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Zero Hedge
24 марта, 18:21

Venezuela In Dire Straits As Oil Production Falls Further

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Authored by Nick Cunningham via OilPrice.com, Venezuela’s economic crisis continues to deepen. The South American OPEC member is thought to be sitting on nearly 300 billion barrels of oil, far more than any other country in the world, including Saudi Arabia (estimated at 268 billion barrels). But the economy has been in freefall for several years, with conditions continuing to deteriorate. The economic crisis has morphed into a full-blown humanitarian disaster. Just this week the Wall Street Journal reported on Venezuelan women traveling to neighboring Colombia to give birth because the state of Venezuela’s hospitals are horrific, with shortages of medical supplies and trained staff. Infant mortality is worse than in war-ravaged Syria. Food and other essential items are also painfully scarce, leading to long lines at shops. Tensions run high because there is not enough to go around. Now even gasoline is running low in Caracas, Reuters reports, an unusual development for the capital city. Gas shortages suggests problems for Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA are deepening. The government depends on oil production for more than 90 percent of its export revenues, and the collapse of oil prices back in 2014, coupled with a long-term slide in output, have ruined the company’s finances. That, in turn, puts even more pressure on PDVSA. A shortage of cash is straining the company’s ability to import refined products as it falls short on bills to suppliers. PDVSA needs to import refined products to dilute its heavy crude oil, but without enough cash, tankers are sitting at ports unable to unload their cargoes. Reuters also says that “many tankers are idle because PDVSA cannot pay for hull cleaning, inspections, and other port services.”   Separately, Bloomberg reported that Venezuela’s largest port at Puerto Cabello is quiet, with satellite imagery showing no vessels arriving or departing. “If you can see a country’s economic decline from space, you know it’s in big trouble,” Graham Stock, the head of emerging-market sovereign research at BlueBay, told Bloomberg on March 19.  The economic malaise has Venezuela’s cash reserves plunging to $10.4 billion, according to the latest estimates, which is equivalent to only 10 percent of the country’s outstanding debt. Graham Stock told Bloomberg that he puts Venezuela’s odds of a default this year at 50 percent. Inflation is likely over 700 percent annually, but in February the central bank decided to stop publishing money supply data, which surely doesn’t bode well. "If they are not publishing, you know it must be skyrocketing," Aurelio Concheso, director of the Caracas-based business consultancy Aspen Consulting, told Reuters in an interview. The economic meltdown and humanitarian crisis has sparked anger across the country, and opposition to the incompetent management of President Nicolas Maduro is growing. That has been met with a clenched fist by the Maduro government, which has jailed political prisoners, weakened the National Assembly and indefinitely delayed gubernatorial elections. In response, 14 Latin American nations plus the United States and Canada are pushing a resolution in the Organization of American States calling on the Maduro government to hold elections and back off his nationwide crackdown. The efficacy of such a move is uncertain, but for a dozen nations in Latin America to intervene in such a way is a testament to how far Venezuela’s stock has fallen. “It’s one more step in the increasing isolation of Venezuela,” Javier Corrales, a professor and Latin American expert at Amherst College, said in a WSJ interview. “It’s a very important step in a region that realizes one of its members is in violation of the democratic precepts of the OAS charter.” Venezuela’s predicament has ramifications for the oil market. The South American nation was desperate for collective production cuts from OPEC members, and has enthusiastically supported the deal. Venezuela pledged output cuts of 95,000 bpd from October levels, promising to average 1.972 million barrels per day between January and June. Early data shows that Venezuela has not yet followed through on those cuts – Reuters says it is achieving only a 7 percent compliance rate. But the government has ordered cuts from some PDVSA operations in Orinoco Belt, a sign that the Maduro government has intensions to follow through on its pledge. Non-compliance could rattle the resolve of other OPEC members, ultimately leading to an unraveling of the deal, which would likely push oil prices much lower and worsen Venezuela’s crisis. However, production cuts also run the risk of exacerbating the economic depression that Venezuela finds itself in. Lower production means much less revenue. On top of that, Reuters says that some of the cuts will affect joint ventures that PDVSA has with Eni and Rosneft, two partners that won’t be too happy about being ordered to reduce output. The bottom line is that Venezuela’s oil output might be heading down whether or not President Maduro wants it to. Fitch Ratings says that a default on PDVSA’s debt is “probable” this year, with an estimated $10 billion in debt payments falling due and only $2 billion in cash on hand. And the company would need much higher prices in order to boost production at any point in the near-term. “Giving the tight liquidity, prices need to be significantly higher to revive output,” Lucas Aristizabal, a senior director at Fitch, told Bloomberg in February. “At least more than $100 to start with.”

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24 марта, 18:00

Nunes Calls Comey, Rogers For "Closed Session" After Finding "Concerning Info" In Intel Reports

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Last night we highlighted a Fox News story which suggested that Devin Nunes expected the NSA to deliver a "smoking gun" which would prove that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, as early as today. Moments ago, Nunes fanned that speculation by holding an impromptu press conference announcing that he'll call both FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers before a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee to discuss topics which "they couldn't answer in a public setting." Here is Nunes's full statement: BREAKING: House Intelligence Committee chair Nunes says Trump's former campaign chairman has volunteered to be interviewed by the committee. pic.twitter.com/yb8OJnwETW — CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) March 24, 2017   And some early takeaways: "There are just questions that we have for Dir. Comey and Adm. Rogers probably that they couldn't answer in a public setting." .@DevinNunes: "There are just questions that we have for Dir. Comey and Adm. Rogers probably that they couldn't answer in a public setting." pic.twitter.com/tEeJA6QDPx — Fox News (@FoxNews) March 24, 2017 .@DevinNunes: "The Committee will ask Dir. Comey & Adm. Rogers to appear in closed section." pic.twitter.com/yEv8ZtV0vL — Fox News (@FoxNews) March 24, 2017   Nunes also revealed that President Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has volunteered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on his alleged connections to Russia.  "We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee." Nunes continues to decline requests from the press to reveal his sources... .@DevinNunes: "I'm still not going to tell you who our sources are." pic.twitter.com/0nfoDVd0on — Fox News (@FoxNews) March 24, 2017   But did confirm there was "no wiretapping of Trump Tower; That didn't happen" .@DevinNunes: "There was no wiretapping of Trump Tower; that didn't happen." pic.twitter.com/4HbDVdZtH0 — Fox News (@FoxNews) March 24, 2017   This follows Nunes's appearance on Fox News last night in which he declared he had an obligation to raise issues he's discovered about the unmasking of Americans' names during serveillance. @DevinNunes on "incidental" surveillance revelations: I had a duty and obligation to tell the President.   “What I saw had nothing to do with Russia. This has nothing to do with the Russia investigation.”   “The lack of a leak investigation is quite concerning. We need to make sure that these leaks are being tracked down.”   I have information that indicates Americans’ names were unmasked during surveillance.   “Clearly when I see a problem, I’m going to point it out.”   “Names for sure if they’re picked up in any incidental collection of any kind, they should be minimized.” .@DevinNunes: I have information that indicates Americans’ names were unmasked during surveillance. #Hannity pic.twitter.com/gcMy0EzpH9 — Fox News (@FoxNews) March 24, 2017   Meanwhile, proving that Nunes may actually be on to something here, WaPo has quickly called for an immediate investigation into his behavior.

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24 марта, 17:48

"Germany’s Dumbest Bank" Makes $5.4 Billion Transfer In Error

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Back in the summer of 2015, Deutsche Bank mistakenly paid $6 billion to a hedge fund client by mistake in a “fat finger” trade on its foreign exchange desk. The embarrassed bank recovered the money from the US hedge fund the next day, and quickly accused junior member of the bank’s forex sales team of being responsible for the transfer in June while his boss was on holiday. AS the FT then reported, instead of processing a net value, the person processed a gross figure. That meant the trade had “too many zeroes”, said one of the people. Fast forward two years later when the German banks have done it again. As Bloomberg reports, state-owned KfW, which gained notoriety for erroneously transferring hundreds of millions of euros to Lehman Brothers on the day the U.S. firm filed for bankruptcy, appears to have done it again when in February it mistakenly transferred more than 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) to four banks "because of a technical glitch that repeated single payments multiple times."  KfW said it discovered the glitch and received the money back without suffering a loss. It was not clear as of this writing if like Deutsche Bank, KfW wold also blame a "junior trader" for the glitch. “KfW has detected the system’s incorrect behavior very early in the process, immediately mitigated the unwanted action and started the necessary process of analyzing the causes,” the bank said in an emailed statement. “The mistake was rapidly identified and eliminated, and the amounts overpaid were successfully demanded back. We regret that during works on the systems, this incident could happen due to human error owing to a configuration mistake.” Perhaps, however a "configuration mistake" of that magnitude better be reversible as otherwise transfering the bank's entire equity capital to one or more lucky recipients would prove quite terminal, and may even lead to random prison time. As Bloomberg adds, the incident serves as a reminder of an ill-timed payment of more than 300 million euros KfW made to Lehman Brothers in September 2008, just as the U.S. investment bank filed for bankruptcy. At the time, the German lender failed to refresh its counterparty check that would have prevented it from processing the regular transaction. The transfer turned into a political scandal in Germany, with newspaper Bild calling KfW “Germany’s dumbest bank.” Ironically, on its website KfW says it’s been awarded the title of the world’s safest bank by magazine Global Finance. After news of the dramatic screw up emerged, the bank said that “KfW has immediately started comprehensive internal and external audits, in order to clarify the causes of the incident in detail and to draw the corresponding conclusions."

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24 марта, 17:44

Fund flows of this size could mark a top, says Joe Friday

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A year ago flows into ETFs were extremely low, actually the lowest in years, as many stock market indices were testing rising support off the 2009 lows. The crowd wasn’t adding money to ETFs as lows were taking place. In hindsight, this was a mistake by the majority. Below I look at ETF flows over the past few years with an inset chart of the S&P 500.   Nearly three months into this year, fund flows have surpassed money invested in the past few years by a large margin. Could that be a good sign for stocks? Could be! The trend in the S&P 500, from a intermediate and long-term perspective remains solidly up. As fund flows are going vertical; the S&P 500 is testing the top of a 1-year rising channel and the 161% Fibonacci extension level, based upon last years (2016) “weekly closing highs and lows.” While testing the top of the channel and 161% level, the past couple of weeks the S&P has chopped sideways.  This week the S&P is making an attempt to break below rising support that has been in place since the election. Joe Friday Just The Facts:  With fund flows at such a high level, the S&P 500 finds itself at a key price point, where the bulls do NOT want to see weakness start creeping into the market. The crowd missed the boat last year at the lows, will it be different this time, as fund flows are sky high? Investors long the S&P 500 want it to break above the top of the rising channel and Fib 161% extension level, which comes into play at the 2,400 level.     Blog:  KIMBLECHARTINGSOLUTIONS.COM/BLOG Get our daily research posts delivered to your inbox here Website: KIMBLECHARTINGSOLUTIONS.COM Questions:[email protected] call us toll free 877-721-7217 international 714-941-9381

24 марта, 17:19

Why The French Election Will Decide Europe's Future

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Nearly half of all French voters have yet to decide who they want to be president with only a month to go until the election, an opinion poll showed on Friday, as scandal-hit conservative candidate Francois Fillon launched an extraordinary attack on Socialist President Francois Hollande, accusing him of orchestrating a plot against him. The big question therefore remains - Is a “European Spring” in the making? Reuters reports that the Odoxa poll showed that 43 percent of voters were undecided over which candidate to fall behind, in a close-fought presidential race that has thrown up a string of surprises. The uncertainty is a reflection of Macron's lack of political experience, a Socialist party that is riven by splits and in disarray, Fillon's woes amid a judicial investigation into his alleged misuse of public funds and a buoyant far-right. Voter surveys show independent centrist Macron and Le Pen neck-and-neck in the April 23 first round, and that they would go through to a run-off vote that Macron would win easily. Fillon lags in third and would be eliminated after the first vote. Adding to the unpredictability, though, the Odoxa poll showed that 60 percent of Le Pen's potential voters and 57 percent of Fillon's had definitely decided on their candidate. Additionally, Fillon accused Hollande in an interview on Thursday of being involved in what he alleges is a government plot to spread damaging media leaks about his affairs to destroy his chances of being elected. "Who gives them (media) these documents? The state services," Fillon said in the interview with France 2 television. The fake jobs scandal has been followed by reports accusing him of influence peddling and receiving gifts of free suits.   Asked if he meant politicians were behind the reports he said "I will go much further. I blame the president of the Republic."   Hollande rejected the accusations, and in an interview with France Info radio on Friday he said; "There's a level of dignity and responsibility to be respected and I think that Mr Fillon has fallen short." All of which raises the question, Is a “European Spring” in the making, just as the EU prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary in Rome? In this opinion piece, Peter Vanham, global leadership fellow at the World Economic Forum, considers this question as he assesses a number of recent developments in Europe. In The Hague last week, Prime Minister Mark Rutte fended off his populist contender Geert Wilders in the Dutch elections. In Edinburgh, meanwhile, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a new Scottish referendum to leave Britain. Those are two good news events for the Europhile elite. They mean the “pro-Europe” camp is regaining momentum after Britain’s vote to “Leave” the EU late last spring. But even two swallows don’t make a summer. The EU won’t really be able to breathe a sigh of relief until April 23, or at the latest May 7, when the French vote for a new president in their elections. If a pro-European candidate doesn’t win there, the European project may instead be forced into a long, cold winter, and nationalist, protectionist and populist agendas may once again take the upper hand. Fortunately for those who favor Europe, the alternative of a moderate pro-European French President remains more likely, and with it the outlook for a strong core Europe, ready for its next big stress test: the Brexit negotiations. When Europe’s leaders head for Rome this weekend, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome, they are facing latter-day Visigoths at the gates of the union. Populists are on the rise throughout the 28-member bloc, calling in question the very ideals the European Union was built on, and threatening the future of Europe as we know it. In that environment, Scottish independence initiatives and the Dutch elections were comforting news events. That a possible Scottish independence is now seen as “good news” in Europe may be surprising to some. Just two years ago, the first referendum on Scottish independence by Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond, was largely dismissed by the same European elite. EU leaders wanted to maintain a united UK in Europe, and certainly not set a precedent for a further break-up of nations. But “the times they are a-changin’.” The British decision to leave the EU turned the tables for Scottish independence. Last time, Scotland was told it would be put at the back of the queue for EU membership. These days, European leaders, such as the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, say Scotland would have a right to stay in the EU if it wants to. Scottish Independence If Europe’s leaders are suddenly excited about Scottish independence, it may be more for tactical reasons than for their genuine sympathy for the Highlands. It is the U.K. government, more than the Scottish one, for whom the message of a Scottish-EU welcome may be intended. The Scottish question is just one of the many cards the EU leaders may play to make sure it gains the upper hand when the UK starts the official procedure to leave the European Union. If the good news from across the channel is to be interpreted with caution, the election news from the Netherlands was more wholeheartedly embraced around Europe. To cheers and many sighs of relief, Mark Rutte, the liberal Prime Minister, successfully fended off Geert Wilders, his anti-immigrant, populist rival. It was seen as a turning of the anti-EU tide. “Congratulations to my friend Mark Rutte,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wrote on Twitter, continuing in Dutch with “let’s build a strong Europe together.” Still, the Dutch “pro-Europe” victory was perhaps somehow pyrrhic. Even as the populist Wilders was once leading in the polls, he was not expected to come close to the premiership: He never polled higher than 25%. In the Dutch multi-party system with proportional representation, he would have therefore never been able to overthrow the current coalition led by Rutte’s Liberal Party. The conclusion, then, from the news coming from Scotland, the U.K. and the Netherlands is no more than a round of shadow boxing ahead of  the main event that will determine the future of Europe: the French presidential elections, run in two rounds on April 23 and May 7. There are two major reasons for that. First, Marine Le Pen, the populist contender in those elections, has a much bigger chance to win the elections than Wilders had in The Netherlands, and has a much wider appeal. Le Pen is very likely to advance to the second-round final vote with Emmanuel Macron, the leading centrist candidate. Both politicians poll at about 25% currently, well ahead of other contenders. In the second round, Le Pen is expected receive only around 35% of the votes. That is well below the poll numbers of 2016’s seminal election winners: the “Leave” campaign in the U.K., and Donald Trump in the U.S. elections. But a terror attack or political bombshell might still make Le Pen a real contender in that final round on May 7. The reasons for that are multifold, but the fact that France was the European focal point for terror attacks in recent years, and has for years had a complicated relation to immigrants, certainly plays a major role. On immigration, Le Pen is less of a hardliner than her father — who founded the National Front she now leads and is a known negationist — but she still stands for a right wing “scapegoat populism.” [Negationism is sometimes referred to as denialism and suggests a fact-free re-writing of history. Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is sometimes referred to as a negationist for downplaying aspects of the Holocaust – he has referred to the gas chambers used in concentration camps as a “detail” of history.] It contrasts with the left-wing populism that dominates in Southern European states like Spain and Greece. Second, a possible election of Le Pen in France would be much more fatal to the European project than Brexit. The EU’s ‘Motor’ France, unlike the U.K., was a founding member of the EU just as The Netherlands was. But more than The Netherlands, it was also the real motor behind the European integration, together with Germany. French politicians, particularly former EU Commission President Jacques Delors, are credited with shaping the European institutions we know today. Others, such as former President Francois Mitterrand, laid the foundations for the Franco-German tandem. That tandem is certain to fall apart with a Le Pen presidency. While she does not wish for France to leave the EU entirely, in a BFMTV interview she expressed her desire to withdraw France from the monetary union, to have it regain control of the borders, and to stop the expansion of Europe. In the “ever closer union” Europe was meant to be, such a stance means the end of the European project as we know it. Le Pen’s positions therefore are also diametrically opposed to those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission President Juncker. But despite the above-stated reasons, France is still unlikely to become the next populist domino to fall. It is more likely that a moderately pro-European candidate will win the French elections with a more or less comfortable margin (65% to 35% according to projections). In that case, the European integration project has another chance to do what it does best: grow through crises, in this case Brexit. It may then take another two winters to bite through the British apple, but perhaps March 29, 2019, will really herald the start of a European Spring.

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24 марта, 17:02

Trump Wins: Virginia Judge Refuses To Block Revised Travel Ban

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On a day when all eyes are on Washington and the healthcare vote, President Trump just won an important victory as a Virginia judge refused to block his revised travel ban against six predominantly Muslim countries (even though, as Bloomberg reports, the directive remains on hold because of court orders in two other states). U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga on Friday denied a request by Muslim activists for a temporary restraining order, who said Trump’s revised March 6 executive order -- like the original before it -- was a disguised "Muslim ban" that discriminated against immigrants based on their religion. The Virginia case was brought by Linda Sarsour, a well-known Muslim activist from Brooklyn, New York, and national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington that took place the day after Trump’s inauguration. The suit was the first that sought to use Trump’s recent public remarks against him court, in addition to his comments about Muslims during the campaign. As Bloomberg reports, At a hearing in Alexandria on March 21, the government’s lawyer, Dennis Barghaan, said another ruling blocking the executive order wasn’t warranted because of the injunctions issued in Hawaii and Maryland. But Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients are still being harmed because "the status of the other orders isn’t durable, and they could be reversed at any time."   Abbas pointed to Trump’s remarks at the rally, saying they showed the president’s real motive is a bias against Islam. That would violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits any government preference for one religion over another.   "President Trump, hours after Hawaii enjoined the executive order, said three times in 10 minutes, in front of thousands of people and with television cameras pointed in his face, that the new executive order is a watered down version of the first," which courts had said unfairly targeted Muslims, Abbas said. The ruling by Trenga in Alexandria bolsters the administration’s efforts to overturn a block on his executive order issued last week by judges in Maryland and Hawaii. Notably, AP reports that the FBI says authorities are aware that the federal judge in Hawaii who ruled against President Donald Trump's travel ban has received threatening messages. FBI spokeswoman Michele Ernst said Thursday the agency is aware of reports of threatening messages against U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson and is prepared to help if necessary.   Watson blocked the federal government from enforcing its ban on new visas for people from six mostly Muslim countries and its suspension of the nation's refugee program. He issued his ruling last week hours before the travel ban was to go into effect.   The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for protecting federal judicial officials, including judges and prosecutors. The service says marshals don't discuss specific security measures but does provide additional protection when warranted. While Judge Trenga's decision won’t have any immediate effect, it is certain to be cited by administration lawyers as the cases move toward the U.S. Supreme Court. More to follow...

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24 марта, 17:01

NJ Transit Service Suspended At Penn Station After Train Derailment

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  Passengers on an NJ Transit train said their train bumped into an Amtrak train in Penn Station at the height of Friday's morning commute, damaging the side of the NJ Transit train and possibly knocking the Amtrak one slightly off the tracks, NBC New York reports. While New Jersey Transit has said nothing about a possible sideswipe yet, it advised that it was suspending service in and out of the Manhattan transit hub because an Amtrak train had derailed in the station. Amtrak had no immediate comment. A New Jersey Transit train shows exterior damage after a March 24, 2017, incident, in which passengers said their train hit another train A New Jersey Transit train damaged in an apparent incident on March 24, 2017. Amtrak train showing internal damage after an apparent derailment at Penn Station In a tweet, the NY Fire Department issued an "all hands" notice to Penn Station. FDNYalerts MAN ALL HANDS PENN STATION, (AMTRAK) MINOR DERAILMENT TRACK 6, UNDER CONTROL — FDNYalerts (@FDNYAlerts) March 24, 2017 Jordan Geary, a passenger on the NJ Transit train, said his train was coming into Penn from the Montclair/Boonton line; the Philadelphia-bound Acela was heading out of the station and the two somehow bumped each other. He tweeted that the impact "blew my window out and into me. Thankfully everyone is okay." Fire officials say they got a call about the incident shortly after 9 a.m. No injuries were immediately reported, but ambulances and other emergency vehicles were seen outside the station. NBC adds that Midtown Direct trains are being diverted to Hoboken. PATH is cross-honoring. The MTA said Long Island Rail Road service was not affected.

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24 марта, 17:00

Here's a Reality Check For the People Losing Their Minds on Social Media

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This needs to be said. The following is not a Pro-Trump article; it is an article to gain some perspective. The people losing their minds on social media over Trump as President are some of the most lost/spoiled people on the planet. And they don’t even know it. These people have obviously never faced a real problem in their lives, which is why they are so worked up about a non-issue.  Let me be clear… anything that you can address by sitting at home whining on your expensive computer on a social media platform is NOT a REAL problem.  You are just playing a team sport like fantasy football. Access to running water/ food… THOSE are real problems. Right now, as I write this, there are children in developing countries who just arrived at school after starting a 5-HOUR journey at 3AM. I am not writing that metaphorically. I personally know people who work with these children. Again… these are CHILDREN who wake up at 3AM, walk 5 hours to school because there isn’t another school closer…and then walk back home again. Do you have a 10-hour commute? Do you have to walk those 10 hours through mountains or jungle where there are people who could kill or rape you any day of the week? There are well over 1 billion people in the world who have REAL problems and could use help. The people losing their minds on social media all have resources/ talent/ and energy to help solve these problems. But they are not. Instead they are ranting about how “awful” it is in the US. WAKE. THE. HELL. UP. Here’s something that could help you get over Trump’s Presidency… looking around at your house which has running water and your fridge which has food in it. How about looking at your roof/ the walls of your house that stop the weather from washing your home away when it rains. You want to see real problems? Look at what just happened in Peru a few weeks ago. Flash floods have literally destroyed some people’s entire lives. Watch the below video of a woman emerging from a mudslide which dragged her for miles. THAT is a real problem. Not the fact that your particular candidate didn’t win an election. People all over the world need help. What are you doing to help them? Anything?    

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24 марта, 16:51

'Soft' Data Slammed: US Services, Manufacturing PMIs Plunge To 6-Month Lows

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Following Europe's surging PMIs (to six year highs), US data was extremely disappointing. Both Services and Manufacturing PMI disappointed, tumbling to the lowest levels since before the election. Simply put, the 'soft' data is converging back lower to the dismal reality of the 'hard' data.   Hope is hot in Europe...   And not in USA...   As Output slows dramatically.. Commenting on the flash PMI data, Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit said: “The US economy shifted down a gear in March. A slowing in the pace of growth signalled by the PMI surveys for a second straight month suggests that the economy is struggling to sustain momentum. The survey readings are consistent with annualized GDP growth of 1.7% in the first quarter, down from 1.9% in the final quarter of last year.   “The employment readings from the survey have also deteriorated, suggesting private sector hiring is running at a reduced rate of around 120,000 per month.   “Inflows of new business have moderated in both manufacturing and services, the latter seeing the most worrying slowing. Backlogs of work are also starting to fall again – something which is commonly followed by firms cutting back on their hiring.   “Business confidence ticked higher in March, however, providing some brighter news on the outlook and a glimmer of hope that the growth trend will pick up again in the second quarter.” The bottom line is that 'animal spirits' are fading fast.

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24 марта, 16:48

Healthcare Vote Timing: 3:45 pm - 4:45 pm; "Hard No's" Drop To 18

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For those curious if today's healthcare vote will take place during market hours, the answer is: it will be dicey. An email from the majority whip Steve Scalise notes that the tentative timing of today's vote will be sometime between 3:45pm and 4:45pm, with a walk off the Floor expected between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. And in what may be more important news, CNBC's John Harwood reports that "Ryan/Trump have whittled hard no's in House Freedom Caucus down to around 18", with the outstanding question "How many moderates join them?" appears Ryan/Trump have whittled hard no's in House Freedom Caucus down to around 18. How many moderates join them? — John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 24, 2017

24 марта, 16:36

The Deep State's Dominant Narratives And Authority Are Crumbling

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Authored by Charles Hugh-Smith via OfTwoMinds blog, This is why the Deep State is fracturing: its narratives no longer align with the evidence. As this chart from Google Trends illustrates, interest in the Deep State has increased dramatically in 2017. The term/topic has clearly moved from the specialist realm to the mainstream. I've been writing about the Deep State, and specifically, the fractures in the Deep State, for years. trends.embed.renderExploreWidget("TIMESERIES", {"comparisonItem":[{"keyword":"/m/025xz_6","geo":"US","time":"today 5-y"}],"category":0,"property":""}, {"exploreQuery":"geo=US&q=%2Fm%2F025xz_6","guestPath":"https://trends.google.com:443/trends/embed/"}); Amusingly, now that "Progressives" have prostituted themselves to the Security Agencies and the Neocons/Neoliberals, they are busy denying the Deep State exists. For example, There is No Deep State (The New Yorker). In this risible view, there is no Deep State "conspiracy" (the media's favorite term of dismissal/ridicule), just a bunch of "good German" bureaucrats industriously doing the Empire's essential work of undermining democracies that happen not to prostrate themselves at the feet of the Empire, murdering various civilians via drone strikes, surveilling the U.S. populace, planting bugs in new iPhones, issuing fake news while denouncing anything that questions the dominant narratives as "fake news," arranging sweetheart deals with dictators and corporations, and so on. The New Yorker is right about one thing--the Deep State is not a "conspiracy:" it is a vast machine of control that is largely impervious to the views or demands of elected representatives or the American people. The key to understanding this social-political-economic control is to grasp that control of the narratives, expertise and authority is control of everything. Allow me to illustrate how this works. The typical politician has a busy daily schedule of speaking at the National Motherhood and Apple Pie Day celebration, listening to the "concerns" of important corporate constituents, attending a lunch campaign fundraiser, meeting with lobbyists and party committees, being briefed by senior staff, and so on. Senior administrators share similarly crowded schedules, minus the fundraising but adding budget meetings, reviewing employee complaints and multiple meetings with senior managers and working groups. Both senior elected officials and senior state administrators must rely on narratives, expertise and authority because they have insufficient time and experience to do original research and assessment. Narratives create an instant context that "makes sense" of various data points and events. Narratives distill causal factors into an explanatory story with an implicit teleology--because of this and that, the future will be thus and so. For example: because Iraq has weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the future promises the terrible likelihood (more than a possibility, given Iraqi deployment of poison gas in the Iraq-Iran War) that America or its allies will be devastated by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. This teleology leads to the inescapable need to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by any means necessary, and remove the political will to use them by removing Iraq's leader from power. Politicos and senior administrators rely on expertise and authority as the basis of deciding whether something is accurate and actionable. Professional specialists are assumed to have the highest available levels of expertise, and their position in institutions that embody the highest authority give their conclusions the additional weight of being authoritative. The experts' conclusion doesn't just carry the weight of expertise, it has been reviewed by senior officials of the institution, and so it also carries the weight of institutional authority. So when the C.I.A. briefing by its experts claims Iraq has WMD, and the briefing includes various threads of evidence that the institution declares definitive, who is a non-expert to challenge this conclusion and teleology? On what technical basis does the skeptic reject the expertise and authority of the institution? We can now define the Deep State with some precision. The Deep State is fundamentally the public-private centralized nodes that collect, archive and curate dominant narratives and their supporting evidence, and disseminate these narratives (and their implicit teleologies) to the public via the media and to the state agencies via formal and informal inter-departmental communication channels. By gaining control of the narratives, evidence, curation and teleology, each node concentrates power. the power to edit out whatever bits contradict the dominant narrative is the source of power, for once the contradictory evidence is buried or expunged, it ceases to exist. For example, the contradictory evidence in the Pentagon Papers was buried by being declared Top Secret. The bureaucratic means to bury skeptical (i.e. heretical) views or evidence are many. Sending the authors to figurative Siberia is remarkably effective, as is burying the heretical claims in a veritable mountain of data that few if any will ever survey. Curation is a critical factor in maintaining control of the narrative and thus of control; the evidence is constantly curated to best support the chosen narrative which in turn supports the desired teleology, which then sets the agenda and the end-game. The senior apparatchiks of the old Soviet Union were masters of curation; when a Soviet leader fell from favor, he was literally excised from the picture--his image was erased from photos. This is how narratives are adjusted to better fit the evidence. Thus the accusation that "the Russians hacked our election" has been tabled because it simply doesn't align with any plausible evidence. That narrative has been replaced with variants, such as "the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee." Now that this claim has also been shown to be false, new variants are popping up weekly, with equally poor alignment with evidence. The primary claim of each Deep State node is that its expertise and authority cannot be questioned. In other words, while the dominant narrative can be questioned (but only cursorily, of course), the expertise and authority of the institutional node cannot be questioned. This is why the Deep State is fracturing: the expertise and authority of its nodes are delaminating because its narratives no longer align with the evidence. If various Security Agencies sign off on the narrative that "Russia hacked our election" (a nonsense claim from the start, given the absurd imprecision of the "hacking"--hacking into what? Voting machines? Electoral tallies?), and that narrative is evidence-free and fact-free, i.e. false, then the expertise and authority of those agencies comes into legitimate question. Once the legitimacy of the expertise and authority is questioned, control of the narrative is imperiled. The control of the narrative is control of the teleology, the agenda and the end-game--in other words, everything. If the institution loses control of the dominant narrative, it loses its hold on power. This is why the Deep State is in turmoil--its narratives no longer make sense, or are in direct conflict with other nodes' narratives or have been delegitimized by widening gaps between "definitive" claims and actual evidence. There is indeed a Deep State, but its control of dominant narratives, and thus its source of control and power, is crumbling. The gap between the narratives and the evidence that supports them has widened to the point of collapse.

24 марта, 16:12

Putin Meets Marine Le Pen, Vows "Not To Influence" French Election In Any Way

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With just one month to go until the French presidential election, President Vladimir Putin met the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, in the Kremlin on Friday, and as Reuters summarized, "handed her a potential boost to her campaign to win next month's presidential election in France."  Putin told Le Pen Moscow reserved the right to meet any French politician it wanted and that she represented "quite a fast-growing element of European political forces." "Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing," said Putin who sarcastically commented on ongoing allegations that Russia is behind the final outcome of western elections in the past year saying  "we do not want to influence events in any way, but we reserve the right to talk to representatives of all the country's political forces." As Reuters adds, a meeting with Putin is a coup for Le Pen and could help her burnish her foreign policy credentials. While increasingly popular in France, she has struggled to get any backing abroad apart from support offered by other far-right parties. Another sensitive topic is Le Pen's troubled financial state. Recall that in December we reported her campaign was threatened when a Russian bank, First Czech Russian Bank, was shut down by the Central Bank of Russia. On Friday, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov  told reporters on a conference call that Putin and Le Pen had not discussed the possibility of Russia offering any financial help to her political party. Le Pen, who has said she admires the Russian leader, was visiting Russia at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee. Earlier on Friday, Le Pen had cut short a schedule of events in the Russian parliament to meet Putin. Reporters had been told she would give a news conference at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, after meeting Russian lawmakers, but she did not turn up for the event at the designated time.   On Friday morning, Le Pen explained to Russian parliamentarians why she opposed European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis.   She also said that Russia and France needed to unite to fight global terrorism, a sentiment later echoed by Putin who has long advocated teaming up with the West to take on the Islamic State group. With Russia now the designated bogeyman to be used in parallel all populist candidates, we expect that her competitors will scramble to portray Le Pen in a Trumpian light, pitching her as just another Putin puppet should she become president.