, I would say, maybe 10 cops standing there with batons, with their full riot gear. And they grabbed him, and they said, “Are you Shailene Woodley?” And I said, “Yes, I am.” And they said, “You must remain here.” They went around the corner, discussed amongst themselves. I waited there for what felt like five minutes; it was probably 45 seconds. And they came back, and they said, “You’re under arrest.”

My trial has constantly been shifting. As of right now, it’s March 31st.

I think there’s a common—a huge misconception, actually, in this country that the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline has been over. The minute that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to deny the easement, I think, by population and by popular opinion, people decided that they didn’t need to pay attention anymore. And what we started to see at the end of this movement, which was frustrating but also beautiful, was that people started to catch on, and it sort of became a trend. It became a trend to say, “I stand with Standing Rock.” It became cool to say, “I fight against the Dakota Access pipeline,” became something that was hip to talk about or to retweet. And that’s wonderful, because it garnered more attention. But what we’re seeing now is this fight is far from over. This fight has always been far from over. We knew that there was a huge opportunity with President Trump’s administration to come in and change what President Obama decided to do.

And so, my prayer would be that all of the people who paid attention when this was something that was trending on Twitter, when this was something that was trending on Instagram, continue to pay attention to the water protectors, because, like you mentioned, there are Facebook Live videos that come out every single night of people being shot with rubber bullets still. And that’s something that I was shocked by two-and-a-half weeks ago when a friend sent me that Facebook Live, because you assume that it doesn’t keep happening. But just because you’re not on the ground and I’m not on the ground doesn’t mean it’s not still there. And we must stay aware of these situations.

it’s something that blows my mind, because perhaps it will create, let’s say, a couple thousand jobs or a million jobs in America. They’re temporary jobs. If we’re talking about real job creation in this country, we have to start looking at renewable energy. It’s the only way. That is a permanent job. And not only that, you’re creating the infrastructure that keeps—that guarantees energetic independence within our country. We know that Energy Transfer Partnerships and the Keystone XL pipeline—we know that lots of that oil is being exported. So, when their argument is that we’re creating jobs and we’re also creating energetic independency, that’s not true. It’s a flat-out lie. And so, if we want to install both of those things, and if our new administration and Trump wants to follow through on his promises to this country, which was creating new jobs and creating better infrastructure for the people who are from America and are living in America, then we have to start looking at renewables. It’s the only way.

for the first time in my life, not only did I witness, but I felt like I was—I got to see—I got to be proven wrong, in that you can protest, and you can win a fight without violence and without aggression. And you can win with compassion, and you can win with kindness, and you can win with prayer. And all of these things, the ceremony and kindness, compassion, you know, they’ve been written off for so long as hippie ideals or as things that don’t actually create true change. Dakota Access pipeline, the fight against DAPL, changed that, because indigenous people were at the forefront of this fight, and indigenous people refused to let ego and fear and aggression get in the way of true change and true love for future generations. They’re resisting this pipeline not for you and I, not for those of us who are alive right now or my future children; they’re resisting this pipeline for seven generations to come, so that in seven generations we will know, we can guarantee, that they will have water to drink. And that is something, moving forward—I don’t care if we’re dealing with feminism or climate change or fight against the private prison system—that is something we have to hold in our hearts and in our hands, is that prayer, that ceremony and that steadfast commitment to compassionate resistance.

Shailene Woodley
television and film actress. She appeared in the TV series Secret Life of the American Teenager and has starred in films including The Divergent Series and The Fault in Our Stars.

— source democracynow.org

US banks report massive fourth quarter profits

Profits for the two largest US banks by assets surged in the fourth quarter, reflecting a rise in trading activity following the election victory of Donald Trump.

JPMorgan Chase profits increased 24 percent to $6.7 billion, while the bank’s revenue rose two percent to $24.3 billion, according to the quarterly earnings report released by the bank on Friday. The bank reported its best-ever fourth quarter trading business. It net income jumped 96 percent from a year earlier.

Bank of America’s fourth quarter profit shot up by 42 percent to $4.7 billion. The second largest US bank’s revenue climbed 2.1 percent to $20 billion, the result of a gain in interest income and loan growth.

Earnings for the country’s fourth largest bank by assets, Wells Fargo, fell 5.4 percent to $5.3 billion and revenue remained flat in the wake of a scandal over the bank’s practice of opening unauthorized customer accounts in order to meet aggressive sales targets.

Combined 2016 profits for Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo totaled $64.6 billion, some two percent higher than in 2015.

Overall, share prices and profits of the big Wall Street banks are soaring, fueled by expectations of sharply higher profits under a new administration pledged to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank bank regulatory overhaul and remove virtually all regulations restricting speculative activity and protecting investors and the general public from Wall Street fraud.

The incoming Trump administration is also promising to sharply cut corporate taxes and personal income taxes for the wealthy. Its key economic posts are filled with Wall Street insiders, including Goldman Sachs alums named to at least five top positions. These include Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Gary Cohn as director of the National Economic Council, and longtime Goldman lawyer Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

US financial stocks have been on a tear since the November 8 election, with total gains for the 63 largest groups hitting $459 billion. The financial sector has headed up a general surge in stock prices, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average increasing 8.9 percent since Election Day and nearing the 20,000 mark. The US stock market is now valued at $26 trillion, the highest in history.

The Dodd-Frank law is a largely token measure that has done virtually nothing to rein in the type of speculative and fraudulent activity that led to the 2008 Wall Street crash. Nevertheless, the big US banks have denounced it and lobbied against provisions that require them to maintain a bigger capital reserve and others that minimally restrict their ability to gamble with depositors’ money.

And while the Obama administration worked systematically to bail out the banks and make the financial oligarchy richer than ever, shielding the architects of the Great Recession from criminal prosecution, it did impose fines for some of the banks’ grossest swindles, including the sale of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities, the rigging of key global interest rates such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), drug money laundering, illegal home foreclosures and other illicit activities.

Now the banks are confident they will not even face such token reprimands for their reckless and often criminal pursuit of super-profits.

Trump is also expected to offer massive tax breaks to companies that invest in government-sponsored infrastructure projects. A spurt in growth and an anticipated rise in interest rates promise to increase the opportunities for the banks to realize higher returns.

This Trump boom will make the inevitable bursting of the stock bubble that much more violent. The fundamentals of the European, East Asian and American economies remain weak, with very low rates of reinvestment.

The massive profits reported by the American banks contrast sharply with the situation in Europe. The total profits of the three largest US banks for 2016, $65 billion, exceeds the combined market value of Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, two of the largest European banks.

This reflects a sharp decline in the position of European banks relative to their US rivals in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. Share prices for major European banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and UniCredit are below their pre-2008 levels.

— source wsws.org By Gabriel Black

The Unthinkable Just Happened in Spain

As part of the epic, multi-year criminal investigation into the doomed IPO of Spain’s frankenbank Bankia – which had been assembled from the festering corpses of seven already defunct saving banks – Spain’s national court called to testify six current and former directors of the Bank of Spain, including its former governor, Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, and its former deputy governor (and current head of the Bank of International Settlements’ Financial Stability Institute), Fernando Restoy. It also summoned for questioning Julio Segura, the former president of Spain’s financial markets regulator, the CNMV (the Spanish equivalent of the SEC in the US).

Though they have so far only been called to testify, the evidence against the seven former public “servants” looks pretty conclusive. Testifying against them are two of Banco de España’s own inspectors who have spent the last two years investigating Bankia’s collapse on behalf of the trial’s presiding judge, Fernando Andreu.

— source wolfstreet.com