Weird


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Economy, Weird

The Negative Rate Mortgage Is Now A Reality


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With negative interest rate policy (NIRP) raging in the eurozone and over €1.9 trillion in European government bonds trading with negative yields, many were wondering whether this generosity will spill over to other debtors.

Following consecutive rate cuts during this year by the Danish Central Bank, local Danish banks — Nordea Credit, Realkredit Danmark — are now offering a mortgage with a negative interest rate! Negative interest rates aren’t a new phenomenon in Europe, but they’ve been limited to inter-bank borrowing. FT reported Ms Christiansen received a negative interest rate for her three-year loan, meaning the lender — Realkredit Danmark, a part of Danske Bank — is paying for her to borrow money. The interest rate of minus 0.0172 per cent — which equates to her receiving about DKr 7 each month from the bank — is just one sign of the “Through The Looking Glass” effects of extreme central banking measures in Scandinavia.

The Scandinavian central banks are going pretty far in NIRP. Sweden’s Riksbank became the first central bank in the world to take its main policy rate — the so-called repo rate — into negative territory. Denmark’s Nationalbanken in turn cut its deposit rate — the amount it pays or in this case charges banks for placing money with it — four times at the start of this year to a world record low of minus 0.75 percent.

On April 8th, Switzerland became the first country to sell 10-year bonds with a negative yield as quantitative easing and deflation fears pushed up bond prices.  Until Wednesday, no country had ever sold 10-year debt that gives investors a yield of below 10 percent. Sold at a yield of -0.055 percent, investors bought 232.51 million Swiss francs of debt, maturing in 2025, at a price that could mean they end up paying Switzerland’s government to hold their money. The Swiss deposit rate is set at minus three-fourth of a percent currently so the new Swiss 10-years are at least theoretically more attractive than that. Swiss National Bank (SNB) also held its target range for the three-month London interbank offered rate (Libor) at -1.25 percent to -0.25 percent. SNB uses Libor as a reference for steering its money-market rates, which influence rates on bank lending and mortgages.

There is concern for what happens should negative rates persist longer. The biggest immediate concern is over whether low rates will fuel housing bubbles. Fears that negative rates could lead to widespread hoarding of cash or banks charging all customers for current accounts have proven wide of the mark.

Many banks are reportedly revamping their IT systems to ensure they can handle negative rates for borrowers and depositors. It has become the financial equivalent of the Y2K problem (many computers were supposed to have difficulties in dealing with the year 2000).

A situation has now emerged where savers who pay the bank to hold their cash courtesy of negative deposit rates, are directly funding the negative interest rate paid to those who wish to take out debt. As per Duncan Kerr in euromoney, it may only be a matter of time before credit default swaps trade through zero too. At its simplest, mean one institution paying another institution for the privilege of insuring it against a bond default. It’s a seemingly crazy situation, but in a credit market distorted by quantitative easing and negative rates, anything may be possible.

According to Zero Hedge, that all this will end in blood and a lot of tears is clear to anyone but the most tenured economists, however in the meantime, we can’t wait to take advantage of the humorous opportunities that Europe (and soon Japan and the US) will provide in the coming months, as spending profligacy will be directly subsidized and funded by the insolvent monetary system, while responsible behavior and well-paid labor will be punished, first with negative rates and soon thereafter: with threats, both theoretical and practical, of bodily harm.

Economy, Weird

Negative-Yield Bond Universe is $2.35 Trillion!


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As part of its €1.1 trillion quantitative easing plan, the European Central Bank (ECB) will buy government bonds due between two- and 30-years, including those with negative yields, President Mario Draghi said in January. The bond buying plan has left $1.9 trillion of the euro region’s government securities with negative yields.

Germany sold five-year notes at an average yield of minus 0.08 percent on February 25, a euro-area record, meaning investors buying the securities will get less back than they paid when the debt matures in April 2020. By the next day, German notes with maturity out to seven years had sub-zero yields — reached minus 0.017 percent. The rates on seven other euro-area nations’ debt were also negative.

The German bond markets are leading this historical phenomenon — 88 of the 346 securities in the Bloomberg Euro zone Sovereign Bond Index have negative yields. Euro-area bonds make up about 80 percent of the $2.35 trillion of negative-yielding assets in the Bloomberg Global Developed Sovereign Bond Index.

The seemingly illogical willingness of investors to pay issuers to borrow their money is neither irrational nor driven by just noncommercial considerations (such as regulatory requirements or forced risk aversion). As the ECB prepares to start its own large-scale purchasing program next week, some investors believe they could make capital gains on such negative yielding investments.

The ultra-low interest rate regime is likely to persist for now and this has caused challenges for banks. A growing number of European banks are now charging depositors for holding their funds.

Mohamed El-Erian commented that there are few analytical models, and even fewer historical examples, to help understand the broader economic, financial, political and social implications of all this — particularly for a global financial system based on the assumption of positive nominal rates. We are truly in unchartered waters. Accentuated by the illusion of market liquidity, this is a world in which small adjustments in probabilities of future outcomes — if and when they occur — could result in sharp movements in asset prices.

References

El-Erian, Mohamed (2015): “10 Things to Know About Negative Bond Yields”, Bloomberg View, February 27.

Goodman, David and Lukanyo Mnayanda (2015): “Germany’s Negative-Yield Universe Extends as ECB Prepares to Buy”, Bloomberg Business, February 26.

Goodman, David and Lukanyo Mnayanda (2015): “Euro-Area Negative-Yield Bond Universe Expands to $1.9 Trillion”, Bloomberg Business, February 28.

Weird

Adultery Is Not a Crime Here, It’s A Dish!


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Kurt Vonnegut — author of novel Hocus Pocus — said: “My own feeling is that if adultery is wickedness then so is food. Both make me feel so much better afterward.”

Anybody wants chicken for adultery? Well it's on the menu of a #restaurant in #Baghdad!

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

You can openly enjoy adultery here as adultery is not a crime in this restaurant, it’s a dish.  ‘Chicken for adultery’ and ‘For adultery meat’ at this restaurant in Baghdad are to make you feel better afterward … maybe!

It’s not a case of food adulteration here, it’s just food adultery ;-)

I later found that these are lasagne!!

Weird

Today is 10/11/12!


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Numerologists say sequential dates and times hold special significance. Now that we are more than a decade safely beyond Y2K and secure in our knowledge that the big calendar switch didn’t incite the collapse of the modern world, we can relax a bit and enjoy some of the cooler quirks that come along with living in the infant stages of a new millennium.

This Saturday, November 10, 2012, is a special day, numerically speaking. For, it reads 10/11/12 – a classic sequential date – and, it becomes more interesting here, at 14 past one in the afternoon, the time-and-date sequence will read: 10/11/12 @ 13:14 hours. It could also do a bit of the same at nine minutes past eight in the morning on the day: 08:09 @ 10/11/12. If you start with the time of 12:34:56:7.89 (you’ll need a very precise clock) you get the golden sequence of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Wow!

While that could be with any 10 November (not necessarily 10 November 2012), there are a couple of dozen patterns (yes, that is 24 patterns in all) recorded for Saturday, 10 November 2012. You can check all of them here.

Worldwide, numerologists suggest that sequential dates and times hold special significance, which explains why there is a sudden rush of wedding parties and birth deliveries on such special dates, and some even try to zero-in on the rarest of rare special times on those days.

Whether or not marriages conducted on special days last any longer or shorter than others that are conducted on ‘regular’ days may be a matter of further research, but one thing is for sure – if you do get married on a numerically significant date such as today or perhaps 12/12/12, it’ll be pretty hard to forget one’s anniversary.

Weird

basirhat.com


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Dot com is generally associated with virtual sites. The domain names, inter alia, end with .com. During my recent visit to Basirhat in West Bengal, I came across a banner with “Basirhat Dot Com” displayed on it. It’s not a website, but a club of local boys displaying banner for their Kali puja (worship of the Goddess Kali) and it has got no connection with cyberspace.

The banner was displayed just across our house. I thought first that there is some cyber cafe there and they have named it like that. But, on my enquiry I found that there is nothing virtual or any connection to that. It’s a club of local boys and they have just named their club – basirhat.com.

The kids nowadays have become so much used to dot-com that they named their club with dot-com. If it goes like this, then we may find people keeping their surnames as dot-com!

Weird

Mickey Mouse on Mercury — a nice pareidolia


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The image below is probably familiar to everyone. This particular Mickey Mouse impression, however, has been caught on planet Mercury by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft.

This particular crater configuration is in Mercury’s south, near a crater named Magritte. “The shadowing helps define the striking ‘Mickey Mouse’ resemblance, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history,” says NASA in the photo description on Flickr.

Messenger is the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury. During its one-year primary mission, Messenger acquired 88,746 images and other data sets. The spacecraft is currently in a yearlong extended mission, with plans to acquire more than 80,000 additional images of Mercury.

Weird

Elderly woman injured in hospital told to call ambulance!


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A hospital would seem the safest place to get hurt, but that assumption proved false for 82-year-old Doreen Wallace of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

When Wallace fell and broke her hip earlier this month in the lobby of the Greater Niagara General Hospital, she assumed she would be quickly taken care of, but that was not the case, according to the The Star. Instead, she was told to call an ambulance.

Wallace had been leaving the hospital after visiting her ailing husband when she fell. As she lay face down on a metal grate with a cut arm and broken hip, two nurses from the emergency room reportedly refused to help until paramedics arrived. Wallace spent almost 30 minutes on the ground before a passing surgeon moved her into a wheelchair to await help.

The hospital said the situation was the result of a communication problem among staff members and possibly an old rule that required an ambulance to be called, according to the Star.

Wallace is now recovering and waiting for an apology from the hospital.

Weird

End of World in December 2012?


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It’s remotely possible that the world will end in December 2012. But I don’t credit the ancient Maya calendar for predicting it. It’s true that the so-called long-count calendar – which spans roughly 5,125 years starting in 3114 B.C. – reaches the end of a cycle on December 21, 2012. That day brings to a close the 13th Bak’tun, an almost 400-year period in the Maya long-count calendar.

But rather than moving to the next Bak’tun, the calendar will reset at the end of the 13th cycle, akin to the way a 1960s automobile would click over at mile 99,999.9 and reset to zero. For the Maya, the end of the long count represents the end of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one.

Written references to the end of Bak’tun 13 are few. In fact, most Maya scholars cite only one: a stone tablet on Monument 6 at the Tortuguero archaeological site in Mexico’s Tabasco state. What exactly the tablet says, though, is a mystery, because the glyphs in question are partially damaged.

Scholars have taken several stabs at translations, the most prominent by Brown University’s Stephen Houston and the University of Texas at Austin’s David Stuart. Their initial interpretation indicated that a god will descend at the end of Bak’tun 13. What would happen next is uncertain, although the scholars suggested this might have been a prophecy of some sort.

Even if the Monument 6 inscription refers to a god coming down at the end of Bak’tun 13, it isn’t a statement about the end of the world. Saturno, the Boston University archaeologist has rightly said, the hype around 2012 stems from dissatisfied Westerners looking to the ancients for guidance, hoping that people such as the Maya knew something then that could help us through difficult times now.

Weird

Unusual umbrella!


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A 26-foot sculpture of Marilyn Monroe in her most famous pose was installed on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Passers-by wasted little time positioning themselves under her billowing skirt to get a subway-grate view of Monroe in the same stance as she appeared in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.”

The Marilyn Monroe statue will stand here though spring 2012.

Culture, Festival, Weird

Breast-touching festival in China


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I just read about the breast-touching festival and I really find it so laughable that in our modern world, such superstitions still exist.

The Chinese have entered the seventh month of the Lunar calendar, known as the Hungry Ghost month, which began July 31. This period is considered unlucky for many Chinese as they believe that the ghosts are allowed to return to the human realm as the Hell Gate opens throughout the month. While the Buddhists and Taoists prepare offerings for the homeless ghosts, a minority tribe in China have their own interesting celebration. This eventually turned into a festival called Monai Jie (Breast-Touching Festival), where the men of the town are allowed to touch the breasts of single women!

The Yi people in Ejia town of Yunnan province, those who are still single, will head to the streets for Breast-Touching Festival on the 14th, 15th and 16th days of the month. On these days, the men are welcome to touch the women’s breasts. This festival has been around for 1500 years!

The festival began because of a local legend during the Sui Dynasty (AD 581 – 619) when most of the male teenagers of the town were forced into the army and died in wars. The people then carried out prayers to commemorate the dead, and it happened that the ceremony was held in the seventh month. According to the Taoist wizards, the dead could not rest because they had not touched a woman before dying. What’s more, they wanted 10 “pure and untouched” women to accompany them into the afterworld. To prevent them from being chosen, single women – aged 15 and above – then asked the men of their village to touch their breasts, and the custom has been passed down for generations.

During the festival, men enjoy touching breasts, and women gladly accept their touch as the gesture – called “touching milk” – is considered good luck for both. And yes, foreigners have begun visiting this town for festivities and are received warmly by the single women.