US oil prices open above $50 for first time since May, but headwinds persist

U.S. oil opened above $50 per barrel for the first time since late May on Monday, supported by strong fuel demand, but ongoing high supplies from producer club OPEC kept prices from rising further. “U.S. gasoline demand climbed to last year’s highs and U.S. inventories, notably on the East Coast, declined,” said French bank BNP Paribas.


Venezuela could become first oil state to 'fully fail,' analyst warns

Venezuela could become first oil state to ‘fully fail,’ analyst warns

Overall U.S. commercial crude oil stocks have fallen by 10 percent from their late-March peaks to 483.4 million barrels, and seasonally adjusted they are now, for the first time this year, below 2016 levels. Despite this, there were also signs that global oil markets remained amply supplied, capping further price rises. “Crude oil prices face multiple headwinds as OPEC struggles (to cut excess supply),” BNP said. Oil output by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has risen this month by 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a 2017-high of 33 million bpd, a Reuters survey found, led by a further recovery in supply from Libya, one of the countries exempt from a production-cutting deal. This comes despite a pledge by OPEC and other producers, including Russia, to cut output by 1.8 million bpd between January this year and March 2018.

Kelly shows his clout: Scaramucci out as WH chief moves in

WASHINGTON (AP) — Firmly taking charge in an unruly White House, former Gen. John Kelly moved in Monday as President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff and immediately made sure that Trump’s profanity-spouting new communications director was shown the door, ignominiously ousted after less than two weeks on the job. It was the latest head-snapping sequence of events at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but Trump dismissed any talk of disarray. He insisted in a morning tweet there was “No WH chaos,” then followed up in the evening with a satisfied “great day at the White House.” Aiming to instill some discipline in the White House, Kelly showed Anthony Scaramucci the door just days after the new communications director had unleashed an expletive-laced tirade against senior staff members that included vulgar broadsides at then-chief of staff Reince Priebus. In short order, Priebus was pushed aside and replaced by Kelly, whose arrival led in turn to Scaramucci’s departure. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Kelly “has the full authority to carry out business as he sees fit” and that all White House staffers will report to him, including powerful aides such as Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner, and chief strategist Steve Bannon. Kelly “will bring new structure, discipline and strength” to the White House, she said.

Netflix Has $20 Billion in Debt and Intends to Borrow Much More

Netflix began in 1997 as one of many online movie rental operations, but also launched a movie subscription service and the industry’s first personalized movie recommendation service, called CineMatch. After the Dot-Com bust, and with just 850,000 subscribers in 2002, the company completed an IPO at the equivalent of about $2 a share. But Netflix pioneered movie streaming and then borrowed huge amounts of money over the last five years to be the first streamer to create its own feature content, beginning with House of Cards in 2013. Today, the company has about 104 million total subscribers.  Netflix is burning cash at the level of a developing nation. The company plans to pay for $6 billion of content this year. Yet its negative free cash-flow of $258 million for the same quarter last year, and $423 million for the quarter ending March 30, spiked to a company-record negative $608 million for the quarter ending June 30. On the company’s earnings conference call, management celebrated that they would only have negative free cash flow accelerating to between negative $2 to $2.5 billion this year. The CEO stated, “With our content strategy paying off in strong member, revenue and profit growth, we think it’s wise to continue to invest.” Netflix’s 50 original shows account for more than a third of its Internet prime-time download traffic in North America, and the company was second only to HBO this year with 91 Emmy Award nominations. But all this shockingly good performance has been powered by $20.54 billion in short and long-term debt to create more original content. Netflix intends to expand its spending to eventually reach about 50 percent self-produced original content, but that will take more debt and cause more friction with the producers of movies that start out in theater showings before being streamed.


Is Vladimir Putin the richest person in the world? This financier says he’s worth more than Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos combined

Vladimir Putin
Alexander Zemlianichenko | Pool | Reuters Vladimir Putin

 Russian President Vladimir Putin is worth more than both Gates and Bezos combined, says one financier.Putin’s net worth is estimated to be $200 billion, according to former Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Atlantic. Currently, Gates is worth almost $90 billion and Bezos is worth almost $85 billion.

“I estimate that he has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains.” -Bill Browder, former CEO of  Hermitage Capital Management

“I estimate that [Putin] has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains,” Browder tells Congress, according to The Atlantic. “He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation.” Browder says Putin’s wealth is a result of nefarious practices. “There are approximately 10,000 officials in Russia working for Putin who are given instructions to kill, torture, kidnap, extort money from people and seize their property,” continues Browder. Browder founded and lead Hermitage Capital Management, which from 1996 through 2005 was an investment advisory company in Russia and had as much as $4 billion invested in Russian stocks. In 2005, the financier entrepreneur was labeled a “threat to national security” there and banned from the country. After he was forced out, Russian officials seized Hermitage Capital Management’s investment funds and, according to Browder, Putin’s officials stole $230 million Hermitage Capital Management had paid in taxes to the Russian state. Browder was testifying in front of Congress because the Russian lawyer he hired to investigate the seizure of his company, Sergei Magnitsky, was tortured and eventually killed in prison in 2009. Ever since, Browder has been an advocate working to fight for justice for Magnitsky and against corruption in Russia. As such, he was called to testify as part of Congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

Trump dictated misleading statement on son’s meeting with Russian: Washington Post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump dictated a statement, later shown to be misleading, in which his son Donald Trump Jr. said a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 was not related to his father’s presidential campaign, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Trump Jr. released emails earlier in July that showed he eagerly agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s official support for his father. The New York Times was first to report the meeting. The Washington Post said Trump advisers discussed the new disclosure and agreed that Trump Jr. should issue a truthful account of the episode so that it “couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.” The president, who was flying home from Germany on July 8, changed the plan and “personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,'” the Post said, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the deliberations. It said the statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared to publish the story, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.” The White House did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Post story, nor did Trump’s outside counsel Marc Kasowitz and Donald Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas. U.S. investigators are probing whether there was collusion between the Kremlin and Trump’s Republican presidential campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow sought to hurt Clinton and help Trump in the 2016 election. Russia denies any interference, and Trump has denied collusion with Russia. The president applauded his son’s “transparency” after he released the email exchanges on July 11. “It remains unclear exactly how much the president knew at the time of the flight about Trump Jr.’s meeting,” the Washington Post said.

Scaramucci Removed as White House Communications Director at Kelly’s Urging

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump ousted his communications director after only 10 days and introduced his new chief of staff, a former Marine Corps general who has the task of imposing more discipline in the West Wing, following one of the most turbulent weeks of the administration. Anthony Scaramucci was removed from the communications director post on Monday, becoming the seventh major administration official to leave in Mr. Trump’s first six months. Mr. Scaramucci was ousted at the urging of the new chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, in one of his first official acts in the job, two administration officials said. Mr. Kelly previously ran the Homeland Security Department. Mr. Kelly urged Mr. Scaramucci to resign during a one-on-one meeting in his new office shortly after being sworn-in at a Monday morning White House ceremony, the officials said. Mr. Scaramucci’s removal was designed to better organize a White House that has been riven by competing factions, they said. The president is “tired of the chaos and the confusion” in the West Wing, said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who advises the president. He said the president has been ruminating about the chief-of-staff change for weeks, and is prepared to empower Mr. Kelly in a way that his predecessor, Reince Priebus, wasn’t. Mr. Priebus left the position last week.

Economy needs to create 4.4 million more jobs

As a presidential candidate, one of Donald Trump’s dominant messages was his promise to create jobs for Americans left behind by the modern economy. For many, Trump’s rhetoric conjured up images of predominately white male factory workers edged out by global competition and technological innovation. But while that particular group of workers has seen a significant decline in status — both in terms of employment as well as earnings — this group is certainly not alone among the working class. On the contrary, the broader working class — including women and people of color without college degrees — has also seen losses in labor market outcomes in recent decades. As policy makers on both sides of the aisle grapple with strategies to create jobs for America’s “left behind” workers, it’s critical that they grasp the full picture of who these workers are—and the size of America’s employment challenge. On its face, the nation’s 4.4% unemployment rate seems to indicate a robust, healthy labor market. But looking at the prime-age employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio—the share of the population age 25 to 54 who is working—reveals long-term malaise. Since the late 1970s, men with a high-school degree or less have seen a significant long-term decline in employment compared to those who have a college degree, for whom the decline has been modest. And while women saw tremendous employment gains as many entered the workforce for the first time after World War II, that progress has now reversed. Employment among women with a high-school degree or less has been losing ground since its peak in 2000, while employment among college-educated women has plateaued.

Center for American Progress Women without an advanced education have had the steepest declines in the employment-population ratio since 2000.

In addition to the declines experienced by both men and women, workers of different racial backgrounds — not just the archetypal white working-class man — have also been losing ground. From 2000 to 2015, white men with a high-school education or less experienced a 7.3 percentage point decline in EPOP while similarly educated African-American men had a 7 percentage point decline. White and African American women with a high school degree or less experienced even greater declines than their male counterparts—9.4 and 8.5 percentage points, respectively—from 2000 to 2015.

Center for American Progress Job losses by white working-class men haven’t been offset by jobs gains by African Americans or women.

These patterns show that trends in working-class employment have not been a zero-sum game, with one group’s loss translating into another group’s gain. Rather, the pain of employment losses has been spread broadly across subgroups of the working class. Today’s economy would need to add more than 4.4 million jobs to restore employment for prime-age non-college-educated workers to its 2000 level, after accounting for population growth, according to a recent report, “Toward Marshall Plan for America,” from the Center for American Progress.

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Gingrich: 2018 Election Could Be ‘Tough’ If No Tax Reform By Thanksgiving

Sunday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich predicted the 2018 election could be “tough” for Republicans without tax reform by Thanksgiving.

“We have to have a big tax cut passed and signed into law by Thanksgiving,” Gingrich told host John Catsimatidis Sunday on his New York AM 970 radio show “The Cats Roundtable.”

He added, “If we can run for reelection as the party of prosperity and jobs and take home pay, we’re going to be golden and the American people are going to vote to keep the Republicans in. … If we end up in a situation where we are not able to really show the kind of economic activity that we need, then I think we can have a very tough election next year.”

June pending home sales edge up 1.5%, but spring market stalled

After falling throughout the usually busy spring season, a monthly index of signed contracts to purchase existing homes increased 1.5 percent in June compared with May, and May’s figure was revised slightly higher, according to the National Association of Realtors.  The index was 0.5 percent higher compared with June 2016, the first annual increase since March. So-called pending home sales are a forward indicator of closed sales two to three months later. “The first half of 2017 ended with a nearly identical number of contract signings as one year ago, even as the economy added 2.2 million net new jobs,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. “Market conditions in many areas continue to be fast paced, with few properties to choose from, which is forcing buyers to act almost immediately on an available home that fits their criteria.” The competition may have eased slightly in June, as the Realtors measured sales to investors at the lowest of the year (13 percent). As a result, cash transactions fell to 18 percent – the smallest share since June 2009 (13 percent). Investors favor cash over traditional financing. Nick Bit: read the underlined parts to get the REAL story

No chaos,’ Trump insists as he swears in new chief of staff

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hoping to turn the page on a tumultuous opening chapter to his presidency, President Donald Trump insisted on Monday there is “no chaos” in his White House as he swore in retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as his new chief of staff. In an Oval Office ceremony, Trump predicted Kelly, who previously served as Homeland Security chief, would do a “spectacular job.” And the president chose to highlight the rising stock market and positive jobs outlook rather than talk about how things might need to change in his White House under Kelly.

President Donald Trump is convening his Cabinet for a kickoff meeting with new chief of staff John Kelly. (July 31)

Trump on Friday ousted Reince Priebus as chief of staff and turned to Kelly, who he hopes will bring military discipline to an administration weighed down by a stalled legislative agenda, infighting among West Wing aides and a stack of investigations. While Trump is looking for a reset, he pushed back against criticism of his administration with this tweet: “Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”

In fact, economic growth averaged 2 percent in the first half of this year, a pace Trump railed against as a candidate and promised to lift to 3 percent. The stock market first hit a record under President Barack Obama and has kept growing. The unemployment rate, too, started to decline on Obama’s watch. And wage gains have been weak. Trump on Monday convened his first Cabinet meeting with Kelly at his side, telling his team it is “doing incredibly well” and “starting from a really good base.” On how he would deal with rising tensions with North Korea, Trump said only: “It will be handled.” Seated across from Trump was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has stayed on the job while Trump has publicly savaged him in interviews and on social media.

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