Sarah Sanders won’t say the White House isn’t interfering in FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh

“That’s a question you’d have to ask the Senate.”

On Fox News Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer whether the White House is limiting the FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “Has the White House limited in any way who the FBI may talk to?” host Chris Wallace asked her in an interview that aired on Sunday. “And specifically, has the FBI given a list of potential people to talk to that does not include Julie Swetnick, the woman, the third accuser who talked about gang rapes — and also college friends who may contradict Judge Kavanaugh on the issue of heavy drinking?” Sanders did not explicitly answer Wallace’s question about reports that the White House counsel gave a specific witness list to the FBI that did not include Swetnick, who last week said that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were both involved in sexual assault and gang rapes when they were students at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s. “The White House is not micromanaging this process,” she replied vaguely. “The Senate is dictating the terms, they laid out the request, and we’ve opened it up, and as you’ve heard the president say, do what you need to do. The FBI, this is what they do, and we are out of the way letting them do exactly that.” “But to be specific, did the White House counsel give the FBI a list?” Wallace pressed. “Not that I’m aware of. The White House counsel has allowed the Senate to dictate what the terms look like and what the scope of investigation is. Again, the White House isn’t intervening, we’re not micromanaging this process. This is something — it’s a Senate process, it has been from the beginning and we’re letting the Senate continue to dictate what the terms look like.” “So do you know if either the Senate or the White House is saying don’t interview Julie Swetnick?” “That’s a question you’d have to ask the Senate,” she replied. NBC News reported on Saturday that White House counsel Don McGahn’s witness list to the FBI also excludes former classmates of Kavanaugh who have described him as a heavy drinker (contradicting his own accounts). Also not on the list are his high school classmates who could explain why he and and a group of his male friends used the name of a student at a nearby all-girls Catholic school to repeatedly refer to themselves as “Renate Alumnius.”

The sources who spoke to NBC News said that questioning Mark Judge would not be the FBI’s top priority. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, said that Judge was present in the room during the assault. The sources also said that the limits imposed by the White House did not change after Trump’s tweet on Saturday saying the FBI can investigate whoever it wants. In a similar fashion to Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, was unable to reject reports Sunday that the White House had imposed limits on the FBI investigation.

“Did Don McGahn say you can interview these witnesses but not these witnesses?” CNN host Jake Tapper asked her. “I don’t think he would do that. But I’ve not talked to him about it.” Three women have publicly come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick.

Musk out as Tesla chair, remains CEO in $40M SEC settlement

© Brendan Smialowski, AFP | Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have agreed to a $40 million settlement with the government over a misleading tweet. Musk will remain CEO but will relinquish his role as chairman for at least three years.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have agreed to pay a total of $40 million and make a series of concessions to settle a government lawsuit alleging Musk duped investors with misleading statements about a proposed buyout of the company. The securities fraud agreement, disclosed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Saturday, will come as a relief to investors, who had worried that a lengthy legal fight would only further hurt the loss-making electric car company. The SEC on Thursday charged Musk, 47, with misleading investors with tweets on Aug. 7 that said he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share and had secured funding. The tweets had no basis in fact, and the ensuring market chaos hurt investors, it claimed. Investors and corporate governance experts said the agreement could strengthen Tesla, which has been bruised by Musk’s recent behavior, which included smoking marijuana and wielding a sword on a webcast, and attacking a British rescue diver via Twitter. The settlement should place more oversight on Musk while not taking the “devastating” measure of forcing him out, said Steven Heim, a director at Boston Common Asset Management, which owns shares in Tesla battery maker Panasonic Corp. Tesla must appoint an independent chairman, two independent directors, and a board committee to set controls over Musk’s communications under the proposed agreement. “The prompt resolution of this matter on the agreed terms is in the best interests of our markets and our investors, including the shareholders of Tesla,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement. Thursday’s charges shaved about $7 billion off high-flying Tesla, knocking its market value to $45.2 billion on Friday, below General Motors Co’s $47.5 billion. In the settlement, the agency pulled back from its demand that Musk, who is synonymous with the Tesla brand, be barred from running Tesla, a sanction that many investors said would be disastrous. “I think this is the best possible outcome for everyone involved” said Ivan Feinseth of Tigress Financial Partners, who rates Tesla “neutral” and who called the SEC’s penalty “a slap on the wrist” for Musk. “The fact that he can remain CEO is very important for the company.” Neither Musk nor Tesla admitted or denied the SEC’s findings as part of the settlement, which still must be approved by a court. Tesla and Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk had been directly involved in almost every detail of Tesla’s product design and technology strategy, and drove the company’s employees to extraordinary achievements – much as another Silicon Valley chief executive, Steve Jobs, did at Apple Inc. The entrepreneur is now required to step down as chairman of Tesla within 45 days, and he is not permitted to be re-elected to the post for three Thursday that the SEC’s actions were unjustified. Tesla shares jumped after his Aug. 7 tweets, a blow to short-sellers betting on the stock’s decline.

Trump Grabs Oil Market’s Interest Over Call With Saudi King Salman

Trump Grabs Oil Market's Interest Over Call With Saudi King Salman

Donald Trump spoke on the phone Saturday with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, days after the U.S. president’s latest criticism of OPEC over high oil prices. The pair discussed the stability of the oil market and the strategic partnership between the two countries, Al Arabiya TV reported, without providing more details. The White House said Trump and the King spoke on “issues of regional concern.” Hedge funds are watching Trump’s back-and-forth with the kingdom for any signs that the U.S. might take action against the country or other members who belong to the cartel. Trump’s been increasing the pressure on OPEC, saying it’s pushing oil prices too high. At its latest meeting, the group ignored his call to reduce oil prices. This week, Trump again said he wasn’t happy with OPEC, Middle East nations and oil prices, asserting that the producer group was causing prices to rise while benefiting from protection of the U.S. military. Trump has gone after OPEC multiple times this year, including while speaking at the United Nations on Sept. 25. “OPEC and OPEC nations, are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it,” Trump said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “We want them to stop raising prices. We want them to start lowering prices and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on.”

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, surged on Friday to a fresh 4-year high above $83 a barrel as the market braces for the impact of the U.S. energy sanctions on Iran.

Gasoline pump prices are on the rise in the U.S., squeezing consumers weeks before critical mid-term elections. The national unleaded average gas price was $2.875 per gallon on Friday, according to AAA, up 1.4 percent in the past month and 11.7 percent higher than a year ago.

The Fed could be hiking the U.S. into a recession, warns Peter Boockvar

The Fed and global central banks could push the U.S. into recession: Boockvar
The Fed and global central banks could push the U.S. into recession: Boockvar

The Federal Reserve just keeps on hiking, and it could be setting the U.S. economy up for its next recession, says Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. This week, the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter point, and upgraded its expectations for economic growth for this year and next. However, rising borrowing costs have been faulted by a few observers, including President Donald Trump, who just days ago said he was “not happy” about the central bank’s move. One of those who echoed the president’s concerns was Boockvar, who told CNBC’s “Futures Now” on Thursday, that 10 of the last 13 rate hike cycles ended in recession. “We’re now getting deeper into the rate hike cycle, and while we all focus on where the fed funds rate is going to be, behind the scenes the Fed continues to shrink their balance sheet,” the veteran investor said.

The Fed built up $4.5 trillion in bonds and other securities during its quantitative easing program which began nearly a decade ago.The dual approach of hiking rates while reducing asset holdings tightens monetary conditions at a faster pace than a change to the fed funds rate alone.

Next month, the Fed will increase its reductions to $50 billion a month — five times the pace this time last year. Separately two other major central banks are also pulling back on cheap money stimulus “What worries me going into next year is that it’s not just the Fed,” added Boockvar. “The ECB is ending QE by year end… and then you add on what the Bank of Japan is doing,” said Boockvar. “The monetary spigot really changes a lot next year.” Fiscal policy from the Trump White House may not have the same effect in offsetting the Fed’s monetary policy going forward, either, Boockvar cautioned. “Next year you start to lose the one-time step-up to earnings from the tax cut and…the monetary tightening begins to pick up steam,” he said. The GOP’s corporate tax cuts, which passed late last year, have raised companies’ earnings by a wide margin this year. That one-time boost created easy comparables that made profit growth appear even more impressive this year. S&P 500 earnings are expected to increase 22 percent this year, according to FactSet, nearly double the rate in 2017.

If Trump abandons globalism, American interests will suffer ‘irreparable harm’

President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. 
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018.

President Donald Trump, speaking on the world’s biggest stage, this week laid for the United Nations his case for patriotism and against globalism. He then doubled down on his determination to push back on China. If he’s determined to do the first, however, he will fail at the second. Put another way: If he wants to dramatically reduce U.S. engagement through multilateral institutions, he will lack the leverage to either counter China or shape its behavior. Thus, President Trump should have instead remade himself as a “patriotic globalist.” After all, it was patriotism at its best that prompted U.S. decision makers after the Second World War to establish an America-led system of alliances and institutions that ended the destructive cycle of zero-sum relations in Europe and Asia. They did so not out of abstract benevolence or Utopian naivete, but because global engagement ensured American interests. And history has proven them right. Through establishing international norms for free trade and a U.S. military presence around the world to enforce them, U.S. leaders enabled U.S. businesses to securely trade globally, thus creating unprecedented profits and jobs. Whatever you think of Trump’s style, what appeals to his supporters is that he frequently puts his finger on real problems that other politicians have swept under rugs. His UN speech betrays a misunderstanding of how U.S. international engagement since World War II has served American interests. Cold War victory over Soviet-style communism and its global influence efforts, without a shot being fired by the principals, came about only due to consistent U.S. leadership of allies and friends, working through acronymic institutions such as NATO, the OSCE, the EU and the IMF. Hardly a week passes when the U.S.-established order doesn’t face strains, many exacerbated by the Trump administration itself. Finally, it remains uncertain whether Canada will join the recent U.S.-Mexico trade agreement and thus strengthen NAFTA, or whether the trilateral trade pact will come undone and lead to even greater trade tensions with America’s nearest neighbor and ally. These short-term developments are not disconnected strands but rather all relate to maintaining U.S. international interest though existing international institutions and agreements. The stakes for the international system, however, are highest in the contest between the United States and China over who will have the most influence in shaping the coming century.

Asian stocks lower on US-China trade worries

A man cycles past in front of electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday after a Chinese government report accusing the Trump administration of bullying other countries dampened hopes for a settlement in their escalating tariff war. KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent to 2,775.91 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 6,180.10. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 advanced 0.1 percent to 23,900.57 while Hong Kong and Seoul were closed for holidays. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Malaysia and the Philippines retreated while Taiwan and Singapore advanced. WALL STREET: Industrial companies and bank sank after news reports that China pulled out of possible talks proposed by Washington on ending their fight over Beijing’s technology policy. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.4 percent to 2,919.37. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7 percent to 26,562.05. Both the S&P 500 and Dow set record highs last week. General Electric dropped 3.5 percent and 3M declined 1.3 percent. China issued a report accusing Washington of abandoning “mutual respect” required for international relations and “trade bullyism” toward other governments. At the same time, both governments imposed new tariffs on each other’s goods in their war over U.S. complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.  The criticism of Washington “suggests that China might prefer to wait out the current U.S. administration, rather than embarking on potentially futile negotiations,” said Cheng Wei Liang of Mizuho Bank in a report. “It is increasingly likely that both sides will not resume negotiations for some time, at least until there is a noticeable shift in the political mood on either side.”

Russian-US tycoon boasted of ‘active’ involvement in Trump election campaign

Exclusive: Simon Kukes was in contact with senior Kremlin official in 2016 while donating to Trump-supporting committe

Simon Kukes and the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani at a fundraising dinner in New Work in August 2016.
Simon Kukes and the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani at a fundraising dinner in New Work in August 2016.

A Russian-American businessman who donated a substantial sum to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election effort boasted to a senior figure in Moscow that he was “actively involved” in the Republican candidate’s campaign, the Guardian can reveal. Simon Kukes said he was helping Trump with “strategy development” and shared photos of his 29-year-old Russian girlfriend posing with the future president. Kukes made the claims to Vyacheslav Pavlovsky, a career Kremlin official and former ambassador to Norway. Pavlovsky is currently vice-president of Russian Railways. The disclosure raises questions about the role played by Kukes in the run-up to the election and what information, if anything, was being relayed by him to his associates in Russia. Kukes’s donations began two weeks after the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, when Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner discussed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton with a Russian lawyer. In total Kukes gave $273,000 (£207,000) to Trump Victory – a fundraising committee that distributes donations between the candidate, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties. He had no previous history of giving money to political causes. During this period he was in regular contact with Pavlovsky. In one email written in July 2016, Kukes wrote in Russian: “I am actively involved in Trump’s election campaign, and am part of the group on strategy development.” Kukes said that he would be in Switzerland from 20 July until 2 August, and asked Pavlovsky if he wanted to meet there. Kukes emailed again a week later, saying he would like to introduce Pavlovsky to a “close friend”, a Moscow oil executive, “who has just flown in”. They were discussing “very interesting projects for Russia and the US”, he wrote, adding: “I hope one of them will materialise.” One US intelligence expert described Kukes’s communications with Pavlovsky as suspicious. “To me this reads like an email exchange between a source and a handler, or a source and headquarters,” Lindsay Moran, a former CIA officer, told NBC News after reviewing the email exchanges. Since giving money to Trump, Kukes has avoided publicity. He founded a Houston-based consultancy, Nafta Consulting LLC, and invested in a company that develops US shale and oil assets. He was an investor in Promstroy, an oil services company.

 

North Korea says ‘no way’ will disarm unilaterally without trust

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin By David Brunnstrom and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea’s foreign minister told the United Nations on Saturday continued sanctions were deepening its mistrust in the United States and there was no way the country would give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally under such circumstances. Ri Yong Ho told the world body’s annual General Assembly that North Korea had taken “significant goodwill measures” in the past year, such as stopping nuclear and missiles tests, dismantling the nuclear test site, and pledging not to proliferate nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. “However, we do not see any corresponding response from the U.S.,” he said. “Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.” While Ri reprised familiar North Korean complaints about Washington’s resistance to a “phased” approach to denuclearization under which North Korea would be rewarded as it took gradual steps, his statement appeared significant in that it did not reject unilateral denuclearization out of hand as Pyongyang has done in the past. Ri referred to a joint statement issued by Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump at a first ever summit between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12, when Kim pledged to work toward “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” while Trump promised guarantees of North Korea’s security. North Korea has been seeking a formal end to the 1950-53 Korea War, but the United States has said Pyongyang must give up its nuclear weapons first. Washington has also resisted calls to relax tough international sanctions on North Korea. “The U.S. insists on the ‘denuclearization-first’ and increases the level of pressure by sanctions to achieve their purpose in a coercive manner, and even objecting to the ‘declaration of the end of war,'” Ri said. “The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us. But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust.”

On Wednesday, Trump said he did not have a time frame for this, saying “If it takes two years, three years or five months – doesn’t matter.”

The Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Pompeo has visited North Korea three times already this year, but his last trip did not go well. He left Pyongyang in July saying that progress had been made, only for North Korea within hours to denounce him for making “gangster-like demands.”

Mexico says US, Canada could reach new NAFTA deal in 48 hours

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico's top negotiator for "NAFTA 2.0," insists that even if no 11th-hour US-Canadian deal is reached, a three-way deal would still be possible at some point in the future
Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico’s top negotiator for “NAFTA 2.0,” insists that even if no 11th-hour US-Canadian deal is reached, a three-way deal would still be possible at some point in the future (AFP Photo/NICHOLAS KAMM)

Mexico City (AFP) – The United States and Canada have told Mexico they could reach a compromise within 48 hours on keeping the updated North American Free Trade Agreement a three-country deal, the Mexican economy minister said Friday. Speaking as he presented the Mexican Senate with the current US-Mexican agreement to update NAFTA — which does not include Canada, the third member of the original deal — Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Washington and Ottawa were making a “very serious,” last-ditch attempt to bridge their differences. “For the first time, we’re seeing a real effort by both sides,” he said. “In the next 48 hours, we will know if we are going with a trilateral agreement.” Guajardo, Mexico’s top negotiator for “NAFTA 2.0,” insisted that even if no 11th-hour US-Canadian deal is reached, a three-way deal would still be possible at some point in the future. But that would mean “going ahead with a bilateral agreement and then later defining what legal actions we would have to take to maintain the possibility of a three-way deal,” he said. A Canadian government source told AFP that Canada’s top negotiator, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, “is in constant communication with the Americans, both formally and informally.” The United States and Mexico want to push their deal through their respective legislatures before Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on December 1. In the United States, there is a three-month timeframe for doing so — meaning Congress must have the text of the deal by Sunday. US President Donald Trump has been pushing for a complete overhaul of the 25-year-old trade deal, which he says has been a “rip-off” for the United States. In August — more than a year into the negotiations — the United States and Mexico announced they had reached a two-way deal, after breaking away for bilateral talks on their outstanding issues. But the ensuing talks to incorporate Canada have stumbled. According to the negotiators, Canada’s insistence on a trade dispute provision and its protected dairy sector are the last major sticking points. Ottawa is also seeking assurances that the United States will not, after signing a new NAFTA deal, turn around and hit Canada with punitive auto tariffs. Tempers flared this week on both sides as the end-of-month deadline approached. “We’re not getting along with their negotiators,” Trump said Wednesday of Canada. “Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be,” Trudeau fired back.”We won’t sign a bad deal for Canada.” The politics are high-stakes on both sides: Trump needs to look strong heading into the US mid-term elections in November, while Trudeau does not want to be seen as caving with a general election looming next year. The man whose impending inauguration is responsible for the rush — Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — downplayed the importance of the end-of-month deadline. “There is no fatal date, there is still time to reach a deal,” he told a press conference earlier Friday. The leftist president-elect, a free-trade skeptic, had criticized NAFTA in the past. But his transition team played an active part in the recent negotiations, and he has firmly backed the US-Mexican deal — which he wants Canada to join. Lopez Obrador, widely known as “AMLO,” said he had spoken by phone Thursday with Trudeau. “He said the negotiations were very difficult, that it might not be possible (to reach a three-way deal), but that they (Canada) had made a proposal,” he said. But he said he considered the substance of the US-Mexican deal to be final, and that Mexico did not want to renegotiate points that had already been agreed with Washington. “We don’t want to put our economic future and our country’s financial stability at risk,” he said.

South Korea’s LG Display to cut jobs through voluntary retiremen

A man walks out of the headquarters of LG Display in Seoul, October 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd, an Apple supplier, will cut jobs through voluntary retirement for the first time since its founding, a spokeswoman confirmed on Saturday. LG Display plans to receive applications in October for voluntary redundancy among employees in production that make up about 65 percent of its workforce, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported earlier on Saturday citing the company, adding the target size of the voluntary redundancy has not been decided. The spokeswoman said the voluntary retirement offer is driven by automation as well as the company’s portfolio switch from liquid crystal display (LCD) to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, which require fewer production personnel. The company will secure competitiveness by increasing the portion of R&D workers and engineers, she added. Prices of LCD screens, the company’s mainstay, have plummeted partly due to Chinese competition, causing LG Display to say in July it would slash $2.7 billion in capital spending planned through 2020 in order to switch its portfolio to OLED screens. Company officials had previously said that it was not planning layoffs for fear of losing talent to China.

Judge lets Democrats in Congress sue Trump over foreign payments

President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, September 25, 2018. 
LUDOVIC MARIN | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, September 25, 2018.

A federal district judge in Washington ruled on Friday that a group of nearly 200 Democratic senators and representatives have legal standing to sue President Donald Trump to prove he violated the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments provision banning the acceptance of gifts from foreign and domestic interests. The U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan found that lawmakers have adequately shown that they’ve suffered harm from the president’s alleged violation of the emoluments clause, which bans benefits from foreign governments unless a majority of both houses of Congress consent. The ruling was the second time a federal court judge has decided to advance such unprecedented constitutional lawsuits against the president. A federal judge in Maryland ruled in July that a similar lawsuit against Trump filed by the attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia could proceed, but only as pertained to earnings from Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel.To allow the lawsuit to proceed, Sullivan said he would “accept as true the allegations that the President has accepted prohibited foreign emoluments without seeking the consent of Congress.” Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement that the government believes this case should be dismissed and “will continue to defend the President in court.” The lawyers representing 198 congressional Democrats were led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who, along with his colleagues, have argued that Trump isn’t letting them do their jobs. He praised Sullivan’s ruling. “This is a bombshell victory enabling us to move forward to hold the president accountable for violating the chief corruption prohibition in the United States’ Constitution,” Blumenthal told the AP. “President Trump has been violating it repeatedly with impunity and now we as members need to hold him accountable.”

The Democrats’ attorney Elizabeth Wydra, who is president of the nonprofit Constitutional Accountability Center and argued the case in court, said that “by recognizing that members of Congress have standing to sue, the court proved to all in America today that no one is above the law, not even the president.”

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case argues that the president has received foreign government favors, such as Chinese government trademarks for his companies, payments for hotel room stays and event-space rentals by representatives of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and proceeds from Chinese or Emirati-linked government purchases of office space in Trump Tower. Ethics experts say the constitutional emoluments clause was created by the Founding Fathers to ensure that government officials act with the interests of the American public in mind instead of their own pocketbooks.

Unlike prior presidents, Trump chose not to divest from his assets and he remains the owner of the Trump Organization, a sprawling business empire with 550 entities in more than 20 countries that include branded hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests. His Washington, D.C., hotel is near the White House and has become a magnet for foreign governments, previously hosting groups tied to Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

The District of Columbia case is one of three that argues the president is violating the emoluments clause, but this case is notable because the plaintiffs in this suit — members of Congress — are mentioned in the clause itself. The Democrats’ attorneys have argued that Congress not only has a right but is required, as part of their jobs, to weigh in on potential emoluments to Trump such as a $6.5 million condo purchase by the Qatari government or a Chinese-government owned company’s investment in a project that will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course in Indonesia. Justice Department lawyers argued in court papers that the Democrats suing the president are not being injured by him at all but by their colleagues in Congress, who have refused to take up the emoluments issue. While the judge acknowledged that the case did raise separation of power concerns, he also noted that “plaintiffs have no adequate legislative remedy” but can be resolved by the judicial process by requiring the president to ask for congressional consent before accepting emoluments. Sullivan’s decision broadens the potential legal peril for Trump and his companies after U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled that the emoluments clause lawsuit filed in a Maryland federal court could proceed against Trump. That case, however, is only limited to earnings Trump has received from the Trump International Hotel, which opened in Washington in September 2016. In July, Messitte dismissed the Justice Department’s contention that Trump’s business activity such as hotel room earnings don’t qualify under the constitutional definition of emoluments. The case has moved to the legal discovery stage. The Justice Department, however, has asked for an appeal in that case and for all proceedings to halt until an appeals court rules.

Facebook hack exposed 50 million users’ info — and accounts on other sites

by Heather Kelly
An attack on Facebook exposed information on nearly 50 million of the social network’s users, the company announced Friday — and gave the attackers access to those users’ accounts with other sites and apps that they logged into using Facebook. The attackers exploited a bug in a feature called “View as” that lets users see their Facebook page the way someone else would. The attackers were able to take over the accounts and use them exactly as if they were the account holders. That would include posting or viewing information shared by any of that account’s friends. Facebook says no credit card information stored with the company was accessed. Facebook(FB) said it does not know who the attackers were or where they were based. It also said it has already fixed the issue and informed the FBI and other law enforcement, as well as lawmakers and regulators. It has also informed the Irish Data Protection Commission about the breach, a step required by Europe’s GDPR regulations. The commission said it received the notification, but expressed concern with its timing and lack of detail More than 90 million users were forcibly logged out of their accounts by Facebook and had to log back in on Friday for security reasons. The accounts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were among the 90 million accounts forcibly logged out by Facebook. Users do not need to take any additional security precautions or reset their passwords, said Facebook. All logged out users will receive a notification about the issue from Facebook. The attackers would have also been able to access third-party services or sites accessed with a Facebook login, Facebook’s Guy Rosen said in a follow-up call with reporters on Friday, though it is not yet clear if they did so. It could have also impacted Instagram accounts that use the same login as Facebook, but Rosen said WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook, was not impacted. The company declined to confirm if this was the largest hack it has experienced to date. The company says it does not know if the affected accounts were misused in any way or if any user information was actually accessed. It has not determined if any specific locations or accounts were targeted. It has turned off the “View As” feature that the attackers exploited while it investigates. “From experience, breach notifications like this always tend to get worse as time goes on and information from investigations is shared with the public,” said Jessy Irwin, the head of security at cybersecurity firm Tendermint. “There’s not much that is public about how those [linked] accounts are impacted, but this seems to go much deeper into Facebook’s entire ecosystem than Cambridge Analytica did.” Facebook says the vulnerability is the result of three distinct bugs, and originally appeared in July 2017 when the company made a change to a video uploading feature. The company first detected some unusual activity — a spike in user access to the site — on September 16, 2018. It launched an investigation and uncovered this attack on Tuesday, September 25. On Wednesday it notified law enforcement and on Thursday evening it fixed the vulnerability and began resetting login tokens, according to Facebook.  The attackers stole Facebook “access tokens” which keep a person logged into their Facebook account over long periods of time so they don’t have to keep signing in. Facebook reset all 50 million tokens, as well as tokens for an additional 40 million people who had used the “View as” feature in the past year as a “precautionary step.” The reset also unlinked accounts like Instagram and Oculus, both of which are owned by Facebook, which users will need to relink. “The reality here is we face constant attacks from people who want to take over accounts or steal information…. we need to do more to prevent this from happening in the first place,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a call with reporters shortly after the announcement. The announcement is the latest issue for the company, which has struggled with security breaches, privacy issues and misinformation in recent years. Facebook says it is investing heavily in security going forward, and increasing the number of people working on security from 10,000 to 20,000. “Security is an arms race and we’re continuing to improve our defenses,” said Zuckerberg.

China Says It Won’t be Pushed Around by US on Trade

China Says It Won't be Pushed Around by US on Trade
(AP)

China warned Friday that its critical relationship with the United States could break “like a glass,” and used the most global of stages to warn the Trump administration it wouldn’t be pushed around on trade. Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted that his country “will not be blackmailed” or bow to pressure. “Protectionism will only hurt oneself, and unilateral moves will bring damage to all,” he told the U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders.  President Donald Trump this week cranked up punitive tariffs on China, and Beijing responded in kind, escalating a trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Trump upped the ante by then accusing China of meddling in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections because it opposes his trade policies. He has presented little evidence to back up the allegations, which China says are untrue. Wang, in separate remarks at a think tank, said U.S.-China relationship was at a critical point, four decades since ties were normalized. “The relationship between our two countries is a common asset. It must be preserved and valued. It’s the result of generations of people’s efforts,” Wang said. “It’s like a glass. It’s easy to break it” and would be difficult to repair, he said. Although Wang presented China as upholding multilateral institutions — drawing an implicit contrast with Trump’s anti-globalist stance — Beijing’s top diplomat said the suspicions that China seeks global hegemony and to displace the U.S. as a world leader is false. But he warned it’s an idea that is spreading, amplifying differences between the two countries. “This is a serious strategic misjudgment,” Wang told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, “that will be extremely detrimental to U.S. interests and the future of the United States.” He said China rather seeks a path of peaceful development. He defended China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea, where it has built man-made islands to reinforce its sweeping territorial claims that are disputed by its neighbors. He said military facilities on those islands are for defensive purposes to counter military activities by other nations in the area, including the United States. Wang also defended China’s recent participation in military drills with Russia that have added to U.S. anxiety that its key strategic rivals are setting aside historical differences and teaming up against it. He said military-to-military ties are normal to build “mutual understanding.” On human rights, Wang was asked about the reported harsh treatment of Uighur Muslims in China’s far west. He maintained that China had brought law and order to a region once blighted by terrorism. The Trump administration is reportedly considering sanctions in response to members of the religious minority being forced into “re-education” camps on a massive scale. Trump increased tariffs Monday on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing responded by imposing penalties on $60 billion of American products. That was on top of an earlier duty increase by both sides on $50 billion of each other’s goods. The tit-for-tat is fueling anxiety that smaller nations will suffer. “There is a trade war going on between the two most powerful nations, and the rest of the world is feeling the pain,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the General Assembly on Friday.

Senate GOP agrees to one-week delay on Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation to allow for FBI probe

Cornyn: GOP agrees to one-week delay for Kavanaugh FBI probe
Cornyn: GOP agrees to one-week delay for Kavanaugh FBI probe

Senate Republicans have agreed to delay a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for one week to allow for an FBI probe into allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge, according to a statement issued by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. The committee requested that the White House “instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation with respect to” Kavanaugh’s nomination, the statement said. The president agreed in short order. In a tweet posted by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday afternoon, the president said had ordered a supplemental investigation that would be “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.” The delay means that a floor vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which had been expected for Tuesday, could now happen three days later. Senators will move forward with a procedural vote expected Saturday. In a statement released by the White House Friday afternoon, Kavanaugh said he would “continue to cooperate.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a number of other Republicans huddled in McConnell’s office Friday afternoon to discuss how to proceed on the confirmation following a call from a number of key senators to delay the vote. The president, who has stood by his nominee amid a turbulent confirmation process roiled by accusations of sexual abuse, said Friday that he would be “totally reliant” on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference on September 26, 2018, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
President Trump orders supplemental FBI investigation into Kavanaugh
 

“I’m going to rely on all of the people including Senator Grassley, who’s doing a very good job,” Trump said. The Judiciary Committee voted on Friday along party lines to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, but a dramatic last-minute speech from retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., thrust the process into chaos. Flake, who earlier announced that he would vote “yes” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said at the committee meeting that his floor vote would be contingent on an FBI probe. A number of other senators considered to be swing votes soon followed suit, with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin signaling their support for Flake’s proposal almost immediately. The delay follows an explosive, nearly nine-hour day of testimony before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday from Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford. Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school gathering that took place more than three decades ago. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the accusation. The prospect of an FBI probe was contentiously debated at the hearing Thursday. The two top members of the committee sparred over the utility of such an inquiry — as well as if it could even be conducted. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, said an FBI probe would be “the best way to ensure a fair process to both Kavanaugh and Ford.” In contrast, Grassley called Democratic demands for the FBI to get involved “consistent with their stated desires to obstruct the Kavanaugh nomination by any means necessary,” and said he had “no authority to force an executive branch agency to conduct an investigation into a matter it considers to be closed.” Ford and Kavanaugh themselves were split on whether the FBI should investigate. While Ford has pushed for the bureau to look into her claims, Kavanaugh has pushed back. He said he wants to do whatever the Judiciary Committee thinks is best.

Global funds raise U.S. stock holdings to three-and-a-half-year high

LONDON (Reuters) – Global investors increased holdings of U.S. equities to their highest since May 2015 in September while reducing their exposure to emerging-market assets, where a majority believe the shake-out still has some way to go.Reuters’ monthly asset allocation poll of 54 wealth managers and chief investment officers in Europe, the United States, Britain and Japan was carried out Sept. 17-28 as the S&P 500 .SPX and Dow Jones .DJI climbed to record peaks. Asset managers boosted their exposure to U.S. stocks by 2 percentage points to 42.7 percent. They trimmed overall equity exposure to 48 percent of their global balanced portfolios. Cedric Baron, head of multi asset at Generali Investments, was among those remaining overweight in U.S. equities because of attractive fundamentals. He cited economic growth — 4 percent in the second quarter — corporate earnings growth, sentiment indicators reaching high levels, and accommodative financing.Investors were unperturbed about the political fallout from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections, which turned up the heat on President Donald Trump in September.  In late, August Trump warned that the stockmarket would crash if he were impeached. But 88 percent of poll participants who answered a question on this did not expect the market to tumble. Several prefaced said they regarded the probability of impeachment as very low.

“Obviously, starting an impeachment process could lead to increased volatility and an initial stock market correction,” said Frank Haertel, head of asset allocation at Bank J Safra Sarasin. “However, a new president could also bring significant upside potential.”

Investors raised their European equity exposure by 1.5 percentage points to 19.5 percent, a four-month high. Pascal Blanque, group chief investment officer of Amundi, said the segment had not been in favor to the same extent as U.S. shares but had become more attractive as valuations got cheaper. European equities look set to end the quarter up around 1.4 percent, compared with gains of over 7 percent for the S&P 500 and almost 9 percent for the Dow Jones.Conversely, emerging markets were regarded with caution. Equities were cut by half a percentage point to 10.5 percent, while emerging-market debt fell to 9.4 percent from August’s 10.2 percent.  The segment had another turbulent month with equities .MSCIEF hitting a 15-month low and currencies such as the Indian rupee INR= and Indonesian rupiah IDR= reaching record or multi-year lows.

Year-to-date, emerging-market equities are down 9.4 percent, while the Turkish lira TRY= has fallen around 37 percent versus the dollar and Argentina’s peso ARS= over 50 percent.

Some 59 percent of poll participants who answered a question on this topic said emerging markets were only in the middle of the meltdown, with a more optimistic 32 percent saying they were nearing the end.

Standard & Poor’s Corp2918.48
.SPXChicago Board Options Exchange
+4.48(+0.15%) Some 60 percent of poll participants who answered a question on Brexit said they did not expect Britain and the European Union to agree a post-Brexit trading agreement by November. “Mrs May is facing strong internal opposition from a large number of Conservative MPs. This reduces her room of maneuver, and we see a serious risk of early elections in the UK,” said Nuno Teixeira, head of cross asset investments at Natixis Investment Managers International.

Italy hikes deficit goal, defies EU and rattles markets

FILE PHOTO: Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria attends as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (unseen) speaks during his first session at the Lower House of the Parliament in Rome, Italy, June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Phot

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s new government proposed a 2019 budget with a deficit three times bigger than the previous administration’s target, setting up a clash with the European Commission and sparking a sell-off of state bonds. Italy has the heaviest debt burden among big European Union economies, at 130 percent of gross domestic product. It is under pressure from the EU to rein in spending amid fears it could sow the seeds of a debt crisis in the heart of the euro zone. The four-month-old government late on Thursday night offered a budget with a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP for the next three years, to fund a major expansion of welfare spending, tax cuts and a boost to public infrastructure investment. It marked a victory for ruling-party chiefs over Economy Minister Giovanni Tria, an unaffiliated technocrat who had been seen by investors as a comparative fiscal conservative. Tria had initially wanted a deficit set as low as 1.6 percent next year, hoping to respect European Union demands that Italy progressively cut the fiscal gap to rein in its debt. The euro slumped on the news overnight before recovering ground. Italian bonds were set for their worst day in over three months, and banking shares also swooned, though fears of a savage selloff were avoided.

“They seem to be on a collision course with Brussels,” said ING rates strategist Martin van Vliet.

European Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said nothing would be gained from a clash with Italy but added: “We don’t have any interest either that Italy does not respect the rules and does not reduce its debt, which remains explosive.” The coalition government of the 5-Star Movement and the League, which took power in June, had been pushing for a deficit around 2.4 percent of GDP to fund costly campaign promises. Tria had been trying to hold out for something below 2.0 percent. “There is an accord within the whole government for 2.4 percent, we are satisfied, this is a budget for change,” 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and League chief Matteo Salvini said in a joint statement after meetings with Tria. The statement appeared to refer only to the 2019 deficit target, but government officials and Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede later said the same deficit level would be maintained for three straight years to 2021. The policy marks a striking shift from the previous centre-left administration, which had targeted a deficit of 0.8 percent of GDP in 2019 and a balanced budget in 2020. “Today is a historic day, today Italy has changed,” Di Maio posted on Facebook after the deficit goals were announced. Di Maio said the 2019 budget, which must be presented by Oct. 20, will set aside 10 billion euros ($11.6 billion) for 5-Star’s flagship policy of a “citizens’ income” of up to 780 euros per month for 6.5 million poor Italians. Salvini said the budget would also allow people to retire earlier, freeing up about 400,000 jobs for the young, and cut tax rates for a million self-employed workers. And in a sign of rising tensions between Rome and Brussels over the budget, a League lawmaker close to Salvini said on Friday that the EU should not risk a battle with Italy while also struggling to deal with Britain’s exit from the bloc.

Brett Kavanaugh accuser releases polygraph showing ‘no deception’ in her account of assault

Verified photos of Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. 
Verified photos of Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s, released the results on Wednesday of a polygraph test their client took in early August, before her allegations became public. The test was administered to gauge the truthfulness of Ford’s account of the alleged attack, which she says happened when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17. The results, which were analyzed using three separate analytical methods, all indicated that Ford is telling the truth. Ford and Kavanaugh are both scheduled to testify about the alleged assault before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Ford’s polygraph test was administered by Jeremiah Hanafin, a certified polygraph examiner whose professional resume indicates that he spent nearly 20 years as a special agent in the FBI. According to Hanafin’s report, Ford described her account of the night she says Kavanaugh locked her in a room, pinned her down on a bed and attempted to take her clothes off at a suburban Maryland house party. She also alleged that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand and that “this act was the most terrifying for her.” According to the report, Ford said that Kavanaugh and his close friend, Mark Judge were both in the room at the time of the assault, and that they were both laughing. Ford said she only escaped when Judge jumped on top of her and Kavanaugh, and they all fell to the ground. She also said the experience left her with lasting emotional trauma. Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegation, as well as accusations by two other women that have emerged in the past week. One woman, Deborah Ramirez, claims that Kavanaugh aggressively exposed himself to her in college. A third woman, Julie Swetnick, said Wednesday in a sworn statement that she witnessed Kavanaugh and Judge deliberately giving young women at parties alcohol and drugs in quantities designed to incapacitate them, after which, she alleged, the women were gang raped. Ford’s polygraph test is the latest document to be released by her attorneys ahead of her testimony Thursday. Earlier in the day Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee received four sworn statements from people close to Ford, who all said she had told them of the assault, prior to Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court

A robot that can peel lettuce takes us closer to automating delicate farm work

Machines are still learning to be as dextrous as human hands

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images 

There are lots of barriers to automating agricultural work. The cost of robots is one and the difficulty of integrating them into supply chains is another. But a particularly big stumbling block is just how clumsy machine labor can be. That’s why new research from Cambridge University showing a robot that can peel a lettuce is a small but significant step forward. Harvesting lettuces is time-consuming work. The vegetables grow close to the ground, have to be cut from their roots by hand, and the outer layers peeled off before packaging. There are automated solutions that help speed up this process up (one machines drops lettuce heads into bags; another cuts multiple heads at a time) but they only take care of part of the harvest. It still requires nimble human hands to do some of the work. This new research from Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering shows that robots might take over soon though. In the video below, you can see a modified Sawyer bot picking the outer leaves off a head of lettuce. It’s slow but it does the job.

Interestingly, unlike other work we’ve seen improving robot dexterity, this doesn’t rely on any research breakthroughs per se, but instead combines existing robotics and AI elements into a new pipeline. Machine vision algorithms are used to identify the stem of the lettuce; a robot arm nudges it into the correct position if its off-center; and a 3D-printed suction nozzle then peels off the outer layer of leaves. The team behind the solution, which is described in an aptly named paper “Achieving Robotically Peeled Lettuce,” say this system could also work for other vegetables. “Lettuce leaf peeling is an interesting robotics problem from an engineering perspective because the leaves are soft, they tear easily and the shape of the lettuce is never a given,” said Cambridge University’s Luca Scimeca in a press statement. “The computer vision we have developed, which lies at the heart of our lettuce peeling robot, can be applied to many other crops, such as cauliflower, where similar information would be required for the post-processing of the produce.” However, this robot is still going to need some upgrades before it hits the fields. It’s slow, taking 27 seconds to peel each lettuce (compared to just a few seconds for a human) and sloppy (it successfully removes the outer shell only 50 percent of the time). Still, the future is coming, and faster than ever.

Only one in five adults want Rosenstein to leave: Reuters/Ipsos poll

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s rollout for the “Fentanyl: The Real Deal” training video in Washington, U.S., August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Americans are largely supportive of the Department of Justice official overseeing the special counsel investigating the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found. Those wanting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to stay outnumber those who want him out by a margin of almost two-to-one. The Sept. 25-26 poll, released on Wednesday, found that 42 percent of adults agree that Rosenstein should “keep his job.” That compares with 22 percent who said they disagree, and another 35 percent who said they “don’t know.” Rosenstein has been in Trump’s crosshairs ever since he appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The probe, which Trump has frequently labeled a “witch hunt,” has resulted in more than 30 indictments and six guilty pleas so far. On Monday, some news organizations reported Rosenstein was out of the job after a report in the New York Times had said he suggested secretly recording Trump. That was not the case, but Trump later said that he had not decided what to do about Rosenstein. Rosenstein is expected to meet on Thursday with Trump to discuss his future at the Justice Department. It is unclear who would take over as Mueller’s supervisor if Rosenstein leaves. The poll also found that while the public is split along party lines regarding Mueller — two-thirds of Democrats have a favorable impression of the special counsel and two-thirds of Republicans have an unfavorable impression of him — a slight majority want an independent investigation to continue. If Mueller “were to be terminated or resign,” 51 percent said an independent investigation should continue, while 24 percent said it should not. The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,187 adults, including 441 Democrats and 383 Republicans. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 3 percentage points.

Stock investors not only buy the most at market tops but pay more, too

What kind of irrationality causes investors to accept exorbitant prices for active management?

Getty Images

Most “rational” people will prefer more money to less money. Accordingly, they will prefer to gain more monetary value rather than less from what they buy, and they will prefer to pay less for what they buy rather than more. Except when it comes to their investment decisions. Low-cost indexed investment management has gained strength at a great rate in recent years. Yet much-higher-cost active management still claims the majority of investors’ assets.  Repeated studies have shown that as much as 97% to 99% of active equity managers underperform passive stock market indexes. Therefore, they provide investors with less monetary value than passive, indexed investment management. On the cost side, the cost for active management can be as much as 40 or more times the cost of passively managed index funds. With fees like that, over an investor’s lifetime the investor can lose as much as a third- to a half of her wealth to fees. How could any rational investor — one who prefers more value in the investment product purchased to less, and lower cost to higher cost — possibly choose active fund management over passive management? Heaton and Pennington use methods developed by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his late colleague Amos Tversky to research investor irrationality. Their starting point is to posit that investors suffer from what is called the “conjunction fallacy.” The conjunction fallacy is an apparent failure of logic, represented by the following example: Which of these two possibilities do you think is more likely?

A.  Johnny gets an “A” on his final exam.

B.  Johnny studies hard and gets an “A” on his final exam.

Most people will answer that B is the more likely. But this is a fallacy, because option A includes the possibility that Johnny didn’t need to study hard to get an “A” and didn’t study hard, while option B doesn’t include that possibility and is therefore less likely. However, people are so used to conjoining “studying hard” with “getting an A” that they don’t see their logical error. To fit this line of inquiry to the investment management area, Heaton and Pennington posed the following question to experimental subjects: ABC Fund invests in common stocks listed on U.S. stock exchanges.

Which is more likely?

1. ABC Fund will earn a good return this year for its investors.

2. ABC Fund will earn a good return this year for its investors, and ABC Fund employs investment analysts who work hard to identify the best stocks for ABC Fund to invest in.

From this, Heaton and Pennington conclude that investors choose active management because they adamantly believe that hard work and a high level of competence must surely be rewarded with good results — even if the evidence shows otherwise. Many active managers, when questioned by clients or prospects about their high fees, will invoke the “brain surgeon” analogy. They will say, “If you need brain surgery would you choose the lowest-cost brain surgeon?” This rejoinder has been proven to work time and time again, because, as Heaton and Pennington would argue, the clients believe that in a just world, “hard-working experts should produce superior outcomes.” Therefore, they should be paid more, even if — bewilderingly and incredibly — the statistics plainly show that they do not produce superior outcomes.

Trump postpones meeting with Rosenstein until next week

Meeting between Trump and Deputy AG Rosenstein rescheduled
Meeting between Trump and Deputy AG Rosenstein rescheduled
President Donald Trump postponed a scheduled meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday, in order to not distract from congressional hearings for his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavana “The president spoke with Rod Rosenstein a few minutes ago and they plan to meet next week,” press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters. “They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing.” The White House said earlier this week that the purpose of Trump and Rosenstein’s meeting would be to discuss the deputy attorney general’s future at the Justice Department, amid conflicting reports Monday that Rosenstein was either planning to resign or expecting to be fired. By midweek, however, Trump appeared to have moved away from the idea of firing Rosenstein. “My preference would be to keep him,” Trump said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon in New York. “I would certainly prefer not” firing him. Rosenstein’s position at the Justice Department is more visible than those of other officials because he is charged with overseeing the special counsel’s Russia probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation. Trump has effectively gone to war against his own Justice Department in the past year, primarily over the Russia probe, which is run by former FBI director Robert Mueller. But the president is equally furious over what he sees as a failure by the department to protect him and his allies, and to pursue his political enemies

CEOs are cashing in on the market boom

Insiders at US companies have dumped $5.7 billion of stock this month, the highest in any September over the past decade, according to an analysis of regulatory filings by TrimTabs Investment Research. It’s not a new trend. Insiders, which include corporate officers and directors, sold shares in August at the fastest pace in 10 years as well, TrimTabs said. The selling is noteworthy because it occurred as the market rebounded sharply from an early 2018 tumble. Fueled by tax cuts and a strong economy, the Dow recently notched its first record high since January.  Some corporate insiders have much of their net worth tied up in stock, so it could be that they are simply exercising caution. The bull market, already the longest history, can’t last forever. “It’s a very prudent thing for them to unload some shares — no matter how much they like the stock,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-partner at brokerage firm Themis Trading. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they see something wrong.” TrimTabs does not break down how many of the insider sales were pre-planned. The SEC allows executives to schedule stock sales ahead of time to avoid the appearance of insider trading While the captains of Corporate America are cashing out, they are doing the exact opposite with shareholder money.

US public companies have authorized a stunning $827.4 billion of stock buybacks in 2018 — already a record for any year, according to TrimTabs. Apple (AAPL) alone announced plans last quarter for $100 billion of buybacks.

The flurry of buybacks has been viewed by investors as a sign of confidence among CEOs. “Insiders aren’t announcing buybacks because they think stocks are cheap,” said David Santschi, director of liquidity research at TrimTabs. “What they’re doing with shareholders’ money and their own is quite different.”number of shares outstanding. Corporate America is enjoying record profitability thanks to the strong economy and a big reduction in what they owe Uncle Sam. The Republican tax law reduced the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and also gave companies a break on foreign profits that are returned to the United States. The tax windfall has also enabled companies to spend more on job-creating investments like new equipment and research projects. But buybacks are growing even faster. In fact, Goldman Sachs found that buybacks are garnering the largest share of cash spending by S&P 500 companies for the first time in a decade.

chart buybacks capital spending

Given the spike in buybacks, Saluzzi said it would be odd if insiders are rapidly dumping shares outside of preplanned transactions. “You’ve got to raise your eyebrows and look at what’s going on here,” Saluzzi said.

Fed lifts U.S. rates by quarter percentage point

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday, as expected, and left its monetary policy outlook for the coming years largely unchanged amid steady economic growth and a strong job market. In a policy statement that marked the end of the era of “accommodative” monetary policy, Fed policymakers lifted the benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 2.00 percent to 2.25 percent. It still foresees another rate hike in December, three more next year, and one increase in 2020 “They took out ‘accommodative,’ but then they clustered more hikes around the median and they edged up their long term, so that’s a little bit hawkish. The question who focuses on what – you never know. “I found that the reactions post-the FOMC are important. And what the market seems to be doing to me is correct, which is the curve is flattening because the Fed is going to hike more than what’s priced into the forward. You might see equities wobble a bit here because I don’t think they got the joke that the Fed’s going to keep going and when that happens, they break something. “Additionally, the removal o the “accommodative” language on policy sent a somewhat hawkish message to financial markets—as this was offset by expectations for stronger growth in 2018 and 2019.

“It was also quite obvious, without them saying it, that they rejected President Trump’s request for them to stop raising interest rates which is their right as an independent Board as well as it is President Trump’s right, in my opinion, to express his reservations.

“One thing here seems clear to me. The government of the United States, as exemplified by the Jobs Cuts and Tax Bill, is trying to grow the economy while the Federal Reserve Bank, is actually trying to slow it down by raising rates, which increases the costs of both corporate and personal borrowing, as well as mortgage rates. “It is quite odd, in my view, that our elected government is going off in one direction while the nation’s central bank is headed off in the opposite direction. It seems that we are at an impasse here and I wonder just how long it can or will continue.”

Study Finds Link Between Bee Deaths and Roundup

honey bees
Klaus Nowottnick/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Image By Jason Devaney

A new study found a definitive link between weed killers and the death of bees worldwide. Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin looked at potential causes of bee deaths, a phenomenon that has been extensively written about in recent years, and discovered that the active ingredient in Roundup could be the culprit. Glyphosate, according to the study, can disrupt a bee’s gut bacteria and make it more susceptible to contracting pathogens that can eventually lead to its death. “We need better guidelines for glyphosate use, especially regarding bee exposure, because right now the guidelines assume bees are not harmed by the herbicide,” graduate student Erick Motta, who co-led the bee study, told Phys.org. “Our study shows that’s not true.” Bee deaths have been reported on over the last several years as scientists tried to determine what is causing massive die-offs in hives. Experts believe the chemicals in pesticides and herbicides are the likely culprits. The Obama White House even said in 2015 that tighter restrictions on pesticides might be necessary to save honeybees, which pollinate plants and produce honey.

Democrats have leads in Rust Belt states that Trump won: Reuters poll

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows L-R: U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio gubernatorial candidates; Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, all running in 2018 races in one of five states that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, from Reuters files. REUTERS/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Indiana U.S. Senator seen as one of the chamber’s most vulnerable Democrats has a slight edge while four of his Rust Belt Democratic colleagues have solid leads in states President Donald Trump won in 2016, a Reuters poll found. A Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics Poll released on Wednesday found that a majority of likely voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana disapprove of the Republican president and more than one-third were “very motivated” to back someone who would oppose his policies. The poll found that Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana has a 3 percentage point lead among likely voters over Republican businessman Mike Braun. Braun, a former state representative, has positioned himself as a Trump-like candidate who would bring an outsider’s perspective to politics in Vice President Mike Pence’s home state. Democrats are aiming to win two more Senate seats in the Nov. 6 congressional election to take a majority in that chamber and serve as a check on Trump’s agenda. They can ill afford to lose any of the five seats covered by the poll. Trump won the five states after pitching himself as a business-savvy pragmatist who would improve the lives of working class Americans. Two years later, more than half of likely voters in those states think the country is now on the “wrong track,” the poll found. “There are lots of places in this region where economic opportunity has been stifled,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the Center for Politics. Kondik said the Rust Belt frequently shifts its support between parties, in some cases because voters who are frustrated with the lack of economic progress come to the ballot box intent on checking the party in power. This year Democrats have the added advantage of being able to attack an unpopular president as well as Republicans’ deficit-increasing tax plan and their failed effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, he said. The state polls were conducted online, in English, from Sept. 12 to Sept. 21. They surveyed between 1,074 and 1,181 likely voters in each of five states and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates. The polls each have a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 3 percentage points, meaning the results could vary in either direction by that much. The results measured how voters felt at the time of the survey. Those feelings may change: In 2016, one in eight Americans said they made their presidential pick in the week before Election Day, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Pentagon Innovation Leader Warns U.S. Falling Behind China

Michael Brown
(CQ Roll Call via AP Images) By Theodore Bunker

The head of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, Michael Brown, has warned that China is outpacing the United States in military development, Defense One reports.Brown, the former CEO of Symantec, co-wrote a paper published last year that analyzed how Chinese investment has affected American technological development. In a recent interview with Defense One, he explained how many people in Silicon Valley and other American technology hubs fail to grasp the importance of the “race” to develop new technology. “While the report is being used as, ‘here’s the justification for … protectionist steps’—And we aren’t arguing against taking any protective steps, because you can’t leave the barn door wide open—the Chinese are a near peer competitor economically,” he said. “They’re quite creative at inventing now. They aren’t just copying technology. We’re in a race and so what are we going to do as a country to deal with that? It has to include what we’re doing protectively on the investment side.” “The Chinese government has taken control of resources to be able to pull what they call their business or commercial sector, which we point out is government-controlled, unlike our own,” Brown said. “So they’re pulling all of those resources together to make technological breakthroughs and really advance science and technology in their own country. [In the paper] we point out that we’ve been the victims of cyber theft and industrial espionage on a much broader scale than any other country has ever perpetrated against the U.S.”

BREAKING: Michael Avenatti Reveals Client Making ‘Gang Rape’ Allegation Against Kavanaugh

Attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, earlier this week, claimed to have a client with a third allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He made the announcement, and tweeted lurid accusations, without offering the identity of the client or any evidence. Today, Avenatti tweeted a name and photo of that client, along with a sworn statement from the alleged victim laying out her serious allegations.

In the statement, Julie Swetnick, a current government employee, alleges Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge attended a party where she was drugged and gang raped by a series of boys. While she does not accuse Kavanaugh of assaulting her, she claims she witnessed him participate in the gang rapes. In his tweet that included the screenshots, Avenatti asserted that Kavanaugh’s nomination must not go forward without more investigation of the claims.

Paragraph 13 of the sworn statement (below) has the specific personal allegation.

In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these “gang” or “train” rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present. Shortly after the incident, I shared what had transpired with at least two other people. During the incident, I was incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me. I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking.”

Davis’ statement (below) also alleges that she witnessed Kavanaugh waiting in a rape line for his “turn” in the gang rape of another woman, whom they allegedly incapacitated.

I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be “gang raped” in a side room or bedroom by a “train” of numerous boys. I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their “turn” with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.”

Below are the images of the statement shared by Avenatti.

[Featured image via Getty Images]

Fed to Raise Rates by 1/4 of ONE and Still Not DONE

Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, reacts to a question during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. 
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, reacts to a question during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.

The Fed is expected to raise interest rates by a quarter point Wednesday and indicate it plans to keep hiking them in what many expect to be a hawkish message for markets. Wall Street economists expect the Fed to make a number of changes that reinforces a hawkish tone, including raising its growth forecasts, dropping language that says its policy is accommodative and sounding more confident about the outlook. The Fed releases its statement and revised economic and interest rate forecasts at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell holds a briefing at 2:30 p.m. Ahead of the meeting, the 2-year Treasury note yield Tuesday rose to 2.84 percent, its highest level since 2008. The 2-year most reflects Fed policy but the 10-year was also moving higher, touching just below its year high of 3.12 percent Tuesday.

Rising rates fail to deliver big bank rally, market watchers say
Rising rates fail to deliver big bank rally, market watchers say

“I think there’s one very key thing we have to watch…which is they increase their long-term growth forecast. Currently it’s 1.8 percent,” said Jim Caron, portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “If they take it up to 1.9 percent, that’s a pretty important signal.” A higher longer term growth rate is both hawkish and bullish. It means the Fed is also likely to raise its near term forecasts, but it also means it sees a sustainable higher pace of growth for the economy, implying higher corporate earnings growth. Mark Cabana, head of U.S. short rate strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, also expects the Fed to boost its growth forecasts, for the near term and the longer term. “I don’t think the Fed is going to come out and sound like they’re on the war path to raising rates. I think they’re going to sound more measured— ‘the data has been strong, and we’re more confident in our forecast,'” said Cabana. Cabana said he expects the Fed to “sound more confident in the outlook, more confident to keep going the way they have been going, and I think the market will probably not be sorry it’s pricing in ongoing rate increases from the Fed.” He said the market is now pricing two hikes for next year, nearly double what it was expecting just several weeks ago. “It’s just a fact the data in the U.S. continues to be strong. Some of the worst fears over trade were not realized,” he said. He expects the Fed will keep its forecast of four hikes for this year, three for next, one for 2020, and in a new forecast, add about a half a hike in 2021. That would bring the fed funds rate to 3.50 percent.

Savings rates still lag as Fed readies eighth increase of the cycle

The average rate on a 12-month CD is not even a half point
Reuters Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

When the Federal Reserve had interest rates near zero, critics in Congress and on Wall Street would argue that the central bank was waging a “war on savers.” Few are making that argument now that the Fed has increased interest rates seven times, and on Wednesday the central bank is due to make its eighth increase. Yet savers effectively have seen just one rate increase. According to RateWatch, the average rate that savers get on a benchmark $10,000 minimum, 12-month certificate of deposit was just 0.43% in August. Meanwhile, the federal funds rate was 1.91%, and is expected to head higher on Wednesday when the Federal Open Market Committee meets.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell back in February acknowledged that retail deposit rates were “sticky” on the way up. “They generally come up with a lag,” he told the House Financial Services Committee. Banks have profited. Net interest income in the second quarter rose 9% to $134.1 billion, with 85% of banks reporting year-over-year increases, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported. Net interest margins rose to 3.38%, a six-year high. It’s not always the case that depositors fare worse. Particularly during the recession, banks kept savings rates high since funding was scarce.

Stock investors should be wary of consumer confidence at an 18-year high

High levels of confidence tend to be followed by weak market returns
Courtesy Everett Collection

U.S. consumers are feeling very good about the economy, but history suggests that may ultimately lead to investor disappointment. Multiple reads of confidence have come in extremely strong lately, and while many view this as an optimistic sign for spending and demand, many market watchers also see it as a contrarian signal, one that suggests a complacency building in the market. That dynamic, in turn, could signal tepid future returns. On Tuesday, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index jumped to its highest level in 18 years, signaling a level of optimism that is near all-time highs. That comes on the heels of a reading of small-business sentiment, which hit a record in August. And as pointed out by Liz Ann Sonders, the chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, a Gallup poll showed that the percentage of Americans who see economic issues as their biggest problem “is at the lowest level in decades.”

Previous lows on with this poll question have occurred near market peaks, including in the late 1990s and before the financial crisis.

According to Charlie Bilello, director of research at Pension Partners, high levels of confidence tend to be followed by “below-average returns and a lower probability of a positive return” going forward. “When there’s good news in the economy (high consumer confidence), investors are willing to pay a higher multiple for a given level of earnings than when there’s bad news (lower consumer confidence),” he wrote in a blog post published in August. “That’s important when it comes to stocks because higher valuations tend to be associated with below average forward returns.” Per Bilello’s data, when consumer confidence readings are in the top decile, the average forward return for the S&P 500 SPX, -0.13%   over the coming year is 3.8%. When confidence is in its lowest decile—meaning consumers are at their least confident about the market—the average return is significantly higher, at 19.3%. Overall, the average return is 12.2%. When confidence is low, that tends to be following by strong gains for an extended period. According the data, investors have historically seen double-digit returns every year for seven years (on an annualized basis) following weak confidence readings. Furthermore, there is an extremely high likelihood of positive returns following low confidence readings. On the other hand, when confidence is high, as it is now, returns are slightly negative on a two-year, three-year, and four-year basis. In addition, there is a greater-than-even chance of negative returns in the subsequent years, as demonstrated by the table below.

Courtesy Pnesion Partners

Torsten Sløk, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, recently wrote that confidence was “at levels normally indicating a recession is imminent.” On a related note, strategists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently wrote that the current strength of the economy and stock market could embolden President Donald Trump on geopolitical issues, risking “a major miscalculation from sanctions that are tough to calibrate.” While consumers are extremely optimistic about the economy, many on Wall Street aren’t, or, at least, they are unabashedly euphoric. According to the latest survey of investor sentiment by the American Association of Individual Investors, the number of investors who describe themselves as bullish on the market—meaning they expect prices will be higher in six months—is below the historical average.

The Fed has a lot to talk about besides higher interest rates

Presidential influence. A trade war with China. Rising interest rates. Recession-proofing of US banks.
Those are just some of the topics Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is likely to face at a press conference on Wednesday after the Federal Open Market Committee concludes its two-day policy-setting meeting.

Policymakers gathered in Washington this week are expected to raise the benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point for the third time this year, to a range of 2% to 2.25%. The rate hike is widely expected by investors. What’s not as well known is how the Fed is contending with risks to economic growth, including the ballooning trade war and rising oil prices, or with President Donald Trump’s desire to keep rates low. What’s more, in recent weeks, Fed officials have appeared publicly divided on how fast the Fed will need to act next year and beyond. The central bank has penciled in a fourth rate hike later this year, then three more in 2019 and one in 2020. Analysts will be watching for any possible changes when policymakers update their forecast on Wednesday. All eyes will be on Powell, who will have an opportunity to respond publicly to Trump’s criticisms about the Fed’s policies. Over the summer, the president took the rare step of repeatedly going after his Fed chair, who he said was undermining America’s competitive edge against China by raising interest rates. Since Trump took office, the Fed has raised rates five times, including twice this year under Powell. The Fed is gradually raising rates as the economy gains strength.

“I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” Trump, who appointed Powell to lead the central bank, said during an interview with Reuters in August. “I should be given some help by the Fed.

Presidents have historically avoided commenting on the Fed’s policies. The central bank is designed to be independent from political interference. The Fed hasn’t commented on the president’s criticism. But Powell expressed a deep commitment to the central bank’s independence during an interview with American Public Media’s “Marketplace” radio show in July. Fed officials are already worried about how the trade war may affect the US economy. But as tensions rise, how is the Fed calculating and planning for those risks and uncertainties? That’s the question investors want answered. Policymakers have said a “major escalation” of trade disputes could speed inflation and cause businesses to pull back on investments, according to minutes of their July meeting. Such turmoil, participants noted, could reduce household spending and disrupt companies’ supply chains. So far, Powell has been publicly cautious about the impact that trade tensions could have on wages and capital spending. “We don’t see it in the numbers yet, but we’ve heard a rising chorus of concern” about businesses scaling back plans for capital spending, Powell told lawmakers in July. He also said it’s challenging to forecast the economic impact. Since Powell said that, the Trump administration has followed through on its threats to impose a 10% tariff on $200 billion in Chinese goods, on top of other tariffs levied on China earlier this year. The most recent level is set to rise next year to 25% if the trade impasse is not resolved. Efforts to restart talks between the world’s two largest economies have also waned, adding to uncertainty about how long the trade fight will continue. Some officials, like Fed Governor Lael Brainard, have argued that the recent tax cuts and a spike in government spending will further heat the economy and require higher interest rates over the next year or two. In August, Powell defended the Fed’s strategy of raising rates gradually at a conference in Wyoming. He said it keeps the economy on even keel, as long as inflation is stable and unemployment continues to fall. For the first time, Fed officials are also weighing whether to trigger a mechanism that would require banks to hold even more capital as a buffer against a financial calamity. The regulatory tool, created under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, requires banks to pad their balance sheets with additional capital during good economic times to help soften the fallout in periods of hardship. It’s never been used before, and banks don’t want to see it take effect. But Fed officials are debating whether to push forward to lessen the likelihood of another financial crisis.

PM May – No-deal Brexit better than current EU offer

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May signalled on Tuesday that she would prefer a ‘no-deal’ Brexit to the offer currently put forward by the European Union, stressing that Britain needs to see counter-proposals from the EU to move Brexit negotiations forward. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement on Brexit negotiations with the European Union at Number 10 Downing Street, London September 21, 2018 . Jack Taylor/Pool via Reuters May last week issued an angry edict to Brussels when a summit of EU leaders which had been billed as a chance to generate momentum towards a deal in October or November ended in a blunt dismissal of British proposals. “I’ve always said no deal is better than a bad deal,” May told reporters. “I think a bad deal would be a deal that broke up the United Kingdom,” May said when asked whether a no-deal Brexit was better than one similar to the existing Canada-EU trade deal. Her spokesman said later that May was specifically referring to the type of deal the EU is currently offering on future trade, which Britain believes will split England, Wales and Scotland from Northern Ireland by insisting Northern Ireland adhere to different customs rules. Her position also effectively rules out alternative Brexit proposals put forward by rebel eurosceptic members of her own party, which are based on a wide-ranging free trade agreement similar to that agreed between the EU and Canada. Speaking to reporters on her way to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, May said she welcomed comments from European Council President Donald Tusk that the bloc still wanted to strike a deal, but added that the onus was still on the EU to break the deadlock on Chequers. “If they have concerns, they need to detail those concerns to us and if they have counter-proposals, let’s hear the counter proposals and then we can discuss those,” she said. May said the opposition Labour Party’s Brexit plans were not in the national interest after Labour’s Brexit policy chief said the party was likely to vote against any deal she reaches with the European Union. Even if May is able to secure a deal on Brexit with Brussels, it is far from certain she will be able to get the terms approved by parliament. In addition to Labour lawmakers, many in her own party also disagree with her exit plans. If she loses a vote, May has said Britain will leave the EU without a deal. But, in the likely chaos around a parliamentary defeat she could also face a leadership challenge, calls for a new national election, and even a second Brexit referendum. “I still do believe that we can get a good deal … at that point all members of parliament will have a clear choice,” she said. “They’ll have to recognise, looking at their vote, that what we’re doing is delivering on the vote of the referendum, delivering on the vote of the British people.”

Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to meet on Thursday

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, will meet on Thursday to discuss Rosenstein’s future.

A source told Reuters that Rosenstein had spent the weekend contemplating whether he should resign after a New York Times report last week said he had suggested secretly recording Trump in 2017. The White House announced the meeting on Monday after a flurry of conflicting reports about whether Rosenstein, a frequent target of Trump’s anger, would be leaving the post. “At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter. She said the meeting will be on Thursday because Trump was at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday and has meetings with world leaders later in the week. The Rosenstein furor, kicked off by unconfirmed reports that he had verbally resigned, underscored the mounting tension in the White House over the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election. There had been widespread speculation that Trump would fire Rosenstein since Friday when a New York Times report said that in 2017 Rosenstein had suggested secretly recording the president and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke a constitutional amendment to remove him from office.The Times said none of those proposals came to fruition. Rosenstein denied the report as “inaccurate and factually incorrect.” Shortly after the Times story, Trump told supporters at a rally in Missouri that there is “a lingering stench” at the Justice Department and that “we’re going to get rid of that, too.” Rosenstein’s departure would prompt questions about the future of Mueller’s investigation and whether Trump, who has called the probe a “witch hunt,” would seek to remove Mueller.

US student debt might lead to the next financial crisis

In may not be trigonometry, but if you do the math, there is a great divide in how an estimated $2 trillion will be paid back in the near future. For some analysts, US student debt has shades of the subprime crisis that felled the economy back in 2007

Next crash will be ‘worse than the Great Depression’: experts

But this time, instead of bricks and mortar for collateral, the new toxic debt is “secured” by diplomas, the supply in many cases far exceeding demand. “What is the collateral there? I will give you my English thesis on Henry James in return?” asked P.J. O’Rourke, the best-selling author and economic satirist, of the riskiest student loans. O’Rourke told said, while promoting his new book, “None of My Business” (Grove Atlantic), that mounting unsecured debt such as student loans is setting the economy up for financial disaster. “We are headed for trouble,” he said. At its current pace, student debt is careening toward $2 trillion within the next three years, according to debt calculations. By contrast, in March 2007, in the lead-up to the financial crisis, the value of subprime mortgages was estimated at $1.3 trillion.

Global Debt Now at $247 Trillion, Crisis Looms

Concept of Earth imprisoned by big heavy debt
© Tomas Griger | Dreamstime.com By F McGuire

Global debt has been soaring to stratospheric levels, seemingly without anything to stop its runaway path. And that unbridled spending could very well trigger America’s worst economic crisis in a decade. To be sure, the amount of debt held by both mature and emerging markets tracked by the Institute of International Finance rose to a record $247 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, up 11.1 percent from the same period a year ago, Reuters reported. “We think the major economies are on the cusp of turning into the worst recessions we have seen in 10 years,” Murray Gunn, chief of global research at Elliott Wave International, told the New York Post. “Should the [U.S.] economy start to shrink, and our analysis suggests that it will, the high nominal levels of debt will instantly become a very big issue,” Gunn said, according to the Post. The global-debt report, recently released by global bank-lobbying group IIF, said the ratio of debt to gross domestic product of these nations, which include the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the majority of emerging market economies, increased to 318 percent. That is the first quarterly increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio since the third quarter of 2016. “With global growth losing some momentum and becoming more divergent, and U.S. rates rising steadily, worries about credit risk are returning to the fore – including in many mature economies,” the IIF said. Since December 2015, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates seven times to a range of 1.75 percent to 2.00 percent, with more increases expected. Debt levels for household, non-financial corporate and general government sectors rose to $186 trillion in the first quarter of 2018. Financial sector debt rose to a record high $61 trillion. Emerging market debt rose by $2.5 trillion to a record $58.5 trillion in the first quarter. Meanwhile, it’s corporate sector debt that investors should be worried about, said Joseph LaVorgna, chief Americas economist at Natixis. “The corporate sector is highly leveraged and could be very vulnerable to higher interest rates,” LaVorgna told CNBC, which cited his research note that warned a primary reason corporate debt-to-GDP is so high is thanks to interest rates being historically low due to quantitative easing and forward guidance. “Firms have used artificially low rates to borrow in the capital markets and only buy back stock in the equity market,” LaVorgna said. “The inherent instability of debt over equity financing suggests that the next downturn could hit investment spending unusually hard.”

OPEC Signals No Rush to Increase Oil Output

The Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, center, on Sunday at the OPEC meeting in Algiers. “Since June, Saudi Arabia has met the demand for every barrel that has been requested,” he said .CreditCreditEPA, via Shutterstock

 

Oil producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia signaled on Sunday that they did not see any rush to increase output, despite pressure from President Trump to pump more oil and hold down prices. Meeting in Algiers, officials from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied governments, including Russia, said that after having increased production in recent months, customers now have adequate supplies. “Since June, Saudi Arabia has met the demand for every barrel that has been requested,” the Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, said at a news conference after the meeting. The Saudis and their allies appear to be trying to walk a fine line between accommodating Mr. Trump and not putting so much oil into the market that prices crash — as they did in 2014, damaging their petroleum-dependent economies. “They are trying to assuage Trump while keeping internal OPEC division from blowing up in the open,” said Antoine Halff, a founding partner of Kayrros, a research firm based in Paris. With oil prices recently hovering at around $80 a barrel for Brent crude, Mr. Trump has used Twitter and other means to lean on OPEC to increase oil supplies. His messages have mainly been directed at Saudi Arabia, the largest OPEC producer. Last week, Mr. Trump renewed his pressure. “We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!. Analysts say Mr. Trump wants to try to head off higher gasoline prices in the United States that could hurt Republican candidates in the coming midterm elections. “Sitting presidents in an election year have a proverbial fear of high oil prices,” Mr. Halff said. The agreement by OPEC and Russia in late 2016 to restrain oil production has contributed to a nearly 20 percent rise in Brent crude prices this year. Mr. Trump’s decision this year to reimpose sanctions on Iran has also helped push up prices, analysts say. Traders are calculating that exports from Iran, a major producer, may dry up in the coming months. The full sanctions do not kick in until November, but analysts say Iranian sales are already falling as buyers in Europe and Asia cut orders because they fear being hit with financial penalties by Washington. Responding to pressure from Mr. Trump, the Saudis and allies like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have increased production since May but not by the full one million barrels a day that Mr. Falih had indicated at OPEC’s last meeting in June. In a statement on Sunday, the OPEC group urged countries that could produce more oil “to work with customers to meet their demand during the remaining months of 2018.”

NBC News/WSJ poll: Democrats hold the advantage in November’s elections

by Mark Murray

WASHINGTON — Six weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats hold a 12-point lead in congressional preference among registered voters, with nearly six-in-10 saying they’d like to see significant change in the direction President Donald Trump has been leading the country, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The results suggest a political environment where Democrats have the clear advantage in their pursuit to win back control of Congress in November.

“Americans are hitting the brake in a midterm, and trying to send the signal that they’re not satisfied,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollsters at Hart Research Associates. “The public is clearly saying, once again, they want to shake up the status quo,” added Democratic pollster Fred Yang.

House leader Nancy Pelosi are potent in individual races; and that nearly 70 percent of voters are satisfied with the economy. In the survey, which was conducted Sept. 16-19, 52 percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want the Republicans in charge.

That 12-point lead for Democrats — their highest of the cycle in the poll — is an increase from August, when they held an 8-point edge, 50 percent to 42 percent, although the change is within the survey’s margin of error.

In the larger pool of registered voters, McInturff points to warning signs for Republicans. They trail Democrats among moderates and independents by more than 30 points; they’re losing women ages 50 and older by nearly 20 points; and they’re behind among voters living in competitive congressional districts by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent. Additionally, a combined 59 percent of voters say they’d like to see either “a great deal of change” or “quite a bit of change” in the direction Trump has been leading the country. That includes 61 percent of independents and even a third of Republican respondents. And by a 42 percent-to-31 percent margin, voters say their message in November will be for more Democrats to serve as a check and balance to Trump and the congressional Republicans, instead of Republicans who will help Trump and the GOP pass their agenda.  President Trump’s job rating in the poll stands at 44 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove — essentially unchanged from August’s poll.

Venezuela crisis: Chinese hospital ship docks for a week

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Traditional Venezuelan dancers welcomed the hospital ship when it arrived on Saturday

A Chinese hospital ship has docked in Venezuela, where for the next week it will provide free health care to local patients. Venezuela’s Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino López, went to the port of La Guaira to welcome the Chinese crew. He said that the Peace Ark’s visit was agreed by President Nicolás Maduro during a visit to Beijing last week.

Venezuela agreed at the time to increase its exports of oil to China, which is one of its main creditors.

Venezuela’s economic crisis has led to severe shortages of food and medicines and the collapse of public services. The opposition says the presence of a Chinese hospital ship in Venezuela shows the extent of the humanitarian crisis. Mr Padrino López thanked China for the gesture of friendship and said that both countries would benefit. “It is a pleasure to have this ship in Venezuela, which has arrived here after travelling to more than 40 countries” he said. “This is how true diplomacy is done: with concrete cooperation actions,” added Mr Padrino López. The Venezuelan government blames an international boycott led by the United States for Venezuela’s economic crisis. On Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised to unveil “in the coming days” a series of actions against “Venezuelan leadership folks”. President Donald Trump has previously called President Maduro a dictator and accused his government of illegally detaining, beating up and killing opposition activists.Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country over the past year, as the crisis worsened. According to United Nations figures, 2.3 million people left Venezuela between 2014 and June 2018. Mr Maduro travelled to China last week, looking for support to help rebuild the economy. He said he had signed 28 trade and investment deals with China.

 Venezuela said it would increase oil exports to 1 million barrels a day.

The two countries also agreed to invest $5bn (£3.8bn) to help rebuild Venezuela’s ailing oil industry.

China summons U.S. ambassador to protest sanctions over Russia military equipment

FILE PHOTO: Flags of U.S. and China are placed for a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing, China, June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

SHANGHAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry on Saturday summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing to protest Washington’s decision to sanction a Chinese military agency and its director for purchasing Russian fighter jets and an advanced surface-to-air missile system. Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned Ambassador Terry Branstad to lodge “stern representations” and protest the sanctions, the foreign ministry said. Earlier, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said China’s decision to buy fighter jets and missile systems from Russia was a normal act of cooperation between sovereign countries, and the United States had “no right to interfere”. On Thursday, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department (EED), the branch of the military responsible for weapons procurement, after it engaged in “significant transactions” with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter. The sanctions are related to China’s purchase of 10 SU-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018, the State Department said. A senior U.S. State Department official on Saturday said China was the only country that had taken possession of the advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system, in a breach of a U.S. sanctions law imposed in response to Russia’s “malign behaviour”. The official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, insisted that the sanctions were aimed at Moscow, not Beijing. The so-called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, was signed into law in 2017 to punish Russia for meddling in U.S. elections, aggression in Ukraine and involvement in Syria’s civil war. “China is the first country in the world to use both of those systems,” the official said. “Both of those systems are extremely sophisticated and very high value.” The mobile S-400 batteries, which include radars, a control system, and missiles with a range of up to 250 miles (402.34 km), was first deployed in Russia in 2007 and is considered Moscow’s most effective defence against aircraft, missiles and drones. Russia has deployed S-400s in Syria, according to official Russian news media, and U.S. officials have been discussing the interest other nations, particularly NATO ally Turkey, have expressed in buying the system. Washington has expressed concern that Turkey’s planned deployment of S-400s could threaten some U.S.-made weapons and other technology used by Turkey, including the F-35 fighter jet. The official said the move against the Chinese agency was not discretionary, but was made because Beijing broke U.S. law. “We hope it will be paid attention to because … our goal is to prevent these types of transactions,” he added. The U.S. sanctions will block the EED and its director, Li Shangfu, from applying for export licences and participating in the U.S. financial system. “The U.S. approach is a blatant violation of the basic norms of international relations, a full manifestation of hegemony, and a serious breach of the relations between the two countries and their two militaries,” Wu said in a notice posted on the Chinese defence ministry’s official Wechat account. He warned that the United States would face “consequences” if it did not immediately revoke the sanctions.

From reality TV to U.N., Trump to wield Security Council gavel

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – He has chaired board meetings, cabinet meetings and starred in a reality television show, but on Wednesday U.S. President Donald Trump will wield the gavel in the United Nations Security Council to denounce Iran for what it sees as its malign regional behavior. Trump is able to preside over the 15-member council as the United States holds the monthly rotating presidency, which coincides with the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week. “I am sure that’s going to be the most watched Security Council meeting ever,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters. But despite the unpredictable nature of Trump, some diplomats aren’t expecting a reality television performance in the Security Council, where nearly every member is likely to be represented by their prime minister or president except Russia and China, which are expected to send ministers “I don’t think it will be that entertaining at all,” said one senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Even those who don’t like him, the attitude of all other heads of state and government in a public meeting when faced with any president of the United States of America is to be on their best behavior,” the diplomat said. It is rare for the council – formed in 1945 to maintain international peace and security – to meet at the head-of-state and government level. This will be the third time the body is chaired by a U.S. president. It has the ability to impose sanctions or authorize the use of military force. Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama presided over meetings in 2009 and 2014 on nuclear non-proliferation and foreign terrorist fighters. In both cases the council adopted resolutions on the topics under discussion. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said there are no plans to adopt a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting. “We want to make sure (Iran) understands the world is watching. That’s the biggest reason for this meeting,” she said earlier this month. The topic of the meeting will be non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a broad issue that allows leaders around the horse-shoe table to raise a variety of subjects from North Korea to chemical weapons attacks in Syria and Britain. However, Trump signaled on Twitter he will zero in on Iran, when he posted: “I will chair a United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran.” Tehran has accused the United States of abusing the power of the Security Council president. The U.S. concept note on the meeting circulated to Security Council members does not specifically mention any countries. “The purpose of this meeting is to discuss ways the Security Council can better enforce the resolutions it has adopted … to counter the spread and use of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” it reads.

Next crash will be ‘worse than the Great Depression’: experts

Ten years ago, it was too-easy credit that brought financial markets to their knees. Today, it could be a global debt of $247 trillion that causes the next crash. After a decade of escalating US household debt brought on by low wages and the national debt more than doubling over the same time frame, to $21 trillion, debt could soon put the brakes on this economic recovery, analysts warn. “We think the major economies are on the cusp of this turning into the worst recession we have seen in 10 years,” said Murray Gunn, head of global research at Elliott Wave International. And in a note, he added: “Should the [US] economy start to shrink, and our analysis suggests that it will, the high nominal levels of debt will instantly become a very big issue.”

  • US household debt of $13.3 trillion now exceeds the 2008 peak. That’s due in part to mortgage lending, which is hovering near its decade-ago level of $9 trillion-plus.
  • Student loans outstanding have skyrocketed from $611 billion in 2008 to around $1.5 trillion today.
  • Auto loans, at nearly $1.25 trillion, have exceeded the 2008 total, while credit card balances are just as high now as before the Great Recession.
    Meanwhile, global debt — a result of central bankers flooding economies with cheap money to lift them out of an funk — is now $247 trillion, up from $177 trillion in 2008. That is close to 2 ¹/₂ times the size of the global economy.

“We won’t be able to call it a recession, it’s going to be worse than the Great Depression,” said economic commentator Peter Schiff, forecasting a major economic downturn as early as the tail end of the Trump presidency’s first term. “The US economy is in so much worse shape than it was a decade ago.” Economic theorists say insurmountable debt is the big kahuna. The huge sums today certainly fed the boom times. But since it must eventually be repaid, the tipping point will come when a wave of defaults by overwhelmed borrowers — potentially squeezed by rising interest rates — leads to a widespread reduction in spending and incomes, economists explain Although Schiff has gotten some calls wrong in the past — he incorrectly predicted the US Federal Reserve would fail in its roundabout quantitative easing campaign to “reflate” housing and stocks in the wake of the financial crisis — he is convinced he is right on the money this time. “I think we are going to have a dollar crisis — you think the Turkish lira looks bad now, wait till you see when the dollar is imploding and we have a sovereign debt crisis in the US,” he told The Post. “The US government is going to be given a choice between defaulting on the debt, or else massive runaway inflation.” Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs said the fiscal outlook for the US was “not good,” and could threaten the nation’s economic security during the next recession. Schiff dismisses the latest batch of positive indicators, including the lowest unemployment rate in a generation, soaring business confidence spurred by President Trump’s tax cuts and the Dow hitting record highs. “Obviously, there is a whole lot of optimism — but there is a very good chance the US economy is in recession within the next two years. This is already the second-longest economic expansion in history,” Schiff said, adding that recent dips in new housing starts and auto sales may be red flags. Gunn sees a brutal deflationary spiral ahead in the next downturn. “People will look to central banks to help them out, but the authorities will be found wanting,” Gunn warned. “Our prediction is that central banks will go from being feted for ‘saving the world’ in 2008 to being vilified for being impotent in the coming deflationary crash.”

Yeild Curve Flattening End of Bull market in stocks is neigh

All bull markets come to an end, even the 35-year Great Bond Bull Market.

The US Treasury 2-year yield crept up 3 basis points during the week, to 2.81% at the close on Friday, the highest since June 2008. In a month or two, as the fourth rate hike for 2018 and more rate hikes next year are getting further baked in, the 2-year yield will cross the 3% mark! Just two years ago, many soothsayers on Wall Street said this would never happen again – that the Fed, in fact, could never raise rates to this point. But here we are.

The 10-year yield rose 8 basis points during the week, to 3.07%. This widened the spread between the 2-year and the 10-year yield on Friday to a still hair-thin 26 basis points. This chart shows that spread going back to 2007:

For periods in 2006 and 2007, the 2-year yield was higher than the 10-year yield, and thus the yield curve was “inverted.” At the left end of the chart, denoting 2007, the line dipped below zero. The Great Recession officially began in December 2007, by which time the yield curve was no longer inverted as the Fed had started cutting short-term rates. This scenario has played out repeatedly in past decades, when the “inverted yield curve” phenomenon was followed by recessions or worse. Inverted yield curves didn’t cause those recessions; but they were reliable predictors of them. The chart below of the 2-year and 10-year yields shows the last two recessions (shaded areas), the yield curve inversions before those recessions, and the steepening of the yield curves following the recessions. The yield curve inverted where the black line is above the red line (click on the chart to enlarge):

Starting in 2008, the Fed imposed its yield-repression policy on the Treasury market, thus totally manipulating the market. But since December 2015, the Fed has been “gradually” stepping away from those methods of yield repression. So the yield curve is not showing free-market behavior; it’s showing the Fed’s manipulations, and the side-effects of the Fed’s backing away from these manipulations.

There will be another recession. There always is at some point. A recession is an essential and necessary part of the normal business cycle. The only question is when

During these 35 years, yields dropped during each recession as the Fed cut rates, but then yields didn’t return to prior highs. Instead they wobbled from lower lows to lower lows. And after each recession, their peaks remained lower than their peaks before the recession. Nick Bit: This time rates will go negative…And the great recession will turn into a Great Depression

 

U.K.’s Theresa May Says Brexit Negotiations Have Reached ‘an Impasse’

The prime minister said it was now up to the European Union to provide an alternative Brexit deal
Getty Images

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday warned that Brexit talks had hit an impasse and called on European leaders to present new proposals as negotiations between the two sides turn increasingly acrimonious. Following a tense meeting with her EU counterparts earlier this week in Salzburg, where her post-Brexit plans were rejected as being unworkable, May said it was now up to European leaders to smooth the path for Britain’s departure from the European Union. “We now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them,” May said, standing in front of two Union Jack flags in Downing Street. “Until we do, we cannot make progress.” Investors are becoming increasingly nervous that the U.K. could crash out of the EU without a deal. The pound GBPUSD, -1.4169%  slipped further against the dollar DXY, +0.34%   and the euro EURUSD, -0.2547%   as May spoke, adding to losses earlier in the day. The pound was down 1.5% against the dollar and 1% against the euro.

Walmart letter warns tariffs will raise prices and tax American businesses

The retail giant says tariffs put a commitment to purchase ‘$250 billion in products that support American jobs’ at risk

Getty Walmart, and many other retailers, are opposed to the proposed tariffs

Walmart Inc. has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer warning that proposed tariffs on $200 billion on Chinese goods would hurt consumers and American businesses.The letter, dated September 6, focuses on what Walmart WMT, +0.16%  says will be the repercussions of the tariffs, which would apply to goods like food and beverages, personal care products like shampoo, detergents, motor vehicles and paper goods like napkins. Walmart is the biggest retailer in the U.S.The tariffs were initially proposed in July and are scheduled to go into effect on September 24. The 10% tax on Chinese imports will rise to 25% on January 1, 2019, according to members of the Trump administration.  China said it would impose tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods. And China’s Commerce Ministry has vowed retaliation and says the proposed U.S. plan has led to “uncertainty” for negotiations between the two countries. “Should the tariffs go into effect, Walmart customers will face cost increases for essential items like car seats, cribs, backpacks, hats, pet products and bicycles,” Walmart’s letter says. The company also said that tariffs would put a commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs in jeopardy. “For lower-income families, a 25% tax on these items would be a serious burden on household finances,” Walmart wrote. “Walmart and our suppliers will pay the cost of increased duties, which are simply taxes levied on products at the border. As a result, either consumers will pay more, suppliers will receive less, retail margins will be lower, or consumers will buy fewer products or forego purchases altogether.” Walmart outlined the hurdles in finding alternate suppliers, including safety issues on products for children, and the fact that China is the primary or sole source of imports for many products. There are also requirements that new suppliers have to meet, and costs that could come from the change. The retailer also says that it serves as an exporter of many goods through channels like Walmart China. Many of these items face tariffs as well. Cherries, for example, face 50% duties and, according to Walmart, have seen sales and margins slip. Other U.S. items of concern include beef, pork, nuts and wine, which are subject to Chinese retaliation. The National Retail Federation has also chimed in, with the organization’s President Matthew Shay saying that “thousands” of businesses consider this a “tax on American families.” The NRF has joined a coalition of more than 100 groups called Americans for Free Trade that will oppose tariffs and partnered with Farmers for Free Trade on a campaign that will host town hall events and perform outreach to Congress and the Trump administration on the issue. Events are planned for Chicago, Nashville, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“It’s disappointing that, despite the voices of those impacted, the administration continues to advance harmful tariff policies that threaten to weaken the U.S. economy,” the statement said. “We cannot afford further escalation, especially with the holiday shopping season right around the corner.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association says it is “disappointed” by the tariff announcement as well.

U.S. oil sanctions on Iran threaten global supplies, but a demand slowdown poses a real risk

China already shows ‘signs of reducing their level of [oil] imports’: analyst
Getty Images

There are still several weeks before U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil actually kick in, but expectations of tight crude inventories already have contributed to much of this year’s gain in global prices. The rise has come despite concerns over potentially lower energy demand and plans by two of the world’s biggest producers to boost output. “The markets are always forward-looking,” said Tamar Essner, energy director at Nasdaq IR Intelligence. “Exports from Iran are already down about 35%, when you look at crude and condensate [a very light oil] together,” since President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May. The deal between Iran and six world powers and the European Union was made to ensure that Tehran’s nuclear program had a peaceful purpose, rather than to make nuclear weapons. “The market has really been surprised by the degree of enforcement from the U.S.,” Essner said. In the past, she adds, Washington had “targeted reductions in exports” with sanctions, but the current administration has “focused on elimination” of exports from Iran, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ third-largest producer. Nations such as South Korea have reached full compliance with the sanctions, and “critically, we’ve also seen China already showing signs of reducing their level of imports,” Essner said, noting that a buildup of Iranian oil in offshore storage shows that “it’s been harder for Iran to find buyers.” U.S. allies have until Nov. 4 to end imports of oil from that country.Since Trump’s announcement in early May through mid-September, the price of Brent crude LCOX8, +0.91% the global benchmark, climbed roughly 7%. It settled at $78.60 a barrel on Thursday, up about 18% since the year began. “European companies will almost certainly comply with these sanctions to avoid fines and confrontation with the U.S.,” said Sebastian Leburn, senior portfolio manager of Boston Private. “About a third of Iran oil is exported to Europe, and this is where the curtailment will be most pronounced.” Iran’s crude and condensate exports averaged 1.92 million barrels a day in August, down from 2.32 million in July, according to estimates from S&P Global Platts. Saudi Arabia and Russia have been trying to ensure market stability in the aftermath of the Iran sanctions, but some question their ability to make up for the lost barrels of crude. In June, OPEC and allied producers said they would rein in production curbs implemented in January 2017. That could raise daily output by one million barrels, to help offset a possible supply shortage from the Iran sanctions and production losses in Venezuela and elsewhere. A committee of OPEC and non-OPEC producers was expected to discuss how best allocate the production increase at a meeting in Algiers on Sept. 23. However, it’s doubtful that Saudi Arabia or Russia can make up for the lost oil, maintains Campbell Faulkner, a senior data analyst at EOXLive. “Neither country has the swing production it did a number of years ago.” It’s more likely that U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude prices CLX8, +1.00%  will spike into the $100 range, prompting production from drilled-but-uncompleted wells to ramp up, “along with greater U.S. exports to ease the tight market,” said Faulkner. That “will not replace the totality of the loss, but it, along with marginal production increases globally, can soak the market to prevent” oil from going into the $130 range. Trump has imposed tariffs on, and plans even more, on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from China, the world’s largest energy consumer. The “bigger factor through the rest of the year is likely demand rather than supply,” said Brian Youngberg, senior energy analyst at Edward Jones, and the “real” threat to oil demand comes from the “broader economic downturn in emerging markets as a whole, not just China.”

Wells Fargo plans to cut up to 10% of workforce in the next 3 years

  • A customer exits a Wells Fargo & Co. bank branch in Los Angeles Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images A customer exits a Wells Fargo & Co. bank branch in Los Angeles Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wells Fargo is lowering its employee headcount by 5 to 10 percent in the next three years as part of the bank’s ongoing turnaround plan, the company announced Thursday. “We are continuing to transform Wells Fargo to deliver what customers want — including innovative, customer-friendly products and services — and evolving our business model to meet those needs in a more streamlined and efficient manner,” the bank’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan said in a press release. Wells Fargo has 265,000 employees, meaning the reduction would result in a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs. The decline will be a mix of displacements and team member attrition, Sloan said. The move is part of Wells Fargo’s “ongoing transformation, which addresses industry trends and changes in customer behavior, during a regularly scheduled companywide town hall meeting,” Sloan said. The company, which has $1.9 trillion in assets, blamed “changing customer preferences,” including the “adoption of digital self-service capabilities,” as a key catalyst. Shares had little reaction to the news, and were last up by about 0.8 percent.

EU’s Brexit hard line angers Theresa May

We are preparing for no deal,’ says UK prime minister after EU leaders brand her plan unacceptable.
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media at the conclusion of the summit of leaders of the European Union on September 20, 2018 in Salzburg, Austria | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

SALZBURG, Austria — U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May warned Thursday that she is prepared to walk away from the Brexit talks — bringing an acrimonious end to an EU leaders’ summit that was supposed to showcase newfound unity and cooperation in working toward a deal. “Let nobody be in any doubt, as I’ve always said, we are preparing for no deal,” May, visibly angry, said at a news conference just moments after European Council President Donald Tusk declared at a gathering of EU leaders in Salzburg, Austria, that her Brexit plan “will not work.” Appearing defiant, May told reporters she still has hope. “I believe there is willingness to do a deal,” she said. But the prime minister quickly added that she and the U.K. would be ready to walk away. “If we get to the position where it is not possible to reach a deal,” she said, “then the British people can be confident that we will have done what is necessary to ensure we make a success of leaving the European Union, regardless of the terms on which we do so.” “I am negotiating hard in the interests of the British people,” May said. May’s warning came after Tusk and the EU27’s most powerful leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, forcefully rejected the central component of May’s plan for a post-Brexit relationship at a trio of news conferences. They reiterated that the EU would not agree to May’s plan for a free-trade area for goods but not services, which they said would divide the EU’s single market and grant the U.K. preferential benefits over EU members. “While there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work,” Tusk said at the informal summit’s closing news conference, “not least because it will risk undermining the single market.” In a move clearly aimed at pressuring London, Tusk also said EU leaders are standing firm in their demand that negotiators complete a Brexit withdrawal treaty by October, and would not call a special summit for November unless it becomes necessary.

Donald Tusk: UK Brexit plan ‘will not work’

“I am negotiating hard in the interests of the British people. I am negotiating to deliver on what the British people voted for in the referendum” — Theresa May

Tusk’s aides insisted that he merely restated positions that the EU, and its chief negotiator Michel Barnier, have articulated repeatedly over the more than two months since May first unveiled her proposal. The aides said that Tusk did not in any way intend to be provocative. But while the EU opposition is not new, the context of the remarks  — at a major summit, after May addressed her colleagues at a dinner on Wednesday and urged further compromise — seem to strike a significant blow, raising the risk of a breakdown in negotiations. It also appeared to put May in severe political jeopardy at home, just 10 days before the Conservative Party conference. Critics of May’s handling of Brexit, including the former Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the leading Brexiteer MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, quickly demanded that she abandon her Chequers plan. “Chequers goes pop,” Rees-Mogg gloated on Twitter.

More broadly, it is clear once again that Brussels and London might as well be in different universes when it comes to how officials see and hear the debate over Britain’s withdrawal. May’s reaction left a sense that she felt ambushed, even though she had met one-on-one with Tusk just minutes before his news conference. EU officials, in turn, were stunned that May was the least bit surprised by their remarks.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Brexit shows “it’s not so easy to leave the EU, it’s not without a cost, it’s not without consequences …
[Chequers] is not acceptable because it doesn’t respect the integrity of the single market.” He said British voters opted to leave based on lies told to them by advocates of Brexit. Brexit, he said, is “the choice of the British people, a choice pushed by those who predicted easy solutions … they are liars, they left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.” The spectacle of the EU’s top brass piling on in their rejection of May’s plan threatens her chances of reaching a divorce agreement with Brusselsacceptable to her party and parliament. Their criticism will be jumped on by Conservative Brexiteers as further evidence that May should abandon her Chequers plan altogether and begin serious preparations for a no-deal departure if a much looser arrangement cannot be reached for the whole of the U.K.

Michael Cohen spoke to Mueller team for hours; asked about Russia, possible collusion, pardon: Sources

PHOTO: Michael Cohen leaves Federal court, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York City.

President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has participated over the last month in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller, sources tell ABC News. Add Russia Investigation as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Russia Investigation news, video, and analysis from ABC News. The special counsel’s questioning of Cohen, one of the president’s closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump’s dealings with Russia — including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News. Investigators were also interested in knowing, the sources say, whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen. Over the 16 months that Mueller has been investigating, the president has repeatedly bashed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt, insisting there has been no collusion and no obstruction of justice. The interviews with Cohen took place in Washington, D.C., and New York City. They were also attended in part by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s participation in the meetings has been voluntary — without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors, according to several people familiar with the situation. ABC News has also learned that Cohen is also cooperating with a separate probe by New York state authorities into the inner workings of the Trump family charity and the Trump Organization, where Cohen served as an executive vice president and special counsel to Trump for 10 years.

PHOTO: Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2012.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2012.more +

The news of Cohen’s dealings with federal and state investigators comes close on the heels of another potentially perilous legal development for the president: the guilty pleas last week from Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who struck a deal with Mueller’s prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation. As the Manafort deal was taking shape — Mueller’s team had already been talking to Cohen.

Dow jumps more than 250 points to record high as Apple rises and trade-war fears simmer down

Market sentiment has changed in respect to the tariff story, says Pimco EVP
Market sentiment has changed in respect to the tariff story, says Pimco EVP
 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its first record high since January on Thursday as gains in Apple and a decrease in trade fears lifted the 30-stock index. The Dow jumped 255 points as Boeing, Caterpillar and Apple rose. The S&P 500 also rose 0.8 percent to an all-time high, its first since late August, as consumer staples and tech outperformed.President Donald Trump touted the S&P 500’s record in a tweet, saying “Congrats USA!”

The Nasdaq Composite also rose 1 percent as Amazon gained 1 percent ahead of an event where they are expected to unveil new Alexa-powered devices. Apple, meanwhile, jumped 1.3 percent.

Boeing and Caterpillar, two bellwethers for trade, rose 1.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

The Chinese commerce ministry said Thursday the country hopes the U.S. will take steps to correct its behavior. The comments come as the two countries slapped tariffs on each other’s goods.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the closing bell, November 30, 2017 in New York City
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the closing bell, November 30, 2017 in New York City

“I think we’re moving away from fears of a global trade war to maybe just one with China,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist for Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management. Earlier, “it seemed like more countries would be caught in the administration’s cross hairs; not it appears to be just one.” The U.S. administration announced Monday it would inflict 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which would rise to 25 percent by year-end. China retaliated Tuesday by announcing levies targeting over 5,000 American products worth $60 billion and to go into effect next week. The country has also filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the U.S.’ latest round of duties. However, the levies imposed by both countries were seen as less than previously feared, helping lift sentiment on Wall Street. The Dow is up more than 1 percent over the past two days. The S&P 500, meanwhile, has risen more than 0.6 percent in that time period. “I’m not at all surprised investors are taking the latest tariffs and the more muted response from China as a positive,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. She noted that trade news have been both a positive and negative catalyst for stocks this year. Hence, a more muted escalation to the trade conflict is seen as a net positive. “But I don’t think the worries about trade are completely over, especially if the U.S. tariffs on China increase to 25 percent.” J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon also played down the conflict between the U.S. and China, calling it a skirmish and not a trade war. Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt, thinks investors should be more concerned with the trade situation, however. “It will take people some time realize this is not going away anytime soon,” he said. “We think the situation with China will take the longest time to resolve.”

Oil climbs as EIA reports a 5th-straight decline in U.S. crude stockpiles

Traders also weigh Iran sanctions concerns against U.S.-China trade tariffs
AFP/Getty Images

Oil  climbed Wednesday, with the U.S. benchmark getting a boost after a government report revealed a fifth-straight weekly decline in U.S. crude inventories. The decrease in supplies was smaller than the market expected, but it contradicted the increase reported by a trade group on Tuesday. Traders also weighed expectations for lower global output due to impending U.S. sanctions on Iran, as well as the prospects for energy demand on the heels of a worsening trade dispute between the U.S. and China. The U.S. benchmark, October West Texas Intermediate crude CLV8, +0.34% rose 86 cents, or 1.2%, to $70.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which expires at Thursday’s settlement, was trading at $70.41 before the supply data. November Brent LCOX8, +0.39% the global benchmark, added 16 cents, or 0.2%, to trade at $79.19 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, a day after ending up 1.3%.

The Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that domestic crude supplies fell by 2.1 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 14. The EIA had reported declines in each of the previous four weeks.

“Although refinery runs have dropped 442,000 [barrels per day] as we slide into fall maintenance, refining activity remains elevated, with runs over 800,000 [barrels-a-day] higher than in 2016,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, adding that 2017’s figures were “muddied by Hurricane Harvey.” “We see another counter-seasonal draw to crude inventories as rising exports have countered a rebound in imports,” he said. Gasoline stockpiles declined by 1.7 million barrels for the week, while distillate stockpiles climbed by 800,000 barrels, according to the EIA. The S&P Global Platts survey had shown expectations for supply declines of 1.6 million barrels for gasoline, and 282,000 barrels for distillates, which include heating oil.

“If we continue to see that rise—and coupled along with the trade war—we could see the equity markets come off, along with a slowdown in global growth if the trade war goes to the next level,” said Zahir. “Even with Iran barrels [expected] to come off market, the global macro picture could put a damper on crude oil demand as we go through the end of the year.”

Major oil producers, including Russia, have been wrestling with how to ensure market stability once the U.S. sanctions against Iran are imposed in early November. Iran is the third-largest oil producer and a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. On Tuesday, oil prices got a lift from a report indicating that Saudi Arabia—OPEC’s de facto leader— is growing more inured to the prospect of higher Brent futures prices above $80 a barrel. OPEC and other producers including Russia are set to meet on Sept. 23 in Algeria to discuss how to best distribute planned increases to offset the loss of Iranian output, estimated at 1.4 million barrels a day, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

EIA: US crude inventories decrease 2.1 million bbl

US crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, decreased by 2.1 million bbl for the week ended Sept. 14, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. At 394.1 million bbl, US crude oil inventories are about 3% below the 5-year average for this time of year, the report indicated. The report said total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.7 million bbl and are about 8% above the 5-year range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 800,000 bbl last week and are about 2% below the 5-year average for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories increased by 100,000 bbl last week and are about 12% below the 5-year average for this time of year, EIA said. US refinery inputs averaged 17.4 million b/d for the week ended Sept. 14, about 442,000 b/d less than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 95.4% of capacity. Gasoline production decreased, averaging 10.3 million b/d. Distillate fuel production decreased, averaging 5.5 million b/d. US crude oil imports averaged 8 million b/d, up by 433,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged 7.7 million b/d, 6.9% more than the same period last year. Total motor gasoline imports averaged 561,000 b/d. Distillate fuel imports averaged 141,000 b/d.

Senate approves $854B spending bill

The Senate is racing to avoid the third government shutdown of the year ahead of a looming end-of-the-month deadline. Senators on Tuesday voted 93-7 to pass a sweeping $854 billion spending bill that includes funding for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education, which make up the lion’s share of total government spending. Six Republican senators — Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), David Perdue (Ga.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) — joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in voting against the bill, which also includes a short-term stopgap bill to fund the rest of the government through Dec. 7 and prevent a shutdown that would start Oct. 1. Passage of the sweeping package of defense and domestic spending marks a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who has dedicated weeks of floor time to government funding and avoiding another catch-all omnibus bill less than two months before the midterm election, where control of Congress hangs in the balance.  It’s the first time the Senate has approved funding for Labor, HHS or Education outside an omnibus bill since 2007, though even then the package was not completed on time. The bills normally get bogged down by fights over partisan riders, but Senate negotiators agreed early on to avoid attaching them to their legislation and were able to keep them out of the final House-Senate version of the package. “These milestones may sound like inside baseball, but what they signify is a Senate that is getting its appropriations process back on track, a Senate that is attending to vital priorities for our country,” McConnell said.  Despite containing only two appropriations bills, the package represents roughly two-thirds of Congress’s 2019 spending. Of the $854 billion, $785 billion fell under agreed-upon budget caps, and the rest came from off-budget funds such as Overseas Contingency Operations. It includes provisions for military pay raises, defense research, increases for Pell grants and the National Institutes of Health, and workforce development training, among others. The House is out this week but expected to take up the funding legislation next week, ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline to keep the government funded. Congress already sent an initial spending bill to President Trump’s desk that funded military construction and veterans’ affairs, the legislative branch and energy and water. If Trump signs both bills before the end of the month that would allow lawmakers to get 5 out of the 12 individual appropriations bills to his desk before the end of the 2018 fiscal year. The two chambers are working on a third package of four bills they hope to send to the president as well, but differences remain between the House and Senate. Those bills include Agriculture, Interior, Financial Services and Transportation funding measures. A continuing resolution (CR) in the bill extends funding for all other agencies through Dec. 7, after the midterm elections.

The inclusion of the resolution in the Department of Homeland Security bill puts off a contentious debate on Trump’s proposed border wall. While Trump could still choose to veto the spending bills, congressional leaders have expressed confidence that the inclusion of the defense bill with the CR will make it difficult for him to do so.

And Trump told Fox News earlier this month that he “most likely” would not shut down the government, a move that would spark a risky fight for Republicans less than two months before the midterm. “I guess when you get right down to it, it is up to me,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News about shutting down the government, “but I don’t want to do anything to hurt us or potentially hurt us.” Instead, senators are bracing for a December fight over funding for the border wall with both chambers far apart on how much to include. The House version of the bill included $5 billion of funding, while the Senate version included $1.6 billion and limited construction to fencing along a 65-mile stretch of the Rio Grande Valley. Trump had made getting funding for his border wall a top priority, including threatening to veto a March spending bill that he and his conservative allies felt didn’t include sufficient funding for the wall.

Judge Napolitano: Manafort’s Deal ‘Bulletproof’ From Trump Pardon

Image: Judge Napolitano: Manafort's Deal 'Bulletproof' From Trump Pardon
(Getty Images) By Sandy Fitzgerald

President Donald Trump should be “very, very worried” at the news that his former campaign aide, Paul Manafort, is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as the deal is “bulletproof” from a presidential pardon, Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said Monday.

“When Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two crimes, witness tampering and conspiracy to defraud the government, basically not paying taxes, he also admitted to 18 other crimes.” Many of those were federal crimes, or all state crimes, said Napolitano, making it “bulletproof” from being shot down by a pardon. “If President Trump were to pardon Paul Manafort, to prevent him from spilling the beans against the president to Bob Mueller, he would be immediately indicted by the attorneys general, appropriate authorities in the four states where the bank fraud occurred,” Napolitano said of Manafort. “This is part of the Mueller method of operating.” Last Friday, Manafort pleaded guilty to two federal crimes after he made a deal with prosecutors and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe, allowing him to avoid a second criminal trial. Last month, Manafort was convicted of eight financial crimes during a trial in Virginia, and faces 7-10 years in prison in that case. Prosecutor Andrew Weissman said Manafort will plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

U.S. trade war with China isn’t winnable, but Trump will likely claim victory anyway

With President Donald Trump announcing a new round of tariffs on China –imposing 10 percent on about $200 billion worth of goods from the country — Beijing said on Tuesday that it would retaliate with a new round of tariffs on U.S. imports. As these tariffs roll on and cause some fear and dread in several industries, it’s worth asking: What does a victory in a trade war with China actually look like? “If they get meaningful concessions out of the Chinese, they will consider this a success,” said Bart Oosterveld, director of the Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council. What, exactly, is a “meaningful confession,” though? Are there any hard targets included in that definition? Although the aim of these tariffs is to lower the U.S.-China trade deficit — by either $100 billion or $200 billion by the end of 2020 — a “win” can be defined in a number of ways. “Within the administration there are very different views about what a good outcome with China is,” said Oosterveld. Some, he pointed out, such as U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, want to see complete reform, with China becoming a free-market economy. “Then there are others who want concessions on specific trade practices,” said Oosterveld, adding, “You can claim victory pretty quickly in this environment.” So, with some kind of (at least claim to) victory assured, we can expect more of the same in the short term — at least, until the November midterm elections. Along with the announcement of the new tariffs on Monday night, President Trump also said that if China retaliates (which it is). then the U.S. will “immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports” — or pretty much everything the U.S. imports from China. Feeling pretty confident with a strong stock market and high employment figures, Oosterveld said the administration is sure to push ahead with the third round of tariffs. “The administration has no incentive, politically or economically, to back down before the midterms,” said Oosterveld. “This escalation kind of serves them well,” he added. Will these tariffs work to change China’s behavior and help narrow the trade deficit? Well, maybe, said Oosterveld, who sees the Chinese as being “relatively willing” to make some concessions. “But if you’re going to address the trade practices of China, long-term, I think you need to work with allies, like the E.U. and Japan, to apply pressure. I don’t think that’s happening right now,” he said. Indeed, the president seems to view this as a bilateral issue rather than a global one, and his Tuesday morning tweets make more of a nationalistic (or emotional) case for his actions, rather than a pragmatic one pitting China against America’s “great patriots”:

But many U.S. businesses worry that the president’s tariffs will be what puts them in the line of fire: Thousands of companies and trade industries have registered their concerns with Lighthizer’s office, saying that their businesses will take a hit from which they can’t recover. Many have applied to get their products off the tariff list. This, said Oosterveld, seems to be an acceptable price to pay for the Trump administration. “We have very solid economic growth and this, in and of itself, won’t trigger an  economic downturn … I’m sure there’s downstream harmful effects to individuals, to certain companies, to certain industries, certainly to companies abroad and certain industries there — I don’t think that’s a major area of concern to this administration right now.”

May cautions: support my Brexit deal or face no deal

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKa

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned rebels in her party that unless they support her potential Brexit deal with the EU then they will face a no deal. The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29 and yet little is clear: There is, so far, no full exit agreement and some rebels in May’s Conservative Party have threatened to vote down a deal if she clinches one. “I think that the alternative to that will be having no deal,” May told BBC TV. The fate of May’s government and her Brexit plan is in doubt because it is unclear whether she could command the 320 votes she needs in the House of Commons, the lower house of the British parliament, to approve a deal. Recent signals from Brussels have buoyed hopes that the United Kingdom and the EU can agree and approve a proper divorce agreement before the UK leaves on March 29, though the sides are still divided on about one fifth of the detail of a deal. But many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would weaken the West, spook financial markets and block the arteries of trade. As Britain now faces a choice between a bad Brexit deal or a damaging “no-deal” Brexit, voters should be given another referendum, London mayor Sadiq Khan said. May’s former foreign minister, Boris Johnson, attacked May’s Brexit plans.

“If the Brexit negotiations continue on this path they will end, I am afraid, in a spectacular political car crash,” Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

May’s proposals, named for a country house where they were hashed out in July, call for free trade of goods with the EU, with Britain accepting a “common rulebook” that would apply to those goods. “The whole thing is a constitutional abomination, and if Chequers were adopted it would mean that for the first time since 1066 our leaders were deliberately acquiescing in foreign rule,” Johnson said, referring to the 11th Century invasion which established Norman rule over England. Johnson scolded May for her handling of the Brexit negotiations on the future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the only land border between the EU and the United Kingdom after Brexit. The Times newspaper reported that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is working on a new protocol text outlining how to use technology to minimise checks on the border. Under the EU plan, goods could be tracked using barcodes on shipping containers under “trusted-trader” schemes administered by registered companies, the Times reported. Reuters reported on Sept. 12 that EU officials were working on a sensitive Irish protocol to the draft Brexit treaty with Britain, as part of what Barnier has called efforts to “de-dramatise” the issue and get a deal. The proposals are to be circulated to European governments after the Conservative Party conference which starts on Sept. 30, according to the Times. The “revised draft of the Northern Ireland protocol”, according to a diplomatic note of talks between EU ambassadors, will propose that most new checks would not happen at any border, the Times said.

US imposes new $200bn tariffs on China

The US is imposing new tariffs on $200bn (£150bn) worth of Chinese goods as it escalates its trade war with Beijing. The higher import taxes will apply to more than 5,000 items, marking the biggest round of US tariffs so far. Handbags, rice and textiles will be included, but some items expected to be targeted such as smart watches and play pens have been excluded. China has previously vowed to retaliate against any further US tariffs. The taxes will take effect from 24 September, starting at 10% and increasing to 25% from the start of next year unless the two countries agree a deal.President Donald Trump said the latest round of tariffs was in response to China’s “unfair trade practices, including subsidies and rules that require foreign companies in some sectors to bring on local partners. “We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly. “But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices,” he said. He also warned that if China retaliated then the US would “immediately pursue phase three” which would mean imposing further tariffs with taxes on another $267bn worth of Chinese products. If he does go ahead with a further $267bn worth of tariffs, it would mean virtually all of China’s US exports would be subject to new duties. his latest round is the biggest to date, and unlike the earlier rounds this latest list targets consumer goods, such as luggage and furniture. That means regular households may start to feel the impact. US companies have already said they are worried about the effect of higher costs on their businesses. The White House says its tariffs are a response to China’s “unfair” trade policies. In theory, the tariffs will make US-made products cheaper than imported ones, so encourage consumers to buy American. The idea is they would boost local businesses and support the national economy. US officials hope the risk of economic harm will convince the Chinese government to change its policies. However, many US businesses are critical of the tariffs. Farmers, manufacturers, retailers and other industry groups have formed a coalition to oppose the tariffs, calling them taxes on American families. “Tariffs have already resulted in layoffs, and this escalation will continue to squeeze American businesses with higher input costs and American farmers with decreasing commodity values,” said Jonathan Gold, a spokesman for the coalition. Talks between high-level officials ended in May without resolving the matter. Efforts to re-start discussions have failed to progress. US and China officials had discussed a new round of talks over the past week, but President Trump’s latest move is likely to sour relations further.

US Border Patrol Agent Charged in 2-Week Killing Spree

Image: US Border Patrol Agent Charged in 2-Week Killing Spree
Law enforcement officers gather near the scene where the body of a woman was found near Interstate 35 north of Laredo, Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. A U.S. Border Patrol agent suspected of killing four women was arrested early Saturday after a fifth woman who had been abducted managed to escape from him and notify authorities. (Danny Zaragoza/The Laredo Morning Times via AP)

Texas authorities charged a U.S. Border Patrol supervisor with murder following what they called a two-week serial killing spree that left four female sex workers dead and ended when a fifth woman escaped at a gas station and found help.

Juan David Ortiz, 35, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, was charged with four counts of murder as well as aggravated assault and unlawful restraint, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said in a tweet.

Ortiz was arrested after the fifth woman managed to flee. State troopers found Ortiz hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2 a.m. Saturday. The border city about 145 miles (235 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio. “We do consider this to be a serial killer,” Alaniz said. Alaniz said that after the suspect picked up the fifth woman she quickly realized that she was in danger. “When she tried to escape from him at a gas station that’s when she ran into a (state) trooper,” Alaniz said. He said that authorities believe Ortiz had killed all four women since Sept. 3. The names of the victims were not immediately released. Alaniz said two of them were U.S. citizens but the nationalities of the other two were not yet known. All of them were working as prostitutes and one was a transgender woman, he said. Ortiz was a 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol. U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement saying that it was fully cooperating with the investigation. Nick Bit: A man who supervises children ripped from their mothers arms is a living piece of shit and as you are seeing is capable of anything. ” Its my job” is the excuse animals have used since dawn to commit atrocities.  Like dropping cyanide capsules into  “Sowers” full of women and children. THEIR IS NO DIFFERENCE! THESE THINGS HAVE A WAY OF GROWING!

‘Illusion’ to think states can completely prevent financial crises – Weidmann

German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann delivers a speech during a dinner of the Hellenic Bank Association in Athens, Greece, August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidi

BERLIN (Reuters) – Governments cannot completely prevent a repeat of events like the 2008 global financial crisis even though regulations have been tightened since the collapse of Lehman Brothers a decade ago, Germany’s top central banker told Bild newspaper. Bundesbank President Jen Weidmann said German banks were not only victims of the 2008 financial crisis, but many institutions had also taken on more risk than they could ultimately carry. Regulations had been tightened since then, but it would be “an illusion” to think that governments could completely avert such crises, he said.

Graham: Mueller is going to be allowed to finish investigation

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia will finish unimpeded. “Nothing’s going to happen to Mueller’s investigation politically. He’s going to be allowed to finish it,” Graham told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I’m intent on making sure that Mueller completes his investigation without political interference,” he added.  However, Graham said he was concerned about others involved in the initial stages of the Russia probe. “I’m very disappointed no Democrats seems to be worried about the corruption at the Department of Justice and the FBI regarding the Clinton email investigation, early stages of the Russian investigation,” Graham said. “I’m worried about that.”

He also expressed very little confidence that Mueller would find any evidence of collusion.

“I know that from the Judiciary point of view, we found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” Graham said. “I think Richard Burr said from the Intel point of view that he’s seen no evidence of collusion, but we’re waiting on Mueller.”

“Let’s let Mueller do his job,” Graham said.

President Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill have repeatedly expressed that they want the Mueller probe to end, fueling concern among Democrats that the GOP is trying to impede the investigation.

Last Thursday, Trump told Bloomberg News that he considered the investigation “illegal,” a statement the president doubled down on Sunday morning.

“The illegal Mueller Witch Hunt continues in search of a crime,” Trump tweeted out. “There was never Collusion with Russia, except by the Clinton campaign, so the 17 Angry Democrats are looking at anything they can find.”

“ALSO, not allowed under the LAW,” he said.

Grim warnings for White House, Republicans ahead of election

WASHINGTON (AP) — The prognosis for President Donald Trump and his party was grim. In a post-Labor Day briefing at the White House, a top Republican pollster told senior staff that the determining factor in the election wouldn’t be the improving economy or the steady increase in job creation. It would be how voters feel about Trump. And the majority of the electorate, including a sizable percentage of Republican-leaning voters, doesn’t feel good about the president, according to a presentation from pollster Neil Newhouse that spanned dozens of pages. Newhouse’s briefing came amid a darkening mood among Republican officials as the November election nears. Party leaders were already worried that a surge in enthusiasm among Democrats and disdain for Trump by moderate Republicans would put the House out of reach. But some Republicans now fear their Senate majority is also in peril — a scenario that was unthinkable a few months ago given the favorable Senate map for the GOP. “For Republican candidates to win in swing states, they need all of the voters who support President Trump, plus a chunk of those who do not,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. “That is threading a very narrow strategic needle.” Operatives in both parties say Republicans still have the edge in the fight for control of the Senate. But GOP officials are increasingly worried that nominees in conservative-leaning states like Missouri and Indiana are underperforming, while races in Tennessee and Texas that should be slam-dunks for Republicans are close. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised an alarm last week, warning that each of the competitive Senate races would be “like a knife fight in an alley.” Some of the public fretting among Republicans appears to be strategic, as party officials try to motivate both voters and donors. Many moderate Republican voters “don’t believe there is anything at stake in this election,” according to the documents Newhouse presented to White House officials. He attributed that belief in part to a disregard for public polling, given that most surveys showed Democrat Hillary Clinton defeating Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

At the White House, anxiety over the midterms has been on the rise for months as polls increasingly show a challenging environment for the GOP and heightened Democratic enthusiasm. The sheer number of competitive races in both the House and Senate is stretching cash reserves and forcing tough calculations about where to deploy resources and surrogates. And there are growing fears that the coalition of voters that delivered Trump to the White House will not come out for midterms.

Even if those voters do show up in large numbers, Republicans could still come up short. The polling presented to White House officials, which was commissioned by the Republican National Committee, showed that Trump’s loyal supporters make up about one-quarter of the electorate. Another quarter is comprised of Republicans who like Trump’s policies but not the president himself and do not appear motivated to back GOP candidates. And roughly half of expected midterm voters are Democrats who are energized by their opposition to the president.

White House aides say Trump is getting regular briefings on the political landscape and is aware of the increasingly grim polling, even though he’s predicted a “red wave” for Republicans on Twitter and at campaign rallies. Aides say Trump’s sober briefings from GOP officials are sometimes offset by the frequent conversations he has with a cadre of outside advisers who paint a sunnier picture of the electoral landscape and remind the president of his upset victory in 2016. Nick Note: You get lucky once you rarely get lucky a second time. Donald… your screwed. the democrats are coming with pitch forks and torches to get you. the white house is under sage.

Trumpp administration to send U.S. cellphones a test alert on Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration will send a message to all U.S. cellphones on Thursday to test a previously unused alert system that aims to warn the public about national emergencies. U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a reception for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria The messages will bear the headline “Presidential Alert”, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a statement this week. Phones will make a loud tone and have a special vibration, said FEMA, which will send the alert. The test message, scheduled for 2:18 p.m. EDT on Thursday, will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The test has been scheduled to ensure that the alert system would work in the event of a national emergency. U.S. cellphone users will not be able to opt out. Former President Barack Obama signed a law in 2016 requiring FEMA to create a system allowing the president to send cellphone alerts regarding public safety emergencies. Since the wireless emergency alert system began in 2012, it has issued over 36,000 alerts for situations such as missing children, extreme weather and natural disasters, but never a presidential directive. Cell phone users can opt out of natural disaster or missing children alerts. FEMA said in a statement the alerts can only be used for national emergencies. The president has sole responsibility for determining when the national-level alerts are used. In the event of widespread severe weather or another significant event on Sept. 20, the test will be pushed back to Oct. 3, FEMA said. The administration announced in July that it would schedule the test alert for September. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its role in planning the test alert. The administration will send a test alert via radio and television broadcasters two minutes after the cell phone alert. It will interrupt programming for about one minute, FEMA said. Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules to ensure starting in 2019 that alerts are more precisely targeted, with links to photos or other important information. There have been issues with prior state alerts. In January, Hawaii issued a false alert of a missile attack that went uncorrected for 38 minutes after being transmitted to mobile phones and broadcast stations, causing widespread panic across the Pacific islands state. In April, the FCC blamed that false alarm on human error and inadequate safeguards

The next crisis is still lurking in the financial system: ‘We never addressed the root cause’

WEF chairman: We haven’t learned enough from Lehman collapse
WEF chairman: We haven’t learned enough from Lehman collapse

In a world swimming in debt, the next crisis is likely to bear at least a passing resemblance to the last one. The good news is that day seems to be a ways off. Not that anyone’s in a hurry, but there are few obvious signs of a situation akin to the 2008 meltdown on the horizon. The financial system is well-capitalized and operating with lower leverage and risk-taking than in at least generation or two. Economic pillars remain strong, the health of corporate America has rarely been better and new buffers put in place have been effective at absorbing shocks.

In fact, if anything it’s too quiet. That almost always has been the recipe for a good crisis.

“There was abundant liquidity in the system in 2006, too,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and director of intelligence for Quill Intelligence, a research and analytics firm. She also served as advisor to former Dallas Federal Reserve president Richard Fisher during the financial crisis, so she had a front-row seat to how it unfolded. Indeed, before collapsing investment bank Bear Stearns had consistently ranked among Forbes’ best-run businesses. Lehman Brothers had $275 billion in assets under management prior to the crisis and had generated $3.1 billion in revenue in 2007, the year before it too capsized.

For DiMartino Booth, the exotic financial instruments that helped cause the calamity a decade ago and brought down those two venerable institutions, along with many more, are still lurking in the system, threatening a deadly repeat unless the issue is corralled.

“We never addressed the root cause of derivatives in the first place,” she said in an interview. “We still kind of operate in the dark as it pertains to the transmission mechanism of derivatives.” Derivatives refer to instruments that package bonds into blocks that are then sold off to investors. Warren Buffett famously called them “weapons of financial destruction.” In theory, they actually were meant to reduce risk by hedging exposure to any one security failing, sort of like the way exchange-traded funds combine entire sectors to alleviate exposure to a single company whose shares might slump. In practice, things were quite a bit different. Wall Street traders, in response to demand for yield from their clients, put together exotic bundles of mortgages, many tied to unqualified buyers who defaulted. Their structure was so opaque that many banks couldn’t even value what they held, creating a crisis of confidence on Wall Street that took out some of the financial world’s biggest names.

The market for some products, particularly collateralized debt obligations and leveraged loans, has increased dramatically in recent days. CLO volume was up 51 percent year-over-year in the first half, according to Dealogic, while Thomson Reuters reports that volume for loans used in leveraged buyouts has surged 33 percent.

Covenants, or protections for investors in bonds, particularly high-yield junk, are close to record lows, according to Moody’s Investors Services. Meanwhile, the federal government keeps ringing up more and more debt — $21.4 trillion and counting — and interest rates are on the rise. In an investing world that continues to clamor for yield, the debt bomb is always ticking.

“The search for yield has been spread across the globe once again, and now we’re seeing it crop up again in different countries every week,” DiMartino Booth said. “You wake up and wonder who blew up today.”

Indeed, a series of mini-explosions has been happening around the world, in countries like Turkey, the Philippines and India. Currency trading has gotten increasingly volatile, sparking worries that the U.S. may import its next crisis. “I’m concerned about the transmission mechanism,” DiMartino Booth said. “Even if the initial catalyst to set off the next downturn does not come from within the U.S. financial system, that does not mean that the U.S. financial system is not just as vulnerable as it was before to be the conduit to spread systemic risk.” Tightening financial conditions, the Fed continuing to raise rates and the sheer volume of debt instruments rising almost certainly means that while an earthquake may not be looming along the financial system’s many fault lines, tremors are almost certain.

“A lot of markets are going to reprice, but it won’t be systemic,” said Christopher Whalen, head of Whalen Global Advisors, an investment bank consultancy. “A lot of illusions will get broken, but spreads are still quite tight in the credit markets.”

In the interim, warnings about looming crises likely will get treated like the rantings of so many Chicken Littles who have been proven wrong time and again during the nine-year economic recovery. Few really believe in crises until they actually hit.’

“When we talk about leveraged loans and CLOs today, sure there’s obviously a problem. Until you see a sponsor fail and file bankruptcy, then people will start to believe it, but not yet,” Whalen said. “There is a significant mispricing of risk. That will come along soon. You’re going to see prices fall a lot.

“A shock turns into a crisis when the system is unprepared for it. The system is often at its most vulnerable near the end of the global economic cycle when excesses have built up and managing risks may have been neglected,” Kleintop said in a recent report looking at the source of the next crisis. “The global economic, financial and market system now seems better prepared to manage the shocks of the past were they to repeat in the future.”

Politics, the rise of index investing and higher interest rates that will make all that debt more expensive are the big ones investors will need to watch out for. “Vulnerabilities have shifted which may make the shocks that pose the greatest risk of a crisis somewhat different than those of the past,” Kleintop wrote. “Of these, the potential risk posed by a shock from higher interest rates coupled with a stronger U.S. dollar may pose the greatest threat to a vulnerable financial and economic system.”

READ: Manafort’s cooperation agreement with Mueller

Read Manafort’s cooperation agreement with Mueller below:

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two federal charges on Friday, reaching a cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort has agreed to sit for interviews with Mueller’s special counsel team, testify in any future cases and submit related documents, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in court. Manafort pleaded guilty plea to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering.

Nobel Prize winner Shiller sees ‘bad times in the stock market’ ahead

Robert Shiller
Adam Jeffery | CNBC Robert Shille

Nobel laureate Robert Shiller thinks investors ought to ignore the recent burst in corporate profits and focus on longer-term valuation, which he says carries foreboding news for the stock market. At a time when earnings are rising 25 percent a quarter, Shilller said that’s not indicative of what longer-term results in the market will be. History has shown that in previous times, particularly around World War I, the late 1920s approaching the time of the Depression, and in the high-inflation 1980s, profits could be strong but equity results not as much. In the present case, the recent surge in profits has been due to last year’s tax cuts, backed by President Donald Trump, that took the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Record bull run signals it's time to sell, says Yale economist Shiller
Record bull run signals it’s time to sell, says Yale economist Shiller

“My own way of thinking is it looks like an overreaction,” Shiller said Friday at a conference in New York presented by the Wharton School. “We’re launching a trade war. Aren’t people thinking about that? Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but I’m thinking it’s likely to be bad times in the stock market.” The Yale economist is known for a number of groundbreaking views and theories on the market, but perhaps most for a gauge he uses to measure stock market valuations. The Cyclically Adjusted Price to Earnings ratio — often referred to as the “Shiller CAPE” or “Shiller PE” — looks at valuations over a 10-year period to smooth for fluctuations in the business cycle. Currently, the gauge is at 33.3, its highest level since June 2001. The index peaked near 45 in mid-2000, just as the dot-com bubble was about to burst. Testing the model over time, it saw the market crashes in 1929 and 1987 as well as the dot-com bubble. Shiller cautioned that he is not predicting major calamity for the market but rather a much lower level of returns, in the 2.6 percent annual range, than investors have come to expect during the 9-year-old bull market. The longest rally in history has the S&P 500 up more than 335 percent since the March 2009 bottom. “It’s not like I’m predicting a crash,” he said. “This is a 10-year forward return. This is not going to be great, because we’re just too high at the present value.” Among other things, he said the current tax climate won’t last and corporate earnings will come back down, just as they have done in the past. “Is Donald Trump permanent?” he asked to laughter. “I won’t get into that, a lot of discord about that.” To be sure, the Shiller CAPE has been elevated for years and crossed 30 nearly a year ago. And not everyone agrees with his analysis — including his friend and sparring partner of 51 years and fellow speaker at the Friday event, Jeremy Siegel. Siegel is the Russell E. Palmer professor of finance at the Wharton School and has long served as the bull to Shiller’s bear. He contested several of Shiller’s points, particularly about whether the market necessarily needs to revert to trend and what he sees as an oversight on the impact of low-cost passive investing on the market. On the latter point, thanks to low-fee ETFs it now costs investors less to have a balanced portfolio so they don’t require returns as high to beat the market. Even if stocks are expensive, Siegel said, they remain a bargain compared with bonds when considering the risk premium, or the amount of return investors demand compared to risk. “Stocks are overvalued on a longer-term basis, but bonds are enormously overvalued on a long-term basis,” he said. “Relative valuation of stocks vs. bonds is among the more favorable — not the most favorable but among the more favorable — in history.”

Trump wants tariffs on $200 billion more Chinese goods despite talks: source

Shipping containers are seen at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed aides to proceed with tariffs on about $200 billion more Chinese goods, despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s attempts to restart trade talks with China, a source familiar with the decision said. But the timing for activating the additional tariffs was unclear, the person said. The green light for the tariffs, first reported by Bloomberg, had an immediate effect on financial markets. It led U.S. stocks to trade lower, fueled drops in the Chinese yuan in offshore trading CNH=EBS and gains in the dollar index .DXY, and sent the S&P 500 index .SPX negative. The decision comes one week after Trump said he would be adding tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and had tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese imports “ready to go on short notice if I want.” A public comment period also ended last week for the $200 billion tariff list, which would hit various internet technology products and other electronics, printed circuit boards and consumer goods ranging from handbags to bicycles and furniture. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has said it was working to revise the list based on issues raised in public hearings and written submissions. In previous rounds of anti-China tariffs, it has taken one to two weeks to revise the list and another two to three weeks to begin collecting tariffs. The decision also comes despite a Treasury invitation earlier this week to senior Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Liu He, for more talks to try to resolve trade differences between the world’s two largest economies. China’s foreign ministry said it welcomed the invitation, but Trump later raised questions about it, saying on Twitter that he was under no pressure to make a deal with Beijing and that the United States “will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?” A Treasury spokesman did not immediately respond to a query on the status of the China talks invitation. A USTR spokesman did not respond to queries about the tariffs. Trump has already levied duties on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods based on his demands that China reduce its $375 billion trade surplus with the United States and make sweeping changes to policies on intellectual property and technology transfers and roll back high tech industrial subsidies. The tariffs on the $50 billion of goods already imposed, the $200 billion list and another $267 billion of Chinese goods would exceed the $505 billion in goods that the United States imported from China last year. But 2018 imports from China through July were up nearly 9 percent over the same period of 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Phil Berlowitz

Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty, Will Cooperate With Mueller Probe

Ex-campaign chairman is the latest Trump associate to admit wrongdoing in federal investigations

Paul Manafort, shown in February, already faces about eight to 10 years in prison.
Paul Manafort, shown in February, already faces about eight to 10 years in prison. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating links to Russian election interference, developments that could add momentum to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Mr. Manafort, who becomes the fifth associate of President Trump’s to plead guilty in connection with federal investigations, admitted to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He already was convicted last month by a federal jury in Virginia of not reporting to tax authorities more than $16 million he earned for political consulting work in Ukraine in the early 2010s. criminal trial for Mr. Manafort that was to begin next week. That trial, in Washington, D.C., was set to cover additional charges related to that Ukraine work. In connection with the agreement, Mr. Manafort agreed to forfeit four of his multimillion-dollar homes, including a Brooklyn townhome and an estate on Long Island, and funds in multiple bank accounts. Other terms of the deal couldn’t immediately be determined.Paul Manafort Convicted: How the Trial Unfolded former campaign manager, guilty of eight counts of fraud, but couldn’t reach a verdict on 10 other counts. Photo: Associated Press

The cooperation agreement raises the legal and political pressure on Mr. Trump less than two months before midterm elections that will decide control of Congress. His former campaign chairman and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, are now both cooperating with a prosecutor tasked with probing whether Trump associates aided what the U.S. has said was an influence campaign by Russian interests designed to help Mr. Trump win in 2016.

Mr. Mueller is also looking into whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey in May 2017, while the FBI’s Russia probe was under way. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that the Manafort case “had absolutely nothing to do” with Mr. Trump or the 2016 campaign. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, said in a statement that Mr. Trump “did nothing wrong.” Mr. Manafort had previously resisted any notion of cooperating with Mr. Mueller, and his lawyer said at the outset of the Virginia trial that there was no chance of such cooperation. Mr. Manafort, 69 years old, has been in jail since June, after he was accused of trying to influence the testimony of a potential witness against him.

FBI Director Christopher Wray details Russia’s “information warfare” before midterms

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FBI Director Christopher Wray with “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell CBS News

FBI Director Christopher Wray says Americans can feel confident in the election results this November. We spoke with Wray Wednesday at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington for an interview you’ll see only on CBS News. “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked about the anonymous New York Times op-ed that described a White House in turmoil.

NORAH O’DONNELL: The president has said that he wants the attorney general to investigate who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed. Do you believe, as the president does, that this is an issue of national security?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY: Well, first off, I can tell you I didn’t write it, I didn’t have anything to do with it. Second, I would tell you that we’re not really in the practice of confirming or discussing whether we’re going to be conducting a particular investigation. I would tell you that we’re going to make decisions about that kind of thing based on all the factors we normally do, which is whether or not we have sufficient evidence of federal crime.

O’DONNELL: You’ve said you did not write the New York Times

WRAY: Right.

O’DONNELL: op-ed. I know that you have denied that. But – but I want to ask you about the content. It described the president’s leadership style as, quote, “impetuous,” “adversarial,” “petty,” and “ineffective.” It said that the root of the president’s problems is, quote, “amorality.” Does that sound like the president you know?

WRAY: I try very hard to make sure that my relationship with the president is a professional one. … And beyond that, I’m not going to really be weighing in on opinions, especially anonymously-expressed opinions. I can tell you that there are lots of ways for people to express their views and their disagreements. For me, the idea of doing it through an anonymous op-ed is about the furthest thing from my mind.

O’DONNELL: Let me turn now to Russia and its malign activities. … When Vladimir Putin said that Russia has never interfered and is not going to interfere in American affairs, including the election process, was he lying?

WRAY: Well, again, I’m not going to accuse somebody of lying. I’ll just say that that doesn’t jive with our read of the evidence, and we’re pretty confident in our read.

O’DONNELL: What is Russia doing to disrupt the midterms that are now just about 60 days away?

WRAY:  So what we’re seeing now is a continuation of the – what we call malign foreign influence efforts. … What they do is sow both inaccurate information, disinformation, it’s a kind of information warfare, and then propaganda. Exaggerated half-truths, distortions.

O’DONNELL: Why are we letting this happen? Why are we letting Russia do this? We have the greatest law enforcement agency in the world, the FBI. We have the most powerful tech companies in the world. Why are we allowing Russia to do this?

WRAY: I don’t view us as allowing them to do anything. I think we’re countering it. We are working hard to counter it more and more effective all the time.

O’DONNELL: How are we countering it? How are we fighting back?

WRAY: Well, in some cases, we have law enforcement investigations that lead to charges. In some cases, we have steps that the technology companies can take themselves… And in some cases, we’re raising awareness. Because the best defense against disinformation and propaganda is accurate information.

O’DONNELL: So come November… can Americans be confident that it was a fair election?

WRAY: I think Americans can have confidence in our election system.

Despite headlines about Russian meddling, the FBI director said China is the single biggest threat to Amer

UK Prime Minister May calls special meeting to discuss ‘no-deal’ Brexit

GP: Theresa May Attends Prime Minister Questions
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to makes her way to the Parliament as she attends Prime Minister Questions session (PMQs), London on July 4, 2018. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The U.K. government is set to meet Thursday morning for three-hours to discuss the eventuality of a “no-deal” Brexit. The meeting takes place at a time when the government is also releasing more than 20 documents, outlining some more preparations in case the U.K. leaves the European Union in March 2019 without a deal. This is not the first set of papers outlining what will happen in case the U.K. and the EU do not reach a deal. In late August, the U.K. government said that businesses should prepare for higher barriers to trade, more red tape and potentially higher costs too, if Brexit talks collapse. All these steps are part of a wider attempt to step up works for the worst-case scenario. The EU has also strengthened its preparations in case the U.K. leaves the bloc abruptly.

The U.K.’s Brexit chief, Dominic Raab, warned on Wednesday that the U.K. will not pay the so-called divorce bill, if there is no final deal over Brexit. Raab wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the £39 billion ($50.82 billion) the U.K. owes to the EU, due to previous policy agreements, will not be repaid if there is no deal.

Brexit negotiators want to conclude talks by the end of November to ensure that there is enough time to get the deal approved by all Parliaments. However, there are divergences about their future relationship, including what’s going to happen to the Irish border. This has prevented negotiations from being concluded.

Political analysts and investors have become particularly worried about the prospects of a no-deal over the summer, following several comments from U.K. officials, including the Governor of the Bank of England. Mark Carney who said in early August that the risk of a no-deal is “uncomfortably high.”

The sterling has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the dollar since Brexit. The currency has seen a lot of volatility since the referendum vote on June 23. While the initial moves were dramatic, plunging from the highs of $1.50 to a 31-year low of $1.32, the pound continues to remain under pressure at current levels of $1.30. So far, on Thursday morning, sterling seemed muted to the Brexit developments.

Despite the preparations for a no-deal, both the U.K. and the EU are still saying they are working towards a deal. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address on Wednesday said that the EU stands ready to work “day and night” to find an agreement with the U.K. over Brexit.

However, Juncker also warned that the U.K. needs to be reasonable. “But we also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position as a member State,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brexit chief Raab told the BBC Thursday morning that Brexit talks will be intensified over the coming weeks and that he is confident that a deal will be achieved.

Moody’s warns a ‘no-deal’ would damage the economy

Credit ratings agency Moody’s said Thursday morning that an abrupt break-up between the EU and the U.K. would be “credit negative for a range of sectors.”

“The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement to replace existing arrangements, a risk that has risen materially in recent months, would damage the U.K. economy and be credit negative for a range sectors and debt issuers in the UK and Europe,” Moody’s said in a statement.

Moody’s outlined that U.K. based companies in the automotive industry, airlines, chemical sectors and aerospace are set to be the most impacted, in a no-deal scenario.

Earlier this week, the U.K.’s finance minister, Philip Hammond told the BBC, that the Brexit uncertainty is hurting the economy.

Retirees Tax Surprise From New Law Warned by IRS

Image: Retirees Tax Surprise From New Law Warned by IRS
(Dreamstime) By Zoe Papadakis | Thursday, 13 September 2018 07:03 AM

Retirees face a big tax surprise if they haven’t withheld enough from their pension or annuity income, the IRS has warned, noting the penalty for failing to pay the proper amount of estimated taxes. With tax reform bringing about major changes for the year ahead, the IRS embarked on an awareness campaign, and last week started telling retired filers to ensure they avoid an estimated tax penalty. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect in December, drastically altered how tax is calculated, not just for regular taxpayers but retirees as well. As a result, the majority of taxpayers have to change the amount of tax paid during the year, and retirees receiving monthly pension or annuity checks may have to alter the amount of federal income tax they have withheld accordingly, the IRS noted. While working, taxpayers automatically pay their withholding with each paycheck, but retirees now have to write checks four times a year to the IRS, “With estimated tax payments, there’s the issue of making sure they actually paid the tax,” said Harjit Virk, a CPA and senior associate at Getzel Schiff & Pesce in Woodbury, New York “Sometimes you have to send reminders when the payments are due.”Jonathan Zimmerman, a benefits attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, noted that circumstances for pensioners payments and filers vary widely, making it difficult to estimate who is at risk of not withholding enough, according to the Wall Street Journal. He explained that income doesn’t just drop after retirement and that certain types of retiree income may be taxable, such as part-time work, Social Security payments, or retirement-plan withdrawals. According to Gil Charney, a director of H&R Block’s Tax Institute, “the onus is on the taxpayer to make sure the withholding is correct,” which is why the IRS now offers a new withholding calculator for taxpayers and retirees to calculate how much to withhold.

Trump declares administration ‘completely ready’ for Hurricane Florence

Trump declares administration ‘completely ready’ for Hurricane Florence
© Anna Moneymaker

Trump urged Americans to “be careful!” during the storm, which he claimed had strengthened. Florence was downgraded by the National Weather Service from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm overnight, but was growing in size early Thursday. “We are completely ready for hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful. Be careful!” he tweeted.

“I don’t care if this goes down to a Category 1,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said on Thursday. “We’re still going to have a Category 4 storm surge.” Current paths show Florence making landfall near Wilmington, N.C., before tracking inland. At least 800 flights have been canceled or grounded due to the storm’s expected landfall, CNN reported. As many as 1.5 million people are believed to live within mandatory evacuation zones. A similar-strength hurricane, Maria, struck the island of Puerto Rico last year, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens. “You put your life at risk by staying,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday. “Don’t plan to leave once the winds and rains start.”

–Updated at 9:06 a.m.

Kroger misses same-store sales estimates, shares fall

(Reuters) – Kroger Co missed quarterly same-store sales estimates on Thursday, as disruptions caused by the supermarket chain changing the way it stocks merchandise on shelves kept some customers away from its stores. The company’s shares fell 7 percent to $29.51 in premarket trading. Under its “Restock” program launched this year, Kroger has been adjusting product assortments, rearranging store layouts and highlighting private label brands on its shelves. However, analysts have said that the short-term disruption and inconvenience the program has caused could lead some customers to shop for their groceries elsewhere. The company said its adjusted gross margin fell 36 basis points in the second quarter from a year earlier, hurt by price cuts and higher freight costs. The company’s same-store sales, excluding fuel, rose 1.6 percent in the quarter. Analysts on average had expected a 1.86 percent increase, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S Kroger said its net income jumped 44 percent to $508 million, or 62 cents per share, in the quarter ended Aug. 18. Excluding one-time items, Kroger earned 41 cents per share. Analysts had estimated a profit of 38 cents. Total sales rose 1 percent to $27.87 billion, but missed analysts’ estimate of $27.95 billion.

Oil prices fall as IEA data reveal rise in output among OPEC members

Getty Images Global supply hit a record in August, says the IEA

Oil futures fell in early Thursday trade as a report showed production among OPEC members surged in August, pushing global inventories to a record.The International Energy Agency in a closely followed monthly report said daily crude-oil output in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed in August by 420,000 barrels a day, to average 32.63 million a day. That output more than made up for an expected decline in Iranian supply due to extant and pending U.S. economic sanctions. The August report also signaled that global supplies hit a record of 100 million barrels a day. October futures on West Texas Intermediate crude CLV8, -2.29% the U.S. benchmark, fell 93 cents, or 1.3%, to $69.44 a barrel, a day after marking the highest settlement since July 20, according to Dow Jones Market Data. November Brent LCOX8, -1.71% gave up 56 cents, or 0.7%, to $79.17 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Wednesday’s settlement for the global benchmark was the highest since May. The IEA’s report reflects monthly data from OPEC on Wednesday which also showed that members of the oil cartel boosted total output last month. The IEA report comes after the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday revealed that domestic U.S. crude supplies fell by 5.3 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 7. Analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts had forecast a fall of 2.7 million barrels, while the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported a drop of 8.6 million barrels. “The IEA left global oil demand growth unchanged at 1.4 million [barrels per day] for 2018 and 1.5 million bpd for 2019,” wrote Robert Yawger, director of energy at Mizuho USA, in a Thursday research note. “The IEA warned of higher oil prices as Iran and Venezuela losses deepen, and Brent’s $70 to $80 trading range may be tested by tightening,” he wrote. Concerns about expected disruptions to supply have underpinned recent crude-price gains. Renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran that take full effect in early November are expected to sharply curtail exports by the Middle Eastern nation. However, the moves from crude may be stalling out after the IEA report highlighted the ramp-up in global supplies and OPEC’s largest month-on-month increase in more than two years, bringing the supply from the group’s 15 producers to a nine-month high. The increase mainly came from higher production in Libya, Iraq, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia—the de facto head of OPEC. Market participants also have been watching Hurricane Florence, which was downgraded over the Atlantic Ocean late Wednesday to a Category 2 storm. Even so, it is expected to remain an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” when it nears the coast late Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. The storm, which is on track to disrupt the Carolinas and Virginia, has the potential to cause disruptions to the flow of fuel through the key Colonial Pipeline, which moves gasoline and diesel from Houston through states in the Southeast, including the Carolinas, to Linden, N.J.

Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ sells 750,000 copies in 1st day, breaks Simon & Schuster’s pre-order sales record

RT: Bob Woodward, author, journalist 180909
Bob Woodward, author of a new book on the Trump White House.Alex Gallardo | Reuters

Bob Woodward’s in-depth and unflattering look at President Donald Trump’s White House just broke a 94-year sales record. The celebrated Watergate reporter’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” boasted higher pre-order sales than any other title in the history of its publisher, Simon & Schuster, the company said Wednesday. The tell-all book, released Sept. 11, sold more than 750,000 copies in its first day on sale, according to a press release from the company. That figure combines sales of print copies, ebooks and audiobooks. Simon & Schuster, a New York City-based publisher founded in 1924, added that it ordered a ninth printing of the book on the same day it was released, sending the total number of hardcover copies in print surging past 1.15 million. “Based on immense pre-publication and ongoing interest, the reading public clearly has an enormous appetite for what we believe, as Woodward says, is ‘a pivot point in history,’” the company’s president, Jonathan Karp, said in the release. The book is based on “deep background” sources whose identities are concealed to allow for less guarded interviews. Woodward’s reporting paints a picture of Trump as politically ignorant, mercurial and antagonistic to his staff, who in turn vent rage against him and, at times, undermine his own agenda.The president has attacked Woodward and his book repeatedly since excerpts were first published in The Washington Post, where Woodward works, earlier in September. Trump’s salvos, most of which were launched from his Twitter account, assailed the book as an “already discredited” fabrication intended to help Democrats. Woodward stands by his reporting. Woodward’s book is far from the first attempt to document the internal workings of the Trump administration. Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” published in January, made incendiary claims about Trump and his administration, and broke sales records for its publisher, Henry Holt. Former administration officials, including senior advisor Omarosa Manigault-Newman and press secretary Sean Spicer, recently published their own books documenting their experiences working for Trump.

Bank ‘living wills’ won’t save financial system from a panic, Bernanke and Geithner agree

Fighting the next financial crisis is a ‘forever war,’ experts say
Bloomberg Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner during the Brookings Institution discussion.

The so-called living wills that the largest banks have to submit every year would not work in a financial panic, said Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke on Wednesday. Living wills are plans to unwind a failing bank without government aid. These plans would only work if the financial sector was relatively stable, the two former policymakers said. “If the rest of the system was broadly OK, I think the [living wills] would work,” Bernanke, the former Fed chairman, said. Bernanke and Geithner, a Treasury secretary in the Obama administration and formerly president of the New York Fed, discussed sources of future financial instability and the lessons form the financial crisis with another former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson at a Brookings Institution event. Geithner called the effort to combat financial instability a “forever war.” Paulson said despite the dysfunction in politics, he remained optimistic that Washington would be able to rescue the economy again if there was another crisis. The three policymakers all expressed regret that the American public still has profound doubts over the steps taken to protect the financial system in 2008-2010. Geithner said that, during the heat of the crisis, his wife would look at him across the breakfast table with “a mix of despair and doubt,” that was later mirrored by the general public. “We didn’t persuade the country that what we were doing was necessary,” Bernanke said. Paulson agreed, saying the American people remain convinced that the $700 billion bailout was, in essence, a “reward for the arsonist.” “People don’t like banks and during financial crises they really don’t like banks,” Paulson said.

Fed’s Brainard says an inverted yield curve won’t get in way of rate hikes

Bloomberg News/Landov Lael Brainard, governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve

A key Federal Reserve official on Wednesday said that an inverted yield curve would not necessarily point to an imminent recession, despite its historical track record in doing so. The comment, from Gov. Lael Brainard in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, isn’t hugely different from comments Brainard made in May on the topic, or from other Fed officials including New York Fed President John Williams. What her remarks do suggest is the Fed won’t let the prospect of an inverted yield curve deter the central bank from continuing to lift short-term interest rates. Brainard told the Detroit audience that this time is different.“Like many of you, I am attentive to the historical observation that inversions of the yield curve between the 3-month TMUBMUSD03M, +0.47%  and 10-year Treasury rates have had a relatively reliable track record of preceding recessions in the United States,” she said. However, the current 10-year yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.43%  is around 3%, compared with the average of 6.25% before the financial crisis. Market expectations of interest rates in the longer run are themselves quite low, and also the term premium — the compensation investors require for taking on duration risk — is low. “If the term premium remains very low, any given amount of monetary policy tightening will lead to an inversion sooner so that even a modest tightening that might not have led to an inversion historically could do so today,” she said. So, why is the term premium so low? One reason, she says, is the changed correlation between stock and bond returns, likely associated with changes in expected inflation outcomes. Another reason is the asset purchases of central banks in major economies. Brainard, who as a Fed governor gets a vote at every meeting, says further gradual increases in the federal-funds rate will likely be warranted. “With fiscal stimulus in the pipeline and financial conditions supportive of growth, the shorter-run neutral interest rate is likely to move up somewhat further, and it may well surpass the longer-run equilibrium rate for some period,” she said.

Manafort in talks with prosecutors about possible plea, according to people familiar with the discussions

Paul Manafort arrives at a federal courthouse in Washington on June 15. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Days before in-person jury ­selection is set to begin in his second trial, President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in talks with the special counsel’s office about a possible plea deal, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to ­describe the conversations, cautioned that the negotiations may not result in a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is prosecuting Manafort for alleged money laundering and lobbying violations. But the discussions indicate a possible shift in strategy for Manafort, who earlier this year chose to go to trial in Virginia, only to be convicted last month in Alexandria federal court on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. He had derided his former business partner, Rick Gates, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against Manafort. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence,” Manafort said in February.

The specifics of Manafort’s current negotiations with prosecutors were unclear, including whether he would provide any information about the president. President Trump refused to answer questions about pardoning former campaign manager Paul Manafort, leaving questions about the convicted lobbyist’s next moves. Earlier this summer, Kevin M. Downing, an attorney for Manafort, said there was “no chance” his client would flip and cooperate with prosecutors.

However, Manafort’s current willingness to engage in talks could rattle Trump, who in the past has praised his former campaign chairman for his unwillingness to cooperate with the special counsel.

Prosecutors “applied tremendous pressure on him and . . . he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal,’ ” the president tweeted last month. “Such respect for a brave man!” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni and Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment. Manafort’s attorneys, Downing and Thomas E. Zehnle, did not immediately return calls for comment. Jury selection for Manafort’s second trial is set to begin Monday, with opening statements scheduled for Sept. 24.

USA Is Now The Largest Global Crude Oil Producer – Surpasses Russia and Saudi Arabia

The United States likely surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest crude oil producer earlier this year, based on preliminary estimates in EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook

In February, U.S. crude oil production exceeded that of Saudi Arabia for the first time in more than two decades. In June and August, the United States surpassed Russia in crude oil production for the first time since February 1999. Although EIA does not publish crude oil production forecasts for Russia and Saudi Arabia in STEO, EIA expects that U.S. crude oil production will continue to exceed Russian and Saudi Arabian crude oil production for the remaining months of 2018 and through 2019. U.S. crude oil production, particularly from light sweet crude oil grades, has rapidly increased since 2011. Much of the recent growth has occurred in areas such as the Permian Basin in western Texas and eastern New Mexico, the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico, and the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana. Following the oil price decline in mid-2014, U.S. producers reduced their costs by temporarily scaling back crude oil production. However, after crude oil prices increased in early 2016, investment and production began increasing later that year. By comparison, Russia and Saudi Arabia have maintained relatively steady crude oil production growth in recent years.

Trump’s sagging approval ratings have GOP staring at worst-case scenarios for midterm elections

President Donald Trump arrives on September 11, 2018, to speak at the site of a new memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed during the September 11 attacks, as somber ceremonies take place at Ground Zero in New York and at the Pentagon. 
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump arrives on September 11, 2018, to speak at the site of a new memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed during the September 11 attacks, as somber ceremonies take place at Ground Zero in New York and at the Pentagon.

President Donald Trump’s sagging approval ratings suddenly have Republicans staring at their worst-case scenarios for midterm elections. In several surveys in recent days, the proportion of Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance has fallen back below 40 percent. Voters intensely hostile to the president far outnumber intense supporters. And without Trump on the ballot, a dangerous number of those intense supporters may not even show up to vote. The record of midterm elections shows the power of the president’s standing clearly and consistently. In each of the last three such contests, more than 80 percent of those approving of the president’s performance back his party’s House candidates; more than 80 percent of those disapproving of the president voted against his party. This week’s Quinnipiac University poll showed that just 38 percent approve of Trump’s performance while 58 percent disapprove. If those numbers hold over the next eight weeks, Republicans struggling to hold their House and Senate majorities will be fighting steeply uphill. The disparity in enthusiasm between the two sides makes it even steeper. Recent special elections have shown Democrats more motivated than Republicans to vote. A CNN poll this week measured an identical imbalance in intensity: 27 percent of voters strongly approve of Trump, while 48 percent strongly disapprove. Trump himself, addressing supporters in the White House recently, worried aloud about what that means. “There’s a real question as to whether people are going to vote if I’m not on the ballot,” the president told a gathering of conservative Christians.

Republicans have always known they’d face a challenging political climate in November. Any president’s party almost invariably loses House seats.

Their hope had been that a robust economy would keep their House losses below the 23 seats Democrats need to seize control. Though Democrats need to gain only two seats to take over the Senate, several Democratic incumbents must defend their jobs in strongly pro-Trump states such as North Dakota and West Virginia.

Earlier this year, Republicans felt growing encouragement. The strong economy helped lift Trump’s approval ratings into the low- to mid-40s and narrowed the Democratic advantage in the national surveys gauging voter preferences for control of the House. But now Trump’s unpopularity provides Democrats a path to victory for both chambers. It is overpowering satisfaction with the economy and widening the Democrats’ “generic ballot” edge.

“The situation looks more worrisome for Republicans,” says GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. One particular vulnerability is among the young voters whose attitudes are Anderson’s specialty; in the Quinnipiac survey, voters 18-34 disapprove of Trump by a 2-to-1 margin.

The Cook Political Report now lists 66 Republican-held House seats as in serious danger of flipping. Polling averages on realclearpolitics.com show Democratic Senate candidates currently leading for three Republican-held seats — in Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee. History paints an especially ominous picture. Since World War II, presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent in the Gallup Poll have lost an average of 36 House seats. In each of the last three midterms — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — the president’s party has lost six Senate seats.

In the last half-century, only President George W. Bush in 2006 has suffered pre-midterm approval ratings as low as Trump’s recent sub-40 percent levels. That year, Democrats ousted Republicans from control of both the House and Senate.

Report: Permian producers hedging bets in fear of pipeline shortages

Oil drillers increased their hedges on Permian Basin oil prices beyond 2019 by 431% during Q2 in order to lock in healthier prices in case planned pipeline projects fail to come online in time, according to a new report from energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. The huge jump represents unusually high trading for 2020 commodity pricing, and “the only reasonable conclusion one can draw from this surge is that Permian producers are concerned that key pipeline projects won’t be completed on schedule,” says WoodMac research analyst Andrew McConn.

Permian production has surged from 2.5M bbl/day last year to 3.4M bbl/day currently, resulting in Permian oil selling at a nearly $15/bbl discount vs. the U.S. benchmark in the Cushing, Okla., storage hub.

WoodMac also notes concern of an overcorrection, with too many new pipelines coming online by the end of 2020 and leaving some pipelines unable to move oil near their full capacities.

Oil rises more than 2 percent as U.S. sanctions on Iran squeeze supply

FILE PHOTO: A view of Equinor’s oil platform in Johan Sverdrup oilfield in the North Sea, Norway August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nerijus Adomaitis/File Photo

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices rose more than 2 percent on Tuesday as U.S. sanctions squeezed Iranian crude exports, tightening global supply despite efforts by Washington to get other producers to increase output. Since spring when the Trump Administration said it would impose sanctions on Iran, crude traders have priced in a risk premium reflecting the supply shortages that may occur when exports from the third-largest OPEC member are cut. As the Nov. 4 date for imposing sanctions draws nearer, the premium has increased. “The fear is that the sanctions could be so successful that it takes more oil off the market than the OPEC and non-OPEC producers can make up for,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose $1.67 to $79.04 a barrel, a 2.2 percent gain, by 1:10 p.m. EDT (1710 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures gained $1.95, or 2.9 percent, to $69.49 a barrel. Washington has told its allies to reduce imports of Iranian oil and several Asian buyers, including South Korea, Japan and India appear to be falling in line. But the U.S. government does not want to push up oil prices, which could depress economic activity or even trigger a slowdown in global growth. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry met Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih on Monday in Washington, as the Trump administration encourages big oil-producing countries to keep output high. Perry will meet with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Thursday in Moscow.

Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia are the world’s three biggest oil producers by far, meeting around a third of the world’s almost 100 million barrels per day (bpd) of daily crude consumption.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that Russia and a group of producers around the Middle East which dominate the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may sign a new long-term cooperation deal at the beginning of December, the TASS news agency reported. Novak did not provide details. A group of OPEC and non-OPEC producers have been voluntarily withholding supplies since January 2017 to tighten markets, but with crude prices up by more than 40 percent since then and markets significantly tighter, there has been pressure on producers to raise output. On Tuesday the U.S. Energy Information Administration cut its 2018 world oil demand growth forecast by 80,000 barrels per day to 1.58 million bpd. U.S. crude inventories were forecast to have fallen for a fourth consecutive week last week, according analysts polled ahead of reports from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) and the U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday. Also supporting prices was an attack on the headquarters of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in the capital Tripoli on Monday. As Middle East markets tighten, Asian buyers are seeking alternative supplies, with South Korean and Japanese imports of U.S. crude hitting a record in September. U.S. oil producers are seeking new buyers for crude they used to sell to China before orders slowed because of the trade disputes between Washington and Beijing.

U.S. crude supply fell 8.6M barrels last week, API says The American Petroleum Institute reportedly shows a draw of 8.64M barrels of oil for the week ended Sep. 7, vs. a draw of 1.17M barrels in the previous week; the latest draw would be the largest since early July if confirmed tomorrow by EIA data. Gasoline reportedly shows a build of 2.12M barrels and distillates show a build of 5.82M barrels; the Cushing, Okla., hub reportedly shows a draw of 1.16M barrels.

One million Catalans rally for independence in Barcelona

Around one million Catalans rallied in Barcelona on Tuesday, banging drums and blowing whistles in a show of support for independence nearly a year after a failed attempt to break away from Spain.
© Lluis Gene, AFP | Protesters hold letters reading “Independencia” during a rally in Barcelona on September 11 to mark the National Day of Catalonia, the Diada.

Wearing coral-red T-shirts and waving the red, yellow and blue Catalan separatist flag, a sea of protesters gathered for the rally on Catalonia’s “national day” which commemorates Barcelona’s fall to troops loyal to Spain’s King Philip V in 1714. The annual “Diada” holiday has since 2012 been used to stage a massive rally calling for secession for the wealthy northeastern region with its own distinct language. But this year’s event had particular significance as a test of strength after a referendum last October 1, and the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence on October 27, all came to naught. Demonstrators climbed on each others shoulders to form human towers, a Catalan tradition, while others carried yellow and black signs that read “Free Catalan political prisoners now”, a reference to Catalan separatist leaders in jail awaiting trial over last year’s independence bid. City police said on Twitter that around one million people took part, a similar amount to last year’s protest. Organisers said they had sold over 200,000 coral-red T-shirts — the colour used in the ties used to secure the ballot boxes during last year’s contested referendum. At the start of the rally demonstrators knocked down a symbolic wall decorated with separatist symbols, a metaphor for the power of the people to overcome obstacles and achieve independence.Catalan president Quim Torra said the rally marks the start of a “mass mobilisation”. Further protests are planned for an anniversary of last year’s banned referendum, which was marred by police violence, and on the anniversary of the failed declaration of independence. Nick Note: this growing movement is to be watched. A further sign of the growing unrest that will blow apart the European Union

Russia launches biggest ever war games

Chita (Russia) (AFP) – Russia launched Tuesday what it called its largest ever military drills, with hundreds of thousands of troops taking part along with Chinese soldiers in a show of force NATO condemned as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict.” President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the games after hosting an economic forum in Russia’s far eastern city Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is one of the prominent guests. The week-long war games dubbed “Vostok-2018″(East-2018) “have kicked off” in far eastern Russia, the defence ministry said. Taking part in the drills are around 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones. Some 3,500 Chinese troops will take part in the games. The defence ministry released video footage of military vehicles, planes, helicopters and ships getting into position for the initial stage of the drills. Putin praised Russia’s increasingly close ties with China as he met with Xi at the economic forum in Vladivostok on Tuesday. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defence spheres,” the Russian leader said. Xi for his part said the two countries’ “friendship is getting stronger all the time.” The drills, which also include Mongolian soldiers, have been condemned by NATO as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict”. The military exercises come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in “Zapad-81” (West-81) — the largest military exercises of the Soviet era. But Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said these exercises are even larger. “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said. The exercises will be held across nine training ranges and three seas: the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. The Russian army is rolling out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes. At sea, the Russian fleet is deploying several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria. Wednesday will see games featuring anti-aircraft technology, while the main event will be on Thursday, the defence ministry told journalists covering the event in eastern Siberia and the Far East. NATO said that Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” the alliance’s spokesman Dylan White said late August. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns on Tuesday. “These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces,” he told journalists. Peskov has earlier said Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative”. Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of a Kremlin-backed uprising in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security. Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic in recent years. Russia’s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was almost half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating. The country’s war games in Eastern Europe last year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part, according to Moscow. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.

Boris Johnson says Theresa May is ‘wrapping a suicide vest around Britain’ with Brexit plan

Boris Johnson has launched an attack on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, claiming she has ‘wrapped a suicide vest’ around Britain. The ex-foreign secretary accused the Prime Minister of handing ‘the detonator’ to Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier. His extraordinary comments – just hours after he announced he would be divorcing his wife of 25 years, Marina Wheeler – have exposed deep divides within the Tory party, prompting a backlash from senior colleagues. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson lashed out at the Northern Ireland ‘backstop,’ aimed at making sure there is no hard border with Ireland. He said: ‘We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier. ‘We have given him a jemmy with which Brussels can choose – at any time – to crack apart the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’ Under the EU’s version of the exit plan, if no trade deal with the UK resolved the issue of the border problem, Northern Ireland would effectively remain part of the single market. Mr Johnson added: ‘At every stage in the talks so far, Brussels gets what Brussels wants. ‘We have agreed to the EU’s timetable; we have agreed to hand over £39 billion, for nothing in return. ‘Under the Chequers proposal we are set to agree to accept their rules – forever – with no say on the making of those rules. ‘It is a humiliation. We look like a seven-stone weakling being comically bent out of shape by a 500lb gorilla.’ The prominent Brexiteer’s latest assault will fuel speculation about his own leadership ambitions. Mr Johnson quit the Cabinet in opposition to her Chequers plan which would see the UK remain closely aligned with EU rules on goods. But the plan and the UK’s alternative backstop would both mean ‘agreeing to take EU rules, with no say on those rules’, leaving the country a ‘vassal state’. He said: ‘We have managed to reduce the great British Brexit to two appalling options: either we must divide the Union, or the whole country must accept EU law forever.’ He claimed there are ‘far better technical solutions’ to the Irish border issue. His comments drew a furious response from Tory MP and ex-army officer Tom Tugendhat. ‘A suicide bomber murdered many in the courtyard of my office in Helmand,’ he said. “Comparing the PM to that isn’t funny.’

Goldman Bear-Market Risk Indicator at Highest Since 1969: Chart

A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. indicator designed to provide a “reasonable signal for future bear-market risk” has risen to the highest in almost 50 years.

The firm’s Bull/Bear Index, which is based on measures of equity valuation, growth momentum, unemployment, inflation and the yield curve, is now at levels last seen in 1969.

While the gauge is at levels that have historically preceded a bear market, Goldman strategists including Peter Oppenheimer wrote in a note last week that a long period of relatively low returns from stocks is a more likely alternative.

Trump official John Bolton declares International Criminal Court ‘dangerous’ and is ‘dead to’ America

National Security Advisor to Donald Trump, John Bolton, has said the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “dead to us” in his latest speech.  He labelled the court as “illegitimate” and “for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”  Mr Bolton was speaking at a meeting of the Federalist Society, a conservative group based in Washington DC, said the ICC “ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed outright dangerous”. The court, established in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, has the power to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The US never ratified the Rome Statute which established the court and Mr Bush, in the early days of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, never ratified it.  Russian officials to meet with John Bolton next week, says Kremlin The court is getting ready to investigate detainee abuse in Afghanistan, an investigation Mr Bolton called “utterly unfounded,” adding: “We will provide no cooperation to the ICC”. The former US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W Bush went on to say the “central aim of [the ICC’s] most vigorous supporters was to constrain the US”.  Mr Bolton said the court’s statute had “glaring, significant flaws” and “constituted an assault on the Constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the US.”  He also acknowledged his hecklers as Code Pink, an international charity which works to end US-funded wars, his “friends who follow me” everywhere.  Mr Bolton, following a trend in the Trump administration of criticising multilateralism, branded the ICC as a “freewheeling global organisation governing over individuals without their consent”.  He claimed American “soldiers, politicians, and private citizens” are at risk because the court assumes the automatic right to prosecute over everyone, even in countries which did not ratify the Rome Statute establishing the court.  Israel, Sudan, Russia, and the US under Mr Bush, are four signatories of the statute who renounced their signatures and informed the UN they would no longer be subject to the legal obligations under the statute.  Mr Bolton said the US’ “unsigning” of the Rome Statute was meant to protect Americans from the “unacceptable overreach” of the court.

The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering

How Bruce Ohr, President Trump’s latest Twitter target, fits a suspicious pattern of behavior on Russia.
President Trump with President Putin in Helsinki in July. Trump’s odd affinity for Russia continues to cause him trouble.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Donald Trump has a long history of doing what he thinks is best for Donald Trump. If he needs to discard friends, allies or wives along the way, so be it. “I’m a greedy person,” he has explained. It’s important to keep this trait in mind when trying to make sense of the Russia story. Trump’s affinity for Russia, after all, is causing problems for him. It has created tensions with his own staff and his Republican allies in Congress. Most voters now believe he has something to hide. And the constant talk of Russia on television clearly enrages Trump. He could make his life easier if only he treated Vladimir Putin the way he treats most people who cause problems — and cast Putin aside. Yet Trump can’t bring himself to do so. This odd refusal is arguably the biggest reason to believe that Putin really does have leverage over Trump. Maybe it’s something shocking, like a sex tape or evidence of campaign collusion by Trump himself. Or maybe it’s the scandal that’s been staring us in the face all along: Illicit financial dealings — money laundering — between Trump’s business and Russia. The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime. It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering. Consider: The financially rickety Trump Organization, shunned by most mainstream banks, long relied on less scrupulous Russian investors. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said a decade ago. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” Eric Trump reportedly said in 2013. And what was the rare major bank to work with Trump? Deutsche Bank, which has a history of illegal Russian money laundering. Trump also had a habit of selling real estate to Russians in all-cash deals. Money launderers like such deals, because they can turn illegally earned cash into a legitimate asset, usually at an inflated price that rewards the seller for the risk. One especially dubious deal was Trump’s $95 million sale of a Palm Beach house to a Russian magnate in 2008 — during the housing bust, only four years after Trump had bought the house for $41 million. Then there is Trump’s paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank’s records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information. For months, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been trying to get Congress to pay attention to the possibility of money laundering.

Continue reading “The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering”

Ford not moving production from China to U.S., despite Trump’s tweet

China-made Focus Active crossover won’t be sold in U.S. because of high tariffs
Bloomberg News Ford will not be making Focus Active crossovers in the U.S.

Ford Motor Co. had a quick and firm response Sunday to a claim by President Donald Trump that tariffs on Chinese goods would force the auto maker to build its Focus Active crossover in the U.S. — um, no. “It would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S. given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units,” Ford said in a statement Sunday. “Ford is proud to employ more U.S. hourly workers and build more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker.” Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that “Ford has abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle in the U.S. because of the prospect of higher U.S. Tariffs. . . . This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs!” In fact, on Aug. 31, Ford canceled plans to import compact Focus Actives that were made in China because of the high tariff costs. But that just meant the car will not be sold in the U.S. at all, since Ford saw it as a niche vehicle. The cars will continue to be sold elsewhere around the world.

“This is further evidence that neither the president nor his trade representatives have any clue of the complexities of global supply chains,” Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who specializes in the auto industry, told the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

Ford shares F, +1.02%   have sunk almost 26% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, +0.25%   gain of more than 7%.

Bob Woodward: “People better wake up to what’s going on” in the Oval Office

woodward-fear-book-cover-inset-244.jpg
Watergate journalist Bob Woodward made headlines once again this past week, with his new book about the Trump White House, entitled “Fear.” This morning, in his first TV interview, Woodward paints a picture for our David Martin of an administration in disarray:

 

“You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, ‘Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis,'” said Bob Woodward.  For the Washington Post reporter, that is the bottom line to all the jaw-dropping chaos and discord described in his new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” (published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS.

“People who work for him are worried … that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country, or of the world,” Woodward said.

Aides like then-Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter literally stole documents off the president’s desk in the Oval Office, such as a letter terminating a trade agreement with South Korea, so that, Woodward explained, Mr. Trump could not sign them: “Because they realized that this would endanger the country.” Martin asked, “How’d they get away with that?” “[Trump] doesn’t remember. If it’s not on his desk, if it’s not immediately available for action, it goes away.” Unelected officials like Cohn and Porter intentionally thwarting the actions of the elected president – the exact reverse of what a White House staff is supposed to do.  In Woodward’s telling, President Trump does not see America as the indispensable nation; he sees it as an international sucker taken advantage of by allies and trading partners. He complained his advisors “don’t know anything about business. All they want to is protect everybody … that we pay for.” According to Woodward, the president is obsessed by the fact that the U.S. pays $3.5 billion a year to station troops in South Korea as a first line of defense against the North. “I don’t know why they’re there,” he said at one meeting. “Let’s bring them all home.” At another meeting, Secretary of Defense James Mattis starkly why the U.S. has 28,000 troops in Korea: “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III.”

Continue reading “Bob Woodward: “People better wake up to what’s going on” in the Oval Office”

With Trump in crisis, Pence waits in his shadow

(CNN)Vice President Mike Pence was among the first to make the “I didn’t write it” pledge in the wake of a shocking anonymous essay — “I Am Part of the Resistance” — that revealed a conspiracy to save America from an unhinged President. Pence would likely pass the lie detector test that Sen. Rand Paul suggested to find the author, but this wouldn’t prove Pence had no influence on the thoughts of the anonymous writer or is preparing for Trump’s departure. The op-ed, published in The New York Times, notes that members of the Cabinet considered using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to declare Donald Trump unfit and replace him with the vice president. (This is what is meant by those who suggest a “soft coup” is underway.) Although this scenario seems unlikely, Trump’s response to Anonymous — for example, asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate who wrote the op-ed — could prompt him to act in ways that would finally alienate supporters in Congress and elements of his base. Thus weakened, Trump’s departure by impeachment or other means would also open the door of the Oval Office to the vice president. The grave possibility of a crisis that ends the scandal-scarred Trump presidency could explain the vice president’s remarkable record of praising the chaotic commander-in-chief while making himself scarce at moments of crisis. Between his sycophancy, which moved George Will to say that Pence could be “America’s most repulsive figure,” and his widely noted absences, Pence has established a record that would make him blameless but also acceptable as a successor. In the role of loyal but often absent vice president, Pence has retained the support of the Trump base, which means there would be no great uprising if he assumes the presidency. Calm would prevail and no proof would be found linking him to the Resistance.

US officials secretly met with Venezuelan military officers plotting a coup against Maduro

Washington (CNN)US officials met secretly with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, both a current and a former US official confirmed to CNN. American officials met with the renegade Venezuelan military officers several times over the last year after the Venezuelan officers made contact, but Washington ultimately decided against supporting the coup, the two sources said. The US did not provide the Venezuelan officers with any support and the plans for the coup ultimately fell apart, the sources said. The Trump administration’s discussions with the Venezuelan military officers about a potential coup were first reported Saturday morning by the New York Times. The current and former US officials confirmed to CNN that report is accurate. The White House declined to comment on the meetings between US officials and Venezuelan military officers, but said in a statement the US continues to support “a peaceful orderly return to democracy in Venezuela.” “U.S. policy preference for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela remains unchanged. The United States government hears daily the concerns of Venezuelans from all walks of life — be they members of the ruling party, the security services, elements of civil society or from among the millions of citizens forced by the regime to flee abroad. They share one goal: the rebuilding of democracy in their homeland,” said National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis. “A lasting solution to Venezuela’s worsening crisis can only arise following restoration of governance by democratic practices, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded to the news through his verified Twitter account, saying the Maduro government denounces efforts to intervene in the Latin American nation. “We denounce before the world the intervention plans and the support to military conspiracies by the US government against Venezuela. In the US’s own media came to light new and crass evidence,” Arreaza tweeted. President Donald Trump has previously discussed the possibility of a military option in Venezuela. “We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said last August. Asked about the possibility of a military intervention in response to the mounting crisis in the country, the President said that is something the US “certainly could pursue.” Taking military action against Venezuela would be a dramatic escalation of the US’s so-far solely diplomatic and sanctions-focused response to the political and economic crisis roiling the South American country. In August 2017, Trump asked several advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela, CNN reported in July. The Times’ report included details from the secret meetings, citing 11 current and former US officials and a former Venezuelan military commander sanctioned by the US government who was involved in the secret meetings.

US and China could soon prompt a ‘big slowdown’ in global growth, former bank regulator warns

Lord Turner: US and China could trigger a global slowdown
Lord Turner: US and China could trigger a global slowdown
 

The economic policies being pursued by the U.S. and China could bring about a massive slowdown in global growth, according to Britain’s top former bank regulator. Economic growth in the U.S. remains robust in 2018, yet in much of the rest of the world signs of deteriorating momentum have emerged since the start of the year. Strong and synchronized global growth in 2017 appears to have given way to a more varied outlook, with escalating global trade tensions — notably, between Washington and Beijing — keeping financial markets on edge. Investors are also keen to see how a package of massive U.S. tax cuts, instigated by Trump in late 2017, affect the economy. “The sheer scale of the Trumpian expansion in the U.S. could lead to inflationary pressures which produce a faster increase in U.S. interest rates than we anticipate. And that may then produce quite a sudden slowdown in the U.S. economy,” Adair Turner, former chair of the U.K. Financial Services Authority (FSA), told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy on Saturday. Simultaneously, he argued China’s ongoing efforts to rebalance its economy away, generally away from construction and towards consumption, were likely to prompt a slowdown in global economic growth. “Those two things together could produce a big slowdown in the global economy in 2020. Then a slowdown in the European economy, and where do I think the trouble will then arise? Well, maybe right here (Italy).”

“Italian government debt is only sustainable if the Italian economy keeps going. You just need a small recession across the European Union … And we could be back to talking about what are you going to do about Italian debt?” Turner said.

Italy’s coalition government is poised to present its 2019 budget next month, setting out its economic and financial plans for the coming year. The unveiling of Rome’s economic policies and growth projections for 2019 is likely to be a key moment for its populist government. That’s because Italy is the euro zone’s third-largest economy and the prospect of an economic collapse in Rome could damage the entire region’s financial and political stability. Earlier on Saturday, Italy’s former prime minister designate, Carlo Cottarelli, told CNBC he was also worried about Italy’s fragile economy. Cottarelli warned a global recession in the second-half of the year would represent a clear and present danger to the country’s economic prosperity.

Trump to Apple: ‘Make your products’ in the US to avoid tariffs

Trump to Apple: 'Make your products' in the US to avoid tariffs
© UPI Photo President Trump on Saturday pitched what he called an “easy solution” for Apple to avoid his proposed tariffs on China: Make the products in the U.S.

Trump acknowledged in a tweet that “Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China,” but suggested the issue was not with the tariffs themselves. “There is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now,” Trump wrote. “Exciting!”

The president’s comments came after Apple warned this week that Trump’s proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would affect a host of its products, including Apple Watch and Apple AirPods. “It is difficult to see how tariffs that hurt U.S. companies and U.S. consumers will advance the Government’s objectives with respect to China’s technology policies,” Apple said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “We hope, instead, that you will reconsider these measures and work to find other, more effective solutions that leave the U.S. economy and U.S. consumer stronger and healthier than ever before.” Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously voiced optimism that Trump’s trade measures would not impact the price of the iPhone, which drives the majority of the company’s profits. Trump met with Cook last month amid rolling discussions on his tougher trade measures, touting that the Apple chief “is investing big dollars in U.S.A.” The president told reporters Friday on Air Force One that imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products “will take place very soon depending on what happens.” Trump added that he was prepared to slap another $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese products, beyond the $200 billion he has already promised.

Trump says he could use the MILITARY to build his wall

if Congress won’t fund it through Homeland Security’s budget – and he won’t rule out another government shutdown to get his way

President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s considering using military resources to finish construction of his long-promised border wall instead of relying on Congress to fund the project through the Homeland Security Department’s budget. He also wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown if Democrats continue to confound his efforts to appropriate money for the project on the U.S.-Mexico border. ‘We have two options,’ he told DailyMail.com aboard Air Force One as he flew from Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota. ‘We have military, we have homeland security.’ He was asked specifically about using the Army Corps of Engineers as a taxpayer-funded construction crew.  President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s considering using military resources to finish construction of his long-promised border wall, as she spoke to the press on Air Force One, above on Friday ‘We have two options,’ he told DailyMail.com aboard Air Force One as he flew from Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota. ‘We have military, we have homeland security’ Trump said he would prefer to fund the ambitious construction ‘the old-fashioned way – get it from Congress – but I have other options if I have to.’ He’s seeking about $25 billion. The possibility of diverting Pentagon funding and assets to build a border wall is a hole card the president is holding but has never directly acknowledged before. Two Defense Department officials told DailyMail.com in August that the Army Corps of Engineers could take on the task. The White House appears headed for another confrontation with Congress over an increase in funding for the project after securing $1.6 billion for 2007 and the same amount for this year. A senior White House official said Thursday that the money was ‘basically a down-payment on the thing’. The possibility looms that the president will refuse to sign the next federal budget, due September 30, if lawmakers don’t go along with more installments. That would trigger a government shutdown. ‘If it were up – I don’t want to say “up to me,” because it is up to me – I would do it,’ he said aboard Air Force One, ‘because I think it’s a great political issue.’ But he said some Republicans in Congress, facing tough re-election fights, have counseled more patience.

Trump says he’s ready to hit China with another $267 billion in tariffs

Trump administration reportedly readying another $267B in tariffs on Chinese imports

Trump administration reportedly readying another $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports   President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One Friday that he was “ready to go” on tariffs for another $267 billion in Chinese goods “if he wants,” which would come on top of the $200 billion in goods already targeted, according to Bloomberg and Reuters. Already the administration was set to announce it would impose the tariffs on the $200 billion in goods, after threatening them in an ongoing and escalating dispute with China. A public comment period on this set of tariffs expired Thursday in the U.S. China’s commerce ministry has said the country would retaliate if the U.S. imposes new tariffs.
President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017.
Nicholas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017

The world’s two largest economies have already applied tariffs to $50 billion of each other’s goods. Talks aimed at easing tensions ended last month without major breakthroughs, and Washington appears emboldened by a sell-off in Chinese markets and a weakening economy. Trump said Wednesday he was not prepared to make a deal with China “that they’d like to make.” Still, he added, his administration will “continue to talk to China.” Trump’s remarks to reporters on Friday sparked a 100-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average around 12 p.m. ET, with the apparent escalation in the trade tensions with China.

Fed official: The fleeting impact from Trump’s stimulus is at its height right now

Dallas Fed’s Kaplan comfortable with raising rates to a range between 2.5%-2.75%
Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The president of the Dallas Federal Reserve said Friday the tax cuts and federal spending increases are having their biggest impact right now, suggesting they will not make lasting changes to the economy. Robert Kaplan, in an interview with Fox Business Network, said the economic impact from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will decrease next year.

“It is our view and it’s my view at the Dallas Fed that we’re at the height of the impact of the stimulus right now, the fiscal stimulus.

That will fade somewhat in ’19 and will fade further in ’20 and you still got some headwinds, sluggish labor force growth because the demographics [of] aging and sluggish productivity, those will start to kick in more as the fiscal stimulus fades,” he said.

Kaplan said trade disputes are having the impact of limiting capital expenditure growth.

“The tax legislation and tax reform cause companies to accelerate capex that they might have done a year or two from now to do it today because of the tax incentives,” Kaplan said. “I also think you’re seeing additional capex in the energy business because of the production growth, high prices but I do think companies are telling me that they, yes, they are taking a wait-and-see approach because of the uncertainty around trade. So, it’s having a little bit of a chilling effect and so that’s something to just be aware of and take note of.”As for the jobs report, Kaplan said it didn’t change his view of the U.S. economy. He also said he’s been expecting wage growth to accelerate, as it did in August. “I’ve been expecting for several months now that you’d see the wage number firming. And it’s consistent with a tight labor market, I still believe that a lot of the big structural drivers in the world, automation, globalization will mute overall inflation pressures. But I actually think the wage growth number is welcome and it is probably consistent with our outlook for the economy and what it’s been the last few months,” he said.

Wall Street drops on tariff worries, with Apple in crosshairs

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S.,

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s major indexes fell on Friday as U.S. President Donald Trump raised the possibility of additional tariffs on Chinese imports and Apple Inc indicated that some of its products could be subjected to such levies. U.S. stocks were lower for most of Friday’s session but dipped further in the last half-hour of trading on reports that Apple products, including the Apple Watch and AirPods, would be slapped with duties. Apple shares, which had been in positive territory for most of the session, ended 0.8 percent lower. The company provided those details in response to the White House’s proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. A comment period for those tariffs ended on Thursday night. Earlier on Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump would not make any decisions on those tariffs until officials evaluated public comments. “Apple is a bellwether name,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey. “(That’s) why we may be seeing some profit-taking going into the weekend.” U.S. stocks had already been pressured after Trump said he had tariffs ready to impose on an additional $267 billion worth of Chinese imports, on top of the proposed $200 billion. The escalated trade rhetoric contributed to anxiety among investors regarding the market’s outlook. “There’s the possibility of (China) devaluing its currency again, which pushes up the dollar and turns the pressure up on U.S. exporters,” Krosby said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79.33 points, or 0.31 percent, to 25,916.54, the S&P 500 lost 6.37 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,871.68 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 20.19 points, or 0.25 percent, to 7,902.54. For the week, the Dow lost 0.19 percent, the S&P fell 1.03 percent, and the Nasdaq shed 2.55 percent. The Nasdaq registered its greatest weekly percentage decline since late March, while the S&P’s weekly percentage drop was its biggest since late June. With the added pressures from trade concerns, 10 out of the S&P’s 11 major sectors ended lower. Only health care stocks posted gains. Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.21-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.24-to-1 ratio favored decliners. The S&P 500 posted 37 new 52-week highs and 16 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 99 new highs and 66 new lows. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.25 billion shares, compared to the 6.2 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Trump Wants Attorney General to Investigate Source of Anonymous Times Op-Ed

“I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” President Trump said on Air Force One on Friday.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON — President Trump intensified his attack Friday on an anonymous Op-Ed essay published in The New York Times, declaring that he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the source of the article, which he has condemned as an act of treason. Mr. Trump said he was also considering action against The Times, though he did not elaborate. Prosecutors said it would be inappropriate for the Justice Department to conduct such an investigation, since it was likely that no laws were broken, while The Times said it would be an abuse of power. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as he traveled to Fargo, N.D., Mr. Trump said, “I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.” The president has raged against the essay since The Times published it on Wednesday afternoon, setting off a frenzy of speculation in the capital about the identity of the author and prompting a parade of denials from cabinet members and other prominent officials in the Trump administration.

Mr. Trump’s latest remarks indicate that he wants to use the machinery of the government to root out the source of the Op-Ed, which described some administration officials as being in a state of near mutiny against a president they view as dangerous and untethered from reality.

“We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now,” he said. While the president suggested that the anonymous writer was not a senior official, he said that the person might nonetheless have a security clearance that allows him or her to attend sensitive national security meetings involving China, Russia or North Korea. “I don’t want him in those meetings,” Mr. Trump said.

In a statement, The Times said, “We’re confident that the Department of Justice understands that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power.

“The president’s threats both underscore why we must safeguard the identity of the writer of this Op-Ed and serve as a reminder of the importance of a free and independent press to American democracy,” the statement said.

Obama jumps back into political fray, calls out Trump by name: ‘He is a symptom, not the cause’


Former President Barack Obama on Friday lamented the state of politics today, calling out his successor, Donald Trump, by name as he started his push to ramp up Democratic energy for midterms. Mr. Obama made his return to the political arena by giving a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after receiving the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government. He praised America’s accomplishments but said there is a darker side to progress when politicians peddle resentment and mistrust to preserve the status quo. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.” Mr. Obama also took a jab at Mr. Trump’s emphasis on the economy, telling the audience “remember when that recovery started.”

U.S. adds 201,000 jobs as worker wages accelerate to nine-year high

Unemployment stays at 18-year low

 The United States created 201,000 new jobs in August, keeping the unemployment rate at an 18-year low and generating the fastest increase in worker pay since the end of the Great Recession. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 200,000 increase in new nonfarm jobs. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 3.9%, the Labor Department said Friday. The increase in hiring in August was another solid gain that reflects broad strength in an economy that accelerated in the spring and showed little sign of slowing down toward the end of summer.  The biggest news in the August employment report was a sharp increase in pay. The average wage paid to American workers rose by 10 cents to $27.16 an hour. What’s more, the yearly rate of pay increases climbed to 2.9% from 2.7%, marking the highest level since June 2009. White-collar professional firms filled 53,000 positions, bringing the total created over the past 12 months to more than half a million. These are the fastest growing jobs in the country. Health-care providers hired 33,000 people, transport firms added 20,000 jobs and construction companies hired 23,000 workers. Employment fell by 3,000 in manufacturing, the first decline in 13 months. U.S. tariffs and a scarcity of skilled laborers may finally be taking their toll.

Retailers also cut jobs.

Employment gains for July and June, meanwhile, were revised down by a combined 50,000, the Labor Department said Friday. Still, the economy has produced an average of 207,000 new jobs a month so far this year — faster than the pace of hiring in both 2017 and 2016.The economy surged in the spring and is still growing rapidly as the fall approaches. Most companies are hiring and layoffs have tumbled to a nearly 50-year low.

Aside from a shortage of skilled labor, companies say their biggest problem is coping with a spate of higher U.S. and foreign tariffs that have raised the cost of key materials such as steel and lumber and made it harder to obtain supplies.

Consumers are feeling more of the brunt of inflation. Most if not all of the increase in pay over the past year has been eaten up by higher inflation. The cost of living as measured by the consumer price index has also climbed 2.9% in the past year.

NAFTA talks make progress; U.S., Canadian officials to work into night

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland takes part in a news conference at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) – The United States and Canada have made progress in talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, and officials from the two sides will work together into the night to flesh out areas for further discussion, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday. Freeland sounded upbeat as she emerged from a day of talks with top U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer, although she cautioned that no trade deal was done until the last issue was nailed down. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to push ahead with a bilateral deal with Mexico, effectively killing the almost 25-year-old three-country pact, which covers $1.2 trillion in trade. The United States and Mexico reached an agreement on overhauling NAFTA at the beginning of last week, turning up the pressure on Canada to agree to new terms. “We sent them (the officials) a number of issues to work on and they will report back to us in the morning, and we will then continue our negotiations,” Freeland told reporters on leaving the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington on Wednesday.Trump sounded a more upbeat note earlier, and said he expected to know whether a deal could be struck to include Canada in the next few days. Neither Freeland nor Trump spelled out areas of disagreement and neither detailed the progress that had been made. Lighthizer did not speak to the press or issue a statement. Wednesday was the first day that talks between the two countries resumed after four intensive days of talks last week ended on Friday without a deal after the mood soured. Canada wants a permanent exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs and the threat of auto tariffs to be removed. It also wants to continue protections for its dairy industry and defend lumber exports to the United States, which have been hit with duties. As the two sides met for talks, new economic data showed that the U.S. trade deficit with Canada grew to $3.1 billion in July. This could provide ammunition to Trump, who has accused Canada of “cheating” Americans. Trump nearly tore up the NAFTA pact last year after visiting farmers in Wisconsin, a major U.S. dairy producer that Washington says has been hurt by Canadian protectionism. Trump charges that the 1994 pact has caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, something that most economists dispute. Data released on Wednesday showed the U.S. trade deficit hit a five-month high of $50 billion. The shortfall with Canada shot up 57.6 percent. Trump has notified Congress that he intends to sign the trade deal reached last week with Mexico by the end of November, and officials said the text would be published by around Oct. 1. But Canadian officials, who note increasing political pressure on Trump from U.S. business and labor circles to keep NAFTA as a trilateral arrangement, said they were in no hurry. “We’re not saying we don’t want to move swiftly to try and get a deal. But I think certainly we were always intending to take as long as it was going to take,” said a government source who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the situation. “We’re seeing goodwill on all sides and if we see some more flexibility, then I think we can start to see things moving in a good direction,” added the source. Negotiators have blown through several deadlines since the talks started in August 2017. As the process grinds on, some in Washington insist Trump cannot pull out of NAFTA without the approval of Congress. “Trump is relying on bluster and bullying in a desperate attempt to get Congress to swallow his half-baked deal. You can’t fix NAFTA without fixing issues with Canada,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade.

John Kerry: ‘This is a genuine constitutional crisis’

(CNN)Former Secretary of State John Kerry said the country faces “a genuine constitutional crisis” following Bob Woodward’s reporting on President Donald Trump’s dysfunctional White House and the unnamed senior administration official’s op-ed assailing Trump in The New York Times on Wednesday. “We have a presidency which is off the rails,” Kerry told Anderson Cooper on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” “We have a President who is not capable of doing the job, who clearly has these temper tantrums, doesn’t know enough to be making many of the decisions he makes.” In the Times op-ed, the unnamed senior Trump administration official attacked the President’s “amorality” and reckless decision-making and said he or she is part of a “resistance” working to thwart  Trump’s worst impulses. Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which exploded onto the political scene Tuesday, paints a portrait of a chaotic, dysfunctional White House under Trump.

“We see the evidence of people stealing a presidential document off his desk,” Kerry said, referencing Woodward’s reporting. “We see a general, the secretary of defense, ordered to kill another leader — a leader of another country — who turns to everybody after the phone is hung up and says, ‘I’m not gonna do that. We’re not gonna do that.’ ” Trump responded to the book Wednesday in the Oval Office and said, “The book is fiction.”
The President also lashed out on Wednesday and dismissed the op-ed as “really a disgrace” and “gutless” and assailed the author and the Times for publishing the anonymous opinion piece.
“This is unbelievable,” Kerry said, and said the constitutional “crisis” is heightened because Republican senators are defending, “not the Constitution, not the institution of the Senate — they’re defending party and the President, who simply doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Trump rips searing Times op-ed from unnamed senior official

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a striking anonymous broadside, a senior Trump administration official wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday claiming to be part of a group of people “working diligently from within” to impede President Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations” and ill-conceived parts of his agenda. Trump said it was a “gutless editorial” and “really a disgrace,” and his press secretary called on the official to resign. Trump later tweeted, “TREASON?” and in an extraordinary move demanded that if “the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” The writer, claiming to be part of the “resistance” to Trump but not from the left, said, “Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” The newspaper described the author of the column only as a senior official in the Trump administration. “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the author continued. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.” President Donald Trump says it’s “really a disgrace” that an unsigned op-ed critical of him and written by a senior administration official has been published. (Sept. 5) A defiant Trump, appearing at an unrelated event at the White House, lashed out at the Times for publishing the op-ed. “They don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them,” he said of the newspaper. The op-ed pages of the newspaper are managed separately from its news department. The essay immediately triggered a wild guessing game as to the author’s identity on social media, in newsrooms and inside the West Wing, where officials were blindsided by its publication. And in a blistering statement, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused the author of choosing to “deceive” the president by remaining in the administration. “He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people,” she said. “The coward should do the right thing and resign.” Sanders also called on the Times to “issue an apology” for publishing the piece, calling it a “pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed.” White House officials did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on Trump’s call for the writer to be turned over to the government or the unsupported national security ground of his demand. To White House officials, the ultimatum appeared to play into the very concerns about the president’s impulses raised by the essay’s author. Trump has demanded that aides identify the leaker, according to two people familiar with the matter, though it was not yet clear how they might go about doing so. The two were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A “House of Cards”-style plot twist in an already over-the-top administration, Trump allies and political insiders scrambled late Wednesday to unmask the writer. The text was pulled apart for clues: The writer is identified as an “administration official”; does that mean a person who works outside the White House? The references to Russia and the late Sen. John McCain — do they suggest someone working in national security? Does the writing style sound like someone who worked at a think tank? In a tweet, the Times used the pronoun “he” to refer to the writer; does that rule out all women? The newspaper later said the tweet referring to “he” had been “drafted by someone who is not aware of the author’s identity, including the gender, so the use of ‘he’ was an error.” Hotly debated on Twitter was the author’s use of the word “lodestar,” which pops up frequently in speeches by Vice President Mike Pence. Could the anonymous figure be someone in Pence’s orbit? Others argued that the word “lodestar” could have been included to throw people off.

Nets Go Wild for Anonymous NYT Op-Ed From White House Aide Trashing Trump

On Wednesday, The New York Times published a scathing op-ed trashing President Trump written by an anonymous senior White House official (or so the paper claims). The author pompously painted them self as part of a secret, superhero-like team in the White House keeping the wildly unstable President from harming us all. During the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and, NBC, they spent almost 15 minutes combined pushing the writer’s claims.

“The President’s leadership style is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective. Senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails. He engages in repetitive rants. And his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”  “President Trump is confronted tonight with what may be the most daunting opposition he’s faced yet. This time it’s coming from within his own ranks,” anchor Lester Holt proclaimed as the program began.

 

 

“An extraordinary alarm sounded from the inside out, jaw-dropping charges against the President by someone who says they work for him. An anonymous source describing a secret cluster of top aides, quote, ‘working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,’” added NBC White House correspondent Hallie Jackson. Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd joined Holtr being asked by Holt, “should all Americans be shaken,” Todd vehemently agreed. “Look, I think so. Because I mean, the portrait that’s being painted is a President that is not fit to run the country. That’s what this senior administration official is saying,”  Duncan also noted the reaction from former Times public editor (and current Washington Post columnist) Margaret Sullivan who jokingly tweeted: “It’s a good day not to be the public editor of The New York Times.”

French President Macron’s popularity slumps to record low in poll

 French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting, following a government reshuffle the day before, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France September 5, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool by Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has hit a record low following the resignation of a popular minister and a summer scandal over his bodyguard, a poll showed on Thursday. Only 23 percent of those surveyed reported a favourable opinion of Macron in September, down from 27 percent last month, the YouGov poll for Le Huff Post and CNEWS found. Macron’s popularity is low in most polls but the YouGov survey pegged it worse than others and indicated poor ratings across the political spectrum. The former investment banker has sold his pro-business reform drive on promises that it will boost growth and jobs, but many voters ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich. He was dealt a blow last week with the surprise resignation of his environment minister, a popular former activist and TV presenter, during a live radio interview. In July his leadership was put to the test when a scandal broke out as video emerged showing his top bodyguard beating May Day protesters. Meanwhile, soft economic data has raised questions about whether he has the right recipe for growth while hesitation over a tax collection reform has painted him as unusually indecisive. His government has repeatedly shrugged off poor poll ratings, insisting it will not waver on the reform agenda as politically sensitive overhauls of unemployment insurance and pensions loom in the months ahead. The YouGov poll was conducted on Aug. 29-30 with a sample of 1,099 people.

Turkey begins constructing site for Russian missile system — despite US warnings

  • A Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
    Sergei Malgavko | TASS via Getty Images A Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

NEW DELHI Turkey is in the process of constructing a site for a Russian missile system despite warnings from the United States to not buy the platform, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of an intelligence report covering the subject. The assessment, published a month ago, included satellite imagery of a concrete launch facility as well as bunkers, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The new construction fits the pattern for Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the source indicated. Last year, Ankara signed an agreement with Moscow for S-400 missiles, a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion. Since then, Turkey’s march toward procuring the Russian missile system has raised concerns among NATO partners, who are wary of Moscow’s increasing military presence in the region. The S-400 system is believed to have a larger range than the American-made THAAD missile system and is estimated to cost significantly less. Turkey is slated to receive the S-400 next year and is expected to have the system ready for war by 2020. Meanwhile, all of that comes as Congress is inching closer to blocking the transfer of two F-35 jets to Turkey.

The stealth fighter jets that hang in the balance

Turkey, an F-35 program partner, is currently slated to receive two of the jets. That delivery of Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation jets is the start of what Ankara hopes will eventually amount to 100 of the stealth aircraft. In June, the U.S. defense giant held a formal hand-off ceremony at its F-35 facility in Fort Worth, Texas. After the ceremony, Lockheed ferried the aircraft to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where Turkish pilots began training alongside U.S. airmen. The Russian-made S-400 missile system, which is equipped with eight launchers and 32 missiles, is capable of targeting stealth warplanes like the F-35 fighter. In the colossal $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act, Congress tasked the Pentagon to deliver a report in 90 days outlining the potential risks associated with Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile system. “We are going through this current issue between us, and we are engaged in, I would call it, frequent, right now, very frequent, discussions at very high levels to try to sort this out,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday when asked about the F-35 sale to Turkey. “I believe that there is sincerity on both sides to try to work this out. So we’re engaged in it right now, and I — you know, I need to work with them directly on this, as does Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo and others on our side,” he added. What’s more, tensions between the U.S. and Ankara have intensified over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. In August, the Department of the Treasury issued sanctions to Turkey’s ministers of Justice and Interior for the arrest and detention of Brunson. “The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being,” U.S. President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet. “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”.

In quick reversal, Trump threatens shutdown over border wall

FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks before signing an executive order on strengthening retirement security in America at Harris Conference Center in Charlotte, NC, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to shut down the U.S. government if Congress does not provide enough funding for border security, reversing a stance he took a day earlier. Trump made his comments at a meeting with congressional Republican leaders at the White House about the legislative agenda for the next few months, including extending government funding past a Sept. 30 deadline. He said Congress was making “tremendous progress” on funding, but that he wanted to make good on a promise to fund border security. Trump has repeatedly threatened not to sign funding legislation if Congress fails to include enough money for a wall on the border with Mexico. Trump reiterated that threat on Wednesday. Responding to a reporter’s question about a possible shutdown, he said: “If it happens, it happens. If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything. We have to protect our borders.”

His stance contradicts an interview he gave to the Daily Caller on Tuesday, when he said: “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns.” “I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now,” Trump was quoted as saying.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Fox News, called the meeting with Trump a “good discussion” and said he expected the president to sign funding bills before the end of fiscal year, averting a shutdown. McConnell said there was “no chance” of a government shutdown. “We are still in favor of the wall. We still want to get funding for the wall. But we think the best time to have that discussion is after the election,” he said Republican lawmakers had welcomed Trump’s move away from a possible government shutdown, saying party leaders wanted “no drama” ahead of the Nov. 6 election to decide whether fellow conservatives keep hold of Congress. House Republicans, who were leaving a closed-door party meeting held on Capitol Hill before Trump made his remarks, said the message from leadership was aimed at avoiding any crises before the midterm contest, an approach echoed by several Republican senators. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a Republican representative with close ties to the administration, said he did not expect the federal government to shut, and that any decision on the controversial issue of funding border security would likely be delayed. “We were told no drama,” Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky conservative, said after the closed-door meeting. The planned border wall, the Trump administration’s ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries and other immigration issues loom large as Americans prepare to head to the polls in November. Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to build a wall that would be paid for by Mexico, which it has refused to do. He has subsequently turned to Congress to seek $25 billion for the project, along with other immigration demands. Still, lawmakers have not reached a consensus on any immigration steps. While a few conservatives like Republican Representative Jim Jordan insist the border issue should be dealt with now, others seem resigned to waiting at least until the new Congress takes office in January following the election. Trump and U.S. lawmakers averted a government shutdown in March after passing a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through Sept. 30. A shutdown could backfire on Trump if voters blame Republicans for any federal government service disruptions. Trump hits back at union leader on Labor Day “It doesn’t benefit anybody, certainly not Republicans,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake said.

Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency

Chief of Staff John F. Kelly in the Oval Office in February. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,

John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point. In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool. “This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.” The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals. Woodward writes that his book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses that were conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used but he would not reveal who provided it. His account is also drawn from meeting notes, personal diaries and government documents.

Woodward depicts Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry as unrelenting, at times paralyzing the West Wing for entire days. Learning of the appointment of Mueller in May 2017, Trump groused, “Everybody’s trying to get me”— part of a venting period that shellshocked aides compared to Richard Nixon’s final days as president.

The 448-page book was obtained by The Washington Post. Woodward, an associate editor at The Post, sought an interview with Trump through several intermediaries to no avail. The president called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate. The president complained that it would be a “bad book,” according to an audio recording of the conversation. Woodward replied that his work would be “tough” but factual and based on his reporting.

The book’s title is derived from a remark that then-candidate Trump made in an interview with Woodward and Post political reporter Robert Costa in 2016. Trump said, “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, ‘Fear.’ ” A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead. Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them. Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders. At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all. “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him. After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

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WashPost: Woodward’s Book Depicts White House ‘Nervous Breakdown’

Image: WashPost: Woodward's Book Depicts White House 'Nervous Breakdown'
Bob Woodward (Getty Images) By Eric Mack

If Explosive Book Claims Are True, Trump Lawyer’s Resignation Makes Perfect Sense

It was jarring but not necessarily a surprise when John Dowd resigned from President Donald Trump‘s legal team back in March, but new details in another book about life in the Trump administration have shed some light on why Dowd left when he did. Bob Woodward of Woodward and Bernstein fame has penned a book called Fear: Trump in the White House. It is scheduled to drop on Sept. 11. The Washington Post preview is a seemingly endless catalogue of White House staffer intrigue behind the scenes. One of the major claims of the book is that Dowd was so against Trump doing an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he staged a practice session to prove Trump would perjure himself and then reenacted it in front of Mueller to show why he couldn’t be interviewed. As per the Post:

On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles, where Dowd and Sekulow reenacted Trump’s January practice session.

Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’”

Woodward claims that Mueller responded to Dowd’s words by saying, simply, “John, I understand.” The subject supposedly came up again the day before Dowd submitted his resignation. “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit,” Dowd allegedly said to Trump. Trump, on the other hand, was concerned that not testifying would look bad. “I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump is quoted. “You are not a good witness,” Dowd is quoted in turn. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.” It’s worth noting that none of this contradicts what Dowd said in an interview after he resigned. Dowd said that his relationship with Mueller was more than good — it was “terrific.” “We had a terrific relationship with Mueller — the best that I can recall in my 50 years of practice,” Dowd said. “It was terrific, completely open, people trusted each other, and we had no misunderstandings.”

Mueller Makes Major Connection, Tying Secret Ukrainian Money to Trump Inauguration

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred the Sam Patten Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the picture is becoming clearer as to why Patten was on Mueller’s radar in the first place. Earlier Friday, Law&Crime noted that Patten, an associate of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in the lobbying world, had ties to suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik.Patten was charged for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia and Ukraine between 2014 and 2017. It happened after Mueller referred the investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice National Security Division. Kilimnik, you may recall, was slapped with lobbying violations in June, as Mueller brought witness tampering and conspiracy charges against Manafort in a superseding indictment. Kilimnik’s ties to Patten go back two decades. CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz is now reporting that prosecutors are alleging that Patten sought tickets to Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States “on behalf of a prominent Ukrainian oligarch” and acted as a “straw purchaser” to do so. Prosecutors say Ukrainian money was secretly funneled to the inauguration committee “through a Cypriot bank account.”

Trump Campaign Aide ‘Talked Frequently’ With Person Linked To Russian Intelligence


Rick Gates, former deputy campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, is now cooperating with the investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. (file photo)
Rick Gates, former deputy campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, is now cooperating with the investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. (file photo)

A top campaign official for U.S. President Donald Trump had repeated communications during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential race with a business associate the FBI believes had ties to Russian intelligence, a court filing says. The connection between Rick Gates, a former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, and the associate was revealed in a court document filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office late on March 27 and cited in media reports on March 28. The document identifies the associate only as “Person A” and says he was working for the campaign at the time. The New York Times, citing a “person with knowledge of the matter,” identified “Person A” as Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both during the campaign and when he worked as a consultant to the government of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was ousted and fled to Russia in 2014. The court document says Gates had frequent phone calls in September and October 2016 — weeks before the November election — with the associate, who the document says the FBI believes had active links to Russian spy services at the time. Manafort has denied that Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence. But the court document says Gates told an associate that “Person A” was “a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU,” the Russian military intelligence agency. Mueller has charged both Gates and Manafort with alleged crimes unrelated to their connections with “Person A.” Gates pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI and conspiring to defraud the United States, and he is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Gates’ alleged communications with the business associate were revealed in a sentencing document for former Skadden Arps attorney Alex van der Zwaan filed late on March 27. Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Gates and the business associate. He is due to be sentenced on April 3. In the document, prosecutors said Gates and van der Zwaan were in touch with “Person A” just before the election and that van der Zwaan acknowledged that he knew about the man’s suspected intelligence ties because Gates had told him about them.

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Global debt soars, along with fears of crisis ahead

Ten years after the worst financial panic since the 1930s, growing debt burdens in key developing economies are fueling fears of a new crisis that could spread far beyond the disruption sweeping Turkey. The loss of investor confidence in the Turkish lira, which has surrendered more than 40 percent of its value this year, is only a preview of debt problems that could engulf countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Indonesia, some economists say. “Turkey is not the last one,” said Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, an economics professor at the University of Maryland. “Turkey is the beginning.” Argentina this week asked the International Monetary Fund to accelerate a planned $50 billion rescue as the peso crashed to a historic low. But the danger of a financial contagion that could hit Americans by crushing U.S. exports and sending the stock market plunging should be taken more seriously in light of a massive increase in global debt since the 2008 downturn, the economists said.

Total debt is a whopping $169 trillion, up from $97 trillion on the eve of the Great Recession, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

While previous debt crises involved U.S. households and, later, profligate European governments such as Greece, this time the concern centers on companies in emerging markets that borrowed heavily in dollars and euros. In Turkey, for example, companies and banks borrowed in recent years to finance bridges, hospitals, power plants and even a mammoth port development for cruise ships.

Foreign investors, particularly European banks, lent freely in search of the higher returns these markets offered at a time when the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank were keeping interest rates low.

“We were supposed to correct a debt bubble,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, a wealth-management firm. “What we did instead was create more debt.” “The free money is going away,” said economist Tim Lee of Pi Economics, who has been warning of a potential Turkish crisis since 2011.

The situation could grow even more perilous. Money is fleeing Turkey and similar markets precisely when many of the loans their companies took out in recent years are coming due. Globally, a record total of up to $10 trillion in corporate bonds must be refinanced over the next five years, according to McKinsey.

Earlier this week, Moody’s cut its credit ratings on 20 Turkish financial institutions. The ratings agency cited “a substantial increase in the risk” that banks would struggle to finance normal operations. The prospect of a new debt crisis is striking because the world has already seen two in the past 10 years Debt has grown furiously and is almost 2 1/2 times the size of the global economy. Among the chief casualties from Turkey’s plight will be European banks, especially Spanish institutions that have loaned Turkey more than $82 billion. And Italian banks that have exposure of over $100 billion.

Yemen conflict: Saudi-led coalition admits mistakes in deadly bus strike

Image copyright AFP Image caption At least 40 children were among 51 people killed in the 9 August strike
 

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has expressed regret over “mistakes” made in a deadly air strike on a bus. More than 40 children were killed in the strike in a market in northern Saada province on 9 August, drawing international condemnation. In a statement on Saturday, the coalition pledged to hold those responsible for the strike accountable. But a spokesman for the coalition’s own investigation maintained that the strike had targeted a Houthi leader. The head of the coalition’s Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), Lt Gen Mansour al-Mansour, said its investigation had found that the bus was carrying Houthi leaders and fighters and was therefore a “legitimate” military target, but admitted that the location of the strike had led to collateral damage. A statement carried by the Saudi state news agency SPA on Saturday said: “The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition expresses regret over the mistakes, extends its sympathies, condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims.” The coalition said it would co-ordinate with the Yemeni government to compensate families of victims and would also review its rules of engagement. The coalition insists it never deliberately targets civilians, but human rights groups have accused it of bombing markets, schools, hospitals and residential areas. Earlier this week, the coalition rejected the findings of a UN report which said that war crimes may have been committed by all parties in the conflict. UN experts accused Yemeni government forces, the coalition backing them, and the rebel Houthi movement of making little effort to minimise civilian casualties. Last week, another strike to the south of the port city of Hudaydah killed at least 22 children and four women.  Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad. Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and seven other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government. Almost 10,000 people – two-thirds of them civilians – have been killed and 55,000 others injured in the fighting, according to the United Nations. The fighting and a partial blockade by the coalition has also left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have affected a million people.

Mueller Makes Major Connection, Tying Secret Ukrainian Money to Trump Inauguration

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred the Sam Patten Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the picture is becoming clearer as to why Patten was on Mueller’s radar in the first place. Earlier Friday, Law&Crime noted that Patten, an associate of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in the lobbying world, had ties to suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik.Patten was charged for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia and Ukraine between 2014 and 2017. It happened after Mueller referred the investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice National Security Division. Kilimnik, you may recall, was slapped with lobbying violations in June, as Mueller brought witness tampering and conspiracy charges against Manafort in a superseding indictment. Kilimnik’s ties to Patten go back two decades. CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz is now reporting that prosecutors are alleging that Patten sought tickets to Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States “on behalf of a prominent Ukrainian oligarch” and acted as a “straw purchaser” to do so. Prosecutors say Ukrainian money was secretly funneled to the inauguration committee “through a Cypriot bank account.”

Trump threatens to cut Canada out of trade deal with Mexico

“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” he tweeted.

President Donald Trump threatened to cut Canada out of the trade deal his government has been negotiating with Mexico — one day after admitting in an off-the-record interview that he was just stringing Ottawa along. “There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning, in reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement. “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out.” In a follow-up tweet, Trump ripped the 1994 trade agreement among the Mexico, Canada, and the United States, which he said has resulted in the U.S. losing “thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.” “We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” the president tweeted Saturday. The Trump administration announced a new preliminary deal with Mexico last week. The president implied during that announcement that he would be willing to cut Canada out of any new deal “They used to call it NAFTA,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.” The tweets come after The Toronto Star published harsh comments about Canada on Friday that Trump made off the record — meaning not for publication — during an interview with Bloomberg News. Trump confirmed those comments via Twitter. “Here’s the problem,” Trump told Bloomberg, according to The Star. “If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people.” The president went on to say he will only approve a deal with Canada that is “totally on our terms.” Canadian officials reportedly registered their objections to Trump’s comments during a session of trade negotiations on Friday. Those talks are set to pick up again on Wednesday.

‘Strange disappearance’ of WikiLeaks consultant in Norway

WikiLeaks has raised concern after Arjen Kamphuis, an associate of founder Julian Assange, went missing in Norway. The cybersecurity expert was last seen in northern Norway on August 20. The internet transparency entity WikiLeaks tweeted on Sunday about Arjen Kamphuis’ “strange disappearance,” saying he has been missing since August 20, when he left his hotel in the northern Norwegian town of Bodo. WikiLeaks said that Kamphuis, an associate of founder Julian Assange, had a ticket for a flight departing on August 22 from Trondheim, which is over 700 kilometers (435 miles) south of Bodo. “The train between the two takes (approximately) 10 hours,” suggesting he disappeared either in Bodo, Trondheim or on the train, WikiLeaks said. A website set up to gather information on the missing person says: “He is 47 years old, 1.78 meters tall and has a normal posture. He was usually dressed in black and carrying his black backpack. He is an avid hiker.” There have reportedly been two unconfirmed possible sightings, one in Alesund, Norway, and the other in Ribe, Denmark. Norwegian police started looking into the disappearance on Sunday. “We have started an investigation,” police spokesman Tommy Bech told the French news agency AFP, adding that so far they had “no clue” where the Dutch citizen was. The police “would not speculate about what may have happened to him,” Bech said. Norwegian police can’t legally access his cellphone movement data until Kamphuis is officially reported missing in the Netherlands, according to the Norwegian Verdens Gang tabloid newspaper. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of his disappearance after Kamphuis’ friend and privacy activist Ancilla van de Leest tweeted about his disappearance.

WTO chief says ‘no panic’ over Trump withdrawal threat

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) attends a meeting with the Association of Correspondents to the United Nations (ACANU) in Geneva, Switzerland, July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) – World Trade Organisation head Roberto Azevedo said on Friday U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about potentially leaving the WTO were consistent with what the United States has said previously and did not reflect new concerns. Trump said on Thursday that he could pull out of the WTO, potentially undermining one of the foundations of the modern global economy, which the United States was instrumental in creating. “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” Trump said. In a response on Friday, Azevedo, the WTO’s director general, said there was no reason for “panic”. “The U.S. concerns about areas in the WTO that they would like to improve are not new. And I think what he said yesterday is consistent with what they have expressed before.” Trump has previously called the WTO a “disaster” and a “catastrophe”. During his election campaign he told NBC’s Meet the Press programme that if the WTO rules blocked his policies, he would renegotiate U.S. membership or pull out. Trump’s ambassador has said the United States will not shy away from being disruptive to shake up what it sees as a complacent organisation, and has precipitated a crisis by blocking appointments of WTO appeals judges, forcing other countries to discuss potential reforms to assuage Trump. Many diplomats say that although they dislike the U.S. tactics, they agree that the WTO needs reform, and hope that the situation can be used to make the 23-year-old trading club more efficient and effective. The WTO is run on the basis of “consensus”, meaning that every one of its 164 members has an effective veto and it is almost impossible to get agreement on any change to the rules. Azevedo said many WTO members were now talking about improvements, which was a good development. “Everyone that would like to see improvements in the WTO is very welcome to present their ideas and their suggestions to improve the organisation, sit down with the other members and get the job done,” he said.

U.S. fund managers trim bank stocks on profit worries

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S.-based mutual fund managers worried about the outlook for bank earnings have been trimming financial stocks from their portfolios, although some value-oriented portfolio managers and analysts said they still see attractive opportunities in the sector. The average U.S. based mutual fund reduced its stake in financial companies by nearly 1.1 percentage points in the second quarter to approximately 14 percent, the largest one-quarter decline since at least 2013, according to Goldman Sachs. The move away from banks, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders came as the financial sector has underperformed the broad S&P 500 benchmark index by more than 5 percent since April.

Many fund managers believe banks have already hit peak earnings. One red flag is that the U.S. Treasury yield curve has been flattening as short-term yields rise in anticipation of U.S. interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve while long-term yields fall on worries about economic growth and trade tensions. This situation generally squeezes bank profits.

Some investors worry long-term yields might eventually dip below short-term yields. Such a yield curve inversion that can signal a looming recession. “The flatter the yield curve the harder it is to make money,” said Ian McDonald, co-leader of the financials research team at Janus Henderson Investors, which oversees $370.1 billion in assets under management, adding that “funds are looking around and saying that if we’re going to see weaker growth then we need to get out of financials.” The spread between the yield of two- and 10-year U.S. Treasuries US2US10=RR is trading around its flattest in 11 years. Rising short-term rates raise a bank’s borrowing costs, while falling long-term rates limit how much they can charge for loans. Though banks have stronger balance sheets than at the start of the financial crisis 10 years ago, “we’re having a hard time finding anything to get excited about in financials,” said Tom Plumb, manager of the $29.7 million Plumb Equity Fund.  Kyle Martin, an analyst at Westwood Holdings Group, a Dallas firm with $21.6 billion in assets under management, said that rising interest rates and the flattening yield curve could point to a recession in 2020.

Trump to Skip Summits With Asia Leaders; Pence to Attend

Image: Trump to Skip Summits With Asia Leaders; Pence to Attend
President Donald Trump, does the “ASEAN-way handshake” with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the ASEAN Summit on November 13 in Manila, Philippines. (AP/Andrew Harnik) Friday, 31 August 2018
President Donald Trump will skip summits with Asian leaders in Singapore and Papua New Guinea in November, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place, the White House said on Friday.Trump was invited to attend the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and the East Asia summit in Singapore and also the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea. He attended these events last November. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump asked Pence to represent him at the summits, where he will “highlight the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, based on respect for sovereignty, the rule of law, and the principles of free, fair and reciprocal trade.” Trump will travel to Paris to attend a Nov. 11 commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War One. Trump had wanted a U.S. military parade in Washington but balked at price estimates. “While in Europe, the president also will visit Ireland to renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations,” Sanders said. Later in November, Trump will attend the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires and will also travel to Colombia for talks about security, narcotics and regional affairs, Sanders said.

Trump’s decision to skip the Asian summits will inevitably raise questions about the extent of his commitment to a region that is home to some of the most pressing U.S. foreign policy challenges.

These include Trump’s stalled efforts to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States and strategic rivalry with China, with which Trump has engaged in a major trade war. The Trump administration has touted an Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at increasing regional cooperation, notably with India, Australia and Japan, to counter China’s influence, including in the disputed South China Sea, where Washington has mounted naval patrols to challenge what it sees as Beijing’s excessive territorial claims. In August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a regional foreign ministers’ meeting in Singapore to prepare for the November summits and pledged nearly $300 million in new security funding for the Indo-Pacific – a drop in the ocean compared to the billions China has been pouring into the region. Asia experts were not surprised by Trump’s decision. “Trump hates traveling outside the U.S. and dislikes multilateral meetings,” said Bonnie Glaser of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Convincing Trump to travel to PNG, in particular, was likely impossible,” she said. “He will have a chance to meet with (Chinese President) Xi Jinping at the G20 a few weeks later,” adding that the decision on the summits “will further stoke doubts about the administration’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.” Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution think tank, noted that Trump was not the first president to cancel trips to the Asian summits – his predecessor Barack Obama caused great disappointment when he withdrew from them in 2013. Obama did so due to a government shutdown at home, but the decision raised questions about his vaunted “pivot” to Asia to counter China. “There’s no question that many in Southeast Asia see the region caught uncomfortably between the United States and China,” Pollack said. “The Trump administration’s repeated calls for a free and open Indo-Pacific have fallen flat in various capitals, which many see as very thin gruel, begging the issue of how the U.S. intends to remain relevant to the regional future.”

Emerging-market pain is seen lasting into next year, as Argentina and Turkey lead currency crisis

People wait outside of a currency exchange house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. 
Erica Canepa | Bloomberg | Getty Images People wait outside of a currency exchange house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

As Argentina’s currency plungedand interest rates spiked this week, the South American country was at the epicenter of an emerging-markets financial spiral that is expected to continue well into next year. Argentina’s peso steadied Friday after losing about 20 percent against the dollar since Tuesday as its central bank said it would auction dollar reserves. On Thursday, the country’s central bank jacked up interest rates to 60 percent from 45 percent. The International Monetary Fund on Friday said it supports Argentina and that it would meet with officials Tuesday on a revised economic plan, after the country requested accelerated payments from a $50 billion credit line. The emerging markets have been hurt by U.S. Federal Reserve rate hikes, which have driven up the value of the dollar versus other currencies, making it more expensive to repay dollar-denominated debt. Trade wars have also been a factor, and they hurt commodity prices. Commodities are important revenue sources in emerging markets. As Argentina’s currency suffered, other emerging markets’ currencies fell in sympathy this past week, including Turkey’s lira, which has been under pressure recently as its central bank has refused to hike interest rates. The lira was recovering some losses Friday.

“This is not over by any means,” said National Alliance’s Andrew Brenner. “The longer the Fed takes easing away, the more they’re tightening, the more trouble for emerging markets, and we haven’t seen the worst of it.”

Argentina’s inflation rate is now more than 30 percent, and Turkey is expected to release new inflation data next week, which Jackson said could show a pace of 20 percent. But while Turkey has resisted taking the steps strategists see as necessary, like raising interest rates, Argentina has tried to restore confidence, but so far its difficulties are recurring. “Part of it is that their economic vulnerability is really large. They’ve had a recession every two years for the past six years. The IMF deal is the 23rd since the 1950s,” said Jackson. “They have a quite weak domestic base, a large reliance on imports.” Strategists said trade tensions have been one big factor hitting emerging markets, starting with China. The Trump administration has put tariffs on steel and aluminum globally and on $50 billion of Chinese goods. The president is expected to consider tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods in September.

Russia Controls Trump: Congressional testimony

Donald Trump pardon self George III

Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr had a closed-door meeting with members of Congress this week, during which he provided details of a breakfast meeting he had with Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the controversial dossier on Donald Trump‘s ties to Russia, sources told the Associated Press. Ohr told the House Oversight Committee that at that meeting, Steele recalled how Russian intelligence believed they had significant leverage over Trump, saying they had him “over a barrel.” This is in line with unverified information from the Steele dossier that indicated that the Russian government may have had blackmail material on Trump. Both the dossier and Ohr have come under criticism from Republicans, who believe that the FBI improperly relied on its contents in seeking surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Ohr and Steele had reportedly met during the months before the FISA warrant application was first made, during the infancy of the investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia, which was then handled by the FBI. At the same time, Ohr’s wife Nellie Ohr was working for Fusion GPS, the research company hired by the Clinton campaign to conduct opposition research. That research included Steele’s work. Steele had been used as an FBI source in the past, but Bruce Ohr reportedly continued to meet with Steele on even after the FBI stopped using him as a source.President Trump and his supporters have pointed to the Ohrs as evidence that there was an improper connection between Hillary Clinton‘s opposition research and the Justice Department. Ohr still remains at the Justice Department despite this. President Trump has questioned the reasoning behind keeping him on board in recent days.

The cost of buying a home is rising three times faster than the cost to rent

In nearly two-thirds of counties nationwide, it’s now cheaper to rent than buy a home
Bloomberg Buying a home is becoming a costlier proposition, pushing more people toward renting.

As the monthly cost of buying a home continues to trudge upwards, renting is becoming a more affordable option across much of the U.S.The monthly cost of buying a home — which includes mortgage payments, taxes and insurance — jumped 14% between July 2017 and July 2018, according to a report released Thursday by Realtor.com. Comparatively, it only became 4% more expensive to rent a home over that same period.That disparity means that for much of the country, it’s now much more affordable to rent than it is to buy. It’s cheaper to buy in only 35% of counties nationwide, and just 41% of the U.S. population lives in those counties. The gap is even greater in counties where the population exceeds 100,000 people — buying is more affordable in only 7% of those counties. Over the past year, 20 counties with 100,000 residents or more shifted from being more affordable for home buyers to being cheaper for renters. Three-quarters of these counties were located in the South and the Midwest, Realtor.com reported.

Top 5 counties favoring buying
Rank County Monthly cost to buy Monthly cost to rent Percent of income to buy Percent of income to rent
1 Clayton County, Ga. $699 $1,236 18% 32%
2 Baltimore City, Md. $1,097 $1,475 27% 36%
3 Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit) $695 $1,040 18% 27%
4 Cumberland County, N.C. $864 $1,012 23% 27%
5 Madison County, Ill. $832 $1,019 17% 21%
Top 5 counties favoring renting
Rank County Monthly cost to buy Monthly cost to rent Percent of income to buy Percent of income to rent
1 New York County, N.Y. (Manhattan) $9,840 $2,086 141% 30%
2 Kings County, N.Y. (Brooklyn) $4,860 $2,086 102% 44%
3 Monterey County, Calif. $4,816 $1,682 85% 30%
4 San Mateo County, Calif. $8,405 $3,471 89% 37%
5 Santa Barbara County, Calif. $4,878 $1,910 81% 32%

This trend, if it continues, could have major ramifications for consumers, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “Even setting aside big upfront expenses like a down payment, rising month-by-month costs are likely keeping many people from purchasing,” Hale said in the report. “Since home ownership has historically been an important source of household wealth creation, it could be problematic if this trend continues for too long. Still, even in places where renting is currently more affordable, rising home prices provide wealth building opportunity for home buyers.” Indeed, the homeownership rates in the markets that favor renting the most range from 23% to 59%, which is lower than the national rate of 64%.