by ilene - March 23rd, 2017 7:26 pm
Courtesy of Joshua M Brown
If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.
Did Rupert Murdoch order the code red? This is tough stuff from the right-leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. And it’s important that it be said by someone on the right, quite frankly. Nothing penetrates the mental force field between the two ends of the spectrum these days.
Bottom line: You can be the President of the United States or you can tweet bullshit from Fox & Friends or Alex Jones.
But you can’t do both.
by ilene - March 23rd, 2017 2:30 pm
Oil prices are heading down again on swelling U.S. crude oil inventories, with Brent dropping below $50 per barrel for the first time this year.
The OPEC deal that has taken more than 1 million barrels per day of oil off the market has not succeeded in reversing this bearish trend for inventories. And with the deal at its midway point, focus is shifting towards an extension of the cuts through the end of the year.
But OPEC’s usual strategy of jawboning the market back up ahead of these negotiations seems to be wearing thin amid record high crude oil inventories. "OPEC has used up most of its arsenal of verbal weapons to support the market. One hundred percent compliance by all is the only tool they have left and on that account they are struggling," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.
"OPEC's market intervention has not yet resulted in significant visible inventory drawdowns, and the financial markets have lost patience," investment bank Jefferies said in a research note.
Although projections from Wall Street banks tend to vary quite a bit, there is a growing chorus warning about another slide in crude prices. At this point, the big variable is whether or not OPEC decides to extend the deal when it meets in May – an extension would likely stabilize prices and might even push them back up into the mid-$50s or higher. No extension and oil could fall much further into the $40s.Related: The Oil Market Is At A Major Turning Point
Looking out a bit further, things get much more complicated. Even if the supply/demand imbalance is taking a long time to correct itself, rising demand and tepid supply growth suggest that the glut will ease over time. At least that is the general consensus.
However, Goldman Sachs warns that another downturn could come over the next three years, sparked by a new wave of supply stemming from megaprojects planned years ago. These projects cost billions of dollars and take many years to bring online, and many of them were initiated back when oil prices…
by ilene - March 23rd, 2017 1:48 pm
Why Big Insurance Adores the American Health Care Act
Courtesy of Wendell Potter
This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.
There's been a lot of talk about just who was hurt and helped by Obamacare and who will profit or be imperiled by the next phase of health care legislation. Yet health insurance executives have been curiously silent about the House GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. While the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, among many others, have come out against it, insurers have clearly made a strategic decision not to show their hand.
But know this: They love it. Their fingerprints are all over what the Republicans are calling the American Health Care Act. Arguably the only thing they don’t like about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randish creation is the way the plan would slash funding for the Medicaid program. That’s not because insurance executives are more compassionate for the poor than they’ve been in the past; it’s because a growing percentage of their profits now comes from Medicaid. In fact, more than half of the big insurers’ revenues is now coming from the government, not the private sector. And they’re fine with that.
Make no mistake, health insurance lobbyists also helped shape the Affordable Care Act. Most notably, they were able to get a provision stripped from the bill that would have created a government-run insurance plan (the “public option”) to compete with private insurers. But they didn’t get everything they wanted.
It gets rid of those pesky new rules on consumer protection
Over insurers’ objections, the ACA was enacted with important consumer protections. Thanks to the ACA, insurers can no longer charge older people more than three times as much as younger people for the same policy, and they can’t allocate more than 20 percent of what we pay in premiums to profits and administrative activities like sales and marketing. It’s also now illegal for insurers to deny people coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And policies sold now must cover several “essential benefits,” a provision that outlawed junk insurance.
by Market Shadows - March 23rd, 2017 8:33 am
Financial Markets and Economy
U.K. retail sales rose more strongly than expected in February but the outlook for the British consumer remains weak.
European stocks were little changed, with advances in mining companies countering declines in food and beverage producers.
Next Plc held its profit forecast and said it can mitigate a tough U.K. clothing market by improving ranges and switching suppliers, reassuring investors worried about the retailer’s price pressures and product challenges.
10 things you need to know before the opening bell (Business Insider)
Here is what you need to know.
The House is set to vote on Trumpcare. President Donald Trump and House Republican leaders are making a last-minute push to secure the votes needed to move the GOP's bid to overhaul the US healthcare system onto the Senate; 218 votes will be needed for the bill pass.
Sterling gained versus all of its 16 major peers, while government bonds fell as sales rose 1.4 percent after sliding a revised 0.5 percent in January, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for an increase of 0.4 percent.
Indian sovereign bonds climbed for a third day as foreign funds boosted holdings amid expectations of more economic reforms after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party won elections in a key state.
UK retail sales had a huge month in February, confounding the forecasts of economists who had predicted stuttering growth in the month, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.
by phil - March 23rd, 2017 8:10 am
Big vote tonight.
If the TrumpDon'tCare Plan is approved (the CBO says it can no longer be called a health plan since the overall goal is to kill as many people as possible), then Trump's agenda is winning and the markets could leg higher. If, on the other hand, the GOP revolts against The Donald, all Hell could break loose so ignore the politics if you want to but we're paying very close attention!
Interestingly, the main GOP objection to TrumpDon'tCare is that it still cared about forcing Health Insurance Companies to provide minimum benefits to their customers. That has now been removed by the White House and now the Insurance Companies don't have to do anything for anyone at any time – isn't that great? As noted by Politico, however:
While altering the coverage requirements could help win over the Freedom Caucus members, it could drive away moderates — another coalition that House leaders need to build upon in the final 24 hours before the planned vote on Thursday. House leaders are still short of the 215 votes they need.
It's going to be hard to bridge the gap because the bill still is not Draconian enough for the "Freedom Caucus":
Freedom Caucus members, led by Meadows, want at least some parts of Title One of the bill removed. Included in Title One are many of the Affordable Care Act's benefits, like a prohibition on insurers denying coverage over pre-existing conditions and a prohibition on lifetime and annual limits.
That's right, your pre-existing conditions can now stop you from getting coverage and, even if you are covered, there can be a cap – so don't get too sick or you'll be on your own! Aside from leading to a great unwinding in the Health Care, Pharma and Biotech sectors, TrumpDon'tCare will put a huge burden on the bottom 99% and eat into their disposable income…
by ilene - March 22nd, 2017 9:17 pm
You and I are both rational beings who let facts drive our thinking, but it seems our fellow humans are not so thoughtful. Or at least that’s what the research says. It turns out that behavioral psychologists have been undermining the bastions of human reasonability for decades, starting with some nefarious characters in the Stanford University psych department back in the ’70s, whose devilishly clever experiments were then taken a frightening step further at that equally suspect institution over on the other coast: Harvard. Don’t these mental types have anything better to do than conclusively prove that nobody (but you and I) can think straight?
Apparently not. And then the Harvard guys had the temerity to suggest that the human race’s muddleheadedness goes allllllll the way back to the time we spent trotting around on the African savannah. Remember that? Lotsa fun – if you didn’t get chewed up by a pack of hyenas or run down by a herd of water buffalos. You see, we weren’t just sitting out there on the plain playing checkers or debating the finer points of Cartesian philosophy. No, we were hanging on by the skin of our teeth – even as our teeth got smaller so our brains could get bigger. But it turns out that the most significant way our brains got bigger – and the main reason we survived and evolved into the total media animals we are today – was that we figured out how to cooperate.
Or at least that’s what the Harvard guys say. Their argument runs more or less like this:
It’s quite frustrating … when you think about it. But I guess it’s better to face the truth about ourselves than to go along blindly, always wondering over the irrational hijinks our fellow two-leggeds are forever getting up to.
The whole sordid – but not entirely unhopeful – story is laid out by Elizabeth Kolbert in a piece titled “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” in – you guessed it – The New Yorker … yes, the only rag in the greater English-speaking world that insists
by ilene - March 22nd, 2017 8:57 pm
Testifying before a congressional committee, FBI Director James Comey has confirmed that his agency is investigating links between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia.
Small but strategic
Recently, British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed concern over Moscow’s apparent involvement in an attempted coup in my home country.
From 2010 to 2015, I was the ambassador to NATO from Montenegro, a young democracy in southeast Europe that is part of the former Yugoslavia. Montenegro was targeted by an apparent coup attempt during its last parliamentary election on Oct. 16, 2016. While Russia has denied involvement, details of the plot shared by a Serbian man arrested at the scene point to what The New York Times called “Russian efforts to sow mayhem.”
Montenegro’s chief special prosecutor has alleged the involvement of two Russian Military Intelligence Service (GRU) agents, Vladimir Popov and Eduard Shirokov. The GRU is the same organization sanctioned by the Obama administration for hacking the Democratic National Committee offices. Shirolov, who has also gone by the name Shishmakov, was posted as the assistant military attache at the Russian Embassy in Poland until 2014 – when Poland threw him out of the country for spying.
As some of the plotters later confessed, their goal was to overthrow Montenegro’s government, kill then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and put into power political groups that oppose Montenegro’s NATO membership. Russia is on the record as opposing that membership bid and promised “retaliatory actions.”
Despite Russian opposition, joining NATO is one of Montenegro’s major foreign policy goals. The overwhelming majority of NATO members, 26 states, have already ratified the country’s membership and the process seemed on track for completion at the next NATO summit in May of 2017.
However, the addition of new members to the alliance requires unanimous support, and Spain and the U.S. still haven’t passed ratification.
by ilene - March 22nd, 2017 8:49 pm
3-D printing turns nanomachines into life-size workers
Nanomachines are tiny molecules – more than 10,000 lined up side by side would be narrower than the diameter of a human hair – that can move when they receive an external stimulus. They can already deliver medication within a body and serve as computer memories at the microscopic level. But as machines go, they haven’t been able to do much physical work – until now.
My lab has used nano-sized building blocks to design a smart material that can perform work at a macroscopic scale, visible to the eye. A 3-D-printed lattice cube made out of polymer can lift 15 times its own weight – the equivalent of a human being lifting a car.
Nobel-winning roots are rotaxanes
The design of our new material is based on Nobel Prize-winning research that turned mechanically interlocked molecules into work-performing machines at nanoscale – things like molecular elevators and nanocars.
Rotaxanes are one of the most widely investigated of these molecules. These dumbbell-shaped molecules are capable of converting input energy – in the forms of light, heat or altered pH – into molecular movements. That’s how these kinds of molecular structures got the nickname “nanomachines.”
For example, in a molecule called rotaxane, composed of one ring on an axle, the ring can move along the axle to perform shuttling motions.
by Market Shadows - March 22nd, 2017 7:03 pm
Financial Markets and Economy
Fund managers now say stocks are the most overvalued they have been in nearly 20 years, according to a survey done last week by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
For China’s Central Bank, an Increasingly Difficult Balancing Act (The Wall Street Journal)
China’s central bank faces an increasingly tough balancing act, trying to contain asset bubbles and steady the yuan without triggering a cash crunch and stifling economic growth.
Housing demand is being restrained by a limited inventory of homes for sale that’s pushed property values higher. The jump in home prices from a year earlier far exceeded the gain in wage growth during the month.
Even amid Brazil’s pungent stew of recent big corporate scandals, the latest is particularly stomach-turning. On Friday March 17th, in time for a traditional weekend churrasco, or barbecue, the federal police accused some of the country’s biggest meat producers of bribing health inspectors to turn a blind eye to grubby practices.
Stocks Steady After Selloff as Tech Shares Rally (The Wall Street Journal)
Gains in technology shares buoyed the S&P 500 Wednesday as U.S. stocks stabilized following their worst day of the year.
Investors sent the S&P 500’s technology sector to its biggest daily climb in three weeks, while tech companies accounted for the top four gainers in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Wall Street ended mixed after a choppy session on Wednesday as investors focused on President Donald Trump's struggle to push through a healthcare bill and snapped up stocks after a steep drop the day before.
An all-electric version of London’s iconic black cab is set to go on sale at the end of this year after its Chinese manufacturer opened a solar-powered factory near Coventry, England.