Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Category Archives: Economics

Keystone XL Pipeline Granted Approval by State Department

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 24, 2017: 

Keystone XL demonstration, White House,8-23-20...

With the signing of the cross-border permit by the State Department on Friday, the real work on completing Phase IV of the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast begins. TransCanada, the owner and operator of the pipeline, still thinks the project is viable economically even though it has been stalled for 16 months by the previous administration. In a press release, TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling said:

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Austin Booted Uber and Lyft, Startups Struggle

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 24, 2017:

Every year the South by Southwest (SxSW) conference held in Austin, Texas, in March celebrates one or more high-tech “breakout” companies. In 2007 it was Twitter, in 2011 it was GroupMe, and in 2015 it was Meerkat.

This was supposed to be Fasten and RideAustin’s year, two of the local ride-sharing companies that had allegedly “filled the void” when city council member Ann Kitchen ran off Uber and Lyft last year.

Thousands of attendees flew in for the conference, and they needed a lift (or Lyft) but

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Fitch Knocks Saudi Arabia’s Credit Rating Down Another Notch

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 22, 2017:

Fitch Ratings downgraded Saudi Arabia’s credit rating again on Wednesday, bringing it perilously close to “speculative,” from “investment grade.” It dropped the country’s long-term credit rating from A+ to AA-, but with a “stable” outlook, noting that the reduction was due to the country’s “continued deterioration of public and external balance sheets.”

Fitch sees what both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, the other two global credit rating agencies, see: declining oil prices hurting a country that once enjoyed the highest investment grade ratings thanks to high oil prices that not only paid for extravagant welfare programs and subsidies to its citizens but allowed it to accumulate three-quarters of a trillion dollars in foreign reserves — more than ample to ride out any conceivable storm.

The rating agencies have seen that an inconceivable storm arrived in 2014 when

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More Evidence that OPEC’s Influence is Waning

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 22, 2017:

A measure of the success – and failure – of OPEC’s agreement to limit crude oil production can be seen in the chart of NYMEX crude oil price behavior (Sources below) dating from last fall. When the agreement was inked back in November, crude was at $46.50 a barrel. The price soared and traders got excited, putting in long bets that set records.

By early January, reality began setting in as compliance among the cartel’s members and non-members (who agreed to go along for the ride) began to wane. The roof fell in a couple of weeks ago when inventory builds continued to set records, and the price dropped through support at $50.

In other words, in OPEC’s attempt to birth an elephant, it succeeded in birthing a gnat.

Saudi Arabia maintained a stiff upper lip during the Houston oil conference, stating flat out that

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Saudi Arabia Losing Influence in Global Oil Markets

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 21, 2017:

As it continues to wrestle with declining oil prices worldwide, Saudi Arabia, the de facto head of the OPEC oil cartel, is giving up ground. It said a week ago that it would not allow any “free riders” to enjoy higher oil prices if they rose due to Saudi’s singular attempt to keep them up. A week later it was reported that the kingdom cut its production by 800,000 barrels per day, 60 percent below its agreement. So much for disclaimers against those “free riders” who continue to violate the agreement by exceeding their quotas.

Now comes news that the kingdom’s exports to the United States for the week ended March 10

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Venezuela’s Marxist Dictator Orders Arrest of Bakers Making Croissants

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 17, 2017:

Português: Brasília - O chanceler da Venezuela...

Four bakers trying to make ends meet were arrested earlier this week in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, a country that was once one of South America’s premier economic powerhouses. Venezuela’s ruler, Nicolas Maduro, mandated that 90 percent of scarce flour be turned into bread, which must be sold at a loss, rather than higher-priced sweet bread, ham-filled croissants, pastries, and cakes.Two bakers apparently broke this law, and two used out-of-date wheat for brownies. At least one baker will have his bakery taken over by the government for 90 days. The bakers, operating under Maduro’s mandates that they use government-imported wheat for flour to bake bread and sell it below their costs, were on survival mode, as are most of the people living in Venezuela’s socialist paradise.

Maduro, rather than to take the justified blame for the economic malaise that his socialist policies have caused, has dreamed up all manner of straw men to blame for the country’s woes, starting with

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Trump Preframes the Budget Conversation with His “Blueprint”

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 17, 2017: 

After reading Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal, “Peter W.” wrote how “The Donald” preframes a conversation with an opponent: “When he makes an opening bid, it is far away from where his deals end. It is a poker game with high stakes, and it is up to the other to negotiate a better position.”

That is what Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney offered on Wednesday: the opening bid in the budget conversation to take place later on this year. Mulvaney was very clear about that: “This Blueprint is not the full Federal budget, [but] it does provide lawmakers and the public with a view of the priorities of the President and his Administration.”

It also serves to warn the public – the American taxpayer who is the deeply interested third party in that conversation – that the budget is going to be much larger than the one Obama left his office with in 2017, which was $4.15 trillion.

It’s called “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” and it’s Trump’s attempt to set the parameters of the conversation with Congress after his full budget is released in late May. The strategy might have worked well for Trump – he brags that he successfully closed more than 100 real estate “deals” during his career – but dealing with 535 members of the House and Senate is, to put it mildly, going to be a different cup of tea.

Said Trump:

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Trump’s “Blueprint” Budget Is a Policy Statement; Real Budget to Follow

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 16, 2017:

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney. Trump’s OMB Director

President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) unveiled “America First — A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” on Thursday, noting that the president’s actual budget will be released in May. President Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney joined in outlining the “blueprint” without disclosing hard numbers, revenue projections, or even an economic outlook to back it up. It was, in other words, a policy statement, with details to follow.

Said Trump:

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Trump “Slump” in Gun Sales Is Only Temporary

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 15, 2017:  

With a decline in the number background checks being performed, the fall in the stock prices of gun makers, the cutting back of workers in the gun industry, and the bankruptcy of a major sporting goods chain, some in the media are suggesting that the boom in the firearms sector is over.

On the surface the evidence is persuasive.

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OPEC: A Lesson in Why Cartels Fail

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 15, 2017:

OPEC countries

OPEC countries

Every cartel comes together when individual members think they can obtain a greater economic benefit working together than they can alone. Every cartel breaks apart when members think they can do better alone. If a cartel is sanctioned by a government, it becomes a monopoly.

Since 1960, OPEC has largely stayed together with the collusion of governments and Big Oil interests around the world. But the fracking revolution, operating in the free market, is blowing up the model. Specifically,

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Drop in Crude Oil Prices Threatens OPEC and Its Production Cut Deal

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 14, 2017:  

A report released on Tuesday from OPEC indicated just how phony and ineffective is its highly touted production cut “agreement” the cartel managed to lash together among its members and nonmembers last fall. The agreement was designed to remove some 1.8 million barrels a day (mbd) from worldwide production — enough, it was hoped, to drive crude oil prices higher. Before the agreement OPEC was producing 32.5 mbd. Tuesday’s report indicated that the agreement has reduced daily production to — ready? — 31.96 mbd.

The agreement was destined to fail from the beginning. First,

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Restaurants Add “Labor Surcharge” to Tabs to Cover Minimum-wage Increases

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 13, 2017:

English: This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NY...

Instead of increasing their menu prices in response to increased minimum-wage levels, restaurant owners are burying their increased labor costs at the bottom of each tab. The increase, between three and four percent, only comes after the customer has completed his meal. The increase also increases the tip customers leave behind as most customers leave a gratuity based on the check’s total. This is going to raise the average customer’s check, which has already increased by nearly 11 percent since 2012, close to five or six percent.

Some restaurant and fast-food owners aren’t burying the increase but are instead calling attention to it so that customers know that they’re the ones actually bearing the brunt of the forced increase in the minimum wage. Sami Ladeki, the owner of six Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill restaurants in San Diego and eight others across California, used to call it a “California mandate” but removed it after getting a call from the city attorney. Ladeki, who says he makes a profit of around one percent charging $12 to $14 a pizza, told the Wall Street Journal:

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Friday’s Jobs Report Confirms Wednesday’s Blowout Numbers

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 10, 2017:

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirmed the robust employment numbers reported by ADP/Moody’s on Wednesday: 235,000 new jobs were created in President Donald Trump’s first full month in office, with the unemployment rate dropping further, to 4.7 percent. Just as reported by ADP, the BLS report showed strong growth in construction, manufacturing, and mining, representing nearly a third of the jobs created in January.

Friday’s report also exceeded Wall Street economists’ expectations,

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OPEC’s Death Throes?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 10, 2017:

American Petroleum Institute

The tsunami threatening to sink OPEC into oblivion began early Tuesday. At the time, crude oil was selling for $54 a barrel, with expectations that the price would move higher. Those expectations were reflected in the highest ratio of longs to shorts that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had seen in ten years.

And then came the announcement from the American Petroleum Institute that domestic crude oil inventories rose by a whopping 11.6 million barrels the previous week, against expectations of an increase of just 1.6 million. The selloff began, pushed along on Wednesday following the report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that

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Crude Oil Price Plummets, Catching OPEC by Surprise

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 9, 2017:

Wednesday’s crude oil price drop caught hedge fund managers, big money investors, day traders, and OPEC by surprise, with the sell-off, the biggest one-day drop in 13 months, continuing into Thursday. The five-percent drop on Wednesday pushed crude oil down to $50 a barrel, with Thursday witnessing a further drop to $49. Early Tuesday morning crude was selling at $54 a barrel.

The sell-off started with the announcement on Tuesday by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that

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February Jobs Numbers Explode, Blowing Past Economists’ Expectations

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 8, 2017: 

.jobs -- Cut To The Chase

The ADP/Moody’s jobs report released on Wednesday showed job growth 50-percent ahead of Wall Street’s expectations: 298,000 jobs were created in February versus expectations of less than 200,000 by economists polled by the Wall Street Journal. The job growth was all across the spectrum, with construction and manufacturing sectors adding 106,000 new jobs.

The report, sponsored by ADP, a human resources management company with more than 400,000 business clients, and aided by Moody’s Analytics, was based on performance reported during the month to both entities. Mark Zandi, Moody’s chief economist, commented on the remarkable February numbers:

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Samsung to Expand in United States, Bringing Back 500 Jobs From Mexico

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

English: Samsung Logo Suomi: Samsungin logo

The South Korean behemoth maker of consumer electronics, semi-conductors, ships, and telecommunications equipment was reported by the Wall Street Journal (quoting unnamed inside sources) to be investing $300 million in facilities in South Carolina and simultaneously bringing 500 jobs back from Mexico to work there.

It’s a tentative decision, according to Samsung in a statement it made to the Journal, with the company noting that “this is a complex process that, like all strategic business decisions, will not be made final until it is determined through proper due diligence and planning that it is the best option for Samsung.”

In ordinary times such a modest investment, made under such indeterminate conditions with such disclaimers, would hardly rate a few column inches at the back of the business section. But these are hardly ordinary times,

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IEA’s “Oil 2017” Forecast: Crude Oil Shortages Coming by 2020

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

English: Oil rig platform and stand-by vessel ...

The IEA (International Energy Agency) really ought to stick to its knitting. This intragovernmental agency was set up following the oil shock in the mid-1970s, allegedly to inform various governments as to the status of world crude oil supplies. It was to serve as an information resource on statistics about the global crude oil and other energy markets. In addition, it required its 29 government-members to maintain 90 days’ crude oil supplies on hand to meet another crisis.

It stepped outside its core area of expertise by issuing its Oil 2017 forecast for the next five years, combining a mixture of opinion, crystal-ball gazing, wet-finger in the air experimenting, tea-leaf analysis, naval gazing, and outright guessing that concluded that the world will no longer have a crude oil surplus but a shortage instead by 2020.

And it’s a crisis! Exclaimed Dr. Fatih Birol, the outfit’s director since 2015:

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Crude Oil Shortage in Three Years?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 7, 2017:

Worldwide demand for crude oil will exceed 100 million barrels per day (mbd) in two years, and exceed global supplies in three, according to the Paris-based intergovernmental group International Energy Agency (IEA). In its latest five-year forecast, Oil 2017, the agency says that demand growth will come primarily from developing countries such as India, while demand growth elsewhere, such as the United States, will be tepid at best. The only way the coming shortage can be overcome, said Dr. Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director, is for massive new investments in exploration, discovery, and production to be made immediately:

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AT&T Agrees to “Re-source” Jobs Back to United States

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 6, 2017:

The union representing AT&T workers in five southern states announced on Thursday that it had reached a tentative agreement with AT&T Southwest that includes a promise to hire 3,000 American workers to do jobs previously done overseas.

It’s a four-year deal that includes wage increases, paid parental leave, and sweetened healthcare benefits for some 20,000 AT&T workers. It’ll become effective after the union membership approves it.

There was some apparent reluctance on the part of the company to include the resourcing, as its statement didn’t mention it:

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.