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Zero Hedge
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24 апреля, 15:20

"Spectacular Miss" By Key Apple Supplier Paints Ominous Picture For iPhone Demand

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Another day, another flashing red warning that sales of the iPhone X are far worse than Tim Cook had ever expected; this time courtesy of Austrian chipmaker AMS AG - which makes the optical sensors that control brightness and color  - which just days after a similar warning from semiconductor giant Taiwan Semi, became the latest Apple-supplier to cast doubt over the iPhone's chilled reception. AMS shares plunged as much as 14%, the most this year, after warning on negative operating margins because of low production capacity at its Singapore factories, and after its guidance for sequential revenue drop in 2Q missed the lowest estimate among analysts in a Bloomberg survey, adding to the recent negative datapoints in the iPhone X supply chain. Mirabaud analyst Neil Campling said AMS’ "spectacular miss on guidance" was so bad, "it’s surprising the company didn’t preannounce." Campling also said that major product changes and product transitions blamed are “all Apple, specifically iPhone X" and added that "phasing down iPhone X has taken the supply chain by surprise." With regard to AMS, he said that even as 3D sensing is a complex technology, AMS is another semiconductor company to have re-rated higher, valuation needs to reset. And while other analysts noted AMS’ expertise in complex 3D sensing technology should provide some long-term cover, the lack of short-term visibility will keep shares under pressure in the near term. Following the AMS reports, European chipmakers including Dialog Semi, STMicro and IQE all fell, with industry concerns further fueled by a disappointing report from South Korea’s SK Hynix. Following last week's surprise guidance miss, today the bulk of Apple's supply chain was lower, with Dialog Semi -5.9%, STMicro -4%, ASML -2.1%, and Infineon -1.6%. Following the report, Apple's five largest device assemblers have all reported a sharp slowdown after peaking at the end of last year, suggesting demand for the high-end device may have faded just a quarter after its release. As Bloomberg notes, while Hai Precision Industry Co., Pegatron Corp. and three other key suppliers reported an 8 percent rise in their total sales across the March quarter, growth cratered later in the period - a drop that in the past has presaged a downturn for Apple, hardly what AAPL longs want to hear one week ahead of earnings, which are expected on May 1. As Bloomberg also notes, the concern is that the iPhone X, while enjoying a customary holiday quarter spike for new-generation Apple gadgets, "fizzled out rapidly." Apple’s costliest smartphone has struggled to draw customers in emerging markets, while competitors from Huawei to Xiaomi roll out more premium phones and dominate China -- the U.S. company’s biggest foreign market. On Friday, Morgan Stanley cut its estimate on iPhone shipments by 6 million, underscoringthe growing unease since Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the maker of iPhone processors, issued a disappointing outlook that triggered a 7 percent loss in Apple’s value over the past three days. As AAPL's recent stock troubles confirm, investors remain concerned that iPhone failed to meet their lofty expectations. Mia Huang, an analyst at Taipei-based research firm Trendforce, estimates that overall iPhone production volumes grew slightly to 54-56 million units in the March quarter - barely up from 52 million in the same period of last year, when it was propelled by demand for lower-priced and older models like the iPhone 6S and ramp up of the iPhone 7. “According to our estimates, iPhone X’s production volume fell by 50% in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter,” said Huang. Hardly a ringing endorsement for the world's most valuable company...

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24 апреля, 14:59

Gartman Puts On "Small Short Position", Futures Spike

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One can seek the reasons for today's bullish, risk-on move in global stocks in the halt to the bond selloff, in strong earnings by SAP, Verizon and CAT, on a goldilocks increase in the price of oil (over $69, the highest since 2014), and so on, or alternatively one can assume that algos somehow got an advance look at what Dennis Gartman was going to say this morning in his latest letter to clients and trading accordingly. In the very short term we can be and have been ever-so-slightly positive of stocks, but once again to make very certain that we are perfectly clear about our view on equities we are lifting whole clothe once more that which we had written last week… several times: That although we may be bullish of shares in the short run… because the CNN Fear & Greed Index has turned upward from single digit over-sold levels and nothing more… we are still very much certain that we’ve entered a longer term, bear market here in the US and abroad. We believe the highs made globally earlier this year when our International Index rose to 12,857 on January 29th are very nearly sacrosanct and likely shall not be seen again for quite some very long while into the future as each interim high since then has been lower as has each new interim low… or nearly so. We trust we are clear. As for our retirement account here at TGL the only change we made was to take a very small short derivatives position early yesterday morning to focus our attention upon that side of the market; however, it was small enough only to force us to pay heed and nothing more. Otherwise, our positions are as they were last week: long of the shares of a business development company; long of a short duration bond fund; long of cotton via the cotton ETF and long of gold via a gold fund. S&P futures were up 16 points shortly after Gartman's note.

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24 апреля, 14:44

Tehran Threatens To Leave Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty If Trump Kills Iran Deal

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While the UN, EU, International Atomic Energy Agency and a host of others implored President Trump late Monday to preserve the landmark Iran nuclear deal - even if the US couldn't achieve concessions on Iran's ballistic missiles program that it has been aggressively pushing - Iranian officials have been cranking their rhetoric up to "11", with Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, acknowledging during a news broadcast on state television that the Iranian leadership had discussed leaving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as "one of three options that we are considering" in response to the US potentially scrapping the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani While this isn't the first time Iran has threatened to leave the NPT - the cornerstone of the international nonproliferation order - it's the first time the leadership has threatened to leave as a tit-for-tat response to the US leaving the Iran deal. While Iran committed to not pursuing a nuclear weapon when it joined the NPT in 1970, the Iran deal imposed tighter restrictions on the regime, per Reuters. Of course, by leaving both agreements, Iran would only fuel its enemies' claims that the Islamic Republic is explicitly seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Per the Jerusalem Post, Shamkhani, who spoke with reporters shortly before departing for Russia, said the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran was ready for some "surprising actions" if the nuclear deal is scrapped. A senior Iranian official said on Tuesday that Tehran might quit a treaty designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons if U.S. President Donald Trump scraps the nuclear accord Iran signed with world powers in 2015. Trump has said that unless European allies fix what he has called “terrible flaws” in the accord by May 12, he will restore U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, which would be a severe blow to the pact. The other powers that signed it - Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France - have all said they want to preserve the agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of most international sanctions. Meanwhile, over the weekend (and again on Monday), Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned that Tehran would reactivate its centrifuges should the US drop out of the deal and reimpose economic sanctions. On Tuesday, the war of words ratcheted higher when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Trump should keep the deal in its current format or face "severe consequences." "I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments...the Iranian government will firmly react," Rouhani said in a speech. "If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences," Rouhani told a cheering crowd of thousands gathered in the city of Tabriz. "Iran is prepared for all possible situations," he added. During a nuclear non-proliferation conference in Geneva earlier this year, Russia and China submitted a statement voicing "unwavering" support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran deal's official name) which was signed in 2015 by Iran along with the US, France, the UK, Russia, China and Germany. French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing one last desperate plea to convince Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal during a lavish state dinner at the White House Tuesday - but experts quoted by CNN believe Macron would "have to pull a rabbit out of his hat" to persuade President Trump - who has surrounded himself with Iran hawks like Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Advisor John Bolton and CIA Director and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo - to stay in the deal after the US's self-imposed May 12 deadline. Already, Iran is bracing for further deterioration in relations with the US by announcing earlier this month that it would stop reporting foreign trade in dollars, and would use euros instead. Of course, scrapping the Iran deal would also have implications for commodity markets: Iran's oil export and output increased by approximately one million barrels per day after sanctions were dropped, with the bulk of Iran's output now going to those countries who are most vocal about keeping the Iranian deal in place.

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24 апреля, 14:12

Global Stocks Jump As Treasuries Rebound; China Surges On PBOC Easing Rumors

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If the big story yesterday was the surge in 10Y TSY yields to just shy of 3.00% (2.996% to be precise), then it is only reasonable that the failure of the 10Y yield to rise above 3.00% overnight is today's "big story", and indeed as shown in the chart below, US benchmark treasuries edged higher, leading most European government bonds, as traders hit pause on the rates selloff amid extremely oversold conditions. “The U.S. yield spike story has been a theme for the last 24 hours but we don’t expect a sharp surge as the U.S. continues to be in a late economic cycle,” said Danske Bank FX strategist Christin Tuxen. Recall that just as investors are curious what happens once yields breach 3.00%, so they want to know how low they could drop if the 10Y fails to penetrate the key level for the 2nd time in 2 months, a question which Morgan Stanley yesterday answered, saying the next stop could be a reversal back to 2.70%. And while we wait to see what happens next, the Treasury curve flattened slightly as the 2-year sector underperformed ahead of today’s supply. Traders have been weighing the implications of climbing bond yields that were in part spurred by higher commodity prices and concern surrounding their inflationary impact on the wider economy. But, as noted yesterday, so far the volatility in interest-rate markets remains low and equity price swings are well off the highs seen earlier this year, indicating investors believe rising borrowing costs may not be enough to cause outsized pain to equities, for now. “For us it’s more the reasons why we’re seeing the move: better growth outlook, a little bit more inflation and faster rate hikes being priced in by the market,” Kerry Craig, a JPM Asset Mgmt strategist told Bloomberg TV. “It should be reaffirming the fact that we see a global economy that’s looking relatively healthy.” The bid for bonds, together with strong earnings from Google overnight, helped restore risk sentiment, and global equity markets steadied overnight, with European stocks climbing following gains for most Asian markets as the earnings season picked up steam while Chinese equities soared (Shanghai Comp +2%) following an overnight report from the China Securities Journal that liquidity tensions in China may ease while fiscal spending will increase this week; speculation of further easing from Beijing re-emerged with subsequent similar reports of RRR cuts follow in European morning. After hugging the flatline, US equity futures enjoyed a burst of buying as Europe came online, sending the E-Mini to session highs, up 0.6%, or 16.00 points, to 2,687, and above yesterday's highs. Meanwhile, WTI oil, which according to many has been a key driver behind the move in both bonds and FX, continued grinding higher, rising above $69 overnight, the highest price since late 2014. Still, keep in mind that just as the oil surge propelled risk, and inflation sentiment, so a sharp spike in oil from here could lead to renewed market volatility according to Deutsche Bank. “It is this move higher in crude oil prices, along with the rise in demand, that is helping fuel the recent rise in yields as well as the positive tone for equity markets,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London. “However if it continues too far we could start to see it act as a drag on equity markets, if prices along with yields start to move even higher.” After yesterday's furious short squeeze which sent the dollar soaring the most since the election, the USD steadied in the last few hours as traders focused on whether take-profit interest will emerge after the latest gains or macro bids are enough to support the rally. As a result, the dollar was little changed at about its highest level since January. Meanwhile, the yen decline continued, helping spur Japan’s Topix index to the highest in almost two months; similarly in Europe, the EUR dropped below the 1.22 handle as positioning ahead of the ECB meeting favors downside exposure, while the pound briefly slipped to a fresh one-month low.  Australia’s dollar was sold in a knee-jerk reaction to a headline inflation miss before erasing declines as investors were encouraged by the improvement in the core measure, while the New Zealand dollar fell against all Group-of-10 peers after leveraged funds liquidated long positions. Still, don't read too much into today's moves as volumes are below Monday already depressed levels in the FX market. Looking at equity markets, European stocks opened broadly higher with blue-chip stock markets in London and Frankfurt 0.3 percent higher. Markets brushed off further signs that Europe’s biggest economy Germany is losing some of its momentum, with the Ifo business climate index falling in April to 102.1 from 114.7, missing estimates of 102.6. SAP, Europe’s largest tech company by stock market valuation, announced upbeat results in the seasonally tough first quarter. However, Chipmaker AMS reported first-quarter sales towards the lower end of its guidance range on Monday and warned of a downturn owing to weaker orders from one of its main customers. Earlier, Chinese stocks lead Asian indexes higher after Monday’s Politburo meeting and state-backed newspaper commentary signaled liquidity conditions will improve; Shanghai Composite rose 2%, with H shares 1.9% higher.  As noted above, China roared higher amid press reports that China has further room to cut RRR and is likely to ease liquidity tension this week. The MSCI Asia Pacific index advanced 0.4%, with Rusal shares rising by around 30% in Hong Kong on hopes of sanction relief, while the blue-chip energy and property names led the upside in the Hang Seng. Still, there remained pressure on technology shares in Asia after a slew of companies reported disappointing earnings. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is down more than 7 percent over the past four days. In commodities, aluminum extended its biggest slump since 2005 after slumping 7% on Monday when the U.S. Treasury Department signaled it may lift United Co. Rusal sanctions if Oleg Deripaska divests control of the company.  Three-month aluminum on the London Metal Exchange CMAL3 last stood at $2,255 per tonne. Rusal shares in Hong Kong posted their biggest-ever gain. AS noted above, West Texas oil rose above $69 a barrel amid flaring geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and expectations for a decline in U.S. crude stockpiles. On today's calendar, we have data on new home sales, Case Shiller home prices, and Conference Board consumer confidence index. Amgen, Biogen, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, Lockheed Martin, NextEra Energy, and Verizon are reporting earnings Bulletin Headline Summary from RanSquawk European equities opened on the backfoot, but have seen more choppy trade since (Eurostoxx 50 flat) amid relatively light newsflow thus far DXY has cleared another key upside technical level amidst more widespread Dollar gains and has also eclipsed 91.000. Looking ahead, highlights include, US consumer confidence, housing data, APIs, and a slew of speakers Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.6% to 2,687.00 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.2% to 383.94 MSCI Asia up 0.4% to 173.37 MSCI Asia ex Japan up 0.2% to 563.99 Nikkei up 0.9% to 22,278.12 Topix up 1.1% to 1,769.75 Hang Seng Index up 1.3% to 30,636.24 Shanghai Composite up 2% to 3,128.93 Sensex up 0.4% to 34,591.49 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.6% to 5,921.55 Kospi down 0.4% to 2,464.14 German 10Y yield fell 2.1 bps to 0.615% Euro down 0.1% to $1.2197 Italian 10Y yield rose 1.6 bps to 1.54% Spanish 10Y yield fell 0.9 bps to 1.304% Brent futures up 0.2% to $74.87/bbl Gold spot up 0.2% to $1,327.60 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 90.95 Top Overnight News German Chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling to the U.S. this week to meet President Donald Trump in an effort to prevent trade war German business confidence continued to slide in April as companies’ qualms over a potential trade war coincided with economic data signaling the country’s growth momentum may have peaked U.S. Treasury threw a potential lifeline to United Company Rusal by making clear it’s not pushing for the company’s collapse. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said it was considering a request to lift the sanctions against the company Australia’s consumer prices rose less than forecast in the first quarter, suggesting the central bank will keep rates on hold Oil extended gains toward $69 a barrel as tensions in the Middle East flared up and U.S. crude stockpiles were seen falling a second week. Saudi Arabia intercepted ballistic missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen Germany wants to help U.K. banks get access to the European market after Brexit, but would need Britain to make concessions, according to a person familiar with the German government’s position Pound’s resurgence in recent months may affect the Bank of England’s outlook for price gains in next month’s Inflation Report, complicating the case for an immediate rate hike Britain was in surplus on its day-to-day budget for the first full fiscal year since the early 2000s, a milestone that is almost certain to revive calls for an end to austerity An unprecedented downgrade of Poland’s investment growth is forcing a reassessment of the European Union’s largest eastern economy, with the amended data showing last year actually ended on a slight slowdown Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. is nearing a preliminary agreement to acquire Shire Plc after the Japanese drugmaker sweetened its roughly $60 billion bid for the biotechnology behemoth, according to people with knowledge of the matter Asia-Pac stock markets were mostly in the green with an improvement in tone seen in comparison to the lacklustre performance on Wall St where rising yields and declines in basic materials dampened sentiment. ASX 200 (+0.6%) and Nikkei 225 (+0.9%) traded positive with Australia supported by gains in financials and energy names, while Japanese exporters benefited from a weaker JPY. Elsewhere, Shanghai Comp. (+0.9%) and Hang Seng (+1.3%) outperformed after a mild net liquidity injection by the PBoC, as well as press reports that China has further room to cut RRR and is likely to ease liquidity tension this week. Furthermore, Rusal shares rose by around 30% in Hong Kong on hopes of sanction relief, while the blue-chip energy and property names led the upside in the Hang Seng. Finally, 10yr JGBs were relatively uneventful with demand subdued amid the improvement in risk appetite, although downside was also limited as USTs nursed losses and following a relatively uneventful 2yr auction. China has additional room to reduce RRR and repay maturing Medium-term Lending Facility loans, while it is also likely to ease liquidity tension during the week, according to reports. (China Securities Journal) Top Asian News Singapore’s Shelved IPOs Pile Up as Summit, Qualitas Struggle China Concerned Trade and Debt Risk May Curb Economic Growth Saudis Said to Delay Bourse IPO on Hope MSCI Will Lift Valuation Hong Kong Approves Dual-Class Shares, Paving Way for Tech Titans European equities opened on the backfoot, but have seen rebounded in the green amid relatively light newsflow thus far. Looking at the sectors, energy names are outperforming amid the rise in oil prices. Telecom names lag behind with Telenor (-2.5%) weighing on the sector following weak earnings. In terms of stock specifics, William Hill (-14.0%) are at the foot of the Stoxx 600 after reports that UK Chancellor Hammond has accepted the proposal for GBP 2 fixed-odd betting terminals limit. Semi-conductor names took a hit following earnings from AMS (-9.0%) with Dialog Semiconductors (-6.0%) and STMicroelectronics (-1.6%) lower in sympathy. On the flip side SAP (+3.2%) shares are higher post-earnings while BP (+1.4%) shares are fuelled by an upgrade at Goldman Sachs. Top European News Stronger Pound May Give BOE Hawks Further Pause for Thought German Business Confidence Extends Drop as Economic Data Weakens U.K. Balances Day-to-Day Budget for First Time Since 2001-02 Mercedes Tests Billionaires’ Appetite for Maybach With Crossover In FX, the DXY index cleared another key upside technical level amidst more widespread Dollar gains and has also eclipsed 91.000 to expose fair resistance around 91.526 ahead of a stronger chart hurdle circa 91.751. NZD/AUD: The Kiwi has really taken fright amidst the latest Usd leg-up, but also as cross flows vs its antipodean neighbour weigh heavily. Nzd/Usd is hovering precariously just above 0.7100, while Aud/Nzd is only a few pips below 1.0700 after accelerated buying (stops and orders) on a break of 1.0660. However, Aud/Usd has breached a major downside equality level at 0.7611 after mixed/soft Aussie inflation overnight. EUR/JPY/CHF:  All pivoting or skirting key/psychological/big figure levels vs the Greenback, with Eur/Usd currently bang on 1.2200 after a slip below on soft German Ifo indices, but finding some underlying support around Monday’s low and just ahead of a 1.2173 Fib. Note, 1.1 bn option expiries at the figure and the 100 DMA at 1.2210 may also cap the upside. Usd/Jpy is edging closer towards 109.00 and its 100 DMA just a pip above, while Usd/Chf is not far from 0.9800. CAD/GBP: Relative ‘outperformers’ among the G10 community, but still weak overall vs the Usd and well off recent peaks, as Usd/Cad  dips back below 1.2850 and Cable holds above the top of a support band extending from 1.3920-1.3890. In commodities, Oil has maintained the climb seen on Monday with the Brent front month contract hitting USD  75.27, its highest level since late 2014, following suggestions that the US may still entertain the possibility of exiting the Iran nuclear deal. Gold is uneventful, with the yellow metal remaining around the USD 1326.50/oz level, as safe-haven demand fades. In the metals complex, aluminium saw a fall following an announcement from the US of deadline extensions for Rusal, whilst Dalian iron ore prices recovered from early pressure overnight triggered by a slump in Shanghai aluminium at the open. Looking at the day ahead, France confidence indicators for April, the IFO survey in Germany for April and March UK public sector net borrowing data and April CBI business optimism data are due. In the US, the most significant release is the April consumer confidence print, while March new home sales, February S&P/ Core Logic home prices and April Richmond Fed PMI are also due. Away from the data the BOE’s Woods, Cleland and ECB's Villeroy are due to speak, while French President Macron and US President Trump are due to meet. The main earnings highlights are Caterpillar, Verizon and Coca-Cola. US Event Calendar 9am: FHFA House Price Index MoM, est. 0.6%, prior 0.8% 9am: S&P Case Shiller 20-City MoM SA, est. 0.68%, prior 0.75%; YoY NSA, est. 6.35%, prior 6.4% 10am: Conf. Board Expectations, prior 106.2 10am: New Home Sales MoM, est. 1.94%, prior -0.6%; New Home Sales, est. 630,000, prior 618,000 10am: Richmond Fed Manufact. Index, est. 16, prior 15 10am: Conf. Board Consumer Confidence, est. 126, prior 127.7; Present Situation, prior 159.9 DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Off to Stockholm as this hits your inboxes this morning and although it is a beautiful city I can’t help but wish that I was going to be at Anfield tonight for the Champions League semi-final. At least after the quarter final I now know I’ll be able to watch abroad on my iPad!! As the locals ABBA would say.... “the winner takes it all!” Turning back to our latest credit view update, one of the big themes in it and something we’ve regularly talked about this year is the prospect for higher yields. With yesterday being a fairly quiet day for news-flow - outside of perhaps the latest round of global PMIs (more on that below) - most of the focus was on whether or not we’d break 3% for the US 10y. The morning session saw it pushed to within a whisker of that landmark with the intra-day high of 2.996% made just before 10am BST (versus the close of 2.961% on Friday). Yields largely consolidated after that though (close at 2.976%, +1.5bp) and this morning it’s edged back down to 2.96% although it certainly feels like a case of when rather than if we break 3%. Bond markets in Europe sold-off yesterday following Friday’s weak US bond close and a relief at more stable continental PMIs with yields broadly 2-4bps higher and with 10y Bunds in particular closing +4.6bps higher at 0.634% and the highest since March 9th. Meanwhile, despite the relationship breaking down from around October last year, the USD was actually a bit  stronger yesterday as Treasury yields moved higher. Indeed the USD index closed +0.70% and at the highest since mid- January. Equity markets were also broadly stronger across the board which seemed to be down to a combination of the PMIs showing no real further signs of deterioration and the news that the US Treasury would provide some sanctions relief for Russia’s Rusal if Oleg Deripaska relinquished control. After the Stoxx 600 closed +0.35% (and +0.72% intraday from the day’s lows) the S&P 500 ended last night virtually flat (+0.01%). The VIX fell for the first time in four days to 16.34 (-3.2%). Equity markets in Russia also closed a bit higher on the news  while LME Aluminium (-7.05%) fell the most in 8 years (albeit still up 16.0% since early April when the sanctions were announced). This morning in Asia, markets are trading higher. The Hang Seng (+1.0%) and Shanghai. Comp (+1.96%) are rallying, in part as the China Securities Journal noted liquidity tensions in China may ease while fiscal spending will increase this week. Elsewhere, the Nikkei (+0.67%), ASX200 (+0.52%) are both higher while the Kospi is down -0.18%. After the bell in the US, Google was down -0.4% after reporting higher than expected revenue growth in the quarter. With regards to those PMIs out yesterday, for the Eurozone the flash composite print of 55.2 for April was unchanged relative to the prior month but a small beat relative to the consensus estimate of 54.8. This was driven by an upside surprise in the services sector where the 55.0 (+0.1 from March) reading compared to the consensus of 54.8. The manufacturing reading on the other hand declined 0.6pts to 56.0 (vs. 56.1 expected). For Germany and France there were similar beats at the services sector level although Germany did also see a small beat for the manufacturing print (58.1 vs. 57.5 expected; 58.2 previously). France’s manufacturing reading was closer to  expectations at 53.4 (vs. 53.5 expected; 53.7 previously). The data implies a slightly negative read through for the  noncore countries in Europe however the bigger story is evidence of some slight stabilisation in the PMIs at least given the overall composite print. Indeed a 55.2 composite reading is in line with +0.6% qoq GDP growth for the region. Meanwhile, for the US the flash composite PMI nudged a bit higher to 54.8 from 54.2 in March. The manufacturing sector was actually the bigger surprise here with the 56.5 print up 0.9pts from March and also well above the consensus forecast for a small decline to 55.2. The services print was also up 0.4pts to 54.4 (vs. 54.1 expected). Notably, the statement also noted that “input price inflation was the quickest since July 2013, with panellists noting that the introduction of tariffs had been a key factor pushing raw material costs higher” and that “price pressures within the factory sector intensified, with the rate of input cost inflation picking up to the fastest since June 2011” with “cost increases partly linked by producers to the introduction of tariffs”. This mirrors a similar story to the prices paid components of the Philly Fed PMI and ISM series. Finally onto Brexit. Bloomberg noted unnamed sources suggests PM May could be forced to accept staying in the EU’s customs union, in part due to pressure from parliament. Yesterday, her spokesman James Slack reiterated her commitment to “leave the customs union and we’ll be free to strike our own trade deals” while Environment Secretary Michael Gove also tweeted his support over the weekend. Looking ahead, we may get more clarity in a House of Commons vote as early as next month. Before we take a look at today’s calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from yesterday. In the US, the March existing home sales rose 1.1% mom to a four month high (5.6m vs. 5.55m expected), while the number of homes for sale fell 7.2% yoy and the median sales price rose 5.8% yoy. Elsewhere, the March Chicago Fed national activity index was below expectations at 0.1 (vs. 0.28 expected). Looking at the day ahead, France confidence indicators for April, the IFO survey in Germany for April and March UK public sector net borrowing data and April CBI business optimism data are due. In the US, the most significant release is the April consumer confidence print, while March new home sales, February S&P/Core Logic home prices and April Richmond Fed PMI are also due. Away from the data the BOE’s Woods, Cleland and ECB's Villeroy are due to speak, while French President Macron and US President Trump are due to meet. The main earnings highlights are Caterpillar, Verizon and Coca-Cola.  

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24 апреля, 13:23

Trader: Why Dollar’s Surprise-Driven Rally Could Soon Consume Itself

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By Garfield Reynolds, macro commentators and a Markets Live blogger for Bloomberg. Dollar’s Surprise-Driven Rally Could Consume Itself: Macro View The astonishing thing about the recent rally in the greenback is how surprised so many have been by its strength at a time when the U.S. economy has been an oasis of resilience amid a desert of dismal global data. But the U.S. currency could soon face headwinds as expectations elsewhere shift and its very strength could spark a reversal with many drivers for dollar weakness still very much in play. The dollar’s rally makes a world of sense if you look at relative economic surprise data. While U.S. figures have continued to exceed expectations since the end of February, those for Europe and Japan have crashed to multi-year lows. The euro and the yen account for more than half of all FX transactions, so it’s no wonder the greenback has been so perky of late, rising about 1 percent against the former this month and over 2 percent against the latter. In addition, both heavyweights tend to drag along major satellite currencies with them -- the British pound, Swiss franc and Scandies for the euro, a bag of Asian currencies led by the Korean won for the yen. Part of the impetus for the strong gains from EUR and JPY in 1Q was the perception that improving economies there meant central banks were moving toward exits from massive stimulus. However, deteriorating economic data as well as domestic scandals engulfing the government in Japan have seen those expectations dialed back, easing pressure on the U.S. currency. Meanwhile, rising Treasury yields are beginning to have an effect, the 10-year is at a 4-year highs, increasing the attractiveness of dollar assets. Still, the concern for dollar bulls is that many of the other drivers for USD weakness remain in play, and may even be exacerbated by the latest rally. The twin deficits have suddenly vanished from the radar, even though higher interest rates are going to expand the fiscal shortfall and a higher USD can widen the current-account gap if it reduces export competitiveness. Inflation will also struggle to sustain its rise in the face of a stronger USD, especially as the alleged commodities boost to consumer prices has been underpinned by idiosyncratic factors -- Syria, the Saudis desire for high crude prices as they prepare for the Aramco IPO, sanctions on aluminium. The aforementioned U.S. surprise index may reverse course, while the European and Japanese gauges could rebound now that economists have downgraded their expectations. Oh, and of course a strong dollar tends to provoke tweetstorms from the White House. So while the current economic picture argues for this burst of USD strength to extend for a while - especially if it squeezes out some of those near-record shorts - it may struggle should the currency get back above its November highs.

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24 апреля, 12:00

Swedish Activist: "Everyone's Afraid To Be Branded A Racist"

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Authored by Natalia Osten-Sacken via The Gatestone Institute, "If I speak about Islam, they interpret it as hating Muslims. But I do not hate Muslims. I believe that this ideology is dangerous for all mankind. The Muslim community will also suffer under the Sharia." — Mona Walter, Swedish activist from Mogadishu, Somalia. "Jesus said we should love our enemies, but not that we should be stupid." — Mona Walter. "I always say to my Christian friends, 'What do you think, what will happen to you if Islam becomes dominant here?'" — Mona Walter. Mona Walter, age 45, is a Swedish activist from Mogadishu, Somalia. In the early 1990s, she fled as a refugee to Sweden. There, she abandoned Islam and converted to Christianity. The act resulted in criticism and death threats. The mainstream media consider her a person working for religious freedom. Other organizations accuse her of fueling anti-Islamic movements. Mona Walter. (Image source: AlfaTV video screenshot) Natalia Osten-Sacken: I have heard your statements stigmatizing Islam as an intolerant and hateful culture. If it is so, why did you not notice it in Somalia? Mona Walter: In my country, we had our own African culture. People did not deal with religion so much. There was no Sharia, we had our own secular law. We came here as young, secular people. It is worth mentioning, that we belonged to the Sufi Sunni faction. When I came from Somalia to Sweden, I experienced a huge clash of cultures, because Islam here is more extreme and fanatical than in my country. What is very important - we were Islamized after 1991, here in Sweden. In these closed areas, immigrant ghettos are deprived of democracy. Islamized? By whom? By imams. Some came from Somalia, but there are others who do the same in their own immigrant communities. They traveled to Saudi Arabia, they studied there and after they return, they became the heads of these areas. They control everything, and above all, women. They preach Sharia in mosques and tell everyone that they must believe in this system and Islamic values. If you do not do it, if you try to integrate into the Western society, in their eyes you become an infidel. They force women to cover their bodies. If you do not, you are regarded as a whore. When I first arrived in Sweden in 1994, we were forbidden to wear our African clothes, traditional Somali dresses. They forced it on us. They said that we were not real Muslims, that we were an infidel country because we had secular law. Then why did the imams not radicalize Somalia? In Somalia, extreme imams were put in prison, but here they do what they want. No one controls them, no one checks what they are doing. They build mosques, they take Swedish money. If you live in such a community, then you have no freedoms. This mainly applies to people who rejected Islam. They may even be killed for it -- such things have already happened here. Even I, after rejecting Islam, covered myself with a scarf, because I was so scared. All this is happening in Sweden, in a democratic country where they tell you that you have the right to your body, opinion, free choice of religion. And what was the situation of women in your country? In one of the interviews, you mentioned that women do not visit mosques in Somalia. Women are not taught religion, they do not have to do it. This is not prohibited, just unnecessary. In 1990, for the first time I saw people from Saudi Arabia or Egypt, all covered. Somalis ran after them, crying, "Look at that! Have they gone mad in this heat?!" We knew that women in Saudi Arabia cannot go out on the street alone without a man because of Sharia law. Somalia was almost a "socialist" country -- women served in the police, army, they were teachers and worked in public places. Also, it is not true that you could have been raped with impunity. The family would kill a rapist or even a war could break out between two clans. It would be a shame for the whole family, no one would marry even a cousin of such a rapist. I think the woman's position was better than in those Muslim countries, where the victim is stoned. Is it different in Europe? They are not ashamed here. They would not do it in their own community, but they do it here to infidels, because they feel that no one is supporting these victims. Here, the rapists do not have to hide their face: no one will be ashamed of them. He will not get death punishment for such an act. Here, they feel free from their clan traditions. Do you mean that breaking with the traditional culture of Somalia causes them to become prone to violence, as shown by examples from Denmark or Germany? My culture has good and bad elements, and the bad is that it is a very brutal culture. Very proud and vengeful, even without the influence of Islam. When I follow criminal records, I see that the most crimes are not thefts or drugs, but violence. In our culture, children belong to parents as pets and are beaten when, for example, they do not want to pray or do not listen to their parents. In my community, it happens quite often that girls and boys fall victim to rape from family members or a teacher of the religion. It also happens here in Sweden, and the family and the community are hiding it. These are common cases, but I am not saying that everyone does it. I tried to report it to the social welfare, but no one reacted - everyone was afraid to be branded a racist. The second thing is the teachings they get in mosques, where they are told that they should hate unbelievers. Therefore, they also commit crimes caused by hate. Their parents do not want to integrate and do not allow them to integrate with kafirs (infidels). As almost all groups are influenced by Islam and their own culture, these are two poisons together. But maybe they are doing it out of despair and lack of perspectives? They have no education and no choice? There is a choice. The Swedish system supports people so much. You can learn, go to school, study, go to university, and some of us have succeeded. The people who chose education automatically chose a normal, good life. We cannot just wonder why Somali criminals are what they are; we must ask ourselves: why are they notlike us? Why do you think Islamic radicals in Europe are becoming more and more popular and active? I do not think they are more active or popular than before, only now we have social media and you can see them. They have always been like that -- in mosques. And we would not know about it? You did not know -- you, the infidels. Muslims always knew. There is another issue here though -- there are more and more Muslims in Europe. In addition, children who were born in the 90s are now adults. They went to Islamic schools, were subjected to brainwashing, radicalization, and learned hate for Western society. This teaching begins, when they are three-four years old. For so many years now, I have often talked about it to the Swedish media, but no one was interested in dealing with it, because they were afraid to be called racists. I went to the social welfare and informed them about it and they said to me: "They will learn democracy in our schools". And they never checked these mosques. So now they are collecting the fruit of their behavior. The yield of the last 30 years has matured. What solution do you see for Sweden and Europe? We cannot forbid the practice of any religion, even the most radical one; we have freedom of religion. No, we cannot prohibit it, but we must understand that Islam is not a religion, it is a totalitarian system. We cannot treat it like any other religious faith. It forbids all other religions, freedom of speech, freedom of individual choice. It is the opposite of democracy. We must openly and honestly analyze this ideology, we must understand it. We must not listen to the media: that Islam is a religion of peace. Do you know what it means? It means that peace will not prevail until people accept Islam as their religion. Peace will come when there will be no resistance and Islam and Sharia will dominate. Islam divides humanity into two "houses": a house of peace and a house of war. All of us, infidels and even liberal Muslims who do not accept sharia, are in the house of war. Are there Muslims who integrate, do not want to introduce Sharia, and so on? Remember -- we must separate Islam and sharia law from Muslims, because many of them are peaceful people and we cannot mix these two together. This is always mainstream media: if I speak about Islam, they interpret it as hating Muslims. But I do not hate Muslims. I believe that this ideology is dangerous for all mankind. The Muslim community will also suffer under the Sharia. As a convert to Christianity, how would you rate the behavior of the Catholic Church, which recommends greater openness to immigration? I heard the Pope preaching this and I was very disappointed -- because Islam and Christianity cannot be compared. Christians must imitate Jesus who preached love and mercy, even to his enemies; treating others as you would like to be treated. Meanwhile, Islam, and especially the Islamic State, do exactly what Muhammad did. And he let his followers kill and take wives as sex slaves. We cannot compare these two worlds. Again, I do not mean Christians and Muslims, but their ideologies are mismatched. The creator of this ideology was a criminal, a warlord who said that killing people brings glory. How can we open borders for such an ideology? As we do not know who is coming to us, we must be very careful, especially since we see what happened to Christians in Muslim countries. I do not understand the attitude of the Pope and the Catholic Church, who should care primarily about their members. The Pope is no longer a Christian leader, but a politician and activist of human rights. He is no longer the head of the Church working for the good of Christianity and I do not see him as my guide. What I see when I look at him is a leftist politician. Jesus said we should love our enemies, but not that we should be stupid. Is there something wrong in the dialogue with Islam that the Church and politicians have in common? Politicians, church and Islam need each other. They also never speak -- the leaders and the Pope -- about the massacre of Christians in Africa and Syria. They do not criticize Islam, because they do not want to lose electoral votes. The church does not want to lose the support of the politicians. I also have the impression, that some are already extremely busy building a bridge to Islam, but they do not see that Islam burns it, that it is impossible to build a bridge only from one side. Why is Islam not building bridges in relations between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East? Because they are there the majority and have power. I always say to my Christian friends, "What do you think, what will happen to you if Islam becomes dominant here?" Why do you think the politicians do it? It is about money and votes. Some immigrants can be used as cheap workforce, where the locals do not want to work for the same pay. However, we must take into account that most of the immigrants do not work; there is no work for them. There is no work for uneducated people and most immigrants do not have higher education. Many do not even have basic skills. It would take a long time to educate them. The government told the Swedes that immigrants would work for their retirement, but with time the Swedes realized that it was not true. First, immigrants will have a lot of children, a woman will never go to work -- which is also compatible with this culture -- and her husband probably will not get a job, even if he tries. Even if they wanted to learn, it would be a time-consuming process. However, why should they start at all if they receive a lot of money for doing nothing anyway? Still, they will vote for a person who will provide them with all the benefits. So do you think that we should not help them? Of course we should, but in the place of their origin. People keep telling me, "How can you say such things, if you are an immigrant yourself?" But I am not a danger for people living here. Many of the newcomers would cut off my head. I escaped from the Sharia regime in the Swedish suburbs and I do not wish to have it everywhere in the country. I am not against people, but the ideology, that they bring with them. And besides, we can help them there more efficiently for the same money. Or maybe they will just convert to Christianity as you did? There is a trend, that many immigrants in Europe, Austria, Germany and Great Britain are turning to Christianity. I think it is a scam. We talked about it in our church community. We found out that priests are extremely naive. If the immigrants receive a negative response from the asylum office, some of them run immediately to the church and say, "I am a Christian, if I return home, I will be killed." Some even get baptized. But once they achieve the necessary document, they go back to their Muslim community and their mosque. I talked about it in the church, but I was told that this is a big problem, because they cannot reject people they do not know -- maybe they are telling the truth. But what do they do after receiving such a document? Currently, our church is full of Afghan boys. I said in my church clearly: in Islam you can lie to save yourself. Do you think there is a chance to reform Islam? No, I do not believe in it. I know that some people, for instance Ayaan Hirsi Ali, believe in this, but how can you reform God? The Koran is God's Word. The reform that the liberal Muslims believe in would only be possible if Islamic leaders wanted to reform and change Islam. It cannot come from individuals. It is also important not to make a mistake. Reformation in Christianity meant returning to the source, relying on the Scriptures. Applying this criterion, Islam has already been "reformed" by Wahhabism and Salafism. It means returning to the original sources and traditions of ancestors -- but this is probably not what we want?

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24 апреля, 11:15

Chart Of The Day: A Dramatic Visual Of 3 Years Of U.S. Strikes In Syria

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On April 14, 2018, starting around 4 am Syrian time, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom conducted a missile bombardment with bombers, fighter jets, and ship-based cruise missiles against government sites in Syria. The U.S.-led assault on Syria was in response to an alleged chemical attack against civilians in Douma on April 07, which the West condemned the Syrian government for such atrocities, without providing proper evidence to the international community. While the latest round of U.S.-led attacks marked a rare direct military confrontation with the Syrian Armed Forces, the U.S., and its allies have carried out “more than 14,000 strikes inside Syria since January 2015,” said Axios. As the infographic below explains, the vast majority of strikes targeting ‘terrorist’ have occurred under the Trump administration. In mid-2017, a fourfold increase in attacks was due to the coalition’s campaign to re-take Raqqa, said Axios. Micah Zenko, a foreign policy and national security analyst, who worked at the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning, told Axios missile strikes in Yemen and Somalia have also surged since President Trump was inaugurated. “Basically, Trump expanded U.S. military presence and/or airstrikes in every combat theater he inherited from Obama.” *  * * President Trump’s massive flip-flop on Syria, explained by the American Chopper meme:

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24 апреля, 10:30

British Democracy Is Dysfunctional

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Authored by Craig Murray, A significant proportion of Labour MPs are actively seeking to cause their own party to do badly in forthcoming local elections, with the aim of damaging the leader of that party. To that end they have attacked Jeremy Corbyn relentlessly in a six week crescendo, in parliament and in the entirely neo-liberal owned corporate media, over the Skripal case, over Syria, and over crazy allegations of anti-semitism, again and again and again. I recall reporting on an Uzbek Presidential election where the “opposition” candidate advised voters to vote for President Karimov. When you have senior Labour MPs including John Woodcock, Jess Phillips, John Mann, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth carrying on a barrage of attacks on their own leader during a campaign, and openly supporting Government positions, British democracy has become completely dysfunctional. No amount of posing with leaflets in their constituencies will disguise what they are doing, and every Labour activist and trade unionist knows it. British democracy cannot become functional again until Labour voters have a chance to vote for candidates of their party who are not supporters of the neo-liberal establishment. This can only happen by the removal as Labour candidates of a very large number of Labour MPs. That it is “undemocratic” for party members to select their candidates freely at each election, and it is “democratic” for MP’s to have the guaranteed candidacy for forty years irrespective of their behaviour, is a nonsensical argument, but one to which the neo-liberal media fiercely clings as axiomatic. Meanwhile in the SNP, all MPs have to put themselves forward to party members equally with other candidates for selection at every election. This seems perfectly normal. Indeed every serious democratic system elects people for a fixed term. Labour members do not elect their constituency chairman for life, so why should they elect their parliamentary candidate for life? Why do we keep having general elections rather than voters elect the MP for life? Election of parliamentary candidates for life is in fact a perfectly ludicrous proposition, but as it is currently vital to attempts to retain undisputed neo-liberal hegemony, anybody who dissents from the idea that candidacy is for life is reviled in the corporate and state media as anti-democratic, whereas the truth is of course the precise opposite. The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership was a fundamental change in the UK. Previously the choice offered to electors in England and Wales was between two parties with barely distinguishable neo-liberal domestic policies, and barely distinguishable neo-conservative foreign policies. Jeremy Corbyn then erupted onto centre stage from the deepest backbenches, and suddenly democracy appeared to offer people an actual choice. Except that at the centre of power Jeremy did not in fact command his own party, as its MPs were largely from the carefully vetted Progress camp and deeply wedded to neo-conservative foreign policy, including a deep-seated devotion to the interests of the state of Israel as defined by the Israeli settlers and nationalist wing, and almost as strongly wedded to the economic shibboleths of neo-liberalism. These Labour MPs were, in general, prepared grudgingly to go along with a slightly more social democratic economic policy, but drew the line absolutely at abandoning the neo-conservative foreign policy of their hero Tony Blair. So pro-USA policy, support for bombings and missiles as “liberal intervention” in a Middle Eastern policy firmly aligned to the interests of Israel and against the Palestinians, and support for nuclear weapons and the promotion of arms industry interests through a new cold war against Russia, are the grounds on which they stand the most firmly against their own party leadership – and members. Over these issues, these Labour MPs will support, including with voting in parliament, the Tories any day. I have never voted Labour. I come from a philosophical viewpoint of the liberal individualist rather than of working class solidarity. Labour support for nuclear weapons and other WMD, in the blinkered interest of the members of the General Municipal and Boilermakers’ Union, is one reason that I could not vote Labour. The other is of course that in many cases, if you vote Labour you are very likely to be sending to parliament an individual who will vote with the Tories to escalate the arms race and conduct dangerous and destructive proxy wars in the Middle East. There is an excellent article on Another Angry Voice which lists the only 18 MPs who were brave enough to vote against Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, which enshrined dogwhistle racism and the hostile environment policy. Diane Abbott (Labour) Jeremy Corbyn (Labour) Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cymru) Mark Lazarowicz (Labour) John Leech (Liberal Democrat) Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru) Caroline Lucas (Green) Angus MacNeil (SNP) Fiona Mactaggart (Labour) John McDonnell (Labour) Angus Robertson (SNP) Dennis Skinner (Labour) Sarah Teather (Liberal Democrat) David Ward (Liberal Democrat) Mike Weir (SNP) Eilidh Whiteford (SNP) Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru) Pete Wishart (SNP) 5 of the 6 SNP MPs stood against this racism (the sixth was absent) and the current leadership of the Labour Party stood alone against the Blairites and Tories in doing so. The Windrush shame should inspire Labour members to deselect every single one of the Red Tories who failed to vote against that Immigration Act. It is also a measure of the appalling shame of the Liberal Democrats, of whom only three of their sixty odd MPs opposed it, and who consigned themselves to the dustbin of history through Nick Clegg’s gross careerism and right wing principles. There is more to say though. This vote is testament to the great deal in common which the SNP have with the current Labour leadership (who also personally consistently opposed Trident), as opposed to with the bulk of Labour MPs. Put another way, Corbyn, Abbot and McDonnell have more in common with the SNP than the Blairites. It is also a roll-call of those MPs who have most consistently stood against the appalling slow genocide of the Palestinians. It is astonishing how often that issue is a reliable touchstone of where people stand in modern British politics. Corbyn’s supporters have slowly gained control of major institutions within the Labour Party. The essential next move is for compulsory re-selection of parliamentary candidates at every election and an organised purge of the Blairites. If the Labour Party does not take that step, I could not in conscience urge anyone to vote for it, even in England, but rather to look very carefully at the actual individual candidates standing and decide who deserves your support.

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24 апреля, 09:45

Turkish President Erdogan Blasts The US For "Sending 5,000 Trucks Loaded With Weapons To Northern Syria"

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On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sharply criticized the United States Armed Forces and its N.A.T.O. (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies for supplying weapons to Kurdish militias in Syria for free, while refusing to sell defense hardware to Turkey. “We cannot buy weapons from the US with our money, but unfortunately, the US and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” Erdoğan stated in an interview on Turkish NTV news channel. “So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners,” he said, warning that Washington continues to pump in truckloads of weapons into northern Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appearing as a guest of the Political Affairs Special program on NTV news channel over the weekend. (Source:NTV) During the interview, the Turkish president unloaded a bombshell that most Americans are entirely oblivious to — Washington and the Trump administration are deploying thousands of trucks jammed packed with guns and ammunition to Syrian terrorist. The United States has recently “sent 5,000 trucks loaded with weapons to northern Syria,” he said. Meanwhile, Trump took to Twitter on April 14 with a triumphant message in less than 280 characters after the US-led precision strikes in Syria hit alleged chemical weapons manufacturing sites earlier this month. “A perfectly executed strike,” he bragged, ending the tweet with a foolish phrase: “Mission accomplished!” The tweet eerily echoed that famous phrase of a former president, George W. Bush, who announced “mission accomplished” in 2003 to mark the start of the Iraq War, also called Second Persian Gulf War, that would continue for another 8-years until 2011. Even though Trump could have been using the phrase in a different context — the recent delivery of 5,000 trucks packed with military weapons and ammunition via Washington to terrorist organizations in Syria, indicates that fight in Syria is far from over. A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2018 In recent times, Washington has supplied weapons to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The support “infuriated Ankara, which sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),” said Press TV. Erdogan accused Washington of building a “terror army” in Syria, which this could very well be true — considering the weapons convoy, he alleges… On January 20, Turkey launched an operation against the YPG in the Syrian city of Afrin. The cross-border invasion of Syria, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, has severely strained relations between Washington and Ankara. As the situation between both countries becomes dire, Ankara has gravitated towards Russia and Iran to ensure a smooth political transition in Syria, leaving Washington out of the discussions. Ankara has even decided to purchase arms from Russia, including the S-400 air defense systems, which has made the country vulnerable to Western sanctions. Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell recently warned, noting that “it is in the American national interest to see Turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the West.” “The ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin district –arrangements to which America was not privy– is gravely concerning,” he said. “Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran.” Nevertheless, Marcus Montgomery, a fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC, has warned: “The Trump administration do not seem to understand the gravity of Turkey’s concerns.” Robert Stephen Ford, a retired American diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014, echoed Montgomery’s comments about the Trump administration’s progress to ease the worries of Ankara. “The American position in northern Syria is strategically foolish and operationally dangerous,” Ford told Middle East Eye news portal, which he is referring to Washington’s decision to arm terror organizations in Syria. While President Trump has told the American people the U.S. would “be coming out of Syria very soon,” there are new claims from Turkish President Erdoğan that Washington is preparing for further conflict by resupplying their proxy armies with more than 5,000 truckloads of weapons.

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24 апреля, 09:00

Merkel Caught In Energy Conundrum Over Germany's Future

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Authored by Tom Luongo, The nominal U.S. President, Donald Trump, will meet with the two main European leaders this week with the goal of pushing the President off his position to end the Iran Nuclear Deal, or JCPOA. But it is the bigger issues of energy security that will be the real focus. From soy-boy Emmanuel Macron of France to the Gelded One of Germany, Angela Merkel, putting the European Union back in its place is one of the few things that Trump may still be able to affect the trajectory of when it comes to foreign policy. He has no control over Syria, having ceded his authority to the neoconservative crazies who have been wrong about everything since the fall of the Soviet Union.  I also don’t think he has much control over negotiations with North Korea. While everyone on the right keeps talking about how he keeps winning, after the disaster of his strikes on Syria, why would anyone take him seriously during Korean demilitarization talks? Does anyone think now Donald Trump has the leeway to negotiate an end to the Korean War and make those terms stick? And if you do, do you think Xi or Putin or Kim himself do? EU Fracturing And that brings me back to Macron and Merkel.  They were split on striking Syria.  It’s obvious that Macron saw this as an opportunity to up his ‘street cred’ with the globalist oligarchy, cozying up to the U.S. and U.K. and finish what his predecessors started in Syria decades ago. Macron is positioning himself to replace Merkel as the de facto leader of the EU. He’s been groomed for this position as Merkel’s time on the world stage comes to an end. While a terminally-weakened Merkel, fielding off political and social unrest at home, saw through the cheap theatre of the U.K.’s machinations to further isolate Russia, i.e. Skripal and the false flag in Syria, refusing to support airstrikes. Both leaders have raised Trump’s ire.  Merkel over not being a good NATO partner and Macron for over-stating his influence with Trump for staying in Syria. So, suffice it to say there may not be any “beautiful chocolate cake” on this diplomatic table. In fact, the divisions over many issues may be deep enough that we begin to see real movement from Merkel away from the U.S. and towards the hated Russia. It has been a staple of geopolitical maneuvering for the past couple hundred years to keep Germany and Russia from forming any sort of real political and economic alliance.  And up to now Merkel has been the good soldier, working to align Germany and the EU with the goals of the globalist oligarchy that Trump has been so vocal in wanting to curtail. This is the basis for their antipathy. But, her days of being the leader of that front are approaching their end.  Deep divisions have opened up in German politics and her coalition with the Social Democrats is thin to the point of being anorexic. New SPD leader Andrea Nehles is going to be a handful for Merkel.  Merkel won’t have a whipped hound as coalition partner for the next four years.  So, expect a lot more, dare I say, “Germany First,” from Germany. And this will lead to problems with Trump and his “Empire First’ cabinet. Drill, Baby Drill Because where Merkel and Trump fundamentally disagree is allowing Russia any more access to the European gas market.  This is one of the ways in which his neocon Iagos can convince him so easily on staying in the Middle East. All they have to do is whisper, “Energy security” and “billions in natural gas revenues” and Trump makes the wrong decision every time. Merkel knows that Germany’s path to independence lies through the Nordstream 2 pipeline as well as extricating itself from the mess that is Ukraine.  Energy independence for Germany means Nordstream 2, now that they’ve shuttered their nuclear reactors and the coup in Ukraine has failed to produce leverage over Russia in gas markets. But, no one in the U.S wants this pipeline built and we’ve threatened the world with nuclear annihilation over it.  And that we’ve expended so much political capital in attempting to stop it tells you just how important it is to power brokers in D.C. and London. The realities are not lost on Trump who has a domestic oil and gas industry to build new markets for while maintaining control over European Union policy. That’s the song that’s been sung to him over Syria.  Don’t kid yourself. Because the U.S. ousting Assad in Syria delivers a devastating blow to Russia, Iran and China while re-opening pipeline access to Europe per the original plan. And that’s why Merkel’s abstention on Syria was so significant.  It is also why Nordstream will be the most heated discussion between them next week.  Not Iran’s nuclear program, but how the U.S. can craft policy that brings ‘energy security’ to Europe which cuts out Russia and curtails China’s plans for central Asian development and integration. Merkel in the Middle In other words, same policy, different president. To this point Merkel has tried to walk the fine line between the loyal NATO/US satrap and unwilling partner in antagonizing the Russians over energy needs.  But, Trump has been more than clear in his willingness to screw over all of Europe and Asia just to sell a few tankers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Poland at prices that ensure Europe’s anti-competitiveness for a generation. On this idea I don’t think he disagrees with the neocons at all. Because in the end Trump is a mercantilist, just like I said before he was elected.  And while he talks a good game about better deals for the U.S., what he really means is a cheap dollar, protection tariffs and mafioso foreign policy to sell half as many goods at twice the price. Like all mercantilist policies, it’ll work for a while.  And Europe’s own fecklessness has brought it to this position where it’s vulnerable to it.  When the sovereign debt crisis begins to hit Europe, it will need the U.S. to help manage it, if possible. And that’s why Merkel will say nothing that will change the situation one whit. *  *  * To support work like this and see how it correlates to a holistic investment strategy in strategic commodities, join My Patreon and subscribe to the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter

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24 апреля, 08:00

70% Of Taiwanese "Willing To Fight" China

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Just days after China launched its "largest naval drill in 600 years"  in the Taiwan Strait, The Taipei Times reports that 67.7 percent of respondents said they were willing to go to war to defend Taiwan if China launched an armed assault on the nation to force unification. The survey, released by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy last week, also showed the number of people willing to fight to prevent unification with China rose to 70.3 percent among respondents aged 20 to 39, the survey showed. The foundation president Hsu Szu-chien told a news conference in Taipei that it considers it a fitting time to pose the question as the Chinese military has over the past few years been increasing activity near Taiwan. 94 percent of people said that living in a democratic society is “important,” of which 65.8 percent said it is “very important.” In addition, 76.4 percent of people agreed with the statement: “Democracy, despite its flaws, is still the best system,” the poll showed. “If we factor in questions about whether young people support democracy, we discover that the more people support democracy, the more willing they are to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion by China,” Hsu said. “I think it is our democratic lifestyle and values that people want to protect.” Earlier this month, the Trump administration cleared various American manufacturers for business to sell submarine technology to Taiwan, which deeply angered Beijing. “The live-fire drills would almost certainly be intended to be seen as a response to the Trump administration’s new initiatives over Taiwan,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, said. “It is probably intended more for Taipei than Washington as the military exercise cannot intimidate the US but can get Taipei to think of the security dilemma, which is that the more Taipei seeks to secure US support, the more Beijing will do to make Taipei feel less secure.” Ni Feng, director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the parallel events of the Syrian crisis and the Taiwan Strait war drill is coincidental. “Beijing needs to send its warning to Taipei on time if Bolton wants to visit Taipei, which will obviously be a breakthrough [in the US-Taiwan relationship],” he said. Yun Sun, director of the China programme at the Stimson Centre in Washington, agreed with the other military analyst, stating the Trump administration is playing a dangerous game “using Taiwan as a potential bargaining chip with China.” “With Trump’s love for transactions and linking issues together, it is conceivable that he is using Taiwan as a potential bargaining chip with China,” she said. That move increases “the possibility of an armed conflict between the US and [mainland] China out of miscalculation; and it creates an illusion that Taiwan is up for negotiation”. “For many policy experts, US support for Taiwan is warranted, and should be independent from political or economic deals [between Washington and Beijing].” Given the Taiwanese willingness to fight, the threat of World War III being sparked from this conflict continue to rise...

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24 апреля, 06:55

The Great Game Comes To Syria

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Authored by Conn Hallinan via Counterpunch.org, An unusual triple alliance is emerging from the Syrian war, one that could alter the balance of power in the Middle East, unhinge the NATO alliance, and complicate the Trump administration’s designs on Iran. It might also lead to yet another double cross of one of the region’s largest ethnic groups, the Kurds. However, the “troika alliance” - Turkey, Russia and Iran - consists of three countries that don’t much like one another, have different goals, and whose policies are driven by a combination of geo-global goals and internal politics.   In short, “fragile and complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it. How the triad might be affected by the joint U.S., French and British attack on Syria is unclear, but in the long run the alliance will likely survive the uptick of hostilities. But common ground was what came out of the April 4 meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meeting in Ankara, the parties pledged to support the “territorial integrity” of Syria, find a diplomatic end to the war, and to begin a reconstruction of a Syria devastated by seven years of war. While Russia and Turkey explicitly backed the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, Iran was quiet on that issue, preferring a regional solution without “foreign plans.” “Common ground,” however, doesn’t mean the members of the “troika” are on the same page. Turkey’s interests are both internal and external. The Turkish Army is currently conducting two military operations in northern Syria, Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield, aimed at driving the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) out of land that borders Turkey. But those operations are also deeply entwined with Turkish politics. Erdogan’s internal support has been eroded by a number of factors:  exhaustion with the ongoing state of emergency imposed following the 2016 attempted coup, a shaky economy, and a precipitous fall in the value of the Turkish pound. Rather than waiting for 2019, Erdogan called for snap elections this past week and beating up on the Kurds is always popular with right-wing Turkish nationalists. Erdogan needs all the votes he can get to imlement his newly minted executive presidency that will give him virtually one-man rule. To be part of the alliance, however, Erdogan has had to modify his goal of getting rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad and to agree—at this point, anyhow—to eventually withdraw from areas in northern Syria seized by the Turkish Army. Russia and Iran have called for turning over the regions conquered by the Turks to the Syrian Army. Moscow’s goals are to keep a foothold in the Middle East with its only base, Tartus, and to aid its long-time ally, Syria. The Russians are not deeply committed to Assad personally, but they want a friendly government in Damascus. They also want to destroy al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have caused Moscow considerable trouble in the Caucasus. Russia also wouldn’t mind driving a wedge between Ankara and NATO. After the U.S., Turkey has NATO’s second largest army. NATO broke a 1989 agreement not to recruit former members of the Russian-dominated Warsaw Pact into NATO as a quid pro quo for the Soviets withdrawing from Eastern Europe. But since the Yugoslav War in 1999 the alliance has marched right up to the borders of Russia. The 2008 war with Georgia and 2014 seizure of the Crimea were largely a reaction to what Moscow sees as an encirclement strategy by its adversaries. Turkey has been at odds with its NATO allies around a dispute between Greece and Cyprus over sea-based oil and gas resources, and it recently charged two Greek soldiers who violated the Turkish border with espionage.  Erdogan is also angry that European Union countries refuse to extradite Turkish soldiers and civilians who he claims helped engineer the 2016 coup against him.  While most NATO countries condemned Moscow for the recent attack on two Russians in Britain, the Turks pointedly did not. Turkish relations with Russia have an economic side as well. Ankara want a natural gas pipeline from Russia, has broken ground on a $20 billion Russian nuclear reactor, and just shelled out $2.5 billion for Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system. The Russians do not support Erdogan’s war on the Kurds and have lobbied for the inclusion of Kurdish delegations in negotiations over the future of Syria. But Moscow clearly gave the Turks a green light to attack the Kurdish city of Afrin last month, driving out the YPG that had liberated it from the Islamic State and Turkish-backed al-Qaeda groups. A number of Kurds charge that Moscow has betrayed them. The question now is, will the Russians stand aside if the Turkish forces move further into Syria and attack the city of Manbij, where the Kurds are allied with U.S. and French forces? And will Erdogan’s hostility to the Kurds lead to an armed clash among three NATO members? Such a clash seems unlikely, although the Turks have been giving flamethrower speeches over the past several weeks. “Those who cooperate with terrorists organizations [the YPG] will be targeted by Turkey,” says Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said in a pointed reference to France’s support for the Kurds. Threatening the French is one thing, picking a fight with the U.S. military quite another. Of course, if President Trump pulls U.S. forces out of Syria, it will be tempting for Turkey to move in. While the “troika alliance” has agreed to Syrian “sovereignty,” that won’t stop Ankara from meddling in Kurdish affairs. The Turks are already appointing governors and mayors for the areas in Syria they have occupied. Iran’s major concern in Syria is maintaining a buffer between itself and a very aggressive alliance of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, which seems to be in the preliminary stages of planning a war against the second-largest country in the Middle East. Iran is not at all the threat it has been pumped up to be. Its military is miniscule and talk of a so-called “Shiite crescent”—Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon—is pretty much a western invention (although the term was dreamed up by the King of Jordan). Tehran has been weakened by crippling sanctions and faces the possibility that Washington will withdraw from the nuclear accord and re-impose yet more sanctions. The appointment of National Security Advisor John Bolton, who openly calls for regime change in Iran, has to have sent a chill down the spines of the Iranians.  What Tehran needs most of all is allies who will shield it from the enmity of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia. In this regard, Turkey and Russia could be helpful. Iran has modified its original goals in Syria of a Shiite-dominated regime by agreeing to a “non-sectarian character” for a post-war Syria. Erdogan has also given up on his desire for a Sunni-dominated government in Damascus. War with Iran would be catastrophic, an unwinnable conflict that could destabilize the Middle East even more than it is now. It would, however, drive up the price of oil, currently running at around $66 a barrel. Saudi Arabia needs to sell its oil for at least $100 a barrel, or it will very quickly run of money. The on-going quagmire of the Yemen war, the need to diversify the economy, and the growing clamor by young Saudis—70 percent of the population—for jobs requires lots of money, and the current trends in oil pricing are not going to cover the bills. War and oil make for odd bedfellows. While the Saudis are doing their best to overthrow the Assad regime and fuel the extremists fighting the Russians, Riyadh is wooing Moscow to sign onto to a long-term OPEC agreement to control oil supplies. That probably won’t happen—the Russians are fine with oil at $50 to $60 a barrel—and are wary of agreements that would restrict their right to develop new oil and gas resources. The Saudi’s jihad on the Iranians has a desperate edge to it, as well it might. The greatest threat to the Kingdom has always come from within. The rocks and shoals that can wreck alliances in the Middle East are too numerous to count, and the “troika” is riven with contradictions and conflicting interests. But the war in Syria looks as if it is coming to some kind of resolution, and at this point Iran, Russia and Turkey seem to be the only actors who have a script that goes beyond lobbing cruise missiles at people.