Sep 192016
 
 September 19, 2016  Posted by at 9:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle September 19 2016


Jack Delano Chicago & North Western Railroad locomotive shops 1942

BIS Flashes Red Alert For a Banking Crisis in China (AEP)
BIS Warning Indicator for China Banking Stress Climbs to Record (BBG)
China Relies on Housing Bubble to Keep GDP Numbers Elevated (CNBC)
Chinese Yuan Borrowing Rate Hits Second Highest Level On Record (R.)
Oil Investors Flee as OPEC Freeze Hopes Face Supply Reality (BBG)
The Death Of The Bakken Field Has Begun (SRSrocco)
Canada To Impose Nationwide Carbon Price (R.)
1000s of VW Lawsuits To Be Filed By The End Of Monday, All in Print (BBG)
Many Car Brands Emit More Pollution Than Volkswagen (G.)
The Ongoing Collapse of Economics (Caswell)
WaPo 1st Paper to Call for Prosecution of its Own Source -After Pulitzer- (GG)
‘People’s Candidate’ Le Pen Vows To Free France From EU Yoke (AFP)
Merkel Suffers Drubbing In Berlin Vote Due To Migrant Angst (R.)
Why Won’t The World Tackle The Refugee Crisis? (Observer)

 

 

“..China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution”

BIS Flashes Red Alert For a Banking Crisis in China (AEP)

China has failed to curb excesses in its credit system and faces mounting risks of a full-blown banking crisis, according to early warning indicators released by the world’s top financial watchdog. A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late. The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia’s speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis.

Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring. The credit to GDP gap measures deviations from normal patterns within any one country and therefore strips out cultural differences. It is based on work the US economist Hyman Minsky and has proved to be the best single gauge of banking risk, although the final denouement can often take longer than assumed. Indicators for what would happen to debt service costs if interest rates rose 250 basis points are also well over the safety line. China’s total credit reached 255pc of GDP at the end of last year, a jump of 107 percentage points over eight years. This is an extremely high level for a developing economy and is still rising fast.

Outstanding loans have reached $28 trillion, as much as the commercial banking systems of the US and Japan combined. The scale is enough to threaten a worldwide shock if China ever loses control. Corporate debt alone has reached 171pc of GDP, and it is this that is keeping global regulators awake at night. The BIS said there are ample reasons to worry about the health of world’s financial system. Zero interest rates and bond purchases by central banks have left markets acutely sensitive to the slightest shift in monetary policy, or even a hint of a shift. “There has been a distinctly mixed feel to the recent rally – more stick than carrot, more push than pull,” said Claudio Borio, the BIS’s chief economist. “This explains the nagging question of whether market prices fully reflect the risks ahead.”

Read more …

really? “..the state’s control of the financial system and limited levels of overseas debt may mitigate against the risk of a banking crisis.”

BIS Warning Indicator for China Banking Stress Climbs to Record (BBG)

A warning indicator for banking stress rose to a record in China in the first quarter, underscoring risks to the nation and the world from a rapid build-up of Chinese corporate debt. China’s credit-to-GDP “gap” stood at 30.1%, the highest for the nation in data stretching back to 1995, according to the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements. Readings above 10% signal elevated risks of banking strains, according to the BIS, which released the latest data on Sunday. The gap is the difference between the credit-to-GDP ratio and its long-term trend. A blow-out in the number can signal that credit growth is excessive and a financial bust may be looming. Some analysts argue that China will need to recapitalise its banks in coming years because of bad loans that may be higher than the official numbers.

At the same time, the state’s control of the financial system and limited levels of overseas debt may mitigate against the risk of a banking crisis. In a financial stability report published in June, China’s central bank said lenders would be able to maintain relatively high capital levels even if hit by severe shocks. While the BIS says that credit-to-GDP gaps exceeded 10% in the three years preceding the majority of financial crises, China has remained above that threshold for most of the period since mid-2009, with no crisis so far. In the first quarter, China’s gap exceeded the levels of 41 other nations and the euro area. In the U.S., readings exceeded 10% in the lead up to the global financial crisis.

Read more …

“.. the importance of the property sector to China’s overall economic health, posed a challenge. It contributes up to one-third of GDP..”

China Relies on Housing Bubble to Keep GDP Numbers Elevated (CNBC)

Policymakers in China were facing the dilemma of driving growth while preventing the property market from overheating, an economist said Monday as prices in the world’s second largest economy jumped in August. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 9.2% in August from a year earlier, accelerating from a 7.9% increase in July, an official survey from the National Bureau of Statistics showed Monday. Home prices rose 1.5% from July. But according to Donna Kwok, senior China economist at UBS, the importance of the property sector to China’s overall economic health, posed a challenge. It contributes up to one-third of GDP as its effects filter through to related businesses such as heavy industries and raw materials.

“On the one hand, they need to temper the signs of froth that we are seeing in the higher-tier cities. On the other hand, they are still having to rely on the (market’s) contribution to headline GDP growth that property investment as the whole—which is still reliant on the lower-tier city recovery—generates…so that 6.5 to 7% annual growth target is still met for this year,” Kwok told CNBC’s “Street Signs.” The data showed prices in the first-tier cities of Shanghai and Beijing prices rose 31.2% and 23.5%, respectively. Home prices in the second tier cities of Xiamen and Hefei saw the larges price gains, rising 43.8 percent and 40.3 percent respectively, from a year ago.

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Liquidity.

Chinese Yuan Borrowing Rate Hits Second Highest Level On Record (R.)

Hong Kong’s overnight yuan borrowing rate was fixed at the highest level in eight months on Monday after the long holiday weekend. China’s financial markets were closed from Thursday for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and Hong Kong’s markets were shut on Friday. The CNH Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate benchmark (CNH Hibor), set by the city’s Treasury Markets Association (TMA), was fixed at 23.683% for overnight contracts, the highest level since Jan. 12. Traders said the elevated offshore yuan borrowing rates in the past week were due to tight liquidity in the market and rumors that China took action to raise the cost of shorting its currency.

“Normal lenders of the yuan, like Chinese banks, have refrained from injecting liquidity into the market recently due to speculation that the yuan will depreciate toward certain levels like 6.68, 6.7 per dollar,” said a trader in a local bank in Hong Kong. “(The yuan’s) inclusion into the SDR basket nears, so the central bank would like to maintain the offshore yuan near the stronger side,” said the trader, adding that seasonal reasons including national holidays and caution near the quarter-end also drains yuan liquidity from the market. The U.S. dollar traded near a two-week high against a basket of major currencies on Monday after U.S. consumer prices rose more than expected in August, bolstering expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year.

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Really, it’s about demand.

Oil Investors Flee as OPEC Freeze Hopes Face Supply Reality (BBG)

Oil speculators headed for the sidelines as OPEC members prepare to discuss freezing output in the face of signs the supply glut will linger. Money managers cut wagers on both falling and rising crude prices before talks between OPEC and other producers later this month. The meeting comes after the International Energy Agency said that the global oversupply will last longer than previously thought as demand growth slows and output proves resilient. “It’s a cliff trade right here,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capita, a New York hedge fund focused on energy. “There’s more uncertainty than usual in the market because of the upcoming meeting. People are waiting for the outcome and a number think this is a good time to stand on the sidelines.”

OPEC plans to hold an informal meeting with competitor Russia in Algiers Sept. 27, fanning speculation the producers may agree on an output cap to shore up prices. Oil climbed 7.5% in August after OPEC announced talks in the Algerian capital. [..] World oil stockpiles will continue to accumulate into late 2017, a fourth consecutive year of oversupply, according to the IEA. Just last month, the agency predicted the market would start returning to equilibrium this year. OPEC production rose last month as Middle East producers opened the taps, the IEA said. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE pumped at or near record levels and Iraq pushed output higher, according to the agency. “OPEC is out of bullets,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group. “Even if they agree on a production freeze it will be at such a high level that it will be meaningless.”

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“..the energy companies producing shale oil in the Bakken are in the hole for $32 billion. ”

The Death Of The Bakken Field Has Begun (SRSrocco)

The Death of the Great Bakken Oil Field has begun and very few Americans understand the significance. Just a few years ago, the U.S. Energy Industry and Mainstream media were gloating that the United States was on its way to “Energy Independence.” Unfortunately for most Americans, they believed the hype and are now back to driving BIG SUV’s and trucks that get lousy fuel mileage. And why not? Americans now think the price of gasoline will continue to decline because the U.S. oil industry is able to produce its “supposed” massive shale oil reserves for a fraction of the cost, due to the new wonders of technological improvement. [..] they have no clue that the Great Bakken Oil Field is now down a stunning 25% from its peak just a little more than a year and half ago:

Some folks believe the reason for the decline in oil production at the Bakken was due to low oil prices. While this was part of the reason, the Bakken was going to peak and decline in 2016-2017 regardless of the price. This was forecasted by peak oil analyst Jean Laherrere. [..] I took Jean Laherrere’s chart and placed it next to the current actual Bakken oil field production:

As we can see in the chart above, the rise and fall of Bakken oil production is very close to what Jean Laherrere forecasted several years ago (shown by the red arrow). According to Laherrere’s chart, the Bakken will be producing a lot less oil by 2020 and very little by 2025. This would also be true for the Eagle Ford Field in Texas. According to the most recent EIA Drilling Productivity Report [8], the Eagle Ford Shale Oil Field in Texas will be producing an estimated 1,026,000 barrels of oil per day in September, down from a peak of 1,708,000 barrels per day in May 2015. Thus, Eagle Ford oil production is slated to be down a stunning 40% since its peak last year.

Do you folks see the writing on the wall here? The Bakken down 25% and the Eagle Ford down 40%. These are not subtle declines. This is much quicker than the U.S. Oil Industry or the Mainstream Media realize. And… it’s much worse than that. The U.S. Oil Industry Hasn’t Made a RED CENT Producing Shale. Rune Likvern of Fractional Flow has done a wonderful job providing data on the Bakken Shale Oil Field. Here is his excellent chart showing the cumulative FREE CASH FLOW from producing oil in the Bakken: [..] the BLACK BARS are estimates of the monthly Free Cash flow from producing oil in the Bakken since 2009, while the RED AREA is the cumulative negative free cash flow. [..] Furthermore, the red area shows that the approximate negative free cash flow (deducting CAPEX- capital expenditures) is $32 billion. So, with all the effort and high oil prices from 2011-2014 (first half of 2014), the energy companies producing shale oil in the Bakken are in the hole for $32 billion. Well done…. hat’s off to the new wonderful fracking technology.

Read more …

Lofty.

Canada To Impose Nationwide Carbon Price (R.)

Canada will impose a carbon price on provinces that do not adequately regulate emissions by themselves, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said on Sunday without giving details on how the Liberal government will do so. Speaking on the CTV broadcaster’s “Question Period,” a national politics talk show, McKenna said the new emissions regime will be in place sometime in October, before a federal-provincial meeting on the matter. She only said the government will have a “backstop” for provinces that do not comply, but did not address questions on penalties for defiance. Canada’s 10 provinces, which enjoy significant jurisdiction over the environment, have been wary of Ottawa’s intentions and have said they should be allowed to cut carbon emissions their own way.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau persuaded the provinces in March to accept a compromise deal that acknowledged the concept of putting a price on carbon emissions, but agreed the specific details, which would take into account provinces’ individual circumstances, could be worked out later. Canada’s four largest provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, currently have either a tax on carbon or a cap-and-trade emissions-limiting system. But Brad Wall, the right-leaning premier of the western energy-producing province of Saskatchewan, has long been resistant to federal emissions-limiting plans. McKenna said provinces such as Saskatchewan can design a system in which emissions revenues go back to companies through tax cuts, which would dampen the impact of the extra cost brought by the carbon price.

Read more …

“Lower Saxony, home state to Volkswagen doesn’t offer electronic filing for civil litigation.”

1000s of VW Lawsuits To Be Filed By The End Of Monday, All in Print (BBG)

There was one thing Andreas Tilp and Klaus Nieding needed most for taking a wave of Volkswagen investor cases to court: a pickup truck. Nieding had a load of 5,000 suits sent Friday from his office in Frankfurt to Braunschweig, about 350 kilometers (218 miles) away. Tilp’s 1,000 or so complaints will arrive in a transport vehicle Monday, traveling more than 500 kilometers from his office in the southern German city of Kirchentellinsfurt. There was no other way to do it: Lower Saxony, home state to Volkswagen doesn’t offer electronic filing for civil litigation. The court in Braunschweig, the legal district that includes VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters, is expecting thousands of cases by the end of the day.

Investors are lining up to sue in Germany, where VW shares lost more than a third of their value in the first two trading days after the Sept. 18 disclosure of the emissions scandal by U.S. regulators. Monday is the first business day after the anniversary of the scandal and investors fear they have to sue within a year of the company’s admission that it had equipped about 11 million diesel vehicles with software to cheat pollution tests. The lawsuits disclosed so far are seeking 10.7 billion euros ($11.9 billion). The Braunschweig court has said it will release the total number this week. Volkswagen has consistently argued that it has followed all capital-markets rules and properly disclosed emissions issues in a timely fashion.

The super-sized filing is yet another example of the sheer scale of the scandal that’s haunted VW for a year. It forced the German carmaker into the biggest recall in its history to fix the cars or get them off the road entirely, the fines already levied are among the steepest against any manufacturer, and the carmaker has built up massive provisions to absorb the hit.

Read more …

What are the odds VW sponsored the report?

Many Car Brands Emit More Pollution Than Volkswagen (G.)

A year on from the “Dieselgate” scandal that engulfed Volkswagen, damning new research reveals that all major diesel car brands, including Fiat, Vauxhall and Suzuki, are selling models that emit far higher levels of pollution than the shamed German carmaker. The car industry has faced fierce scrutiny since the US government ordered Volkswagen to recall almost 500,000 cars in 2015 after discovering it had installed illegal software on its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests. But a new in-depth study by campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) found not one brand complies with the latest “Euro 6” air pollution limits when driven on the road and that Volkswagen is far from being the worst offender.

“We’ve had this focus on Volkswagen as a ‘dirty carmaker’ but when you look at the emissions of other manufacturers you find there are no really clean carmakers,” says Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at T&E. “Volkswagen is not the carmaker producing the diesel cars with highest nitrogen oxides emissions and the failure to investigate other companies brings disgrace on the European regulatory system.” T&E analysed emissions test data from around 230 diesel car models to rank the worst performing car brands based on their emissions in real-world driving conditions. Fiat and Suzuki (which use Fiat engines) top the list with their newest diesels, designed to meet Euro 6 requirements, spewing out 15 times the NOx limit; while Renault-Nissan vehicle emissions were judged to be more than 14 times higher. General Motors’ brands Opel-Vauxhall also fared badly with emissions found to be 10 times higher than permitted levels.

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Exposed. But too late.

The Ongoing Collapse of Economics (Caswell)

If we accept the rapidly growing body of evidence and authority suggesting that many of the core concepts of conventional macroeconomics are bollox, and that economists don’t really know what they’re doing, then the important question becomes ‘What next?’ As conventional macroeconomic theory crumbles in the face of facts, what will replace it? One of the primary contenders is Modern Monetary Theory, which focuses on money itself (something which, believe it or not, conventional macroeconomic theory doesn’t do). Another possibility is that macroeconomics will learn from complexity and systems theory, and that its models (and, hopefully, their predictive ability) will become more like those used in meteorology and climate science.

Anti-economist Steve Keen is working in this direction, influenced by the Financial Instability Hypothesis (FIH) of Hyman Minsky, whatever that is. But wherever macroeconomics is going, it’s clear that the old order is collapsing. The theoretical orthodoxy that has guided the highest level of economic management for many decades is crumbling. Either economics is an objective science or it’s not. And if economics is not an objective science, then we quickly need an economics that is. Countless livelihoods and lives will be deeply affected by the revolution we are witnessing in theoretical macroeconomics. It may be dry, it may be boring, it may be theoretical, and it may seem incomprehensible. But it’s hard to think of any discussion that’s more important.

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Not looking good.

WaPo 1st Paper to Call for Prosecution of its Own Source -After Pulitzer- (GG)

Three of the four media outlets which received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden – The Guardian, The New York Times and The Intercept – have called for the U.S. Government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the U.S. with no charges. That’s the normal course for a newspaper, which owes its sources duties of protection, and which – by virtue of accepting the source’s materials and then publishing them – implicitly declares the source’s information to be in the public interest. But not The Washington Post.

In the face of a growing ACLU-and-Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Snowden, timed to this weekend’s release of the Oliver Stone biopic “Snowden,” the Post Editorial Page not only argued today in opposition to a pardon, but explicitly demanded that Snowden – their paper’s own source – stand trial on espionage charges or, as a “second-best solution,” “accept [] a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency.” In doing so, The Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own paper’s source – one on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. But even more staggering than this act of journalistic treachery against their paper’s own source are the claims made to justify it.

The Post Editors concede that one – and only one – of the programs which Snowden enabled to be revealed was justifiably exposed – namely, the domestic metadata program, because it “was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law, and posed risks to privacy.” Regarding the “corrective legislation” that followed its exposure, the Post acknowledges: “we owe these necessary reforms to Mr. Snowden.” But that metadata program wasn’t revealed by the Post, but rather by the Guardian.

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Soon one of many.

‘People’s Candidate’ Le Pen Vows To Free France From EU Yoke (AFP)

French far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday vowed to give her country back control over its laws, currency and borders if elected president next year on an anti-EU, anti-immigration platform. Addressing around 3,000 party faithful in the town of Frejus on the Cote d’Azur, Le Pen aimed to set the tone for her campaign, declaring in her speech: “The time of the nation state has come again.” The FN leader, who has pledged to hold a referendum on France’s future in the EU if elected and bring back the French franc, said she was closely watching developments in Britain since it voted to leave the bloc. “We too are keen on winning back our freedom…. We want a free France that is the master of its own laws and currency and the guardian of its borders.”

Polls consistently show Le Pen among the top two candidates in the two-stage presidential elections to take place in April and May. But while the polls show her easily winning a place in the run-off they also show the French rallying around her as-yet-unknown conservative opponent in order to block her victory in the final duel. In Frejus, Le Pen sought to sanitise her image, continuing a process of “de-demonisation” that has paid off handsomely at the ballot box since she took over the FN leadership from her ex-paratrooper father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011. “I am the candidate of the people and I want to talk to you about France, because that is what unites us,” the 48-year-old politician said in a speech that avoided any reference to the FN which is seen as more taboo than its leader.

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What would happen if she decides not to run next year?

Merkel Suffers Drubbing In Berlin Vote Due To Migrant Angst (R.)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives suffered their second electoral blow in two weeks on Sunday, with support for her Christian Democrats (CDU) plunging to a post-reunification low in a Berlin state vote due to unease with her migrant policy. The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) polled 11.5%, gaining from a popular backlash over Merkel’s decision a year ago to keep borders open for refugees, an exit poll by public broadcaster ARD showed. The result means the AfD will enter a 10th state assembly, out of 16 in total.

Merkel’s CDU polled 18%, down from 23.3% at the last election in 2011, with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) remaining the largest party on 23%. The SPD may now ditch the CDU from their coalition in the German capital. The blow to the CDU came two weeks after they suffered heavy losses in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The setbacks have raised questions about whether Merkel will stand for a fourth term next year, but her party has few good alternatives so she still looks like the most likely candidate.

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Perhaps there’s a contradiction hiding in realizing that globalization is moving in reverse, but still expecting global responses to crises.

Why Won’t The World Tackle The Refugee Crisis? (Observer)

It is now the greatest movement of the uprooted that the world has ever known. Some 65 million people have been displaced from their homes, 21.3 million of them refugees for whom flight is virtually compulsory – involuntary victims of politics, war or natural catastrophe. With just less than 1% of the world’s population homeless and seeking a better, safer life, a global crisis is under way, exacerbated by a lack of political cooperation – and several states, including the United Kingdom, are flouting international agreements designed to deal with the crisis. This week’s two major summits in New York, called by the United Nations general assembly and by President Barack Obama, are coming under intense criticism before the first world leaders have even taken their seats.

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and refugee charities are among those accusing both summits of being “toothless” and saying that the declaration expected to be ratified by the UN on Monday imposes no obligations on the 193 general assembly nations to resettle refugees. The Obama-led summit, meanwhile, which follows on Tuesday, is designed to extract pledges of funding which critics say too often fail to materialise. Steve Symonds, refugee programme director at Amnesty, said: “Funding is great and very much needed, but it’s not going to tackle the central point of some sharing of responsibility. The scale of imbalance there is growing, and growing with disastrous consequences.”

He said nations were sabotaging agreements through self-interest. “It’s very, very difficult to feel any optimism about this summit or what it will do for people looking for a safe place for them and their families right at this moment, nor tackle the awful actions of countries who are now thinking, ‘If other countries won’t help take responsibility, then why should we?’ and are now driving back desperate people. “Compelling refugees to go back to countries where there is conflict and instability doesn’t help this awful merry-go-round going on and on.”

Read more …

Dec 042014
 
 December 4, 2014  Posted by at 2:28 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


DPC Pittsburgh by Night 1907

News reports about developments in the oil markets are coming fast and furious, and none of them indicate any stabilization, let alone rise, in oil prices. Quite the contrary. There are very large amounts of extra barrels flowing into the market, which is just, as one analyst puts it “even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.” Saudi Arabia looks set to battle for sheer market share, even if it sends strangely contradictory messages.

While the US shale industry aggressively tries to convey an attitude based on confidence and breakeven prices that suddenly are claimed to be much lower than what seemed common knowledge until recently. Bloomberg says today that most shale is profitable even at $25 a barrel, and we might want some independent confirmation and/or analysis of that. Just hearing the industry claim it seems a bit flimsy; they have plenty reasons to paint the picture as rosy as they can get away with.

Last night, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Saudi price cut for the US, and a simultaneous price hike for Asia.

Saudi Price Cut Upends Oil Market

Oil prices tumbled to their lowest point in more than two years after Saudi Arabia unexpectedly cut prices for crude sold to the U.S., likely paving the way for further declines and adding to pressure on American energy producers. The decision by the world’s largest oil exporter sent the Dow industrials into negative territory for the day amid concerns about the pace of global growth. The move heightened worries over the resilience of the U.S. oil industry, which has expanded rapidly in recent years.

But that growth, driven largely by new production technology used to extract oil from shale-rock formations, has never been tested by a prolonged slump in prices. While lower crude prices generally help consumers by reducing the amount they pay for gasoline, analysts said falling energy prices will squeeze profit margins at many U.S. energy companies, particularly smaller firms or those with large debt loads. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia raised the prices for its oil in other locations, including Asia, where the country had cut its prices for four consecutive months.

Which led Barron’s to speculate on energy ETFs.

Saudi Oil Price Cut Dings Energy ETFs

Saudi Arabia’s unexpected price cut to oil it ships to the U.S. is roiling the market for crude and squeezing a host of exchange-traded funds that hold energy stocks. The United States Oil Fund (USO) sinks 2.2% to $$29.12 in early trading, while iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (OIL) falls 2.3%. West Texas Intermediate crude futures dropped to the lowest level in three years, recently down 2.1% to $76.77 a barrel.

Oil futures prices have tumbled by about one-quarter in recent months in a world awash with oil after production increases in the U.S. and, more recently, Libya. For weeks, speculation has swirled that the Saudis might be keen to hold prices low in order to keep a tight grip on market share and choke off competitors. Monday’s move by Saudi Arabia to cut prices for crude exports to U.S. customers, while at the same time a raising the prices it charges to countries in Asia, provides more evidence that the Saudis are bent on quashing competition.

But then just now Reuters says ‘recalled’ an email that detailed the cuts:

Saudi Aramco Recalls Email Showing Steep Oil Price Cuts

Saudi Aramco said it was recalling an email it sent on Thursday which had announced a sharp drop in January official selling oil prices for Asia and the United States. Official Selling Prices (OSPs) for oil from Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer and exporter, have been eagerly watched by the market in recent months for indications of the kingdom’s oil policies.

Some analysts have said sharp drops in OSPs over the past months are an indication the kingdom is fighting for market share with other producers, but others have said the OSPs only reflect the market and are a backward-looking rather than a forward-looking indicator.

“(The) Saudis making it clear they don’t want to lose market share,” Richard Mallinson, analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects told Reuters Global Oil Forum before Aramco recalled prices. It was not clear whether Aramco was recalling all prices or only some prices, or what changes if any had been made. It was also unclear whether and when a new email might follow.

The email, which was later recalled, showed Aramco had cut its January price for its Arab Light grade for Asian customers by $1.90 a barrel from December to a discount of $2 a barrel to the Oman/Dubai average. The Arab Light OSP to the United States was set at a premium of $0.90 a barrel to the Argus Sour Crude Index for January, down 70 cents from the previous month. The email also said Arab Light OSPs to Northwest Europe were raised by 20 cents for January from the previous month to a discount of $3.15 a barrel to the Brent Weighted Average.

That $24 a barrel breakeven price for shale contrasts somewhat with what Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis, says about Saudi oil: “..because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.”

Collapse Of Oil Prices Leads World Economy Into Trouble

OPEC, the largest crude-oil cartel in the world, wanted others to feel its pain as oil prices collapsed. “OPEC wanted … to cut off production … and they wanted other non-OPEC [countries], especially in the US and Canada, to feel the pinch they are feeling,” says Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis. But in its rush to influence others, OPEC ended up hurting everyone in the process – including itself. Low oil prices, pushed down further by OPEC’s meeting last week,have impacted world economies, energy stocks, and several currencies. From the fate of the Russian rouble to Venezuelan deficits to American mutual funds full of Exxon or Chevron stock, OPEC’s decision was the shot heard round the world for troubled commodities.

So how low could oil go? Standard Chartered analysts expect a “chaotic” quarter ahead, saying OPEC’s decision to keep the production target unchanged is “extremely negative for oil prices for 2015”. The bank slashed its 2015 average price forecast for Brent crude oil by $16 a barrel to $85. Other forecasts are lower. Citi Research estimated an average 2015 price of $72 for WTI and $80 for ICE Brent. Natixis’s Deshpande said their average 2015 Brent forecast is around $74, with WTI around $69. These prices have real-world effects on world economies. Everyone in the sector is smarting. Deshpande said because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.

Other OPEC members have even higher budgetary breakevens. Saudi Arabia is sitting on a “war chest” of money it stockpiled when prices were high, Deshpande said. Citi analysts said Saudi Arabia has about $800bn in cash reserves. Venezuela, on the other hand, is a prime example of a country squandering its riches. Citi said for every $10 drop in oil prices Venezuela loses about $7.5bn in revenues. “Already weak fiscally, this should call for reducing energy subsidies. But domestic politics including the 2015 election makes this nearly impossible,” they said. OPEC countries as a whole could lose $200bn in revenue if Brent prices stay at $80, which is about $600 per capita annually, Citi said.

And that in turn makes you wonder how the Saudis feel about Bakken shale oil being sold at $49.69 a barrel.

Sub-$50 Oil Surfaces in North Dakota As Regional Discounts Swell

Oil market analysts are debating if oil will fall to $50. In North Dakota, prices are already there. Crude sold at the wellhead in the Bakken shale region in North Dakota fell to $49.69 a barrel on Nov. 28, according to the marketing arm of Plains All American Pipeline LP. That’s down 47% from this year’s peak in June, and 29% less than the $70.15 paid for Brent, the global benchmark. The cheaper price for North Dakota crude underscores how geographic and logistical hurdles can amplify the stress that plunging futures prices have put on drillers in new shale plays that have helped push U.S. oil production to the highest level in 31 years. Other booming areas such as the Niobrara in Colorado and the Permian in Texas have also seen large discounts to Brent and U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

“You have gathering fees, trucking, terminaling, pipeline and rail fees,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, said Dec. 2. “If you’re selling at the wellhead, you’re getting a very low number relative to WTI.” Discounted prices at the wellhead have been exacerbated by a 39% drop in Brent futures since June 19 to $69.92 a barrel yesterday. Prices have fallen as global demand growth fails to keep pace with surging oil production from the U.S. and Canada. Much of that new output is coming from areas that are facing steep discounts. Bakken crude was posted at $50.44 a barrel Dec. 2. Crude from Colorado’s Niobrara shale was priced at $54.55, according to Plains. Eagle Ford crude cost $63.25, and oil from the Oklahoma panhandle was $58.25.

American consumers probably still feel good about developments like ever lower prices at the pump, but they should be careful what they wish for.

First U.S. Gas Station Drops Below $2 a Gallon

$2 gasoline is back in the U.S. An Oncue Express station in Oklahoma City was selling the motor fuel for $1.99 a gallon today, becoming the first one to drop below $2 in the U.S. since July 30, 2010, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy Organization Inc., said by e-mail from Chicago. “We knew when we saw crude oil prices drop last week that we’d break the $2 threshold pretty soon, but we didn’t know if it would happen in South Carolina, Texas, Missouri or Oklahoma,” said DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Today’s national average, $2.74, now makes the current price we pay a whopping 51 cents per gallon less than what we paid a year ago.”

Gasoline is sliding after OPEC decided last week not to cut production amid a global glut of oil that has already dragged international oil prices down by 37% in the past five months. Pump prices have fallen by almost a dollar since reaching this year’s high on April 26. 15% of the nation’s gas stations are selling fuel below $2.50 a gallon, “and it may not be long before others join OnCue Express in that exclusive club that’s below $2,” said Gregg Laskoski, another senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. Retail gasoline averaged $2.746 a gallon in the U.S. yesterday, data compiled by AAA show. Stations will cut prices by another 15 to 20 cents a gallon as they catch up to the plunge in oil, AAA’s Michael Green said.

And here’s the reason to be careful with those wishes: job losses.

Norway Seeks to Temper Its Oil Addiction After OPEC Price Shock

After the biggest slump in oil prices since the start of the global financial crisis, the prime minister of Norway says western Europe’s largest crude producer must become less reliant on its fossil fuels. “We need new industries, a new tax system and a better climate for investment in Norway,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said yesterday in an interview in Oslo. The comments follow threats from SAFE, one of Norway’s three main oil unions, which warned this week it will respond with industrial action unless the government acts to stem job losses. Solberg said that far from triggering government support, plunging oil prices should be used by the industry as an opportunity to improve competitiveness.

A 39% slump in oil prices since June is killing jobs in Norway, which relies on fossil fuels to generate more than one-fifth of its gross domestic product. In the past few months, Norway has lost about 7,000 oil jobs and SAFE said this week it was up to the government to reverse that trend. Solberg says protecting oil jobs will ultimately make it harder for the economy to wean itself off its commodities reliance. “We need to lower our cost of production in the development of new fields,” she said. “Oil production is not going to rise, it will slowly fall in Norway.”

And may I volunteer as an aside that Norway’s intentions to become less reliant on oil are perhaps a little past their best before date? They have this large sovereign oil fund, but never thought of using it to diversify their economy?

Perhaps the numero uno reason that oil prices will keep sinking is production becoming available in the Middle East. And in North Africa, where Libya recently reportedly brought an extra 800,000 barrels/day to the fray. Now it’s Iraq’s turn. Bloomberg put 300,000 barrels in its headline, only to say this in the article: “As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route”. I corrected the headline.

There Are 550,000 Iraqi Barrels Signaling Oil Glut Will Deepen

Not only is OPEC refraining from cutting oil output to stem the five-month plunge in prices, it’s adding to the supply glut. Just five days after OPEC decided to maintain production levels, Iraq, the group’s second-biggest member, inked an export deal with the Kurds that may add about 300,000 barrels a day to world supplies. In a global market that neighboring Kuwait estimates is facing a daily oversupply of 1.8 million barrels, the accord stands to deepen crude’s 38% plunge since late June. Or as Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, put it: There’ll be “even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.”

Benchmark Brent crude slumped immediately after the deal was signed Dec. 2 in Baghdad, dropping 2.8% to $70.54 a barrel. Prices, which slipped 0.9% yesterday to reach the lowest since 2010, were at $70.38 at 1:30 p.m. Singapore time today. Futures are down about 10% since OPEC’s Nov. 27 decision. The agreement seeks to end months of feuding between the Kurds and officials in Iraq over the right to crude proceeds, a dispute that has hindered their joint effort to push back Islamic State militants. The deal allows for as much as 550,000 barrels a day of crude to be shipped by pipeline from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey, according to the regional government. The Kurds were already exporting about 220,000 barrels daily, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Kurdish Regional Government expanded its control of Iraq’s oil resources in June when it deployed forces to defend Kirkuk, the largest field in the north of the country, from Islamic militants. The Kurds have been shipping crude through Turkey in defiance of the central government, which took legal action to block the sales, leaving some tankers loaded with Kurdish oil stranded at sea. As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route, according to the government in Baghdad.

What it will all lead to, and increasingly so as prices fail to recover and instead keep falling, is the disappearance and withdrawal of financing in the oil industry, especially the insanely overleveraged shale patches. The financiers will need a little more time to consolidate, minimize and liquidate their losses, but they will get up and leave. So all the talk of growing the industry sounds just a tad south of fully credible. This is an industry that lost over $100 billion a year for at least three years running, i.e. didn’t produce sufficient revenue even at $100 a barrel, and at $60 they would be fine, without much of their previous external financing?

Energy Junk-Debt Deals Postponed as Falling Oil Saps Demand

Two energy-related companies are postponing financings after a plunge in oil prices made their high-yield, high-risk debt more difficult to sell. New Atlas, a newly formed unit of oil and gas producer Atlas Energy Group, put on hold a $155 million loan it was seeking to refinance debt, according to five people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not be identified because the decision is private. EnTrans International, a manufacturer of equipment used in fracking, delayed selling a $250 million bond, according to three other people with knowledge of that transaction. Investors in bonds of junk-rated energy companies are facing losses of more than $11 billion as oil prices dropped to a five-year-low of $63.72 a barrel this week. This is deepening concern that the riskiest oil explorers won’t be able to meet their obligations, and sending their borrowing costs to the highest since 2010.

More than half of Cleveland, Tennessee-based EnTrans’s revenue comes from equipment sales to the hydraulic fracturing and the energy industry, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Nov. 17 report. The notes, which were being arranged by Credit Suisse, would have been used to refinance debt. Gary Riley, chief executive officer at EnTrans International, said yesterday in an e-mail commenting on the deal status that “the decision to defer or go forward has not been made.” Riley didn’t respond to questions seeking comment today. Deutsche Bank and Citigroup were managing New Atlas’s financing and had scheduled a meeting with lenders for this morning, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Perhaps those sub-$50 Bakken prices tell us pretty much where global prices are ahead. And then we’ll take it from there. With 1.8 million barrels “that nobody needs” added to the shale industries growth intentions, where can prices go but down, unless someone starts a big war somewhere? Yesterday’s news that US new oil and gas well permits were off 40% last month may signal where the future of shale is really located.

But oil is a field that knows a lot of inertia, long term contracts, future contracts, so changes come with a time lag. It’s also a field increasingly inhabited by desperate producers and government leaders, who wake up screaming in the middle of the night from dreaming about their heads impaled on stakes along desert roads.

Dec 042014
 
 December 4, 2014  Posted by at 11:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle December 4 2014


Arthur Rothstein Migratory fruit pickers’ camp in Yakima, Washington Jul 1936

Five Reasons Why Markets Are Heading For A Crash (Telegraph)
‘The Minsky Moment Is The Crash’ (Zero Hedge)
Global Company Bond Sales Nearing $4 Trillion Set Annual Record (Bloomberg)
Collapse Of Oil Prices Leads World Economy Into Trouble (Guardian)
Sub-$50 Oil Surfaces in North Dakota As Regional Discounts Swell (Bloomberg)
First U.S. Gas Station Drops Below $2 a Gallon (Bloomberg)
There Are 550,000 Iraqi Barrels Signaling Oil Glut Will Deepen (Bloomberg)
Crushing The “Lower Gas Price = More Spending” Fiction (Zero Hedge)
Energy Junk-Debt Deals Postponed as Falling Oil Saps Demand (Bloomberg)
Canada Gas Project Delay Highlights Oil Plunge’s Wider Risk (Bloomberg)
Norway Seeks to Temper Its Oil Addiction After OPEC Price Shock (Bloomberg)
China Shadow Bank Collapse Exposes Grey-Market Lending Risk (FT)
BlackRock China ETF’s Derivatives Strategy Faltering (Bloomberg)
What The Dollar May Be Saying About Europe (CNBC)
UK Moves To Cut Spending To 1930s Levels (Guardian)
Australia’s Dreadful GDP Figures – Six Things You Need To Know (Guardian)
Putin Accuses West Of ‘Pure Cynicism’ Over Ukraine (CNBC)
One Million Europeans Sign Petition Against EU-US TTIP Talks (BBC)
Xi’s Cultural Revolution Is Doomed to Fail (Bloomberg)
The 8th, And Final, Deadly Sin: Exploiting The Earth (Paul B. Farrell)

“The first reason to worry is the curiously juxtaposed state of asset prices, with generally buoyant equities but falling sovereign bond yields and commodity prices. They cannot both be right. High equity prices are – or at least, should be – indicative of investor confidence and optimism. Low bond yields and falling commodity prices point to the very reverse.”

Five Reasons Why Markets Are Heading For A Crash (Telegraph)

Many stock markets are close to their all-time highs, the oil price is plummeting, delivering a significant boost to Western and Asian economies, the European Central Bank is getting ready for full-scale sovereign QE – or so everyone seems to believe – the American recovery is gaining momentum, Britain is experiencing the highest rate of growth in the G7, God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world. All good, then? No, not good at all. I don’t want to put a dampener on the festive cheer, but here are five reasons to think things are not quite the unadulterated picture of harmony and advancement many stock market pundits would have you believe.

The first reason to worry is the curiously juxtaposed state of asset prices, with generally buoyant equities but falling sovereign bond yields and commodity prices. They cannot both be right. High equity prices are – or at least, should be – indicative of investor confidence and optimism. Low bond yields and falling commodity prices point to the very reverse; they are basically a sign of emerging deflationary pressures and a slowing economy. If demand was really about to roar away, both would be rising along with equities, not falling. The markets have become a kind of push-me-pull-you construct. They look both ways at the same time.

Yet this is no mere anomaly. There is a good reason for these divergent asset prices – pumped up by central bank money printing, abundant cash is desperate for fast vanishing yield, and is chasing it accordingly. Spanish sovereign debt might have looked a good buy a couple of years back, when the yield still factored in the possibility of default. But today, the yield on 10-year Spanish bonds is less than 2pc. In Germany, it’s just 0.7pc, not much more than Japan, which has had 20 years of stagnation and deflation to warp the traditional laws of investment. If it is yield you are after, sovereign debt markets are again exceptionally poor value, barely offering a real rate of return at all. Commodities were the next port of call, but that game too seems to be up.

Read more …

“We all are in a Ponzi world right now. Hoping to be bailed out by the next person.”

‘The Minsky Moment Is The Crash’ (Zero Hedge)

BCG senior partner Daniel Stetler was recently interviewed by Portugal’s Janela na web magazine, his insights are significant and worrisome… Some key excerpts: “You have to think about a huge tower of debt on shaky foundations where central banks pump concrete in the foundations in an emergency effort to avoid the building from collapsing and at the same time builders are adding additional floors on top” [..] “Today central banks give money to institutions, which are not solvent, against doubtful collateral for zero interest. This is not capitalism.” [..] “It is the explicit goal of central banks to avoid the tower of debt to crash. Therefore they do everything to make money cheap and allow more speculation and even higher asset values. It is consistent with their thinking of the past 30 years. Unfortunately the debt levels are too high now and their instruments do not work anymore as good. They might bring up financial assets but they cannot revive the real economy.” [..]

“In my view [Piketty] overlook the fact that only growing debt levels make it possible to have such a growth in measured wealth. Summing up, Piketty looks at symptoms – wealth – and not on causes – debt.” “We need to limit credit growth and make it tax-attractive to invest in the real economy not in financial speculation. This will happen automatically if we return to normal interest rates. The key point is, that we as societies should reduce consumption which includes social welfare and rather invest more in the future.” [..] “”We all are in a Ponzi world right now. Hoping to be bailed out by the next person. The problem is that demographics alone have to tell us, that there are fewer people entering the scheme then leaving. More people get out than in. Which means, by definition, that the scheme is at an end. The Minsky moment is the crash. Like all crashes it is easier to explain it afterwards than to time it before. But I think it is obvious that the endgame is near.”

Read more …

How ultra-low rates lets companies pretend they’re actually economically viable.

Global Company Bond Sales Nearing $4 Trillion Set Annual Record (Bloomberg)

Global corporate bond sales set an annual record as companies lock in borrowing costs that forecasters say are bound to rise. SoftBank, Amazon.com and Medtronic were among borrowers that helped push issuance to $3.975 trillion, past the previous peak of $3.973 trillion in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales in the U.S. have already reached an unprecedented $1.5 trillion. Issuance defied predictions of a slowdown made by underwriters from Bank of America Corp. to Barclays Plc as a decline in benchmark costs that no one foresaw pushed yields to record lows. While central banks in Europe and Japan have stepped up their own stimulus efforts, the likelihood the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates has fueled company borrowings worldwide.

“We’ve seen so much issuance just because everybody’s thinking that next year’s going to be the year when rates start rising,” Nathan Barnard, a fixed-income analyst at Portland, Oregon-based Leader Capital Corp., said today in a telephone interview. “It’s cheap financing still so why not do that.” Investors are poised to earn 7.01% on an annualized basis this year on debt from the most creditworthy to the riskiest borrowers worldwide, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Corporate and High Yield Index. Those would be the largest gains since a 12.05% return in 2012, the index data show.

Read more …

” ..because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.”

Collapse Of Oil Prices Leads World Economy Into Trouble (Guardian)

OPEC, the largest crude-oil cartel in the world, wanted others to feel its pain as oil prices collapsed. “OPEC wanted … to cut off production … and they wanted other non-OPEC [countries], especially in the US and Canada, to feel the pinch they are feeling,” says Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis. But in its rush to influence others, OPEC ended up hurting everyone in the process – including itself. Low oil prices, pushed down further by OPEC’s meeting last week,have impacted world economies, energy stocks, and several currencies. From the fate of the Russian rouble to Venezuelan deficits to American mutual funds full of Exxon or Chevron stock, OPEC’s decision was the shot heard round the world for troubled commodities.

So how low could oil go? Standard Chartered analysts expect a “chaotic” quarter ahead, saying OPEC’s decision to keep the production target unchanged is “extremely negative for oil prices for 2015”. The bank slashed its 2015 average price forecast for Brent crude oil by $16 a barrel to $85. Other forecasts are lower. Citi Research estimated an average 2015 price of $72 for WTI and $80 for ICE Brent. Natixis’s Deshpande said their average 2015 Brent forecast is around $74, with WTI around $69. These prices have real-world effects on world economies. Everyone in the sector is smarting. Deshpande said because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.

Other OPEC members have even higher budgetary breakevens. Saudi Arabia is sitting on a “war chest” of money it stockpiled when prices were high, Deshpande said. Citi analysts said Saudi Arabia has about $800bn in cash reserves. Venezuela, on the other hand, is a prime example of a country squandering its riches. Citi said for every $10 drop in oil prices Venezuela loses about $7.5bn in revenues. “Already weak fiscally, this should call for reducing energy subsidies. But domestic politics including the 2015 election makes this nearly impossible,” they said. OPEC countries as a whole could lose $200bn in revenue if Brent prices stay at $80, which is about $600 per capita annually, Citi said.

Read more …

“If you’re selling at the wellhead, you’re getting a very low number relative to WTI.”

Sub-$50 Oil Surfaces in North Dakota As Regional Discounts Swell (Bloomberg)

Oil market analysts are debating if oil will fall to $50. In North Dakota, prices are already there. Crude sold at the wellhead in the Bakken shale region in North Dakota fell to $49.69 a barrel on Nov. 28, according to the marketing arm of Plains All American Pipeline LP. That’s down 47% from this year’s peak in June, and 29% less than the $70.15 paid for Brent, the global benchmark. The cheaper price for North Dakota crude underscores how geographic and logistical hurdles can amplify the stress that plunging futures prices have put on drillers in new shale plays that have helped push U.S. oil production to the highest level in 31 years. Other booming areas such as the Niobrara in Colorado and the Permian in Texas have also seen large discounts to Brent and U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

“You have gathering fees, trucking, terminaling, pipeline and rail fees,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, said Dec. 2. “If you’re selling at the wellhead, you’re getting a very low number relative to WTI.” Discounted prices at the wellhead have been exacerbated by a 39% drop in Brent futures since June 19 to $69.92 a barrel yesterday. Prices have fallen as global demand growth fails to keep pace with surging oil production from the U.S. and Canada. Much of that new output is coming from areas that are facing steep discounts. Bakken crude was posted at $50.44 a barrel Dec. 2. Crude from Colorado’s Niobrara shale was priced at $54.55, according to Plains. Eagle Ford crude cost $63.25, and oil from the Oklahoma panhandle was $58.25.

Read more …

Look for more of this too.

First U.S. Gas Station Drops Below $2 a Gallon (Bloomberg)

$2 gasoline is back in the U.S. An Oncue Express station in Oklahoma City was selling the motor fuel for $1.99 a gallon today, becoming the first one to drop below $2 in the U.S. since July 30, 2010, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy Organization Inc., said by e-mail from Chicago. “We knew when we saw crude oil prices drop last week that we’d break the $2 threshold pretty soon, but we didn’t know if it would happen in South Carolina, Texas, Missouri or Oklahoma,” said DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Today’s national average, $2.74, now makes the current price we pay a whopping 51 cents per gallon less than what we paid a year ago.”

Gasoline is sliding after OPEC decided last week not to cut production amid a global glut of oil that has already dragged international oil prices down by 37% in the past five months. Pump prices have fallen by almost a dollar since reaching this year’s high on April 26. 15% of the nation’s gas stations are selling fuel below $2.50 a gallon, “and it may not be long before others join OnCue Express in that exclusive club that’s below $2,” said Gregg Laskoski, another senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. Retail gasoline averaged $2.746 a gallon in the U.S. yesterday, data compiled by Florida-based motoring club AAA show. Stations will cut prices by another 15 to 20 cents a gallon as they catch up to the plunge in oil, Michael Green, a Washington-based spokesman for AAA, said by e-mail today.

Read more …

“In a global market that neighboring Kuwait estimates is facing a daily oversupply of 1.8 million barrels, the accord stands to deepen crude’s 38% plunge since late June .. ”

There Are 550,000 Iraqi Barrels Signaling Oil Glut Will Deepen (Bloomberg)

Not only is OPEC refraining from cutting oil output to stem the five-month plunge in prices, it’s adding to the supply glut. Just five days after OPEC decided to maintain production levels, Iraq, the group’s second-biggest member, inked an export deal with the Kurds that may add about 300,000 barrels a day to world supplies. In a global market that neighboring Kuwait estimates is facing a daily oversupply of 1.8 million barrels, the accord stands to deepen crude’s 38% plunge since late June. Or as Carsten Fritsch, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Commerzbank AG, put it: There’ll be “even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.”

Benchmark Brent crude slumped immediately after the deal was signed Dec. 2 in Baghdad, dropping 2.8% to $70.54 a barrel. Prices, which slipped 0.9% yesterday to reach the lowest since 2010, were at $70.38 at 1:30 p.m. Singapore time today. Futures are down about 10% since OPEC’s Nov. 27 decision. The agreement seeks to end months of feuding between the Kurds and officials in Iraq over the right to crude proceeds, a dispute that has hindered their joint effort to push back Islamic State militants. The deal allows for as much as 550,000 barrels a day of crude to be shipped by pipeline from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey, according to the regional government. The Kurds were already exporting about 220,000 barrels daily, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Kurdish Regional Government expanded its control of Iraq’s oil resources in June when it deployed forces to defend Kirkuk, the largest field in the north of the country, from Islamic militants. The Kurds have been shipping crude through Turkey in defiance of the central government, which took legal action to block the sales, leaving some tankers loaded with Kurdish oil stranded at sea. As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route, according to the government in Baghdad.

Read more …

“.. if the consumer is struggling to go out and spend on goods and services, or if Americans are simply hesitant to ramp up spending, it could be a very un-merry holiday season for retailers. ..”

Crushing The “Lower Gas Price = More Spending” Fiction (Zero Hedge)

With uncertainty lingering and patience wearing thin after five+ years of still lackluster wage growth, consumers are increasing saving for the future, hedging against a continuation of “more of the same.” Thus, for many, extra savings at the pump as a result of lower gas prices are simply being stored away to help supplement spending needs in the future, ramping up savings, not spending. As of September, consumers increased savings from 5.4% to a 5.6% pace, up from a recent low of 4.3% in November of last year. [..]

Against the backdrop of three consecutive months of aggressive energy price reprieve, retail sales have fallen short. With more than a $0.50 drop in the average cost of a gallon of gasoline, anything less than a minimal 0.5% increase in monthly retail sales highlights just how fragile the U.S. economy remains, particularly the consumer sector. While the weakness in October was dominated by a few categories, there was insufficient demand elsewhere to compensate. Consumers continue to spend, but at a modest level with no sign of further momentum in sight with income growth stubbornly limited, and consumers opting to use savings from lower gas prices to offset rising healthcare and utilities costs.

We are, after all, a consumer based economy, and if the consumer is struggling to go out and spend on goods and services, or if Americans are simply hesitant to ramp up spending, it could be a very un-merry holiday season for retailers. From the Fed’s perspective, if consumer spending continues to disappoint, headline activity is likely to significantly underperform monetary policy officials’ optimistic forecast of +2% in 2014 and circa 3% in 2015.

Read more …

Expect a lot of this.

Energy Junk-Debt Deals Postponed as Falling Oil Saps Demand (Bloomberg)

Two energy-related companies are postponing financings after a plunge in oil prices made their high-yield, high-risk debt more difficult to sell. New Atlas, a newly formed unit of oil and gas producer Atlas Energy Group, put on hold a $155 million loan it was seeking to refinance debt, according to five people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not be identified because the decision is private. EnTrans International, a manufacturer of equipment used in fracking, delayed selling a $250 million bond, according to three other people with knowledge of that transaction. Investors in bonds of junk-rated energy companies are facing losses of more than $11 billion as oil prices dropped to a five-year-low of $63.72 a barrel this week. This is deepening concern that the riskiest oil explorers won’t be able to meet their obligations, and sending their borrowing costs to the highest since 2010.

More than half of Cleveland, Tennessee-based EnTrans’s revenue comes from equipment sales to the hydraulic fracturing and the energy industry, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Nov. 17 report. The notes, which were being arranged by Credit Suisse, would have been used to refinance debt. Gary Riley, chief executive officer at EnTrans International, said yesterday in an e-mail commenting on the deal status that “the decision to defer or go forward has not been made.” Riley didn’t respond to questions seeking comment today. Deutsche Bank and Citigroup were managing New Atlas’s financing and had scheduled a meeting with lenders for this morning, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Read more …

Blowing LNG out of the water.

Canada Gas Project Delay Highlights Oil Plunge’s Wider Risk (Bloomberg)

Petroliam Nasional’s decision to postpone its C$36 billion ($32 billion) liquefied natural gas project in Canada highlights the risks for energy developments around the world from oil’s plunge. Woodside Petroleum’s Browse gas project in Australia and an oil project planned by Santos in Indonesia are among others seen as facing delays with oil trading at the lowest in more than four years. “Unless there is compelling reason to move ahead with approvals, we do expect significant deferrals of capex across the board,” Nik Burns, an analyst at UBS AG, said by phone from Melbourne. “Most investors are looking for greater financial discipline with commodity prices falling.” Oil’s slump threatens to hurt LNG contracts tied to crude prices for suppliers already coping with rising costs and competition from Russian gas commitments to China.

Costs at the Canadian project need to be cut before a decision is made, the Malaysian state-owned company known as Petronas said yesterday. Petronas announced the delay less than a week after Chief Executive Officer Shamsul Azhar Abbas told reporters there were a few “loose ends” to sort out before a final investment decision would be made. Oil fell almost 8% in the days between Shamsul’s comments in Kuala Lumpur and yesterday’s announcement. With BG Group saying in November that it would slow its proposed $16 billion LNG project in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, on concern about competing sources of supply from proposed projects in the U.S., the prospects for the 18 LNG developments on the drawing board in Canada are dimming.

Read more …

Lower prices are killing jobs in producer nations. Next up: US.

Norway Seeks to Temper Its Oil Addiction After OPEC Price Shock (Bloomberg)

After the biggest slump in oil prices since the start of the global financial crisis, the prime minister of Norway says western Europe’s largest crude producer must become less reliant on its fossil fuels. “We need new industries, a new tax system and a better climate for investment in Norway,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said yesterday in an interview in Oslo. The comments follow threats from SAFE, one of Norway’s three main oil unions, which warned this week it will respond with industrial action unless the government acts to stem job losses. Solberg said that far from triggering government support, plunging oil prices should be used by the industry as an opportunity to improve competitiveness.

A 39% slump in oil prices since June is killing jobs in Norway, which relies on fossil fuels to generate more than one-fifth of its gross domestic product. In the past few months, Norway has lost about 7,000 oil jobs and SAFE said this week it was up to the government to reverse that trend. Solberg says protecting oil jobs will ultimately make it harder for the economy to wean itself off its commodities reliance. “We need to lower our cost of production in the development of new fields,” she said. “Oil production is not going to rise, it will slowly fall in Norway.”

Read more …

I don’t think people understand the size of the China shadow banks, nor the scale of the risk linked to them, or the prominent position they have in the country.

China Shadow Bank Collapse Exposes Grey-Market Lending Risk (FT)

A sign in parchment above the locked door of Shanxi Platinum Assemblage Investment, written in calligraphy, reads “Honesty is fundamental”. Until recently a police notice below it directed investors to report to the local station to submit evidence against the company. In Taiyuan, capital of the central Chinese province of Shanxi, investors have rushed to branches of Platinum Assemblage in recent days as word spread that the company was unable to meet payouts on maturing investment products that had offered annual interest rates of 14-18%. Meanwhile, rumors swirled that executives had fled and branches in some cities had shut their doors. The incident highlights financial risks lurking in the outer margins of China’s shadow banking system, where high-yielding wealth management products blur into grey-market lending. A financial system in which the government refuses to tolerate defaults has also encouraged moral hazard among investors by creating an expectation that even risky credit carries an implicit guarantee.

“I have no idea where they put the money. I’m not really clear on the guarantee businesses. But they had a business licence on the wall,” said an elderly man surnamed Wang wearing a mechanic’s jacket and knit cap outside the company’s locked doors. State media estimates that more than Rmb100 million ($16 million) may be at risk in the collapse of Platinum Assemblage, a relatively tiny sum. But a series of similar incidents this year suggests China’s slowing economy has created fertile ground for hucksters, as companies become increasingly desperate for funds amid a pullback in lending from banks as well as more mainstream non-bank lenders such as trust companies. In March, depositors in Yancheng city, Jiangsu province, rushed to withdraw funds from rural co-operatives and were told that the institutions — which operate like banks but whose legal status exempt them from liquidity regulations – had lent out all the money. Analysts said many co-ops, which were created to lend to farmers, had in fact been investing in real estate.

It is not known how Platinum Assemblage invested clients’ funds, but a large share of shadow banking funding flows into real estate, one of the few industries that, until recently at least, could deliver rates of return high enough to service loans at interest rates often exceeding 20%. Local media reported that wealth management clients of another guarantee company, Henan Swiftly Soaring Investment, blocked a road in Xinxiang city, Henan province, on Sunday to protest against the lack of payout on similarly structured wealth management products. China Business News, a national newspaper, reported that much of that money was also used for property purchases. Late last year eight government agencies including the banking regulator, the central bank and the commerce ministry released a notice warning of rampant irregularities among non-financial guarantee companies.

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More funds that don’t deliver.

BlackRock China ETF’s Derivatives Strategy Faltering (Bloomberg)

BlackRock’s pioneering China exchange-traded fund is at risk of losing its market-leading status as returns trail its benchmark index and competitors take advantage of reduced government curbs on foreign investors. The $10.1 billion iShares FTSE A50 China Index ETF, the first to track mainland shares when they were inaccessible to most foreigners in 2004, has underperformed its target by 4.6 percentage points this year. The Hong Kong-listed fund is lagging behind as its decade-long strategy of using derivatives proves more expensive for investors than buying shares directly. The fund’s diminished appeal reflects how China’s efforts to remove barriers on its $4.6 trillion stock market are changing the way international investors gain exposure to the world’s second-largest economy. Derivative products are getting replaced by funds that access the Chinese market through the nation’s quota system for foreign institutions and the Shanghai-Hong Kong exchange link that started last month.

“The playing field is changing,” Brendan Ahern, managing director at Krane Fund Advisors in New York, which oversees four Chinese ETFs, said by phone. “The market is gravitating to direct products. Managers have to think about how to adapt to the changes.” Investors are weighing the most efficient ways to access China’s stock market as it rallies from the cheapest levels on record versus global peers. The Shanghai Composite Index has advanced 31% in 2014 and reached a three-year high yesterday amid speculation the nation’s central bank will increase monetary stimulus. The BlackRock fund’s net asset value has climbed 26% this year, versus a 30% gain in the gauge it’s designed to mimic. Shareholder returns have been just 18%, reflecting both the cost of using derivatives and investors’ unwillingness to keep valuing the ETF at a premium to its underlying securities.

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Draghi won’t move.

What The Dollar May Be Saying About Europe (CNBC)

The dollar has been riding high and is looking for another boost Thursday from a dovish European Central Bank. The greenback made new multiyear highs against the yen and euro Wednesday, ahead of the ECB meeting. The dollar has been rising as U.S. monetary policy diverges from that of Japan and the eurozone. The U.S. economy is also stronger, and that is expected to show up in another 200,000 plus jobs report Friday. While the ECB is not expected to take any new steps at its rate meeting Thursday, traders have been anticipating a dovish ECB President Mario Draghi, who holds a briefing after the meeting. “The gist of it is I think Draghi will leave the door wide open for sovereign QE in the first quarter,” said Alan Ruskin, head of G-10 foreign exchange strategy at Deutsche Bank. “I think you’ve heard a number of comments from ECB officials suggesting December is too early, and they want to let some of their past decisions work their way through.”

The ECB has embarked on asset purchases as the Fed ended its quantitative easing bond buying, or QE, in October. The ECB is now expected to expand its asset buying with a program to buy sovereign debt. The dollar index, at 89.005 was at the highest level since March, 2009 and the dollar was at a seven-year high against the yen. “There’s this kind of fear that the dollar’s traded very, very well going into this meeting, and that maybe there’s some expectation he will deliver more than he actually will,” said Ruskin. He said even though Draghi is expected to be dovish, if nothing more is announced there’s a chance the dollar could selloff.

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” .. could require cuts in non-protected departments such as police, local government and justice ..”

UK Moves To Cut Spending To 1930s Levels (Guardian)

The chancellor, George Osborne, set out dramatic plans to move Britain from the red into the black that will see public spending as a percentage of GDP fall to its lowest level since the 1930s and could require cuts in non-protected departments such as police, local government and justice amounting to a further £60bn by 2019-20. The plans, according to the Treasury spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, also presume the loss of a further one million public sector jobs by 2020, a renewed public sector pay squeeze and a further freeze on tax credits. The scale of the implied spending cuts required to drive the country into a surplus of £23bn by 2019-20 in part prompted the Liberal Democrat business secretary, Vince Cable, to write two weeks ago to ask the OBR to distinguish in its forecasts between the spending plans agreed by the coalition up to 2015-16 and any spending projections after that date which could only be an assumption about tax and spending policy.

Cable described the Osborne plans to bring public spending down to 35 % of GDP as “wholly unrealistic”. Among the measures in a politically-dominated autumn statement was a surprise shakeup of stamp duty, with an increase in rates levied on the most expensive properties designed to trump Labour’s plans for a mansion tax six months before the general election. Osborne claimed 98% of home-buyers would pay less stamp duty as a result of the changes, which, from midnight on Wednesday night, axed the big jumps in tax currently triggered when the cost of a home moves into a higher band. Under the new system, based on income tax bands, home buyers will pay no stamp duty on the first £125,000 of a purchase, then 2% up to £250,000, 5% up to £925,000, 10% up to £1.5m and 12% on everything above £1.5m. Anyone buying an “averagely priced” home worth £275,000 would pay £4,500 less in tax.

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“Real growth is weak; nominal growth is pathetic .. ”

Australia’s Dreadful GDP Figures – Six Things You Need To Know (Guardian)

Well, what a dreadful set of numbers. The September quarter GDP figures released on Wednesday unfortunately confirmed other economic data that shows Australia’s economy is growing at barely walking pace. Let’s break down the figures and to see if there is any sunshine amid the gloom.

1. Real growth is weak; nominal growth is pathetic – In seasonally adjusted terms, the economy grew by just 0.3% in the September quarter, and by 2.7% in the past year. Given average annual growth is around 3.1%, the 0.3% growth is particularly dreadful given that it would annualise to just 1.2%. As you would expect, the news was even more depressing for GDP per capita growth. In trend terms, it didn’t grow at all in the September quarter and, in seasonally adjusted terms, it actually fell 0.13%. Thus any growth we achieved this last quarter came about through population increase. For the budget numbers, the focus always goes onto nominal growth. Measured in current dollars, it gives a better link to taxation revenue than real GDP.

The May budget forecast nominal GDP in 2014-15 to grow by 3%. In the past 12 months it has grown by 2.7%, but most of that growth came in the December 2013 quarter and thus will not be counted from the next quarter onwards. Nominal GDP in the past quarter grew by just 0.2% in trend terms and actually fell by 0.1% in seasonally adjusted terms. All in all this suggests a fairly big hit to the budget bottom line. So yeah, all gloom.

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I’d say that’s putting it mildly.

Putin Accuses West Of ‘Pure Cynicism’ Over Ukraine (CNBC)

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western powers of “pure cynicism” over the situation in Ukraine, in a key speech to his country as its economic prospects worsens. The ruble looked set for another record low against the dollar as his speech unfolded on Thursday. With a plummeting ruble and oil price, spiraling inflation, and the prospect of more stringent sanctions from Western powers, Russia’s short-term economic prospects are falling faster than the temperature during a Siberian winter. Putin previously served as Russia’s Prime Minister, and this term coincided with relative economic prosperity for the country, as rising oil and gas prices helped boost Russia’s biggest exports. In 2015, however, the average Russian household’s disposable income will shrink by 2.8%, according to official Russian figures – the first fall since Putin came to power.

As President, his recent focus on defence and nationalism seems to have boosted his approval ratings, but it’s far from clear that this can continue if all Russians – from street-cleaners to oligarchs – feel worse off. “The market will be looking for the new ideas which are going to pull Russia out of the economic stagnation and looming decline which was already evident prior to the crisis in Ukraine and the more recent drop in oil prices,” Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank, wrote in a research note. “The pressure is now on Putin to offer a rival vision for a successful economic model for Russia.”

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But who’s going to listen? Think these fold care about a million signatures? Once signed, we won’t get rid of these Frankensteins anymore.

One Million Europeans Sign Petition Against EU-US TTIP Talks (BBC)

A campaign group website says over a million people in the European Union have signed a petition against trade negotiations with the United States. The petition calls on the EU and its member states to stop the talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP. It also says they should not ratify a similar deal that has already been done between the EU and Canada. It says some aspects pose a threat to democracy and the rule of law. One of the concerns mentioned in the petition is the idea of tribunals that foreign investors would be able to use in some circumstances to sue governments.

There is a great deal of controversy over exactly what this system, known as Investor State Dispute Settlement, would enable companies to do, but campaigners see it as an opportunity for international business to get compensation for government policy changes that adversely affect them. This kind of provision exists in many bilateral trade and investment agreements. Friends of the Earth have published new research on the impact they have had on EU countries. Information about these cases is not always made public, but the group says that going back to 1994, foreign investors have sought compensation of almost €30bn (£24bn) from 20 states. Where the results are known (a small minority of the total), the tribunals have awarded total compensation of €3.5bn (about £2.8bn).

In Britain, the possible implications of this provision for the National Health Service have been especially controversial. Campaigners believe that the investor tribunals would make it harder to reverse any decisions to contract services out to international healthcare firms. John Hilary of War on Want said: TTIP “will make it impossible for any future government to repeal the Health & Social Care Act and bring the NHS back into public hands”. The petition lists a number of other areas where its signatories believes European standards would suffer if the TTIP negotiations are completed and the Canada deal is ratified: employment, social, environmental, privacy and consumer protection.

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Feels like Mao never left.

Xi’s Cultural Revolution Is Doomed to Fail (Bloomberg)

As Japan and South Korea have shown, the best way for governments to encourage pop culture with global appeal is probably to stay out of the way. China’s President Xi Jinping disagrees. Take Monday’s announcement by China’s top media watchdog. Effective immediately, the government has reserved the right to send film and television actors, directors, writers and producers on all-expenses-paid, involuntary, 30-day sabbaticals to rural mining sites, border areas, and other remote locations. The purpose, according to the directive, is to help Chinese artists “form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces.” The measure is extreme – reminiscent of “sending down” students to the countryside for reeducation during China’s mad Cultural Revolution. But it’s by no means an isolated case. Over the last few months, Xi’s government has issued several directives designed to control the country’s entertainment industries.

They include new restrictions on the streaming of foreign programs, bans on specific types of plots (adulterous affairs, for example, can no longer be portrayed in dramas), shutdowns of independent sites that subtitle foreign programs for Chinese viewers, and even a prohibition on punning. These directives sit awkwardly with Xi’s very public ambition to expand China’s “soft power” – a term that embodies everything from movies to bugle-playing – beyond its borders. The Chinese president is a child of Communist royalty; his formative years were during the Cultural Revolution, when entertainment was viewed as an ideological pursuit whose role was to propagandize. In Xi’s worldview, artists who don’t produce “correct” movies are doing a disservice to the nation and need to be reminded of their duty — say, by spending more time with the hardworking peasants they’re supposed to be championing in their works.

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Farrell again looks beyond the narrow world of investors.

The 8th, And Final, Deadly Sin: Exploiting The Earth (Paul B. Farrell)

“When I look at America,” said Pope Francis during a recent address at a university in Southern Italy, also looking at his “own homeland in South America, so many forests, all cut, have become land … can no longer give life.” “This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to her give us what she has within her. This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation,” the pope told an audience of “students, struggling farmers and laid-off workers.” Challenge? Much worse. The relentless “destruction of nature is a modern sin.” says Pope Francis. Destruction of the planet’s great rain forests is the new sin of today’s humans.

Capitalism has already converted half the world’s original rain forests and natural habitats into urban developments. Another quarter will be rapidly converted by 2050. But for Pope Francis, the real sin is consumerism. In a recent ThinkProgress summary of Pope Francis’s annual letter to the G-20 leaders meeting in Australia, Katie Valentine put it this way: “Pope Francis to World Leaders: Consumerism Represents a ‘Constant Assault’ on the Environment.” The pope relied on several studies, including a Worldwatch report commented on in National Geographic by Gary Gardner: “Most of the environmental issues we see today can be linked to consumption,” warning us that for “humanity to thrive long into the future we’ll need to transform our cultures intentionally and proactively away from consumerism towards sustainability.”

Failure to do so means that “unbridled consumerism will have serious consequences for the world economy.” Pope Francis has called consumerism a “poison.” Earlier this year he warned that “Christians should safeguard Creation,” for if humanity destroys the planet, humans themselves will ultimately be destroyed. He added” ‘Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few” capitalists. “Creation is a gift, a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, with great respect and gratitude.” For exploiting the Earth by destroying forests, especially Amazonian rain forests, is a sin.”

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Apr 092014
 
 April 9, 2014  Posted by at 3:15 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , ,  


Ben Shahn Farmer’s daughter near Mechanicsburg, Ohio Summer 1938

The eurocrisis is over, the US Navy makes fuel from seawater, and America will be energy independent by 2037, according to the EIA. Boy, where do we begin? We’re getting flooded with an increasing amount of sheer nonsense wrapped in sheep’s clothing, and it’s hard to keep up. We not only live in a pretend economy, by now most of what we think we see isn’t really there at all. Indeed, there’s not even a there there anymore. Look, if you believe that the Navy can power its fleet with fuel made from seawater, you should probably know there’s a lot of gold in the oceans as well. Which means that you are potentially very wealthy. All you have to do is dig it out.

On a slightly – but only so – more serious plane, do you guys realize that the folks at the EIA get paid hefty salaries to produce reports like the new one that predicts the US will be energy independent in a mere 23 years? I kid you not. See, I think the US propaganda machine for Ukraine is insane and unworthy, but then you get this on top of all that.

US To Become Oil Independent By 2037 – EIA (RT)

US may stop importing oil by 2037 as abundant domestic crude supplies, including North Dakota’s Bakken field and Texas’s Eagle Ford formation, may push production to the level of consumption, according to the US government. The US Energy Department’s branch that collects and analyzes data – the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that within 23 years the world’s largest economy may become energy independent …

Alright then, once again, there we go. First, Rune Likvern on decline ratio’s in the Bakken Play’s Reunion Bay:


Do note the increase in total well numbers, which sort of mask the decline per well.

Then, Chris Hughes on the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays:


And the North Dakota government on production in a typical Bakken play well:


We have Roger Blanchard on total Eagle Ford production:


And Likvern again on accumulated typical Bakken well production:


Are there any further questions on for instance how many wells would have to be drilled to overcome the decline rates? In Bakken’s Reunion Bay (1st graph) the number increased five-fold in 2.5 years. If that rate continued, and there’s little to no reason to assume otherwise, there are some 50,000 wells in that play today. At an average price of $8 million per well, that’s $400 billion.

What, you thought Shell and Exxon left shale alone for no reason? If the deplete/invest trend holds up till the EIA dream date of 2037, we’re talking millions of wells, an utterly ravaged landscape and trillions of dollars of “investment”. You think that’s going to happen? Thing is, because of the depletion rate of shale wells, the investment would have to continue for another 20 years, at the present rate, for shale to just play even. And that’s provided those millions of new wells will be drilled. By whom?

The real question is: Why do US government agencies issue reports like this? What are they seeking to achieve? The entire shale industry has been fully exposed by the likes of Rune Likvern and Chris Hughes for quite a while, so it all looks to be purely a propaganda game, where the mass media convey to their audience whatever it is the government would like them to believe. But that just turns the US into Bizarro world more every step of the way. And whatever that may be, or why it may be happening, it’s certainly not going to solve the problems, energy or finance, of the American people. Who happen to pay those cushy salaries the EIA “scientists” are on the payroll for.

Of course this all plays wonderfully into the whole tale of the US exporting LNG to Europe so it can free from itself from Russian gas dependence. We get it, boys. And that’s at least part of why it’s fed through the media to the Great American Unwashed. More of whom go hungry among OECD nations than in any other country save Hungary and Estonia. Let the eagle soar. So we can shoot it and feed our children.

What is this? Is some foreign desert they have no reason to be in the only place where America’s best and bravest will show what they think they’re made of? Can’t show courage at home anymore? What was that number? I think it was that 8000 US soldiers got killed in action abroad since 9/11, while 100,000 committed suicide. I mean, honestly, people, where do you see this going?

When the recession ended, everyone knows it didn’t.

Investing In A Pretend Economy (EconomicNoise)

We live in a pretend economy. It is important to recognize this condition, especially if you are an investor. Current market behavior is concerning. Bonds and stocks remain volatile and near record levels. Markets ignore the continuing stagnation in the pretend economy, buoyed apparently by government liquidity injections. To justify investing today in these markets, one must anticipate one or both of the following:

  1. Economic growth is about to surge.
  2. Market values can continue to rise from here, potentially further widening the already large gap between valuations and fundamental economics.

No reading of the economic tea leaves suggests a surge in economic growth is coming. Indeed, a critical analysis of the data makes one question whether there has been a recovery at all. Certainly any recovery has to be labeled as abnormal. If economic conditions look like they will continue to be sub-par, then an investor has to believe that it is realistic to expect market valuations to continue to ignore economic conditions. That assumption worked last year when markets rose about 30%. Is it reasonable to expect the divergence to continue for another year? No divergence can continue forever but that doesn’t mean it can’t persist for a while.

The recession ended (according to the National Bureau of Economic Research) in June 2009. Rapid economic expansion normally occurs during the first three or four quarters after a recession ends. The typical recovery period is characterized by three to four quarters of unsustainably high growth rates. That take-off growth never occurred when this recession was declared over. Nevertheless, government went into full propaganda mode and the pretend economy began.

At no time in my recollection has the word “recovering” been used to describe an economy five years after a recession was declared over. Perhaps the term was borrowed from “recovering” alcoholic which I understand is a forever state. Either the government is lying about a recovery or something has radically changed in terms of the economy. Both are likely. The current “recovery” does not conform to other recoveries. After five years, history suggests we may be close to the next recession, not still “recovering” from the previous one. However, history is not economics. It may repeat or rhyme, but it doesn’t rule. [..]

There has been no real economic recovery. What has occurred is a pretend recovery. The pretend is not limited to this recent cycle. It has been going on for many years. In a sense, what we now have and have had for the last decade or more is a pretend economy. Government interventions have been the driving force in this pretend economy. Government has no incentive to not have a real recovery. It would prefer one, but that is no longer possible as a result of an accumulation of distortions that have built up over decades. A pretend economy is the next best thing. Interventions cover up reality (for awhile) but they also add to the economic distortions and damage.

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Dominoes falling.

China’s Next Bond Default Looms As Polyester Firm Declares Bankruptcy (Bloomberg)

A small manufacturer of polyester yarn based in China’s wealthy Zhejiang province has declared bankruptcy, threatening its ability to meet an interest payment on a high-yield bond due in July. Zhejiang Huatesi Polymer Technical Co Ltd asked a local court for bankruptcy protection in early March, according to an announcement on the website of the Anji County People’s Court.

The firm sold 60 million yuan ($9.7 million) in bonds in a private placement in January 2013 at an interest rate of 11%. The next interest payment is due on July 23, while the bond matures in January next year. A string of credit defaults in recent weeks has highlighted rising credit risks in China, partly fuelled by signs that the economy is slowing down.

Analysts widely expect more defaults on loans, bonds, and shadow bank products this year. Semiconductor, software, and commodities firms are among the most at risk for default, a Reuters analysis of more than 2,600 Chinese companies showed. The Xuzhou Zhongsen default marked the first ever in China’s high-yield bond market, which the securities regulator launched in June 2012 in a bid to offer a new financing channel for small, private firms. Such firms often struggle to access credit in China’s state-dominated financial system.

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No bleeping kidding!

Kerry, Congress Agree: Superpower Status Not What It Was (Bloomberg)

Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed on one thing yesterday: Being a superpower isn’t what it used to be. At a hearing on the U.S. State Department budget, Republicans and Democrats alike raised concerns about America’s limited ability to cope with global challenges, from Russian aggression in Ukraine to Iran’s nuclear program, China’s assertiveness in the Pacific and Syria’s civil war. While some Republicans blamed the administration for decisions that they say have eroded U.S. influence, Kerry pointed to a “changed world.”

“The United States has power, enormous power,” he said, “but we can’t necessarily always dictate every outcome the way we want, particularly in this world where we have rising economic powers — China, India, Mexico, Korea, Brazil, many other people who are players.” The two-hour Senate hearing was only one place where lawmakers and others challenged President Barack Obama’s foreign policy yesterday. The jousting underscored the U.S. struggle to defend its global interests and allies as technology and the diffusion of economic and military power erode its post-Cold War position as the lone superpower.

Halfway around the world, Chinese Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the U.S. rebalancing to Asia won’t contain China or affect its claims to territory in the region. “With the latest developments in China, it can never be contained,” he said.

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How useless can one man get?

Draghi Hunts for QE Assets in “Dead” Market (Bloomberg)

Mario Draghi’s asset-purchase plan to ward off deflation may be lacking one key element: enough assets to buy. Since the European Central Bank President buoyed investors last week by saying policy makers backed quantitative easing as a way to boost prices if needed, officials including Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny have signaled any purchases may center on asset-backed securities. While that makes sense in an economy funded mostly by bank loans, it’s also a market Draghi once described as “dead.”

The ECB’s focus on ABS for monetary easing risks guiding it toward a policy that might be slow to evolve and far smaller than the $1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in bond purchases it has already simulated. Draghi has said international regulators must change the rules on ABSs, yet those officials are steering against the easy creation of complex products because of the role they played in the global financial crisis. “A preference for ABSs has been expressed time and again – and in fact it is the first asset class that would make sense for the ECB to buy,” said Marco Valli, chief euro-area economist at UniCredit Global Research in Milan. “The market’s revival is conditional on the regulator changing capital requirements. Until this changes, jump-starting the ABS market is difficult and demand for these securities will remain weak.”

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The truth behind the headlines.

Europe Not Moving Away From Russian Energy (RT)

Europe has no plans to move away from Russian gas, with the major energy projects like South Stream expected to remain in place, according to Reiner Hartmann, Chairman of the Association of European Businesses. The US and EU both have condemned Russian action in Ukraine. The US responded with economic sanctions on banks and individuals thought to be close to Russian President Putin, but Europe’s economy is much more closely integrated with Russia’s, which has kept tough sanctions off the table. “We are very aware of the situation; that we are in a very comfortable position. We are close to Russian gas fields,” Hartmann said on Monday following a meeting at the Association of European Businesses’ office in Moscow.

Business between European clients and Moscow will continue as usual, Hartmann, Managing Director at E.ON Ruhrgas Russia, said. “And during the past 40 years not one cubic meter of gas was not delivered according to contracts.” Ukraine, along with some EU officials, have accused Russia of “gas wars” and of using hydrocarbons as a diplomatic weapon, however, the AEB is able to separate business from politics. “And during the last 40 years Russia also never used gas as a weapon in political issues, etc. And, we believe, this will not be the case in the future,” said Hartmann. [..]

Projects already in the works – like the Southern Corridor and the South Stream gas pipelines, won’t be affected by political tension in Ukraine, according to Hartmann. A leaked briefing by European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso indicated the EU may try and use the South Stream project as a gambit to negotiate with Russia over Ukraine. South Stream, Gazprom’s $45 billion project that is due to partially open in 2015 and reach full capacity in 2018 and deliver 64 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, runs through EU countries Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, and soon to be a EU member Serbia. The line connects Russia to Europe via the Black Sea. The route will supply Europe with 15% of its gas needs. The Bulgarian press reported that Barroso said it needed “to be very careful” in its South Stream dealings, hinting that the country must align with EU, and not Russian interests.

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US To Become Oil Independent By 2037 – EIA (RT)

US may stop importing oil by 2037 as abundant domestic crude supplies, including North Dakota’s Bakken field and Texas’s Eagle Ford formation, may push production to the level of consumption, according to the US government. The US Energy Department’s branch that collects and analyzes data – the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that within 23 years the world’s largest economy may become energy independent, while demand for crude is expected to be modest. “This is the first time the Annual Energy Outlook has projected that net imports’ share of liquid fuels consumption could reach zero,” Bloomberg quotes John Krohn a spokesman for the EIA.

The most optimistic assessment by the EIA assumes that production will increase to about 13 million barrels a day over the next two decades. The projection is based on more favorable assumptions relating to technological improvements and the productivity of wells. Net oil imports have already fallen to about 5 million barrels a day from a peak of almost 13 million barrels in 2006. The shift is mostly due to advances in techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling into shale rock.

The EIA also calculated a low resource scenario. According to estimates, after the moderate growth of up to 9.1 million barrels a day in 2017 the production of oil may nosedive to 6.6 million barrels a day by 2040. In the worst-case scenario in terms of imports the EIA assessed the net import share of petroleum and other liquids to fall to 25% in 2016 and then again rise up to 32% in 2040.

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The Born Again Jobs Scam: The Ugly Truth Behind “Jobs Friday” (David Stockman)

The mainstream recovery narrative has an astounding “recency bias”. According to all the CNBC talking heads, the 192,000 NFP jobs gain reported on Friday constituted another “strong” report card. Well, let’s see. Approximately 75 months ago (December 2007) at the cyclical peak before the so-called Great Recession, the BLS reported 138.4 million NFP jobs. When the hosanna chorus broke into song last Friday, the reported figure was 137.9 million NFP jobs. By the lights of old-fashioned subtraction, therefore, we are still 500k jobs short—notwithstanding $3.5 trillion of money printing in the interim.

The truth is, all the ballyhooed “new jobs” celebrated on bubblevision month-after-month have actually been “born again” jobs. That is, jobs which were created during the Fed’s 2002-2007 bubble inflation; lost in the aftermath of the September 2008 meltdown; and then “recovered” during the renewed bubble inflation now underway. Stated differently, back when the NFP jobs count first clocked in at 137.9 million in the fall of 2007, the talking heads assured us that we were in a permanent “goldilocks economy” thanks to the brilliant management skills of the Fed. So here we are nearly 7 years later, still a half million jobs short, and the talking heads are gumming once again about the same old illusory “goldilocks”. Who actually pays these people to bloviate!

Setting aside the utterly superficial recency bias, its not hard to see the dire reality lurking in the actual trends. To be precise, 75 months into the post-2000 cycle the US economy had generated 5 million net new jobs—that is, it was way above its prior high water mark. Likewise, 75 months on from the 1990 peak, it had produced 10 million net new jobs. So the fact that we are still in negative jobs territory this far into a recovery cycle is literally off-the-historical-charts. And the fact that we are already in month 57 of this business expansion when the ten expansions since 1950 have averaged only 53 months in duration is even more telling. Notwithstanding Bernanke’s hubristic proclamation of the Great Moderation, the Fed has not abolished recessions—so this time the cyclical clock may run out long before many actual “new jobs” are created.

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The US is busy falling into its own knife.

Housing Pain Could Halt Stocks’ Gain (Marketwatch)

[..] while I’m not too worried about stocks, I do think the housing market may take a hit. And the fallout of negative sentiment could affect other assets and consumer spending as a result. A big narrative of our economic recovery has been a resurgent housing market. As a result, a slowdown or decline could be bad news for investors of all stripes. Here’s what I think investors and homeowners should be watching in the real estate market, and the warning signs worth noting.

As it becomes increasingly clear that the Federal Reserve is on track to raise key interest rates in the next 12 to 18 months, the rate on mortgages has been creeping higher too. Mortgage rates were elevated in March, and interest rates are flirting with a monthly average of 4.5% on a 30-year fixed – which, according to Freddie Mac mortgage survey data, would mark the highest levels since July 2011. Consider that a $200,000 loan at a 3.5% rate works out to about $900 per month, while a 4.5% rate is just shy of $1,015 — a difference of $115 monthly for the same home. And for more expensive houses, the difference is even more dramatic.

This additional cost burden could price people into smaller homes or deter them from shopping altogether. And, remember, this recent rate increase has occurred even without a Fed-driven rate hike behind it, so mortgage interest rates could move significantly higher across the coming months. And let’s not even get into what an increase in rates could do to those without fixed mortgages who will see payments adjust up as a result. The bottom line is that higher borrowing costs will undoubtedly cool some of the demand for housing by the time we hit the key house-shopping months of spring and summer 2015.

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But wait! What are we going to pay the bonuses with?

Banks Set to Report Lower Earnings as Debt Trading Slumps (Bloomberg)

Surging stocks, booming initial public offerings and rising employment all pointed to a feast of first-quarter bank profits. Debt markets crashed the party. Fixed-income trading slid 15% in the first three months of 2014, analysts estimate, as the Federal Reserve slowed its bond purchases. Combine that with a drop in mortgage revenue and a $9.5 billion legal settlement, and profit for the nation’s five biggest banks probably fell 14% to $16.5 billion from a year earlier. Only sixth-ranked Morgan Stanley, which relies less on those businesses, is seen bucking the trend.

“There’s been a lot less fixed-income activity than we typically see in the first quarter,” David Konrad, Macquarie Group Ltd.’s head of U.S. bank research, said in a telephone interview. “The environment is more challenging when rates are increasing and liquidity is being pulled from the market and regulation’s coming in.” The slump in bond trading, a business that fueled Wall Street’s rebound after the credit crisis and generates more revenue than equities at most big banks, may erode earnings at firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Profit there probably fell 23% to $1.73 billion. Morgan Stanley, owner of the world’s biggest brokerage, may be alone among the largest U.S. banks in posting higher earnings as it relies more on equities. Its profit surged 23% to $1.19 billion, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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It just ain’t fair!

US Banks to Face Tougher Leverage Caps Than Competitors (Bloomberg)

The biggest U.S. bank holding companies will need to round up as much as $68 billion more in loss-absorbing capital under supplemental leverage ratio rules adopted by regulators in Washington today. Eight lenders, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, face greater restrictions on borrowing power than their overseas competitors as they meet a demand to hold capital equal to at least 5% of total assets. The rules designed to curtail financial-system risk surpass the 3% minimum set in a global agreement by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

“The leverage ratio serves as a critical backstop to the risk-based capital requirements – particularly for the most systemic banking firms,” Daniel Tarullo, the Federal Reserve governor responsible for financial regulation, said in a statement. The leverage rule, which also affects Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street, is meant to work alongside risk-based capital standards approved by U.S. regulators last year and a pending rule that would require banks to keep a high level of ready-to-sell assets to weather a crisis.

The rule was approved by the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Bankers had argued that the leverage demand – often described by the agencies as a backstop – would become the dominant capital standard, and Tarullo agreed today that it will be the most binding constraint for some banks.

Fed Governor Jeremy Stein said he had “misgivings” about possible “unintended consequences” of the rule. “I do think it is possible to go too far with a simple leverage ratio if it gets raised to the point where it is binding or near-binding rather than being a backstop.” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said regulators should “watch carefully” for such consequences. Most of the banks have said they already or soon will meet the demand for 5% capital at the bank holding company level and 6% at banking units. The holding companies are about $68 billion short, and the banking subsidiaries face a $95 billion shortfall, regulators said.

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Look for ugly.

IMF Cuts Japan Growth Forecast As Abenomics Stalls (AFP)

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its 2014 growth forecast for Japan and warned that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must follow through on promised reforms to cement a turnaround in the world’s number-three economy. In its World Economic Outlook, the IMF said it expected Japan’s economy to grow 1.4% this year, down from an earlier 1.7% forecast, before slowing to 1.0% in 2015. The Washington-based Fund has previously been upbeat on Abe’s growth policy blitz — a mixture of big government spending and central bank monetary easing dubbed Abenomics, which is designed to drag the economy out of years of deflation and laggard growth.

The plan’s so-called “third arrow” — reforms that include more flexible labour markets and free-trade deals — have been more talk than action so far, although Tokyo on Monday agreed on a long-awaited trade deal with Australia. The agreement was the first time Japan had negotiated a comprehensive economic partnership agreement or free trade deal with a major economy. But separate negotiations involving the United States, Japan and 10 other nations, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, have stalled.

Japan has long been accused of protecting its domestic industries — including the politically powerful agricultural sector — with high trade and other non-tariff barriers, while many of its own exports, including vehicles and electronics, enjoy big sales overseas. Abe has pledged to make changes and grow the long-laggard economy, while battling to contain one of the rich world’s heaviest debt burdens. But “Abenomics still needs to translate into stronger domestic private demand”, the IMF said. “Implementation of the remaining two arrows of Abenomics — structural reform and plans for fiscal consolidation beyond 2015 — is essential to achieve the inflation target and higher sustained growth.”

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Lip service.

IMF Warns Eurozone And ECB On Deflation Threat (RTE)

The International Monetary Fund has identified deflation as the biggest risk to economic recovery in the Euro Area. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF said the Euro Area needs more monetary easing – including unconventional measures, such as quantitative easing – to sustain recovery and reach the ECB’s inflation target of 2%. Last week ECB President Mario Draghi was critical of IMF managing director Christine Lagarde for urging the ECB to effectively print more money to head off the risk of deflation. But today’s IMF publication contains numerous calls for monetary intervention from Frankfurt to deal with deflation.

Overall the IMF said the global recovery is expected to strengthen this year, led by the advanced economies. It said that emerging market and developing economies will only grow modestly this year, adding that a worrying development is a downgrade of growth rates in some of the larger emerging market economies notably Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. It said the main risk to advanced economies comes mainly from “prospects of low inflation and the possibility of protracted stagnation, especially in the Euro Area and Japan”.

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UK Fails To Notice The Beam In Its Own Eye (RT)

Rather than the exception, corruption is now the norm within the key institutions at the heart of the British establishment. The latest reminder of it is the recent story to dominate British newspapers and the broadcast media involves the UK Culture Secretary and member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, Maria Miller, who is the latest in a long line of politicians to become embroiled in scandal over their expenses.

It comes as a reminder that for a country whose political leaders, intelligentsia and media commentators have made a habit of pointing the finger at governments, countries, and political systems around the world, adjudging them to be corrupt and morally deficient, the scale of the hypocrisy in this regard is astounding. In recent years we have witnessed scandals involving the City of London, the main driver of the UK economy, surrounding the greed and recklessness responsible for an economic crisis that has delivered thousands of people into destitution.

Yet at time of writing not one British banker has been prosecuted or faced any legal sanction for the economic chaos that has engulfed the country. Worse, the bonus culture that is prevalent in the City of London, and in corporate boardrooms in general, rather than being curtailed, has remained in place, thus ensuring that an emphasis on short-term profits and personal enrichment continues to take priority over long-term investment and sustainability when it comes to the UK economy. [..]

Corruption within the British political system is now so commonplace that when another example of it is made public, it no longer shocks or surprises. What it does do is re-enforce the view that a sense of entitlement and privilege is so embedded within the British establishment as to make a mockery of words such as integrity and democracy. Making it even worse is that it comes at a time when the most economically vulnerable in Britain are on the receiving end of a vicious assault by the government, seeing their benefits, wages, and conditions cut to the bone on the justification they are no longer affordable because of an economic crisis they weren’t responsible for creating in the first place.

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Ha! HAHAHA!

OPEC Plans to Make Room for Extra Oil From Iran, Iraq, Libya (Bloomberg)

OPEC, which supplies 40 percent of the world’s oil, will accommodate additional output from members Iraq, Iran and Libya, Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said, without explaining how it will do so under the group’s ceiling. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will wait until 2015 to discuss output targets with Iraq, which currently operates outside the production-quota system for each of the group’s other 11 member countries, El-Badri told reporters today in Doha, Qatar.

OPEC foresees gradual increases from Iraq and Iran, while Libya is capable of boosting output by as much as 1 million barrels within a month, he said. “There is no problem for OPEC to absorb any production increment from Iraq and Iran in 2014,” El-Badri said. “When Libya output comes back, we will accommodate it because its production is in our numbers.” OPEC is set to boost output as its second-biggest producer Iraq pumps at a 35-year high and Libya’s government makes progress in talks with rebels who control fields and export terminals in the country’s oil-rich east.

Sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program have constrained the country’s production and sales of crude. OPEC plans to meet on June 11 in Vienna to review its output target, now at 30 million barrels a day. Global demand will increase by 1.1 million barrels a day in 2014, and the group will produce up to 30 million barrels a day for the rest of the year, El-Badri said. “Of course, ministers can change that when they meet,” he said. OPEC pumped 30.3 million barrels a day in March, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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Sail it to the moon, I’d say.

US Navy Creates Ship Fuel From Seawater (RT)

Researchers working for the United States Navy say they are around a decade away from mastering a procedure that will make high-powered fuel for the military’s fleet of ships out of run-of-the-mill seawater. The US Naval Research Laboratory’s Materials Science and Technology Division have already demonstrated that a new, state-of-the-art conversion method can turn ordinary seawater into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel potent enough to power a small model aircraft. Soon, though, they say the same process will provide the Navy with a way of refueling any of its hundreds of ships at sea without relying on the comparably meager fleet of 15 military oil tankers currently tasked with delivering nearly 600 million gallons of fuel to those vessels on an annual basis.

Scientists say it will be another 10 years before ships will likely be able to successfully convert seawater into super-powerful fuel, but the technology is already being hailed as a game changer and is expected to substantially cut costs for the Pentagon. The process at hand involves extracting carbon dioxide molecules from the ocean water outside of a ship’s hull and using it to produce hydrogen gas, “catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process,” according to an article published this week on the Naval Research Laboratory’s website.

“The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence,” Dr. Heather Willauer, a research chemist who has worked on the procedure for years, explained to the NRL back in 2012. “With such a process, the Navy could avoid the uncertainties inherent in procuring fuel from foreign sources and/or maintaining long supply lines,” she said.

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Everyone buy USD, You know you want to!

Norway’s Biggest Bank Says Krone Caught in Emerging Market Trade (Bloomberg)

Investing in Norway’s krone is becoming more hazardous as the central bank steers the currency and global trading desks lose their appetite for risk, according to DNB Markets head Ottar Ertzeid. “The Norwegian krone is almost following the emerging markets currencies,” Ertzeid, who heads the investment banking and markets unit at DNB, Norway’s largest bank, said yesterday in an interview in Oslo. “Norges Bank has contributed to this. The last year has been even less liquid than it used to be and some more liquidity could be helpful.”

The krone has plunged 10% against the euro since last year, following central bank steps to halt its gains. Policy makers were blindsided in 2009 as Europe’s debt crisis turned the krone into a haven for investors fleeing the euro. The central bank cut rates in 2011 and 2012. In June last year, it warned it won’t hesitate to ease policy again in an effort to bring inflation back to its 2.5% target. Jon Nicolaisen, who took over as deputy governor at Norges Bank last week, said in an interview there’s no plan to change policy on the krone, and that he doesn’t view it as being significantly riskier than other currencies. “The volatility of the Norwegian krone isn’t particularly scary when you compare it to Australia, New Zealand or Canada — similar economies,” Nicolaisen said. “I don’t see a need to change that policy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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Wikileaks: Internet Governance Body Trying To Stop NSA (RT)

WikiLeaks has published what the anti-secrecy organization says is the penultimate draft agreement expected to be discussed later this month in Brazil at a global internet governance meeting co-hosted by 12 countries including the United States. The 11-page document published on Tuesday by the secret-spilling website is based off of the recommendations submitted by more than 180 international contributors who cared to weigh in with their take on how they think the internet and its infrastructure should be governed ahead of a conference on the matter scheduled to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil April 23-24.

According to the draft published by WikiLeaks this week and dated April 4, the committee tasked with preparing for the upcoming Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance — or NETmundial — are concerned about the impact that government-sanctioned surveillance is having on the privacy of the planet’s web-connected population and the infrastructure of the internet, as well as the repercussions being brought to light as cyber-weapons continue to be waged between adversarial states around the world as warfare remains a central yet shadowy activity within the digital realm.

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Does this include Capitol Hill?

US Prisons Hold 10 Times More Mentally Ill People Than State Hospitals (RT)

More than 356,000 people with mental illnesses are incarcerated in the United States, as opposed to around 35,000 receiving treatment in state hospitals, a new study found, highlighting the dire state of the nation’s mental health care system. The lead author of the report, conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association, said the ten-to-one ratio of patients in prison versus those receiving qualified care is on par with the US mental health system of the 1830s.

“We’ve basically gone back to where we were 170 years ago,” Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, told Kaiser Health News. “We are doing an abysmal job of treating people with serious mental illnesses in this country. It is both inhumane and shocking the way we have dumped them into the state prisons and the local jails.” The report found 44 states and the District of Columbia have at least one jail that holds more people coping with a mental illness than the largest state psychiatric hospital in the US does.

As states have drastically cut funding for mental health services in the last several years, the number of available beds in psychiatric hospitals has plunged to the lowest level since 1850. Thus, many of these patients are shuffled into the prison system simply because there is nowhere else for them to go. The US prison population has steadily increased as mental health funding has decreased, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has found. Prisoners with mental health issues are often put in solitary confinement for long periods of time, stay incarcerated longer than other prisoners, and are disproportionately abused, beaten, and raped by other inmates, the new report noted. Without treatment, the condition of ill inmates often worsens.

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Cars Become Biggest Driver of Greenhouse-Gas Increases (Bloomberg)

The greatest emerging threat to the global climate may rest in the side pocket of your trousers – or wherever you keep the car keys. Emissions from transportation may rise at the fastest rate of all major sources through 2050, the United Nations will say in a report due April 13. Heat-trapping gases from vehicles may surge 71% from 2010 levels, mainly from emerging economies, according to a leaked draft of the most comprehensive UN study to date on the causes of climate change.

Rising incomes in nations like China, India and Brazil have produced explosive demand for cars and for consumer goods that must be delivered by highway, rail, ship or air. The new pollution, measured in millions of tons of greenhouse gases, may exceed all of the savings achieved through initiatives like subsidies for public transport and fuel efficiency. Cutting back on transportation gases “will be challenging, since the continuing growth in passenger and freight activity could outweigh all mitigation measures unless transport emissions can be strongly decoupled from GDP growth,” the report’s authors wrote.

In China, gross domestic product will jump to $10,661 per capita this year from $3,614 a decade earlier, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund. That vaulted it to rank 92 worldwide by that measure, from 114 in 2004. The countries that jumped even more in ranking were Timor-Leste, up 43 levels, followed by Azerbaijan, Belarus and Turkmenistan. The warning in the 2,061-page report forms the third part of the UN’s study into global warming. Hundreds of scientists and government officials are meeting through at least April 11 in Berlin to finalize the wording of a smaller document summarizing their findings. It will guide UN envoys as they try to devise a plan to fight climate change and stop temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.

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Exxon speaks truth to power=energy=money. And time is money, so …..

Exxon Mobil Dismisses Low Carbon Future, Puts Faith In Oil Markets (Guardian)

When an international group of 77 institutional investors with more than $3trillion in assets asked the world’s 45 largest fossil fuel companies to assess the risks that climate change poses to their business, they were aware they were asking a tough, complex question. Knowing this, investors launched the Carbon Asset Risk Initiative to spur fossil fuel companies to assess the risks climate change poses to their business based on two scenarios: a business-as-usual scenario under which the world’s fossil fuel use continues to grow, warming the earth to levels society may not be able to adapt to; and a low-carbon scenario where governments achieve their stated goal of limiting the average temperature rise to below 2C.

Many of the 45 companies that received this request are responding – among those, Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded energy company, which agreed to publish a report after investors agreed to withdraw a pair of related shareholder resolutions. This agreement was considered by many to be groundbreaking. And if the company had in fact provided the information requested by investors, the report itself would have been. While the report is a positive step, providing investors with useful information about the company’s views on managing climate risk, it mostly sidesteps investors’ concerns by dismissing a low carbon scenario as “highly unlikely” and glossing over the climate change implications of the company’s own Outlook for Energy.

According to the report, Exxon Mobil does expect increasing government action to curb emissions, but not to the level required to limit global warming to below 2C, which the company claims would be unaffordable. In fact, the report says the emissions projections in the company’s Outlook for Energy are comparable to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario that projects a temperature rise well above the international two degree goal. The company focuses on the costs of action and largely ignores the costs of inaction, suggesting that policymakers should balance mitigation, adaptation, and other social priorities.

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Yeah, we’re a great species.

Gulf Oil Spill “Not Over”: Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers (NatGeo)

Four years after the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, several species of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still struggling to recover, according to a new report released today. In particular, bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers, and the evidence is stronger than ever that their demise is connected to the spill, according to Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, which issued the report.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and spewing more than 200 million gallons (750 million liters) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, various government agencies and nonprofits, including the National Wildlife Federation, have been studying the region’s wildlife to track the impacts of the oil.

The report, a compilation of published science since the spill, reveals that “the Gulf oil spill is far from over,” Inkley said. “The oil is not gone: There is oil on the bottom of the Gulf, oil is washing up on the beaches, and oil is still on the marshes,” he said. “I am not surprised by this. In Prince William Sound, 25 years after the wreck of Exxon Valdez, there are still some species that have not fully recovered.”

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