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[l] at 4/18/24 6:37am
Jobless Claims Remains Deader Than Joe Biden's 'Uncle Bosey' In the real world labor market, 2024 has been a shitshow of layoffs... 1. Everybuddy: 100% of workforce 2. Wisense: 100% of workforce 3. CodeSee: 100% of workforce 4. Twig: 100% of workforce 5. Twitch: 35% of workforce 6. Roomba: 31% of workforce 7. Bumble: 30% of workforce 8. Farfetch: 25% of workforce 9. Away: 25% of workforce 10. Hasbro: 20% of workforce 11. LA Times: 20% of workforce 12. Wint Wealth: 20% of workforce 13. Finder: 17% of workforce 14. Spotify: 17% of workforce 15. Buzzfeed: 16% of workforce 16. Levi's: 15% of workforce 17. Xerox: 15% of workforce 18. Qualtrics: 14% of workforce 19. Wayfair: 13% of workforce 20. Duolingo: 10% of workforce 21. Rivian: 10% of workforce 22. Washington Post: 10% of workforce 23. Snap: 10% of workforce 24. eBay: 9% of workforce 25. Sony Interactive: 8% of workforce 26. Expedia: 8% of workforce 27. Business Insider: 8% of workforce 28. Instacart: 7% of workforce 29. Paypal: 7% of workforce 30. Okta: 7% of workforce 31. Charles Schwab: 6% of workforce 32. Docusign: 6% of workforce 33. Riskified: 6% of workforce 34. EA: 5% of workforce 35. Motional: 5% of workforce 36. Mozilla: 5% of workforce 37. Vacasa: 5% of workforce 38. CISCO: 5% of workforce 39. UPS: 2% of workforce 40. Nike: 2% of workforce 41. Blackrock: 3% of workforce 42. Paramount: 3% of workforce 43. Citigroup: 20,000 employees 44. ThyssenKrupp: 5,000 employees 45. Best Buy: 3,500 employees 46. Barry Callebaut: 2,500 employees 47. Outback Steakhouse: 1,000 48. Northrop Grumman: 1,000 employees 49. Pixar: 1,300 employees 50. Perrigo: 500 employees 51. Tesla: 10% of workforce But, according to the government-supplied data... The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits for the first time last week was unchanged at 212k (SA), basically flat since September of last year, and claims ticked modestly lower on an NSA basis... Source: Bloomberg Continuing Claims remains muted (elevate but muted) at 1.812mm Americans. It is now practically unchanged since August 2023... Source: Bloomberg But, here's the thing... WARNs are soaring... and Challenger-Grey just announced that March saw the most job cuts (90,309) since January 2023...but government-supplied data on initial jobless claims continues to smoothly tick along near record lows... Source: Bloomberg Ah, Bidenomics!! If Trump wins in November, will all this data suddenly be 'allowed' to reflect reality? Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 08:37
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[l] at 4/18/24 6:20am
Senate Can Stop Expansion Of Government Surveillance Authored by Bob Goodlatte & Mark Udall via RealClear Wire, When the U.S. House passed the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISAA), which reauthorizes the FISA Section 702 surveillance authority, it overlooked something big – an amendment that would drive the greatest expansion of government surveillance authority in recent history. The Senate has time to correct this and restore balance between the needs of national security and the safeguarding of Americans’ civil liberties. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a legal authority enacted by Congress to enable the surveillance of foreign threats located abroad. But it has increasingly become a means of surveilling Americans located within the United States whose communications are often caught up in the government’s global trawl of data. Section 702 authority has been used millions of times in recent years to query, or target, Americans’ communications. In the House, reformers proposed an amendment to add a warrant requirement before the government can query a U.S. person’s data. That amendment, which failed in a tie vote, was the primary focus of debate on the bill. As RISAA comes to the Senate, attention is now being cast on another amendment – one from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) that many have come to call the “Everyone’s a Spy” provision. This measure was portrayed  as a “narrow” definitional change to the law concerning electronic communications service providers – big telecom and Internet companies – which obligated them to cooperate with NSA surveillance. These big companies can be compelled to spy for the government, and then be subject to gag orders, forbidding them from telling customers they have been surveilled. The new expanded definition of the Everyone’s a Spy provision is much broader than what many members of Congress thought. It would give the government the right to similarly compel millions of small businesses that provide Wi-Fi, or have access to routers or other ordinary communications equipment, to act as the government’s partners in surveillance. They, too, would be bound not to tell their customers about this surveillance. The HPSCI amendment achieves this by including any service provider who has access to equipment that transmits communications. After critics complained that digital loungers in hotel lobbies and coffeehouses would have their data hoovered up by the government, the authors of this amendment provided carve-outs for hotels, restaurants, dwellings, and community centers. This was a good PR move. But this measure still applies to most everyone – owners and operators of any facilities (other than the exempted categories) that house equipment used to store or carry data. If this became law, millions of American small business owners would have a legal obligation to hand over data that runs through their equipment. These small businesses could be forced to give the NSA direct access to their equipment, or else they might just copy messages en masse and turn them over. And when they’re done with doing their part in mass surveillance, these small businesses would then be placed under a gag order to hide their activities from their customers. Small businesses are just waking up to what is about to be done to them by the Everyone’s a Spy amendment. Customers are sure to be outraged when they learn that the businesses they patronize are potentially spying on them. All U.S. business might suffer, as this law is sure to also widen the wedge between the United States and European Union on the contentious issue of spying and data privacy. Meanwhile, U.S. consumers and businesses would have no legal way to resist these intrusions. It is easy to see why Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon (pictured) calls this expansion of government surveillance “terrifying.” The intelligence community is pressing the Senate to act before this authority lapses on April 19. But the agencies have already secured permission from the FISA Court to continue conducting Section 702 surveillance in its current form until April 2025. So the Senate has plenty of time to act with deliberation. It can boldly strike this toxic Everyone’s a Spy amendment. And considering the popularity of adding a warrant requirement for searching for and accessing Americans’ communications caught up in Section 702 databases, it should do that as well. Bob Goodlatte represented Virginia’s 6th District as a Republican in Congress from 1993 to 2019 and chaired the House Judiciary Committee. He is a senior policy adviser to the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 08:20
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[l] at 4/18/24 6:16am
Futures Rise After 4 Straight Days Of Losses US equity futures are higher after four consecutive days of selling, although that is the same pattern we have seen all week as futures initially rise only to dump later in the day. As of 7:40am, S&P futures are up 0.3% while tech stocks were set to outperform, pushing the Nasdaq 0.4% higher after TSMC delivered a better-than-projected revenue outlook. An index of global chip stocks and AI poster child Nvidia fell into a technical correction amid the recent selloff, with Evercore ISI analyst Julian Emanuel thinking this is only the start, with the downdraft in stocks only starting and set to continue through the rest of 2024. The dollar steadied, while US Treasuries pared an earlier gain to trade flat. In Europe, major markets are higher with Spain/France leading and Germany lagging. Commodities are mixed: oil is falling further; precious and base metals are higher. Reports from Netflix and L’Oreal are due after the close of their respective markets. Investors will also be parsing initial US jobless data, the latest Leading Index and Existing Home Sales data, as well as speakers from a raft of central banks. In premarket trading, semis are rebounding from yesterday’s post ASML selloff (MD +1.0%, NVDA +1.4% and MU +2.5%) after  Taiwan’s TSMC, the main chipmaker for Nvidia and Apple, reported sales guidance that was better than expected and it stuck by plans to spend up to $32 billion over the course of this year, shoring up expectations for a sustained increase in AI demand. Also on the chip sector front, Micron Technology shares are up 1.5% in premarket trading after Bloomberg reported that the largest maker of US computer memory-chips is poised to get more than $6 billion in grants from the Commerce Department to help pay for domestic factory projects. MegaCap Tech are also mostly higher: AAPL +32bp and AMZN +23bp. Here are the other notable premarket movers: Blackstone Inc. collected more fees from big retail funds and credit strategies this year, compensating for the slower pace of deal exits, the asset manager said in its first-quarter report. EBay shares rise 3.5% after Morgan Stanley double-upgrades the e-commerce firm to overweight from underweight. Analysts recommend a pair trade with Etsy on the prospect of a narrowing valuation gap as eBay approaches positive growth thanks to a boost from AI. Etsy shares fall 3.7% as Morgan Stanley cuts Etsy to underweight. JetBlue shares advance 1.6% after the airline was upgraded to neutral from underweight at JPMorgan, which sees the company as “increasingly well-positioned for a modest potential move to the upside based on improving market sentiment.” Las Vegas Sands decline 2.5% after reporting first quarter results late Wednesday. The casino operator exceeded adjusted profit expectations in the quarter, but results at its Macau locations broadly missed Wall Street’s estimates. Match Group shares slip 2.3% after the dating-app company was downgraded to equal-weight from overweight at Morgan Stanley, which flags concerns over Tinder saturation and execution. Synovus Financial shares trade 7.7% lower after first-quarter net interest income missed the average analyst estimate. Williams Cos. shares edge 0.7% lower on low volumes as the natural gas pipeline and processing firm receives its only sell-equivalent rating. Wolfe downgrades to underperform from peerperform saying it is a “great company, not a great value.” Zscaler shares rise 2.4% as KeyBanc Capital Markets raised the recommendation on the security software firm’s stock to overweight from sector weight. In the last week, investors have been unwinding gains from a record rally in the first quarter as they come to grips with an overlever, overheating US economy and stubborn inflation that’s forced them to recalibrate rate bets. Money markets signal just two rate cuts by the Fed this year, starting in September, down from 7 at the start of the year, after a fresh round of hot inflation sent Treasury yields soaring to 2024 highs. Offsetting disappointment about the speed of rate cuts, though, investors are more optimistic about growth and the potential feedthrough to corporate profits, according to Peter Oppenheimer, global equity strategy chief at Goldman Sachs. “Growth is fine, but we’re not likely to get the boost in terms of lower rates that the markets had expected,” Oppenheimer said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “That’s causing some indigestion, so earnings will really be crucial here.” Overnight, Loretta Mester became the latest Fed official to warn it shouldn’t rush to cut rates. Meanwhile, Michelle Bowman said progress on inflation may have stalled and questioned the degree to which monetary policy is restraining the economy. Elsewhere, Joe Biden ramped up his campaign rhetoric, calling China “xenophobic” and highlighting its economic woes, as he sought to make the case for US economic strength. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 rises 0.4% as investors weighed a slate of upbeat corporate earnings reports against concerns around higher-for-longer interest rates. The utilities sub-index leads gains while energy stocks fall the most. In company news, engineering company ABB hit another record high after it posted strong first-quarter earnings. Here are some of the biggest European movers Thursday: ABB (ABBN SE +5.2%) jumps after posting an overall 1Q beat, according to analysts, driven primarily by its electrification unit performance Aixtron (AIXA GY +6.1%) climbs after the German chip equipment maker said that Wolfspeed placed multiple tool orders in 3Q and 4Q last year Edenred (EDEN FP +3.8%) rises following its first-quarter results, which Citi says are a “step in the right direction” for the payment-service provider Tele2 (TEL2B SS +5.1%) advances after it beat estimates to 1Q Ebitda, driven by strong performance in its key Swedish market, as well as “decent” growth in the Baltics Nordea Bank (NDA FH +0.4%) rises after reporting record profits and net interest income in the first quarter on the back of an enduring tailwind from interest rates National Grid (NG/ LN +1.6%) gains after it said a change in the way it reports earnings will boost EPS over the current financial year. Analyst reactions were mixed Sartorius (DIM FP -14%) plunges after the company reported revenue for the first quarter that missed the average analyst estimates EQT (EQT SS -5.1%) falls with analysts saying that the Swedish private equity firm’s quarterly print is showing continued slowness in fundraising Schindler (SCHP SE -0.4%) drops after the elevator maker reported revenue shy of expectations, according to Vontobel International Distributions Services (IDS LN -3.9%) falls, trimming some gains from Wednesday’s rally that followed news of a rejected takeover bid from Czech entrepreneur Daniel Kretinsky’s firm Rentokil (RTO LN -2.8%) drops after the pest control company delivered 1Q in-line results. Investors remain cautious about the integration of the Terminix acquisition, Citi says Earlier in the session, Asia’s stock benchmark rebounded after a six-day selloff, as sentiment stabilized with the region’s currencies regaining some footing. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose as much as 1.1% but pared the gain to 0.6%, set for its best day since April 9. Tencent, Samsung Electronics and BHP Group were among the biggest contributors to the advance. Chip stocks were in focus as TSMC delivered a better-than-projected revenue outlook and stuck with plans to spend as much as $32 billion in 2024. Shares in Hong Kong were among the region’s best performers. Benchmarks in mainland China extended their advance to the second day following a clarification from the country’s securities regulator over delisting rules. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp conformed to the positive mood but with upside capped in the mainland by US-China trade frictions after President Biden called for an increase in tariffs on Chinese metals. Nikkei 225 recovered all of its opening losses and returned to above the 38,000 level. ASX 200 was led by the mining industry after BHP's encouraging quarterly production update. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is down 0.1%, falling for a second day. The dollar has jumped about 4% this year, outperforming all major currencies, as reduced prospects for Fed rate cuts feed greenback strength and higher US yields.  Separately, the Bloomberg Asia Dollar Index edged higher, supporting investor appetite toward the region. The yen was steady following a joint statement from US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen alongside the finance ministers of Japan and South Korea that noted “serious concerns” about the depreciation of the two Asian currencies. A global gauge of emerging-market currencies gained for a second day, suggesting some stability after hitting a 2024 low earlier this week. In rates, treasuries erased an earlier gain US 10-year yields unchanged at 4.58%, near Wednesday’s low, trailing gilts by 1.5bp in the sector; curve spreads remain within 1bp of Wednesday’s close, inverted 2s10s around -35bp. Gilts outperform their German counterparts. $23b 5-year TIPS sale at 1pm New York time is week’s final coupon auction. In commodities, oil prices added to Wednesday’s drop, with WTI down another 0.6% to trade near $82 a barrel, weighed by weaker Chinese industrial data and a swelling in US crude inventories, while gold rose. Spot gold rises 0.8% to around $2,379/oz. Bitcoin was back above $62k after briefly dipping below $60k yesterday, while Ethereum finds support around $3k. Binance converted the entire pool of assets held in an emergency fund for users into USDC stablecoin. The fund serves as a backstop for customers in “extreme situations”, according to Bloomberg. Looking at today's calendar, US session includes weekly jobless claims data, a packed Fed speaker slate and 5-year TIPS new-issue auction.  US economic data slate includes April Philadelphia Fed business outlook and weekly jobless claims (8:30am), March Leading index and existing home sales (10am). Fed speakers include Bowman (9:05am, 9:15am), Williams (9:15am), Bostic (11am, 5:45pm) and Collins (12pm) Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.3% to 5,076.50 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.3% to 500.26 MXAP up 0.8% to 170.64 MXAPJ up 0.9% to 524.05 Nikkei up 0.3% to 38,079.70 Topix up 0.5% to 2,677.45 Hang Seng Index up 0.8% to 16,385.87 Shanghai Composite little changed at 3,074.23 Sensex little changed at 72,888.80 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.5% to 7,642.11 Kospi up 2.0% to 2,634.70 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.44% Euro little changed at $1.0676 Brent Futures down 0.3% to $86.99/bbl Gold spot up 0.8% to $2,379.19 US Dollar Index little changed at 105.86 Top Overnight News BOJ board member Asahi Noguchi said on Thursday the pace of future rate hikes would likely be much slower than that of its global peers in recent policy tightenings, as the impact of rising domestic wages has yet be fully passed onto prices. RTRS A US congressional effort to force TikTok’s Chinese owner to divest the app has gained steam after House Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled a new package of legislation that could compel the Senate to support the measure. FT Berkshire Hathaway priced ¥263.3 billion ($1.71 billion) of bonds in the firm’s largest yen debt deal since its 2019 debut sale. The surprisingly big offering raises speculation that Warren Buffett may be planning another foray into Japanese stocks. BBG TSMC’s rebound accelerated, with “extremely high” AI demand bolstering its outlook. The chipmaker expects revenue to grow as much as 30% this quarter following its first profit rise in a year. Chip stocks may see some relief on the results. Nvidia ticked up premarket, as did ASML’s stock. BBG European diplomats traveled to Israel on Wednesday to make one more plea for restraint in response to the aerial attack that Iran launched this weekend, but Britain’s foreign secretary acknowledged that an Israeli reprisal seemed inevitable. NYT Fed’s Mester says the central bank will require additional time before deciding when to commence rate cuts, but she expressed confidence in the disinflationary process eventually resuming. Barron's Corporate pension funds are shifting money into bonds. State and local government funds are swapping stocks for alternative investments. The nation’s largest public pension, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, is planning to move close to $25 billion out of equities and into private equity and private debt. WSJ The Biden administration said Wednesday it would allow some American and European oil companies to carry on in Venezuela after U.S. efforts to coax President Nicolás Maduro into democratic overhauls by lifting economic sanctions ended in a hardening of his authoritarian regime. WSJ Cash paid out from PE funds has tumbled to a decade low, leaving investors less able, or willing, to allocate new money. As a result, the biggest backers want buyout executives to put in more of their own assets, prompting them to load up on debt and pledge personal possessions — including their homes. BBG Iran is exporting more oil than at any time for the past six years, giving its economy a $35bn-a-year boost even as western countries discuss stepping up sanctions in response to its attack on Israel. Tehran sold an average of 1.56mn barrels a day during the first three months of the year, almost all of it to China and its highest level since the third quarter of 2018. FT A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk APAC stocks traded mostly higher after gradually shrugging off headwinds from the tech-led selling in the US. ASX 200 was led by the mining industry after BHP's encouraging quarterly production update. Nikkei 225 recovered all of its opening losses and returned to above the 38,000 level. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. conformed to the positive mood but with upside capped in the mainland by US-China trade frictions after President Biden called for an increase in tariffs on Chinese metals. Top Asian News PBoC Governor Pan met with Fed Chair Powell and they exchanged views on the economic situation, monetary policy and financial stability, while Pan also met with IMF's Georgieva in Washington and exchanged views on cooperation between China and the IMF. PBoC Deputy Governor says there is still room for monetary policy going forward. US President Biden commented there is no trade war when asked about the proposed China metals tariffs, while he also commented that he wants fair competition, not conflict, with China. US Secretary of State Blinken is travelling to China on April 23rd, according to Politico. BoJ Board Member Noguchi said it is essential for the BoJ to maintain ultra-loose monetary policy and it is essential to continue to maintain an appropriate balance between labour supply and demand through the continuation of its accommodative monetary policy to achieve the 2% price target. Noguchi said it will take a significant amount of time until trend inflation continues to rise to around 2%, while the focus now is on the pace at which the policy rate will be adjusted and at what level it will eventually stabilise. Japanese Finance Minister Suzuki held a bilateral meeting with US Treasury Secretary Yellen and agreed to communicate closely on FX, while Suzuki said he wants to closely consult with the US and South Korea on FX. Japanese Vice Finance Minister for International Affairs Kanda said Japan is always communicating with the US and each country's authorities on Japan's stance on FX and financial markets. PBoC official says high real interest rates in some sectors may help control capacity and reduce inventories. European bourses, Stoxx600 (+0.3%) are mostly, but modestly firmer. Initially futures were lifted following strong TSMC results/guidance, though equities have tilted slightly lower in recent trade. European sectors are mixed, having initially held a positive tilt; Energy underperforms, given the slump in oil prices following bearish crude inventory data and geopolitical updates. Utilities is found at the top of the pile. US Equity Futures (ES +0.1%, NQ +0.2%, RTY +0.1%) are incrementally firmer, though ultimately resides around the unchanged mark; TSMC (-2.2%) beat on Q1 expectations and notes of strong AI demand, name was initially firmer in the pre-market but has since trimmed markedly and fallen into the red. Top European news ECB's Schnabel said financial markets repricing of rates over the last few months shows investors expect policymakers, at least for now, to continue to pay more attention to actual inflation outcomes. ECB's Vasle said he sees the deposit rate 'much closer' to 3% by year-end if disinflation goes to plan, according to Reuters. ECB's de Guindos says inflation has fallen further this year, expected to continue declining in the medium term but the pace will be slower. If inflation conditions are met, it would be appropriate to reduce the current level of restrictions. FX USD is softer vs. all major peers with the DXY back on a 105 handle after printing a 106.51 high earlier in the week. EUR/USD has continued its recovery after printing a base around the 1.06 mark earlier in the week. That being said, policy divergences remain wide between the Fed and ECB, therefore, focus amongst strategists is on whether the pair can hold above 1.05. GBP is attempting to claw back some losses vs. the USD but Cable hasn't been able to reclaim a 1.25 handle throughout the week. Antipodeans are both firmer vs. the USD following a pick-up in sentiment in APAC hours and firm trade in base metals. AUD/USD saw little sustained follow-through from Aus. jobs as the unexpected contraction in employment was driven by part-time jobs. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1020 vs exp. 7.2281 (prev. 7.1025). Fixed Income USTs are bid, but only modestly so with newsflow somewhat limited thus far ahead of IJC & Fed speak. Positive undertones continue from the strong 20yr sale on Wednesday; USTs around their 108-10+ peak, surpassing Tuesday's 108-08 best. Bunds are also firmer and closer to USTs than Gilts in terms of the magnitude of gains thus far. Holding just off the 131.87 peak around Wednesday's 131.67 best. Gilts are outperforming but largely a function of catch-up play to the strong 20yr US sale, yesterday's Bailey remarks and the general bullish grind for benchmarks late doors on Tuesday. As it stands, Gilts at a 97.20 peak having picked up markedly from Wednesday's 96.01 contract low. Spain sells EUR 6.143bln vs exp. EUR 5.5-6.5bln 2.50% 2027, 1.95% 2030, 3.25% 2034 & 3.45% 2066. France sells EUR 12.417bln vs exp. EUR 11.0-12.5bln 0.00% 2027, 2.50% 2027, 2.75% 2030 & 0.00% 2032 OATs. Commodities The crude complex extended on yesterday's slide, with prices subdued by the lack of Israeli response against Iran coupled with this week's inventory builds in weekly data. More recent reports meanwhile suggested a potential Israeli strike on Iran after Passover; Brent June looking to test USD 85.50/bbl to the downside. Precious metals are firmer across the board amid the softer Dollar, with mild outperformance in palladium vs gold and silver; XAU currently sits at the top of USD 2,361.10-2.381.10/oz range. Base metals are higher trade across the board for base metals with copper reaching a level last seen in June 2022, and iron ore continuing to surge higher. The complex is supported by optimism surrounding China coupled with the intraday fall in the Dollar. Qatar set June-loading Al-Shaheen crude term premium at USD 2.54/bbl which is the highest in six months. Chile President Boric said 'totally clear' that copper prices are on the upswing, while he added that Codelco copper production levels are going to slowly grow as of this year and reach 1.7mln tons by 2030. Furthermore, the government is dedicated to speeding up the mining permitting process and they hope to double lithium output. Kazakhstan's Energy Ministry says oil production losses due to floods have amounted to 16k tons; Azerbaijan is in talks to ship up to 5mln tons of Kazakh crude via Baku-Supsa pipeline. Geopolitics: Middle East "Multiple reports claiming Netanyahu is postponing counter strike on Iran till after Passover next week", according to Sky News' Waghorn "Al Araby al Jadeed claiming he’s promised a more limited retaliation in return for freedom to strike Rafah hard." US has reportedly agreed to back an Israeli operation in Rafah in return for Israel not conducting a major strike on Iran, via JNS citing Egyptian officials. "Israel Broadcasting Corporation: The army is waiting for the green light to start its operations in Rafah, south of Gaza", according to Al Arabiya. "Al-Arabiya correspondent: Large movements of Israeli armoured vehicles near the outskirts of the city of Rafah", according to Al Arabiya. US Pentagon spokesman said won't hesitate to defend Israel and will work to protect its forces in the region, while the spokesman added that Defense Secretary Austin made a series of contacts to de-escalate so as not to go to a wider war, according to Al Jazeera. UK Ministry of Defence insider speaking to Politico says they now expect “strikes back and forth” between Israel and Iran, via Politico Geopolitics: Other G7 statement noted significant geo-political risks from Russia's war against Ukraine and the Middle East situation could affect trade, supply chains and commodity prices, while they welcomed the EU proposal to direct extraordinary revenues from Russia's frozen assets to aid Ukraine and will continue working on all possible avenues by which frozen Russian assets could be used to support Ukraine. It was also reported that Japan's top currency diplomat Kanda said the G7 discussion on Iran-related language was a bit complicated and they haven't yet reached a conclusion on what sanction should be applied. US Event Calendar 08:30: April Continuing Claims, est. 1.82m, prior 1.82m 08:30: April Initial Jobless Claims, est. 215,000, prior 211,000 08:30: April Philadelphia Fed Business Outl, est. 2.0, prior 3.2 10:00: March Existing Home Sales MoM, est. -4.1%, prior 9.5% 10:00: March Home Resales with Condos, est. 4.2m, prior 4.38m 10:00: March Leading Index, est. -0.1%, prior 0.1% Central Bank Speakers 09:05: Fed’s Bowman Gives Opening Remarks 09:15: Fed’s Williams Participates in Moderated Discussion 09:15: Fed’s Bowman Speaks at SIFMA Basel III Endgame Roundtable 11:00: Fed’s Bostic Speaks in Fireside Chat on Economy 12:00: Fed’s Collins Travels to Connecticut 17:45: Fed’s Bostic Chats About Economy, Monetary Policy DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap I’m struggling at the moment. For the last 2-3 weeks all that I can hear in my head is Beyonce’s latest single (a number one around the world over the last few weeks) which if you haven’t heard is an irritatingly catchy country-style song. In quiet (and busy moments) all I have going on in my mind is a jaunty “It’s a real-life boogie and a real-life hoedown....” with the next line containing parental advisory lyrics so I can’t print! I need something to dislodge it before it drives me crazy and/or infiltrates my research. Markets have been doing the “Do-si-do” this week as initial recoveries have given way to sell-offs as rates and concerns over events in the Middle East dominate, while weaker tech sentiment was a major driver yesterday as the day progressed. This morning we've seen more flipping as Asia is higher again. Before that, yesterday saw the S&P 500 peak at +0.5% near the open but closed -0.58% lower and with it lost ground for a 4th consecutive session, which last happened in early January. Moreover, the index has now shed over 3% over these last four sessions, which is the first time that’s happened since October 23, the same day that the 10yr Treasury yield moved above 5% intraday. To be fair, there was a recovery for bonds, but that was partly a risk-off move into safe havens, which pushed the 10yr Treasury yield (-8.0bps) down from its 5-month high the previous day to 4.59%. Lower oil which we'll discuss below also helped. Yields are another couple of basis points lower across the curve in Asia. At the close, the S&P 500 had fallen by -4.42% from its all-time high at the end of March, which is more than double the largest pullback it had seen during its remarkable +27% rally that started in late October. The latest decline yesterday was led by tech stocks, with the NASDAQ down -1.15%, and the Magnificent 7 down -1.23%. Chipmakers in particular underperformed as the producer of chipmaking equipment ASML (-6.68%) reported a sizeable decline in orders in Q1. This saw the Philadelphia semiconductor index (-3.25%) fall to its lowest level in nearly two months, with Nvidia down -3.87% in sympathy. Small-cap stocks were still affected as well though, with the Russell 2000 (-0.99%) falling to a two-month low. T he main exception to this pattern came from Europe, where the STOXX 600 (+0.06%) stabilised after its worst daily performance in nine months. The index did close when the US equity market had only dipped to flat, but Euro STOXX futures have edged back into positive territory this morning after a strong Asia session with S&P (+0.30%) and Nasdaq (+0.43%) futures also rebounding again. Overnight in Japan, we heard from the BoJ’s currency chief Kanda, who confirmed the central bank’s commitment on the yen. Kanda pushed back against a stronger dollar, stating that excessive currency moves harm the economy. Moreover, US Treasury Secretary Yellen acknowledged Japan’s worries over a sharp yen depreciation in a joint statement with her counterparts in Japan and South Korea after a trilateral meeting that suggested the US would give a green light to intervention in both currencies. The yen stabilised off the back of these comments and is now up +0.07% against the dollar as I type. The offshore Chinese yuan also held steady after the People’s Bank of China emphasised its commitment to preventing exchange rate overshoot in a strong dollar environment. Against this backdrop, Asian equities are mostly in the green. As I type, the Nikkei 225 is up +0.49%, the Hang Seng +1.16%, the Korean Kospi +1.71%, and in China, the CSI 300 and Shanghai Comp are up +0.61% and +0.55% respectively. Elsewhere, Australian unemployment came in at 3.8% (vs 3.9% expected), but the downside surprise was largely offset by an otherwise mixed jobs report. The bond rally we discussed above has been helped by the latest decline in oil prices, with Brent Crude (-3.03%) closing at a 3-week low of $87.29/bbl, which came as the latest EIA report showed US crude inventories at their highest level in 9 months. And in Europe, natural gas futures also fell back after their recent advance, with a decline of -6.43% on the day. So a wild ride in commodities this week. The decline in oil prices played out even as uncertainty remains over the direction of the conflict in the Middle East. Yesterday, Israeli PM Netanyahu met with UK Foreign Secretary Cameron and German Foreign Minister Baerbock yesterday, but he also said that “I want to make it clear - we will make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself." The comments raised the prospect that some sort of response would still happen, and Cameron said that “It’s right to have made our views clear about what should happen next, but it’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act”. Back in Europe, the decline in yields was more modest with yields on 10yr bunds (-2.1bps), gilts (-3.7bps) and OATs (-2.8bps) all seeing moderate dips. The moves were more muted at the front-end, at +0.6bps for 2yr bunds and -1.0bps for 2yr gilts. In part, that reflected continued concerns about sticky inflation following the UK’s latest inflation data, which showed that headline CPI only fell back to +3.2% in March (vs. +3.1% expected), whilst core CPI was also a tenth above expectations at +4.2%. That led investors to dial back the likelihood of a June rate cut by the Bank of England to less than 25% intra-day from 38% the previous day, though this rose back to 35% in part thanks to fairly dovish comments from Governor Bailey. He noted that with the latest inflation data “we are actually pretty much on track” with what the BoE projected back in February. Our UK Economist Sanjay Raja has pushed back his expectation of the first cut from May to June but still sees an additional 50bps this year split between September and December. The terminal rate of 3% will be hit in H1 2026. See his report here for the full explanation. Meanwhile, there was little change in ECB pricing with ECB commentary continuing to point to a rate cut at the next meeting in June. Bundesbank President Nagel, one of the more hawkish ECB voices, said that “a rate cut in June has become more likely” although “there are still some caveats”. Finally, the IMF published their latest Fiscal Monitor yesterday, which projected that government debt would continue to rise globally over the years ahead. Their forecasts for general government gross debt saw an increase globally from 93.2% of GDP in 2023 to 98.8% by 2029. For the United States, it saw debt rising from 122.1% in 2023 to 133.9% in 2029. To the day ahead now, and US data releases include the weekly initial jobless claims, the Philadelphia Fed’s business outlook for April, the Conference Board’s leading index for March, and existing home sales for March. From central banks, we’ll hear from ECB Vice President de Guindos, the ECB’s Nagel, Centeno, Simkus and Vujcic, the Fed’s Bowman, Williams, and Bostic, along with the BoE’s Greene. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 08:16
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[l] at 4/18/24 5:45am
Is China's 'Dumping' Driving US Treasury Yields Higher? Tonight's TIC data held few surprises and nothing of significant note, but it got us thinking... For the 9th month of the last 11, China's Treasury holdings declined in February (the latest TIC data), dropping by $22.7BN. Additionally, it has now been 24 of the last 28 months that China's Treasury holdings have declined, now back at practically its lowest level since June 2009... Source: Bloomberg While we are acutely aware of the fact that 'correlation is not causation', one would find it hard to argue that the practically perfect concomitance of China's Treasury holdings and the yield of the US 10Y Treasury note over the past three years makes us wonder (in our out-loud voices), if - away from The QT, The FedSpeak, the macro-economy, the geopolitical crises, the AI-hype, the growth scares - if it's not just all a well-managed (slow and steady) liquidation of China's (still massive) US Treasury holdings... Source: Bloomberg It's hard to argue they don't have an incentive to a) de-dollarize, and b) not liquidate it all at once, shooting themselves in the face. While the de-dollarizing has been steady in Treasury-land (enabled by a vast sea of liquid other players), things have been a little more 'obvious' in the alternative currency space - i.e gold. The 2015 jump in the chart below was when China suddenly admitted to its gold holdings (well some of them we assume) after no disclosure since 2009. Since then both China and Russia (the gold line below), have been hoarding the precious metal while dumping Treasuries... Source: Bloomberg And in case you wondered, it's not just China and Russia, world reserve Treasury holdings are 'relatively' flat (based on Fed's custody data) while according to The IMF, the world's sovereign nations have been buying gold with both hands and feet... Source: Bloomberg ...happy to take whatever retail-ETF-sellers are offering into their physical vaults... Source: Bloomberg Finally, as we note in the chart, this all started to 'escalate quickly' when Washington really started to weaponize the dollar. Assuming that all the US gold is still in Fort Knox (and assuming that China and Russia are honest about their holdings), the world's 'other superpowers' are rapidly catching up to the US' holdings... Source: Bloomberg Who could have seen that coming? Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 07:45
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[l] at 4/18/24 5:20am
The Spear In AI's Back Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog, That real harm will result from the use of AI tools is a given. AI is like the powerful character in an action movie who looks invincible until they turn around, revealing a fatal spear embedded in their back. The spear in AI's back is the American legal system, which has been issuing free passes to tech companies and platforms for decades on the idea that limiting innovation will hurt economic growth, so we'd best let tech companies run with few restrictions. The issuance of free passes to Tech monopolies / cartels and platforms may be ending. Letting Big Tech run with few restrictions has led to the smothering of innovation as tech monopolies do what every monopoly excels at, which is buy up potential competitors, suppress competition, pursue regulatory capture via lobbying and spend freely on deceptive PR. Now anti-trust regulators are finally looking at the uncompetitive wastelands created by Big Tech and recognizing the union-busting tactics of quasi-monopolies like Starbucks and Amazon. The bloom might be off the Big Tech / Monopoly rose. Enter AI, which offers the thrilling prospect of trillions of dollars in additional profits for purveyors of AI and all those companies which use their AI tools. The American legal system deals with new technologies much as a reptile digests a meal--slowly. I get email from readers about defending the Constitution, something we all support. I am not an attorney, but my impression of Constitutional law is that it is a tediously complex thicket of case law that must be carefully picked through before we can even begin to understand exactly what we're defending: every issue anyone might be concerned about has already accumulated an immense load of rulings and arguments. This is American jurisprudence: advocacy goes to trial and ruling are issued, some as rulings that will pertain to all future cases and some that will not. The law advances in new fields such as AI as positions are argued before judges / juries and then reviewed by higher courts as losers appeal judgments / rulings. A great many things we might think are novel have long been settled. Isn't the Selective Service Act a form of involuntary servitude? Nope, that's been settled long ago. The government's right to draft you to fight in a war of choice is unquestionably the law of the land. AI has certain novel features which have yet to be decided by the processes of advocacy, rulings and appeals. In general, corporations selling / giving away AI tools are claiming these tools incur no liability to the issuers of the tools because they're akin to software that, for example, adds HTML coding to plain text: a tool that performs a process. This strikes me as incomplete. It seems to me that AI, by its very name and nature, is making implicit claims of utility far beyond mere processing of data or text: AI is called AI because it is adding intellectual value to data or text. All the disclaimers in the world cannot dissolve this implicit claim of utility that adds value. Since I'm not an attorney, I'm not able to put this in proper legal terms; I am using the terminology of philosophy. But the law is a system based on philosophic principles, and so the language of philosophy plays a key role in broadly applicable legal rulings. Now let's consider a real-world example. A patient receives a mid-diagnosis and suffers as a direct result of the mis-diagnosis. In our system of law, somebody or some entity is liable for the consequences of the error, and must pay restitution to those harmed by the error. As fact-finding proceeds, it turns out an AI tool was used in the initial scanning of the patient's data. The company that created the AI tool will naturally claim that the tool was intended only to be used under the supervision of a human professional, and there were no claims made as to the accuracy of the AI tool's output. This is a specious argument, as the clear intent of the AI tool is to replace human expertise as a means of lowering the costs of diagnosis by accelerating the process and increasing the accuracy of the diagnosis. Clearly, the tool was designed for exactly this purpose, and therefore deficiencies in its performance that contributed to the mis-diagnosis--for example, the fact that the AI tool rated the diagnostic result with a high probability of accuracy--are the responsibility of the company that issued the AI tool. Should the court find the AI company 1% liable for the misdiagnosis, the principle of joint and several liability means the monetary settlement falls on whichever parties can pay the settlement. Should the other parties found liable be unable to pay a $10 million settlement, then the AI company might end up paying $9 million of the $10 million settlement, despite their apparently limited liability. Off the top of my head, I can foresee dozens of similar examples in which an AI tool can be found partially liable for misrepresentations, errors of omission, unauthorized use of confidential intellectual property, and so on, in what can easily become an endless profusion of liability claims. If the bloom is off the rose of Big Tech, the likelihood of a court assigning liability to those issuing AI tools increases proportionately. If the ruling is upheld by an appeals court, it will generally enter case law and become the basis for similar lawsuits assigning liability to those entities issuing AI tools. That real harm will result from the use of AI tools is a given. The idea that those issuing these tools should be given a free pass because "we really didn't mean that you could use the tools to reduce human labor and increase accuracy" does not pass the sniff test, nor will it negate advocacy claiming that these tools implicitly make claims about utility that incur liability. Use an AI tool, get sued. The Wild West of AI's claims of zero liability will soon enter the meat grinder of jurisprudence, and implicit claims of utility will be more than enough to incur liability in a court of law--as they should. The legal spear in AI's back could prove fatal. A 1% error rate and 1% liability will add up fast. *  *  * Become a $3/month patron of my work via patreon.com. Subscribe to my Substack for free Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 07:20
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[l] at 4/18/24 4:55am
Google Quickly Fires 28 Employees Who Protested Dealings With Israel Dozens of Google employees just learned they can't treat corporate offices like a college campus. On Wednesday, the Alphabet subsidiary rushed to fire 28 employees who were part of Tuesday sit-in protests against the company's provision of artificial intelligence and cloud services to the State of Israel.   The protests were organized by a group called No Tech for Apartheid, which had declared Tuesday a "day of action" at Google. At issue: Google's Project Nimbus -- a $1.2 billion cloud and AI contract with Israel -- and the Israeli Defense Forces' use of Google Photos in Gaza, "which has led to the arrest, imprisonment, and torture of thousands of Palestinians with little to no evidence," the group said. "It’s clear that the Israeli military will use any technology available to them for genocidal means."  Instant karma: @Google employees held a sit-in protest of the Big Tech company's business with Israel. They were arrested and fired. Life comes at you fast!pic.twitter.com/rJiysqtPsk — Kyle Becker (@kylenabecker) April 18, 2024 Last week, Israel's +972 Magazine, citing Israeli intelligence officers, reported on the Israeli Defense Forces' expansive use of AI in its war on Gaza in a system called Lavender. “Human personnel often served only as a ‘rubber stamp’ for the machine’s decisions,” one source said, typically spending only 20 seconds reviewing AI-selected targets "just to make sure the Lavender-marked target is male." The intel sources said that, particularly during the early days, the majority of the resulting dead were "women and children or people who were not involved in the fighting."  Tuesday's protests were staged in Google's Sunnyvale, California, Seattle and New York City offices. They including livestreamed sit-ins lasting about 10 hours. The protesters weren't just hanging around in hallways or lobbies: In Sunnyvale, they took over the personal office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, and wrote a list of demands on his whiteboard. Police were eventually called, and nine employees were arrested for trespassing.  Masked Google employees demanded the company terminate its $1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government  In a statement, Google laid out its rationale for bringing the hammer down:   “Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior. After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety. We have so far concluded individual investigations that resulted in the termination of employment for 28 employees, and will continue to investigate and take action as needed.” No Tech for Apartheid condemned the terminations. “This flagrant act of retaliation is a clear indication that Google values its $1.2 billion contract with the genocidal Israeli government and military more than its own workers—the ones who create real value for executives and shareholders,” the group said in a statement.  Last month, Google axed this engineer who interrupted a speech being delivered by an Israeli-based Google executive at a tech conference in New York City:  “I refuse to build technology that powers genocide.” A Pro-Palestine Google Cloud engineer disrupted Barak Regev, Google Israel managing director During a tech conference held in New York City. The worker protested Project Nimbus, a contract to sell technology that could be… pic.twitter.com/pjWF3koatp — Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) March 5, 2024 While labor laws generally give a green light to employee strikes and other disruptive actions aimed at things like wages and work conditions, protesting an employer's choice of customer is something else altogether. However, talking to Bloomberg, San Francisco University labor professor John Logan attempted a tortured argument on the Google protesters' behalf.  “Tech workers are not like other kinds of workers,” he said. “You can make an argument in this case that having some sort of say or control or ability to protest about how their work product is being used is actually a sort of key issue.” Google begs to differ, and on Wednesday offered a warning to its remaining employees: "The overwhelming majority of our employees do the right thing. If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again." Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 06:55
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[l] at 4/18/24 4:35am
"War In The Middle East": Opinions Clash In The 'Iran, Israel, Palestine' Debate This weekend marked a major escalation in the long-running conflict between Israel and Iran, with the latter launching what some called a "performative" barrage of missiles at Israel amid the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Iran says the matter is "concluded" (for now) but remains "in a state of readiness" to deliver a "massive and harsh response" if Israel launches the "tiniest invasion," while Israel's former chief of Mossad, Zohar Palti, warned that striking Iranian nuclear facilities "is on the table." The UK, France, and Germany have sent top-ranking diplomats to Israel in order to urge de-escalation of the crisis, while the Biden administration is also said to be not be on board with Israel directly striking back on the Islamic Republic. PM Netanyahu, however, said 'we will make our own decisions' on security. Meanwhile, there is no hope in sight for any resolution on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Palestine where an unprecedented humanitarian crisis has erupted. Let's Debate On April 17th, ZeroHedge hosted a debate on the issue: participants discussed everything from how the Biden administration should (or should not) respond, to whether Israel's actions in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon are morally justified vs. the actions of Hamas. Defending Israel was talk show host Dennis Prager and Newsweek opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon. Taking the opposing position were be Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur and libertarian Dave Smith. The debate was be moderated masterfully by Saagar Enjeti, founder of Breaking Points. Watch the full debate below: https://t.co/rDaVBIBnz8 — zerohedge (@zerohedge) April 17, 2024 Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 06:35
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[l] at 4/18/24 4:30am
US Submits 'Assurances' To UK Govt Over Assange Extradition  Via Consortium News The United States Embassy on Tuesday filed two assurances with the British Foreign Office saying it would not seek the death penalty against imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and would allow Assange “the ability to raise and seek to reply upon at trial … the rights and protections given under the First Amendment,” according to the U.S. diplomatic note.   Assange’s wife Stella Assange said the note “makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a U.S citizen. Instead,” she said, “the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can ‘seek to raise’ the First Amendment if extradited.”    The note contains a hollow statement, namely, that Assange can try to raise the First Amendment at trial (and at sentencing), but the U.S. Department of Justice can’t guarantee he would get those rights, which is precisely what it must do under British extradition law based on the European Convention on Human Rights.  Via AP The U.S. Department of Justice is legally restricted to assure a free speech guarantee to Assange equivalent to Article 10 of the European Convention, which the British court is bound to follow. But without that assurance, Assange should be freed according to a British Crown Prosecution Service comment on extraditions. In USAID v. Alliance for Open Society, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that non-U.S. citizens outside the U.S. don’t possess constitutional rights. Both former C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo and Gordon Kromberg, Assange’s U.S. prosecutor, have said Assange does not have First Amendment protection. Because of the separation of powers in the United States, the executive branch’s Justice Department can’t guarantee to the British courts what the U.S. judicial branch decides about the rights of a non-U.S. citizen in court, said Marjorie Cohn, law professor and former president of the National Lawyers’ Guild.  “Let’s assume that … the Biden administration, does give assurances that he would be able to raise the First Amendment and that the [High] Court found that those were significant assurances,” Cohn told Consortium News' webcast CN Live! last month. “That really doesn’t mean anything, because one of the things that the British courts don’t understand is the U.S. doctrine of separation of powers,” she said.  “The prosecutors can give all the assurances they want, but the judiciary, another [one] .. of these three branches of government in the U.S., doesn’t have to abide by the executive branch claim or assurance,” Cohn said.  In other words, whether Assange can rely on the First Amendment in his defense in a U.S. court is up to that court not Kromberg or the Department of Justice, which issued the assurance on Tuesday. “The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment,” said Stella Assange. Assange Can Challenge Assurances Assange’s legal team now has the right to challenge the credibility and validity of the U.S. assurances filed on Tuesday. The U.S. would then have a right to reply to Assange’s legal submissions to the court, which will hold a hearing on May 20 to determine whether or not to accept the U.S. assurances. If the court does, Assange can be put on a plane to the U.S. theoretically that day. If not Assange would be granted a full appeal against the Home Office’s 2022 order to extradite him.  Assange is wanted in the U.S. on 17 charges under the 1917 Espionage Act and one on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. He faces up to 175 years in a U.S. dungeon. “The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism,” Stella Assange said.  BREAKING: “The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty. It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution's previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he… pic.twitter.com/lu7bkw0M5u — Stella Assange #FreeAssangeNOW (@Stella_Assange) April 16, 2024 In its 66-page ruling on March 26, the two High Court judges wrote Kromberg wouldn’t have said Assange would be without First Amendment rights at trial “unless that was a tenable argument that the prosecution was entitled to deploy with a real prospect of success.” “If such an argument were to succeed it would (at least arguably) cause the applicant [Assange] prejudice on the grounds of his non-US citizenship (and hence, on the grounds of his nationality),” the judges said. They added: “The applicant wishes to argue, at any trial in the United States, that his actions were protected by the First Amendment. He contends that if he is given First Amendment rights, the prosecution will be stopped. The First Amendment is therefore of central importance to his defence to the extradition charge.” This is the statement Stella Assange put out on X Tuesday at 11:36 am EDT... “The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty. It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a U.S citizen. Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can ‘seek to raise’ the First Amendment if extradited. The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism. The Biden Administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late.” Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 06:30
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[l] at 4/18/24 3:45am
Gold Vs. S&P 500: Which Has Grown More Over Five Years? Gold is considered a unique asset due to its enduring value, historical significance, and application in various technologies like computers, spacecraft, and communications equipment. Commonly regarded as a “safe haven asset”, gold is something investors typically buy to protect themselves during periods of global uncertainty and economic decline. It is for this reason that gold has performed rather strongly in recent years, and especially in 2024. Persistent inflation combined with multiple wars has driven up demand for gold, helping it set a new all-time high of over $2,400 per ounce. To put this into perspective, Visual Capitalist's Marcus Lu visualized the performance of gold alongside the S&P 500. See the table below for performance figures as of April 12, 2024. Over the five-year period, gold has climbed an impressive 81.65%, outpacing even the S&P 500. Get Your Gold at Costco Perhaps a sign of how high the demand for gold is becoming, wholesale giant Costco is reportedly selling up to $200 million worth of gold bars every month in the United States. The year prior, sales only amounted to $100 million per quarter. Consumers aren’t the only ones buying gold, either. Central banks around the world have been accumulating gold in very large quantities, likely as a hedge against inflation. According to the World Gold Council, these institutions bought 1,136 metric tons in 2022, marking the highest level since 1950. Figures for 2023 came in at 1,037 metric tons. If you’re fascinated by gold, be sure to check out more Visual Capitalist content including 200 Years of Global Gold Production, by Country or Ranked: The Largest Gold Reserves by Country. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 05:45
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[l] at 4/18/24 3:00am
The European Commission Is Preparing To Sue Germany Over Its Gas Tariffs Authored by Charles Kennedy via OilPrice.com, Unnamed Reuters sources said on Wednesday that the European Commission is preparing to sue Germany over its fees for purchasing gas from German storage in contravention of the European Union’s single market rules.  In a matter of days, the European Commission is expected to file its infringement procedure lawsuit against the German tariff, Reuters reports, citing two unnamed sources, though a spokesman for the Commission told Reuters that talks were ongoing.  The tariff, according to an EU energy regulator who spoke with Reuters, is creating higher gas prices in some EU countries.  Germany’s tariff on purchases of stored gas is a relatively new development that arose out of the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when the EU banned imports of piped Russian gas, and in the wake of the shut-down of the Nord Stream pipeline, connecting Russia and Germany.  Germany is accused of using its neighbors to fill in a fiscal gap created by the need for Germany to fill its storage with more expensive, non-Russian gas. That fee has tripled–at a minimum–since its implementation in October 2022, according to Reuters.  According to some members of the EU, the bloc’s single market rules do not allow for trade tariffs among its members.  "We remain in touch with the German authorities on this matter, including at political level...we do not speculate on the possible opening of infringement procedures," a spokesperson for the Commission told Reuters, while an Economy Ministry spokesperson claimed the tariff was in the spirit of “European security” by enabling Germany to fill its storage.  On Tuesday, the Austrian Vice President of the European Parliament, Othmar Karas, and Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler challenged Germany’s gas transit tariffs before the European Commission, alleging that the higher fees made it more difficult for some of the bloc’s eastern members to give up Russian gas.  The end result, according to Austrian authorities, is that Austrians and other members of the bloc–mostly Eastern European–are footing the bill for the billions of cubic meters of gas Germany purchased when prices were high. That gas must now be sold at a lower price, Euractiv reports. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 05:00
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[l] at 4/18/24 2:15am
Russia Restoring Oil Refining Capacity After Ukrainian Suicide Drone Strikes With Western sanctions widely failing against Russia, as well as Ukraine's depleted air force unable to patrol its skies, Western leaders have said General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets would be game-changing in the war (these are the same leaders that said the M1 Abrams tanks would be game-changing). But with M1 Abrams busted and F-16s unlikely to hit the highly contested airspace of the Eastern European country anytime soon, desperate Kyiv made a bold effort in recent months to target Moscow's crude refineries (how the war is funded) with wave after wave of stealthy suicide drones.  For months, Ukraine and the Western leaders (and the CIA) cheered (either publicly in NATO-friendly corporate press or behind the scenes) about bombing Russia's refineries deep within the country with suicide drones, sending crude refining capacity-idled in the country to nearly 14%. However, the short-lived celebrations are winding down. Reuters estimates that capacity idled at refineries in Russia fell from 14% to 10% at the end of March, primarily because the refineries are being repaired quickly.  Reuters noted several damaged Russian refinery plants that were hit by Ukrainian drone attacks have been fixed in recent weeks. Also, other refineries with planned maintenance have come back online.  That includes the Rosneft-owned Ryazan plant, which put back the CDU-4 and main CDU-6 primary oil refining units into operation, as well as Kuibyshev refinery repairing CDU-4 and Syzran's CDU-5 and previously idled for maintenance CDU-6.-Reuters According to Reuters estimates, Russian oil refining capacity idled by drones plunged to 90,500 metric tons per day (660,000 barrels per day) from around 123,800 tons per day (907,000 bpd) previously.  The last major Ukrainian drone attack on a large Russian refinery facility occurred on April 2 at the Taneco refinery in Nizhnekamsk, Russia, the third-largest refinery in the country.  Reuters pointed out that Russia's total primary oil refining capacity was shut down due to outages, and maintenance was around 4.4 million tons in April, up from 4.1 million tons in March.  Since April 2, there have been no new reports of successful drone attacks on large Russian refineries.  We wonder why? Well, it's pretty easy to figure this one out.  Last week, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Ukraine that drone and missile attacks should not be focused on energy infrastructure but instead on military targets because of the risk of sending Brent crude prices over $100 per barrel.  And recall this note from last month, ""Terrified" Joe Biden Demands Ukraine Halt Strikes On Russian Refiners As It Is Sending Oil Prices Surging." Ukraine only attacking Russian refineries with drones instead of sinking Russian tankers as that would send oil soaring and would cripple Biden re-election odds. Once Trump wins, Ukraine will go scorched earth on Russian oil infra/tankers. — zerohedge (@zerohedge) March 17, 2024 The main goal of the refinery drone attacks by Ukraine is to crush Moscow's funding of the war through crude product (such as diesel) exports. The quick repair work and resilience of the Russian economy from repeated Ukranian attacks and Western sanctions shows how elites in Washington and Brussels are failing in a world dangerously spiraling into a multi-polar state.  If Biden's foreign policy is basically to keep Brent prices sub $100/bbl before the presidential elections in November. Well, they're going to have a whole lot of trouble if Israel uses Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth jets to bomb critical oil/gas infrastructure in Iran.  Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 04:15
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[l] at 4/18/24 1:30am
Desperation Behind European Politicians' Latest Russiagate Hoax Authored by Peter Sourek, Cecile Jilkova, and Michael Shellenberg via Public Substack, The success of right-wing German political party AfD led European politicians to abuse their powers, perhaps illegally... European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová (left) Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala (center); President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (right) European politicians claimed late last month that Russia bribed European politicians to spread disinformation and interfere in the upcoming June elections. “Russian influence scandal rocks EU,” screamed a March 30 Politico headline. Russia “is using dodgy outlets pretending to be media [and] using money to buy covert influence,” claimed European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová. The BBC agreed: “Russian network that 'paid European politicians' busted, authorities claim.” Heads of state hyped the alleged scandal. “We uncovered a pro-Russian network,” claimed Petr Fiala, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, “that was developing an operation to spread Russian influence and undermine security across Europe.” Poland's intelligence agency said it had conducted searches in the Warsaw and Tychy regions and seized €48,500 (£41,500) and $36,000 (£28,500). However, following an investigation by Public, the head of the Czech Intelligence Agency (BIS), Michal Koudelka on Monday admitted that his agency has no information about any bribery scheme. "I cannot confirm anything,” he said. It’s true that Russia's media influence in Europe intensified considerably during the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, a number of marginalized voices found space on the German broadcasts of the Kremlin's propaganda television, Russia Today, which the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, promptly shut down in 2022.   But von der Leyen has conceded that there is no proof of a Russian bribery network.  “They have carried [Putin’s] propaganda into our societies,” she said. “Whether they have taken bribes for it or not.” Public asked von der Leyen what evidence she has for her allegations. What was the misconduct or illegal activity if there were no bribes? ... After two weeks of hysteria, the German media are now backing away from the claim that right-wing nationalist politicians with the Alternative for Democracy (AfD) party in Germany took money from the Russians. The mainstream German media are now claiming, like von der Leyen, that it doesn't matter if the politicians took any Russian money since they do what the Russians want. ... All of this raises questions about the motivations behind Europe’s latest Russiagate disinformation campaign. Why are European leaders so desperate to smear their political enemies as Russian puppets that they were willing to potentially break the law by weaponizing intelligence agencies and interfering in elections? ... The European Russiagate hoax is but a two-week window of cheap spy tales per country. Desperate incumbents try to make the most of this one-in-campaign opportunity. The Belgian Prime Minister is right (tongue in cheek): We must be vigilant! It is important that truly independent media do not let politicians abuse their power and run this bleak hoax any higher. Public subscribers can read the full details of this shocking story here... Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 03:30
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[l] at 4/18/24 12:45am
UN Security Council To Hold Contentious Vote On Palestinian Statehood Friday will witness another Gaza-related showdown in a very divided United Nations Security Council, as council member Algeria has prepared a draft resolution for the body recognize a Palestinian state. It would require nine votes and no vetoes on the part of the US, Britain, France, Russia or China in order to pass - which means it won't happen, given the US as a close ally of Israel is expected to surely block it. The plan ultimately seeks to bestow on Palestine full UN membership status. Getty Images Looking ahead to the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Wednesday: "We do not see that doing a resolution in the Security Council will necessarily get us to a place where we can find ... a two-state solution moving forward." The US position has long been that a Palestinian state must be born out direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and not accomplished superficially within an external forum like the UN. Israel has clearly rejected that it will allow for a Palestinian state so long as Hamas still exists, and PM Netanyahu has even linked the more secular-leaning Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to 'terrorism'. He has also rejected a prior US call to allow the PA to take over and administer the Gaza Strip. The reality is that the current Gaza war makes the prospect of achieving a Palestinian state more distant than ever. According to some background via Reuters: The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the 193-member UN General Assembly in 2012. But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly. The UN Security Council has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in 1967. The UK too has long said it will not recognize Palestine outside of a broader deal for a two-state solution that involves Israeli assent. Spain was the most recent country to unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state, which was announced earlier this month. Those EU states to have previously done so include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Ireland and Malta have also recently said they are on board and plan to do so. Leaked Cables Show White House Opposes Palestinian Statehood https://t.co/tzVB9Y20f2 by @kenklippenstein, @DRBoguslaw https://t.co/tzVB9Y20f2 — The Intercept (@theintercept) April 17, 2024 The current war in Gaza and soaring civilian death toll among Palestinians as Israel continues its operation seeking to eradicate Hamas and free the hostages has given extra impetus to those officials in Europe who have wanted to see Palestinian recognition.  Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 02:45
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[l] at 4/18/24 12:00am
The Polish President Revealed That Foreign Companies Own Most Of Ukraine's Industrial Agriculture Authored by Andrew Korybko via Substack, The Oakland Institute published a detailed report in February 2023 titled “War and Theft: The Takeover of Ukraine’s Agricultural Land”, which exposed how foreign firms have clandestinely taken control of a significant share of Ukrainian farmland by exploiting a liberal law in collusion with local oligarchs. Their findings made waves around the world at the time but eventually receded from the public’s attention over half a year later once Western outlets like the USA Today misleadingly “fact-checked” it. They took advantage of social media users conflating indirect ownership through stakes with direct control to discredit the institution’s report, after which it largely faded from the general discourse. Few could have expected that it would be none other than Polish President Andrzej Duda who just breathed new life into it during his interview with Lithuanian National Radio and Television. He was explaining Poland’s problem with Ukrainian agricultural imports when he dropped the following bombshell: “I would like to draw particular attention to industrial agriculture, which is not really run by Ukrainians, it is run by big companies from Western Europe, from the USA. If we look today at the owners of most of the land, they are not Ukrainian companies. This is a paradoxical situation, and no wonder that farmers are defending themselves, because they have invested in their farms in Poland […] and cheap agricultural produce coming from Ukraine is dramatically destructive to them.” Duda represents what’s widely considered to be one of the most pro-American and anti-Russian governments at any time in history so he can’t credibly be accused of “pushing Kremlin propaganda”. He therefore wouldn’t have confirmed the dramatic claim of majority-foreign ownership of Ukraine’s industrial agriculture, albeit indirectly through stakes in national companies that exploit a liberal law in collusion with local oligarchs, if he didn’t have the facts provided to him by Polish experts to back it up. This development should prompt a resurgence of interest in prior reports on this subject such as USAID’s about how “Private Sector on the Frontlines of Land Reform to Unlock Ukraine’s Investment Potential”. Thomas Fazi’s detailed report for UnHeard back in July 2023 about how “The capitalists are circling over Ukraine: The war is creating massive profit opportunities” is also insightful. Most relevant, however, is what Zelensky told the World Economic Forum in Davos in May 2022. In his words: “We offer a special - historically significant - model of reconstruction. When each of the partner countries or partner cities or partner companies will have the opportunity - historical one - to take patronage over a particular region of Ukraine, city, community or industry. Britain, Denmark, the European Union and other leading international actors have already chosen a specific direction for patronage in reconstruction.” One year later, he hosted BlackRock’s management in Kiev, during which time they discussed the creation of an investment and reconstruction fund. According to Zelensky, “Today is a historic moment because, since the very first days of independence, we have not had such huge investment cases in Ukraine. We are proud that we can initiate such a process…We will be able to offer interesting projects to invest in energy, security, agriculture, logistics, infrastructure, medicine, IT, and many other areas.” Putting the pieces together, the Ukrainian leader made good on his May 2022 Davos proposal by offering companies “patronage” over Ukraine’s industrial agriculture, which was already in the process of unfolding prior to then but was greatly accelerated by last May’s meeting with BlackRock’s management. This took the tangible form of these indirectly foreign-controlled farms outcompeting Poland’s by far, thus leading to the Polish farmers’ protests across the country and the latest troubles in bilateral ties. The sequence of events detailed thus far places into context mid-February’s report about the G7’s alleged plans to appoint an envoy to Ukraine, who’d obviously be tasked with implementing the Davos agenda if this comes to pass, particularly entrenching foreign control over Ukrainian farmland. It also suggests that Ukraine’s informal focus on ramping up agricultural exports to the EU isn’t just opportunistic, but partially driven by these foreign firms’ preference for speedy and reliable profits. Ukraine had hitherto been an agricultural powerhouse in the Global South but ceded its market share to Russia on the false pretext that Moscow was blockading the Black Sea, which in turn prompted the EU to temporarily eliminate prior trade barriers for the official purpose of facilitating exports via its territory. In reality, Russia never blockaded the Black Sea, and almost all of the Ukrainian grain that entered the EU remained there instead of traveling through the bloc en route to Kiev’s traditional Global South markets. It's much quicker for Ukraine to sell its agricultural products in the neighboring EU than to wait however long it takes to export them to Africa, not to mention more reliable as well since it’s unimaginable that these developed economies would ever have the same possible payment problems as developing ones. These self-evident calculations work against Poland’s interests, ergo how much of a struggle it’ll be for that country to defend its domestic market from this influx considering the powerful forces at play. It's not just the Ukrainian agricultural lobby that wants tariff-free access for these products into the EU market, but also the lobbies of those foreign firms that indirectly control its industrial agriculture. The latter will likely fight tooth and nail to prevent any compromise being reached on Ukraine’s hoped-for EU membership whereby that former Soviet Republic’s agricultural sector would be excluded from any deal. Poland therefore has every reason to continue drawing global attention to these shadowy relationships. It's only by raising maximum awareness of the fact that “most of the land” within Ukraine’s industrial agriculture sector “is run by big companies from Western Europe, from the USA” that Poland stands any chance of the aforesaid compromise entering into force. That’ll make the country some very powerful enemies who could then meddle in Polish domestic affairs out of vengeance, but Duda’s latest interview suggests that he’s prepared to face their wrath in order to protect Poland’s objective national interests. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 02:00
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[l] at 4/17/24 10:00pm
Food Is Now An Investment – Here's Why Inflation Isn't Going Away Anytime Soon Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.us, One of the more difficult aspects of working in economic analysis is the problem of rampant disinformation that you have to dig through in order to get to the truth of any particular issue.  In this regard, economics is very similar to politics.  The propaganda is endless and debunking it sometimes feels like moving a mountain with a teaspoon. Establishment media sources lie incessantly about our financial conditions, and when they are finally cornered and forced to admit how bad things are, they then lie about the causes.  That said, I find that these lies are usually designed to do one of two things:  Over-complicate the problem so that people give up thinking about it, or, distract from the problem so that people blame a scapegoat. As for inflation, here is the bottom line: Central Banks And The Fiat Flood Rising prices are caused by two main drivers.  The first is money creation, or too many dollars chasing too few goods.  Central banks around the world have been FLOODING the system with fiat currency ever since the debt crisis of 2008 and the Federal Reserve within the US is the worst violator by far.  We are talking about tens of trillions (or more) in money creation, all supposedly as a means to stall or prevent a deflationary crash. By the time the pandemic lockdowns were initiated and the Fed dropped $8 trillion+ onto the economy through stimulus measures like covid checks and PPP loans, the total US money supply was already at destructive levels.  The covid stimulus was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.  So, if you want to know who is directly to blame for your daily expenses rising 30% or more in the span of three years, the first set of criminals are the central bankers. Governments and certain corporate partners are also to blame, but the central banks are the root mechanism for all inflationary movements.  It’s my belief (according to the evidence) that central banks have deliberately triggered a stagflationary crisis with the intent to forcefully replace cash based economies with a new digital and cashless global economy.  However, that’s a discussion for another article… Shortages And Core Resources The other primary cause of rising prices is shortages or disruptions in key resources including oil and energy.  Keep in mind that the war in Ukraine has led to the west being cut off from large portions of the resource rich Russian market.  And, the war in Gaza has led to groups in the Middle East like the Houthis denying a multitude of cargo ships and oil tankers from traversing the Red Sea. By themselves, each one of these events seems like a small threat to the global supply chain, but when they pile up together the effects become detrimental.  For now, the biggest factor is rising energy prices because this is the key resource that allows all agriculture and manufacturing to function.  Every time oil prices rise you’re going to see prices in everything else rise. This is the exact reason why the Biden Administration continued to dump the US Strategic Oil Reserves on the market for the past couple years.  This was their way of manipulating oil prices down in order to mitigate or hide the greater effects of inflation.  Now that they’re being pressured to refill those reserves and start buying (at a much higher price) global oil prices and US prices in particular are spiking again. Media Disinformation And Crushing Food Costs Food costs have risen by 30% or more depending on the product since the beginning of 2020, and even though CPI reports several months ago showed a “slowdown” in overall inflation, this does not mean prices are going to go down anytime soon.  In fact, they will only keep rising with each passing year. CPI is a tool for measuring the AVERAGE price increases of over 80,000 products and services across a wide spectrum.  Many of these items are not necessities and so they dilute the actual inflation we are seeing in everyday expenditures.  If we were to look at an average of daily necessities like housing, energy, food, etc. then CPI would read far higher. When the media touts a lower CPI print as a sign that the economy is improving, what they usually don’t mention is that the stat only represents how much higher prices are going to go.  A lower CPI does not mean costs on the shelf are going to go down.  Inflation is cumulative. Meaning, that 30%+ increase in food that Americans have been dealing with – That’s not going away, it’s just not climbing as fast as it was.  And, as we’ve seen in the past couple months, inflation has the ability to return just as quickly to add even more gasoline to the fire. Not long ago I was reading through an article from CBS that claimed they could explain why there’s been no respite in food prices lately.  In reality the entire piece was disinformation, blaming every possible scapegoat while ignoring the real causes. Their main explanation is “Greedflation,” or the claim that companies are overcharging on food items.  In other words, blame businesses, don’t blame the Federal Reserve and don’t blame the government.  They’re “innocent” in all of this. So far there’s no concrete evidence to support the Greedflation theory.  Every business has unique expenses, unique overhead, unique industrial costs, unique quality control and unique resource costs.  One cookie company’s bottom line will be different from another cookie company’s bottom line.  That said, there are universal costs that directly correlate to higher prices regardless of the company, and that includes energy, labor, and core commodities. For those that track the markets it’s obvious that commodities are climbing.  The Industrial Commodity Index is far higher today than it was in 2020, along with oil and gas prices.  Every base resource that companies use to make products is increasing in value and thus it costs them more to manufacture.  Agriculture in particular is heavily affected by oil prices as well as prices in fertilizer and farming equipment, not to mention higher costs in labor. From 2020 to 2023 the total costs paid by farmers to raise crops and care for livestock increased by more than $100 billion, or 28%, to an all-time high of $460 billion in 2023.  Funny how that number tracks very close to the 30% increase in overall food prices since 2020.  The establishment media wants you to believe that high food prices are going to go away soon, and in order to trick you they need to convince you that the cause is something that can be “controlled” or “regulated”. There is no indication that agricultural costs are going to stop increasing in the near future, so, that means each year food is going to cost you more than the year before.  It might even cost you MUCH more than the year before. In conclusion, this is why people need to start looking at food as an investment similar to the way they might look at their 401K or any retirement plan.  If you want to mitigate costs in the future in terms of food you will need to purchase foods with a long shelf life now.  If you think that inflation is a passing phase and that things will go back to the way they were before 2020 then you probably won’t take this concern seriously.  But, consider this: Well before 2020 I was warning regularly about an impending stagflation crisis.  The food storage I bought in 2020 now costs at least 30%-50% more to buy in 2024.  Meanwhile, some of the top mainstream economists in the country were denying such a thing would ever happen.  When it did happen, they claimed it was “transitory.”  This was also proven false.  Now they claim food will drop after companies are forced through regulation to cut prices. Whether government intervenes or the market continues to react to poor fiscal policies, it is quickly becoming a necessity to invest in food security as soon as possible.  Government enforced price controls have never actually proven effective in stopping inflation.  Once you remove all profit incentives many businesses will close up shop.  This causes the supply of goods to go down and prices then spike anyway due to shortages. Do you want to bet your future on establishment economists being right for once, or, do you want to just store some food today in the knowledge that prices are only going exponentially higher? *  *  * One survival food company, Prepper All-Naturals, has proactively dropped prices to allow Americans to stock up ahead of projected hikes in beef prices. Their 25-year shelf life steaks currently come at a 25% discount with promo code “invest25”. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/18/2024 - 00:00
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[l] at 4/17/24 9:20pm
The Top 10 Most Cost-Effective Countries To Get A High-Priced Higher Education A new study by Online Gaming Groups has evaluated over 30 countries to determine the most cost-effective higher education systems, focusing on the percentage of average annual income spent on educational expenses. This analysis included countries with the highest university fees, and additional costs such as living and rent were considered to accurately assess the full financial commitment needed for education. By examining the ratio of costs to salary, the study ranked these nations. Belgium emerged as the leader, offering the most cost-effective higher education. In contrast, Israel was noted for having the highest educational expenses on the list, despite having the fewest universities and the lowest quality of higher education. Belgium tops the list of countries offering the most cost-effective higher education, with annual expenses, including tuition fees, averaging $28,574. The average annual salary in Belgium is $53,890, with 53.02% of this salary spent on living and university expenses. This balance between earning and learning costs underscores the country's commitment to making education accessible. Switzerland ranks second, with average annual expenses of $51,013 and an average salary of $95,490, dedicating 53.42% of salary to education and living costs. Despite having the highest living costs in the ranking, Switzerland's substantial average salary helps mitigate these expenses, making its education system remarkably cost-effective. In third place, South Korea presents a contrast with more affordable living conditions and a lower average salary of $36,190. Here, 61.01% of the salary goes towards education and living expenses, with the country having the highest education costs among the top three. The Netherlands, fourth on the list, has annual expenses of $37,697 against an average salary of $60,230, spending 62.59% of it on education and living costs. The country ensures broad accessibility to higher education with relatively moderate educational costs. France is fifth, balancing university and living costs against an average yearly salary of $45,290. With 63.50% of the salary allocated to these costs, France maintains a balance between accessible education and high educational quality. Ireland follows as the sixth most cost-effective country for higher education, with average expenses of $55,129 and a salary of $79,730, dedicating 69.14% of it to education and living. Despite not having the highest costs, the cumulative annual expenses are considerable. Japan ranks seventh, where 70.14% of the average annual salary of $42,440 is spent on higher education, indicating a premium level of education, as evidenced by the high number of universities and education costs. Italy, eighth, spends 70.51% of an average salary of $38,200 on education, reflecting the country's rich educational heritage and the high quality of its education system, ranked 14th worldwide. Australia is ninth, requiring families and students to invest significantly in education, with 72.97% of the $60,840 average salary going toward educational and living expenses, indicative of the country's high standards of living and educational quality. Lastly, Israel, despite having the highest education costs on the list and ranking lowest in the number of universities and education quality, spends 78.97% of the average salary of $55,140 on education, rounding off the list of the top ten countries with cost-effective higher education. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/17/2024 - 23:20
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[l] at 4/17/24 9:00pm
The Teachers' Unions Are More Political than Ever Authored by Larry Sand via American Greatness, In the past, teachers’ unions concentrated on fighting to keep all teachers employed—competent or otherwise—laying off teachers by seniority when necessary and soaking taxpayers every chance they could. While those activities are still part of their mission, they have, over time, increasingly delved into the political/social realm, promoting Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, DEI, class warfare, gender-bending, etc. And their current level of engagement is staggering. Americans for Fair Treatment, a national nonprofit organization that educates public employees about their rights in a unionized workplace, recently released a report detailing the National Education Association’s (NEA) financial filings from Sept. 1, 2022, through Aug. 31, 2023. The NEA declared that its political spending totaled $50.1 million during the fiscal year, though the true number is much higher. During the most recent reporting period, the union disclosed that it spent “$126.3 million on ‘contributions, gifts, and grants,’ which is where most unions detail their charitable giving.” However, a closer look at the union’s “contributions, gifts, and grants” shows that the NEA is directing more money towards political causes than it reports. For example, the union contributed $4.1 million to the State Engagement Fund, a progressive advocacy group, and $3.5 million to For Our Future, a Democratic super PAC. Another $500,000 was donated to the Color of Change Education Fund, which has ties to progressive billionaire George Soros. The disclosure also reveals that the union spent $10 million more on politics and lobbying than it did representing its members. While NEA’s representational spending increased by about $2 million compared to the previous reporting period, spending on politics and lobbying increased by $8.5 million. It’s worth noting that as a 501(c)(5), the NEA and, in fact, all unions have a special tax-exempt status with the IRS, which is accorded to “Labor, Agricultural, and Horticultural Organizations.” Local teachers’ unions are also involved in political spending. In Chicago, where just 15% of Chicago’s 8th-grade students are proficient in math and 21% are proficient in reading, the Chicago Teachers Union is focused on other things. As the Illinois Policy Institute documents, the union spent nearly three times more on politics in 2023 than the year before, and just 17% of its spending was on representing teachers. A 142-page leaked document contains hundreds of Chicago Teachers Union contract demands, including 100% abortion coverage to pay for surrogates and housing students in old schools. The CTU is also demanding a 100% electric bus fleet and fuel-efficient drivers’ education vehicles, installation of solar panels and other facility upgrades, compensation, and medical benefits for absences related to “verbal assault,” etc. In preparing for CTU’s collective bargaining talks with the city, the union’s president, Stacy Davis Gates, asserted the new contract would cost taxpayers $50 billion. Importantly, the teachers’ unions’ political involvement does not stop with spending. They now routinely make policy statements and demands, most notably on the recent strife in the Middle East. In November, the United Educators of San Francisco contended that Israel’s military campaign violated the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights but made no mention of the brutal Oct. 7 attacks or the captivity of over 200 hostages. In December, a pro-Palestinian “teach-in” was organized by the Oakland Education Association, and members developed special lesson plans in defiance of the local school board. The same month, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, demanded a permanent truce in the Middle East on Twitter—a position that was later reaffirmed by the organization’s board of directors. In late January, the American Federation of Teachers officially called for a cessation of hostilities. Additionally, Heritage Foundation scholar Jay Greene reports that a measure adopted by the NEA-affiliated Massachusetts Teachers Association board in December declared, “The MTA president and vice president will urge the president of the NEA to pressure President Biden to stop funding and sending weapons in support of the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the Palestinian people in Gaza.” Greene also notes that the executive committee of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers passed a resolution condemning “the system of Israeli occupation and apartheid.” However, backlash from teachers and the community led the union to issue an apology. What can be done about the onslaught of union political activity? The big-picture solution is for teachers’ unions to be banned. Period. “All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.” Progressive icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued the above caveat about government unions. Additionally, George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO for 24 years, once stated, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Both men understood that the very nature of government makes it wrong for its leaders to negotiate with any union. When government unions bargain, they often sit across the table from people they helped put in office with generous campaign contributions. And when these unions go on strike, they walk out on the taxpayer. However, getting rid of these established unions is highly unlikely, primarily because political spending by government unions inevitably favors union-friendly candidates. Prohibiting collective bargaining would reduce union power, but only five states currently prohibit that activity for public employees: Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Ultimately, teachers hold the key. If they stopped paying dues, the unions would cease to exist. Legally, they can now do so courtesy of the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, which asserted that no teacher or any public employee has to pay a penny to a union as a condition of employment. The good news is that since the SCOTUS ruling, 20% of workers in non-right-to-work states have dropped out of their unions, according to a report from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The bad news is that 70% of teachers nationwide still willingly pay union dues. As a teacher, if your politics are on the right, centrist, or maybe you are apolitical, do you really want hundreds of your dues dollars going to the leftist causes that the state and national unions regularly support? It is with no sense of irony that NEA boss Becky Pringle asserts that politics’ “creeping influence” in classrooms threatens education. “All of the politicians and pundits who are trying to politicize our school demonize teachers, which is new, who are not focused on what our kids need or what our parents say they want for their kids.” Pringle has it backward. Clearly, the number one educational “influence creeps” are the teachers’ unions. *  *  * Larry Sand, a retired 28-year classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/17/2024 - 23:00
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[l] at 4/17/24 8:40pm
Forget Cocoa, Coffee. There's A "Squeeze Risk" Building In The Tin Market Tin prices on the London Metal Exchange have surged 27% this year, landing on the radars of some institutional desks. Other commodities closely monitored by hedge funds include cocoa, coffee, Brent crude, copper, and gold. Bloomberg notes that LME data for the tin market shows the aggregate net-long position held by financial investors surged to the highest level ever, with data going back to 2018.  These bullish bets have pushed tin prices well into the $32,000 handle in recent trading sessions.  Bloomberg notes that the "big bull" positioning by institutional investors comes as major supply disruptions hit top producers across Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also, the metal, a critical component of modern technology and used primarily as solder to connect electrical components and semiconductor chips, is the latest AI trade investors have been piling into.  "Every data byte and every electron travels through hundreds of solder joints that connect it all together," Jeremy Pearce, head of market intelligence and communications at the International Tin Association, said in an email interview with the media outlet. He pointed out that tin's trade thesis is that demand will rise in tandem with AI computing demand at data centers. Recall our note, "The Next AI Trade."  Like Nickel and other commodities, tin is prone to mega short squeezes. Traders discovered this in 2022 after a once-in-a-generation squeeze broke the nickel trading on LME.  "Some market participants feel there could be a risk of a squeeze," Ding Wenqiang, senior analyst at one of China's largest metal researchers, Mysteel.com, told Bloomberg. He added, "They are paying close attention to the movements of the big bull in the May contract." Tightening supplies come as tin inventories plunged 47% so far this year to 4,045 tons. The metal's spot price trades at a premium versus the three-month futures contract, producing a structure known as backwardation.  Nickel prices are rising as commodity prices have likely based and entered a 'weak bull' market, according to new research from HSBC Bank. Rising commodity prices are more bad news for Fed chair Powell's fight against the inflation monster. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/17/2024 - 22:40
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[l] at 4/17/24 8:20pm
It's Not Rate Hikes That Are "Sparking An Economic Boom", It's The Fiscal Stimulus By Michael Every of Rabobank The Polybius Crisis Take a step back (in time), and see that our neoliberal, debt-addled, was-lower-for-longer global system is not just in a Polycrisis but a Polybius Crisis - referring to the ancient Greek historian. Polybius Methodology: Polybius was first to argue ‘consider your source’: today, media and markets still spout and swallow propaganda. He argues we can’t look at history in just one area, as what happens everywhere effects what is going on everywhere else: but modern markets have monomanias for one asset class, geography, and ideology: markets-first neoliberalism. Yet while 2024 opened with talk of 7 Fed cuts, then 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2, it just saw calls that US rate cuts are needed to lower inflation (because of the slump in housing supply that recent US data won’t help); chatter of 2 rate hikes; and now Bloomberg asks, ‘What if the Fed’s Hikes Are Actually Sparking an Economic Boom?’ Is neoliberalism in crisis, or is this a new copium given Fed Chair Powell just said he’s prepared to keep rates steady “as long as needed”? Bloomberg notes that high rates = stimulus is an MMT heresy, but huge budget deficits mean high rates put more cash into people’s pockets (as they take it from others’). Yet it’s fiscal deficits, not rate hikes, that do that trick, another neoliberal shibboleth. (And an MMT one: Stephanie Kelton argues rate hikes contribute to the deficit, so cutting them would lower it… as if supply-side inflation and speculation with new liquidity aren’t connected to rates.) Meanwhile, trade and FX are next. Perhaps-future US Treasury Secretary Lighthizer mocks the argument the US saves too little because Americans are profligate; (correctly) says low savings / large US trade deficits are caused by foreign industrial policy; forcing the trade deficit to narrow means savings would rise; and wants low corporate taxes, low regulation, subsidies, tariffs, and a “sensible” trade policy to fight mercantilism. If you don’t understand that throws global markets into a tailspin, like the economists Lighthizer mocks, you don’t understand that system. On security: Polybius would not be surprised that today we have a failing global security architecture because US National Security Advisor Sullivan doesn’t say ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’, but ‘Quaeso, sume prandium meum argentum!’ (“Please, take my lunch money!”) That approach was always going to lead to a Ukraine-Russia war, or similar; an Israel-Iran clash; and, in parallel and conflating with both, Taiwan-China tensions. There is now frenetic activity to try to moderate any Israeli counterstrike on Iran to prevent a regional conflagration; Daniela Gabor tweets from the IMF/World Bank spring meeting, “geopolitical conflict is paralyzing everything… including on climate finance.”; and ECB President Lagarde says rate cuts are coming provided there are no inflation shocks(!) As I asked yesterday, ‘who leads and who is led?’ It’s no longer central banks. On politics: Polybius argues societies start as ochlocracy (mob rule); a strong leader starts monarchy (rule by one: the ‘spare’ gets a Netflix deal); power turns this to tyranny (‘democracy’, says the Ivy League); an elite revolution sets up aristocracy (rule by the best); they also lose virtue, and we get oligarchy (‘neoliberalism’ to everyone but economists); they get overthrown by the people for democracy (rule by the majority: ‘tyranny’ says the Ivy League); but people lack virtue, so this turns to ochlocracy; and the cycle restarts. Polybius argues it’s best to combine monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. However, as we loom closer to the EU and US elections, and what populism may emerge, he’d probably repeat: “…enticing and corrupting the common people in every possible way… they have made the populace ready and greedy to receive bribes, the virtue of democracy is destroyed, and it is transformed into a government of violence and the strong hand. For the mob, habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have its hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbours, as soon as it has got a leader sufficiently ambitious and daring… produces a reign of mere violence. Then come tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments, redivisions of land; until, after losing all trace of civilisation, it has once more found a master and a despot.” (Or ‘decolonisation’ as they call it at US Ivy League schools and on social media.) On Great Power struggles: Polybius notes in less than a lifetime Rome went from city-state to the master of the world by winning the Punic Wars vs. Carthage. History can sometimes move fast: He speaks of the importance of fate – big things can ‘just happen’: today, we price out term premia from yield curves, and think they won’t. Rome defeated Carthage after humiliating defeats to Hannibal due to its strategic depth and the superiority of the Roman constitution. Its checks and balances prevented any one part of the state from dominating others; and “when we see good customs and good laws prevailing among certain people, we confidently assume that, in consequence of them, the men and their civil constitution will be good also, so when we see private life full of covetousness, and public policy of injustice, plainly we have reason for asserting their laws, particular customs, and general constitution to be bad.” In Carthage, “nothing is disgraceful that makes for gain”; in Rome, “nothing is more disgraceful than to receive bribes and to make profit by improper means… The Carthaginians obtain office by open bribery, but among the Romans the penalty for it is death.” “The most important difference for the better which the Roman commonwealth appears to me to display is in their religious beliefs.” Carthage employed foreign mercenaries; the Romans didn’t (at first). “The result is that even if the Romans have suffered a defeat at first, they renew the war with undiminished forces, which the Carthaginians cannot do. For, as the Romans are fighting for country and children, it is impossible for them to relax the fury of their struggle; but they persist with obstinate resolution until they have overcome their enemies.” Rome’s focus on “Carthago delenda est” (Carthage must be destroyed) proved the rallying point for their society in the end. Polybius argues Carthage’s constitution couldn’t overcome that “There is in every body, or polity, or business a natural stage of growth, zenith, and decay… so far as the strength and prosperity of Carthage preceded that of Rome in point of time, by so much was Carthage then past its prime, while Rome was exactly at its zenith, as far as its political constitution was concerned. In Carthage therefore the influence of the people in the policy of the state had already risen to be supreme, while at Rome the Senate was at the height of its power: and so, as in the one measures were deliberated upon by the many, in the other by the best men, the policy of the Romans in all public undertakings proved the stronger; on which account, though they met with capital disasters, by force of prudent counsels they finally conquered the Carthaginians in the war.” A glance at Polybius underlines our Western neoliberal crisis. Consider his comments on good laws and customs in an election year where the leading US presidential candidate is in a New York courtroom charged with a crime some legal experts say is a misdemeanour, but with a stack of serious cases elsewhere, as allegations of double standards are thrown; and as Belgium tried to ban a political meeting involving former UK PM Truss and Nigel Farage for being dangerously ‘far right’: dangerously far out, maybe. Or look to Polybius’s views on corruption, as it spreads; religion, as religiosity falls; and on mercenaries, as the West’s willingness to fight for their own country evaporates, according to survey data, just as the need to fight grows more urgent. Yet while Rome and the US both rose to power within a lifetime, the former went on for a great many more, becoming an empire that took more than 650 years to fall in the West, and another millennium in the East. Time may be on the West’s side yet. Could Western checks and balances help it find a new rallying cry like “something construenda est”? And as importantly, what is ‘Team Carthage’ doing? There are two sides to every Great Power struggle. To summarize, however, reading biased reports not objective analysis; monomaniacal reports not broader thinking; ignoring the Classical world’s lessons on realpolitik; that how we run societies has been an issue for thousands of years, not since 2016; and that Great Power struggles are always with us, ensures you will swept away in a Polybius Crisis. Ancient wisdom isn’t perfect; but it’s arguably a lot better than relying on a contemporary world’s decided lack of wisdom. “NEOLIBERALISM DELENDA EST” Tyler Durden Wed, 04/17/2024 - 22:20
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Alleged Illegal Immigrant Who Couldn't Speak English Caught Trying To Rob Bank Using A Translator App You'd figure if you're in the country illegally, you'd at least have the courtesy to learn the language before trying to hold up a bank... But basic human decency is dead these days, as was exemplified by a Venezuelan-born man named Yeixon Brito-Gonzalez, who was caught trying to rob a bank in Sandusky, Ohio last week, according to PJ Media.  The police were able to apprehend him because he couldn't speak English and resorted to using a translation app to communicate his demands to the bank tellers. When the tellers - probably wondering if they were being "Punk'd" - did not comply, Brito-Gonzalez, evidently embarrassed, simply left the scene, the report says. The perp failed to prepare even basic English phrases like "give me the money" or bring an accomplice who could speak the language, the report says. Upon locating Brito-Gonzalez, the police brought along a Spanish-speaking officer to interrogate him but he tried to play dumb. The report says it was later revealed that he told the teller he needed "money in a bag". Don't we all... Sandusky Police Chief Jared Oliver said:  "I have been in law enforcement for over 20 years and this is the first time I encountered something like this, someone using a translator app to try and rob a bank. First time our officers have dealt with it too." It's has not been confirmed whether Brito-Gonzalez is in the U.S. illegally, though his lack of ID at arrest implies this might be the case. Nevertheless, while federal authorities will likely question him, there are doubts about enforcement under the current administration, suggesting he may not face stringent consequences (as has been the running theme across the U.S. since Joe Biden has been in office).  Sandusky is a small city nestled along the shores of Lake Erie. Known primarily for its role as a major hub for rail and water transport, Sandusky has been a vital part of Ohio's economy since its establishment in 1818.  Tyler Durden Wed, 04/17/2024 - 22:00
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[l] at 4/17/24 7:40pm
Bidenomics - Inflation Persists And Jobs Decay: Gingrich Authored by Newt Gingrich via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Last week brought bad news for the American people and President Joe Biden. Inflation persists and jobs are decaying. President Joe Biden speaks about Bidenomics at CS Wind, in Pueblo, Colo., on Nov. 29, 2023. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images) On inflation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported prices rose 3.5 percent between March 2023 and March 2024. This bad number is far higher than the U.S. Federal Reserve’s goal of 2 percent inflation—and it follows three years of price increases. Inflation continues to build even after the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates to their highest point in 23 years. Much to the Fed’s dismay, its restrictive private sector policies are being more than offset by the Biden administration’s massive deficits. While the Fed is trying to take liquidity out of the system and force a slowdown to lower inflation, the Biden administration keeps pumping borrowed money into the economy. The contradiction between the Fed and the Biden White House increases the scale of government and shrinks the private sector. Furthermore, since the federal government is the world’s largest debtor, high interest rates translate into an even bigger federal deficit. So, the long run consequences of Bidenomics on inflation is staggering. Measured from the time President Joe Biden took office, the prices Americans are paying have skyrocketed. In just three-and-a-half years, the price of eggs is up 49.3 percent, gasoline is up 47.5 percent, peanut butter is up 40 percent, butter and margarine are up 32 percent, electricity is up 28.3 percent, air fare is up 32.7 percent, used cars are up 20.9 percent—and the list continues. The American people feel these price increases, and they are unhappy. Most Americans rate the economy as poor, while only 38 percent consider the economy is in good shape. (Under President Donald Trump, 65 percent rated the economy as good.) As the Wall Street Journal editorialized: “[I]f voters are downbeat about the economy, persistent inflation is a good reason. Price increases across the Biden Presidency are unlike anything Americans have seen in recent decades. They have been a particular shock for low-income and younger workers who haven’t accumulated a wealth cushion in the stock market or housing values. “Mr. Biden is the main architect of his inflation problem—and ours.” Mark Halperin with his usual insight asserted: “The story of who will win this election might just be that voters demand a change from the mind-boggling high cost of almost everything. The prices are just too damn high.” As if inflation was not a big enough problem there is a an even bigger problem growing with the employment news. As Matt Weidinger outlined in AEI Ideas: “[I]n the past 12 months, employment among US natives is down by 651,000. Those declines were focused on men, a group President Biden already has increasing difficulties winning over.” “In contrast, employment among foreign-born individuals grew by 1,266,000 in the past year, driven by the rapidly growing population of foreign-born individuals ages 16 and over in the US, which rose by almost 2.6 million during the past year. “ “The gap between US native and foreign-born employment is even starker since last summer. Since its peak in July 2023, employment of US natives has fallen by over 2.0 million, while employment of the foreign-born has risen by almost 1.4 million. “ From President Biden’s standpoint, Weidinger highlights a deadly detail: “Friday’s jobs report reveals that unemployment among Black or African American individuals rose in March for the third consecutive month, to over 1.4 million, the highest level since January 2022. That group’s unemployment rate has risen from 5.1 percent to 6.4 percent in the past year.” The jobs numbers contain even more problems for President Biden because part-time jobs are increasing much faster than full-time jobs. More and more Americans are finding themselves working two or three jobs—often with little or no benefits—just to make ends meet in an economy of constantly rising prices. So, Bidenomics means rising prices, fewer jobs, more part-time employment, and a desperate sense that things are just not working. Still, the propaganda media is trying hard to paint a pretty picture. CNN, for example, called the latest monthly jobs report a “blowout.” But everyday Americans know when they go to the grocery store, pay monthly bills, or fill up their cars that life has gotten harder under President Biden. The trademark of Bidenomics may be the steady shrinking of products. Take a Trump era candy bar or box of cereal and place it next to the same product today. In most cases, the price increased, and the unit size has shrunk. Simply put: Bidenomics means you get less for more. If this economic failure persists for another seven months—and it almost certainly will—then Bidenomics may be Biden’s downfall. From Gingrich360.com Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/17/2024 - 21:40

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