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: Free Market

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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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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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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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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ObamaCare Replacement Plan Introduced in Congress

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

Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY).

Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Representative Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) introduced their ObamaCare Replacement Act (ORA) on Wednesday. It would simultaneously repeal nearly all of ObamaCare’s most onerous demands and mandates while opening up the health-insurance market to individuals to purchase, or not to purchase, coverage. The bill, S.222, might more appropriately be named the “Health Insurance Freedom to Purchase Act,” putting the decision to buy, or not to buy, coverage back in the hands of individual citizens and taking it out of the hands of the federal government.

Senator Paul said,

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Bill to Repeal Obamacare Represents Major Paradigm Shift

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

English: A Portrait of Thomas Jefferson as Sec...

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson said many things on which classical liberals and libertarians agree. The one most apropos to Obamacare is this: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

Anything that requires government force (or threat of) to gain compliance is, on its face, immoral. But Obamacare did something else: it was a deliberate forced attempt to shift personal responsibility for one’s health care from a citizen to his government. Jefferson had this to say about that:

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OPEC’s Influence Wanes as Members Cheat on Production Cuts

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

OPEC’s report on how its members are complying with the production-cut agreement hammered out last fall came out on Monday. As expected, it reported cheating among its members.

Per the November 30 agreement, members allegedly agreed to cut production to 32.5 million bpd (barrels per day) of crude. Iraq, Venezuela, Angola, and Algeria cut their production modestly but less than they agreed, while Nigeria, Libya, and Iran produced more. Because Nigeria and Libya are exempt from the production cuts, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE (United Arab Emirates) were forced to over-comply. The total produced by the cartel in January came in just below the target of 32.5 million bpd at 32.1 bpd.

Accompanying the report was a statement that crude oil price “gains were capped by increased drilling activity in the US.”

Those crude oil prices are likely to continue to drop despite OPEC’s best efforts to force them higher. The headwinds the cartel faces are monumental:

First, U.S. rig counts jumped to 591 last week, the highest since October 23, 2015 and an increase of 114 since the OPEC agreement.

 

Second, the Department of Energy announced it will be reducing the U.S. strategic oil reserve later this month through the sale of 10 million barrels.

 

Third, crude oil inventories jumped by nearly 14 million barrels last week, bringing the stockpile of private oil inventories close to an 80-year record level at 508 million barrels.

 

In addition, U.S. oil and gas companies are raising new money through Wall Street equity offerings at rates not seen since at least the year 2000. In January alone, 13 different offerings raised $6.64 billion. And they are using that new money not only to develop existing oil fields, but to acquire additional reserves through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Last year, M&A activity totaled $24 billion. For 2017, oil and gas companies have already invested half that much and it’s only February.

All of this illustrates the decreasing influence of OPEC in directing the price of crude oil on the world market. Aside from the cheaters, OPEC is also faced with other forces over which it has no control, mostly in the oil industry of the United States.

Blowing Up the Globalists’ Plans

This article was published by the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, February 13, 2017:

Logo of United Nations Refugee Agency.Version ...

Logo of United Nations Refugee Agency.

The Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) grew out of failure. Known alternatively as Chatham House, it was conceived during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 (also called the Versailles Peace Conference). It was decided that, once the so-called “peace” terms were put in place to punish Germany and its allies after the War to end all wars, various insiders decided a one-world government was needed to keep such a catastrophe from occurring in the future. It birthed the

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Realtors in Vancouver Moving to Seattle Along with Investors

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

Vancouver on a rainy day

Vancouver on a rainy day

The collapse of the real estate market in Vancouver, BC, is forcing realtors there to “double-license” in Seattle (where home prices are half what they are in Vancouver) in order to stay in business. Some of them are representing sellers with property in Vancouver who are simultaneously buying in Seattle. The ripple effect in Vancouver is impacting builders and construction workers as well as those in related service industries.

Back in August, the tune was much different: home prices had increased by 50 percent over the previous three years thanks to foreign investors wanting property in Vancouver. “It’s a bubble!” was the cry and so do-gooder politicians in the local government decided to erect a tariff: starting on August 1 the “foreign buyer transfer tax” of 15 percent would be imposed on any foreign buyer of real estate in the city.

Within six weeks the high end of the market was off by 20 percent, and realtors were scrambling, builders were pulling back, and workers were being laid off.

The parallel with Trump’s plans to build a wall along the country’s southern border through tariffs of 35 percent is uncanny, with the results likely to be the same as Vancouver’s. Fred Floss, the chairman of the economics department at SUNY Buffalo State, says that imposing a tariff on Mexico will have a similar slowing effect in the United States. Because the US mainly imports auto parts and small engines from Mexico, “anything that has a small engine in it will start to cost more … the scary thing is that a lot of those motors go into things Americans make. So if all of a sudden it gets to be more expensive to make goods in the United States, then we’re going to start to see layoffs because our goods aren’t going to sell.” He added: “In other words, [Americans are] going to pay the cost of the wall” both directly and indirectly.

The ripple effect in Vancouver is just beginning to be felt as the slowdown starts to impact support jobs related to the real estate industry. Homeowners who have enjoyed seeing their paper profits escalate are now facing the new reality: their homes aren’t worth what they were as recently as last summer, and those who took advantage of low rates either to buy new or obtain a home equity loan are increasingly finding themselves underwater and unable to find a buyer to bail them out.

International trade unhampered by tariffs benefits consumers and sellers alike. Every trade results in each party being better off economically. Competition drives the prices of goods and services down, allowing purchasers to enjoy a higher standard of living. Those profiting from making the products consumers want, whether they be small motors, cell phones or automobiles, will be encouraged to expand their production, hiring new workers who then are able to increase their own purchasing power. Ad infinitim.

Adam Smith was right:

Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can….

 

He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention…. (emphasis added)

 

By pursuing his own interests, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

And then Smith adds his warning for Mr. Trump:

I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

Meddling always has its unintended consequences. Is Mr. Trump aware of what’s going on in Vancouver?


Sources:

The Wall Street Journal: For Chinese Home Buyers, Seattle Is the New Vancouver

Seattlepi.com:  Vancouver smacks Chinese with real estate tax, but will they head south?

Background on US tariffs

WGRZ.com: How the Trump Tariff Proposal may Impact your Budget

Investopedia:  The Basics Of Tariffs And Trade Barriers

Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” quote

First, Big Taxi. Next, Big Box Stores. Now, Big Car Dealers.

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, January 25, 2017:

English: Tesla Motors opened its showroom in M...

A Tesla “Gallery” storefront

An unfettered free market has but one goal in mind: to serve a customer – the guy with the money in his pocket – better. It’s driven by the profit-motive: better service means more customers bringing more money to the improviser who has figured out how to do it profitably. Adam Smith said it much more elegantly:

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Ford to Sell and Finance Its Autos Online

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, January 24, 2017:  

Ford said on Monday that it would join forces with software developer AutoFi, Inc. to allow customers the freedom to purchase a Ford or a Lincoln automobile and obtain financing for it online without forcing them to endure the usual three- to five-hour long sales pitch in one of its showrooms.

The software will allow shoppers to compare models, prices as delivered, available options, and choices of financing among different lenders. Once the sale and financing are completed, the customer stops by the dealership to pick up his car. Nice and easy.

AutoFi’s CEO Kevin Singerman said he really wasn’t trying to disrupt the sales process:

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Apple Supplier Foxconn Negotiating $7 Billion Plant in Pennsylvania

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 23, 2017:

Speaking at a meeting at company headquarters in Taiwan on Sunday, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou (shown, on left) expanded on his company’s plans to build a $7 billion flat-panel display facility in Pennsylvania. He said the factory could employ between 30,000 and 50,000 people, depending on what kind of deal he could strike with state officials.

Those plans were inadvertently disclosed following a meeting in December between Donald Trump and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son. A photo revealed a clipboard Son was carrying that clearly said:

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OPEC Claims That U.S. Shale Producers Won’t Threaten Its Efforts to Raise Crude Oil Prices

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 18, 2017:

English: Montage for the Davos article on Wiki...

Montage of Davos photographs

Speaking at the elites’ conference in Davos earlier this week, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, erred when he said that U.S. oil shale producers weren’t a threat to OPEC’s plans to raise crude oil prices by cutting its production. He said that U.S. oil producers “will find they need higher prices” because existing fields (Permian, Bakken, etc.) are being exhausted, and because the costs of lifting new production are going up, thanks to U.S. “inflation on [in] the cost of doing business.”

The minister then engaged in straight-line thinking in a variable world and predicted that

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Success of Las Vegas SHOT Show a Harbinger for Gun Industry Growth?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 18, 2017:

English: Vector image of the Las Vegas sign. P...

Chris Krueger, an equity analyst who covers the gun industry, is in Las Vegas this week for the National Shooting Sports Federation’s 39th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade [SHOT] Show. He’s bringing with him the perception that the boom enjoyed by the firearms industry over the last two years is over. He told reporters for The Trace, the Bloomberg-funded anti-gun magazine, “It’s a very uncertain environment right now” and that he’ll be looking for evidence of that uncertainty in Las Vegas this week.

At first blush, he might be expected to find some. After all,

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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.