Friday, 2 September 2016

G-20: All Against All.

Baltic Dry Index. 712  +01     Brent Crude 45.71

LIR Gold Target in 2019: $30,000.  Revised due to QE programs.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Abraham Lincoln.
It is G-20 junket weekend, and all attending seem set on a different agenda. The EU and America are likely to clash over Apple’s new EU tax bill. China and America seem set to clash over spying and China’s alleged manipulation of its currency. The UK and China seem likely to clash over China’s participation with France over building in Britain the world’s most expensive nuclear power station. Even before the G-20 group assembles, Japan seems to be trying an unlikely foreign policy gambit to drive a wedge between Russia and China. America’s employment figures, due out later today, are all too likely to be overtaken by events at Sunday and Monday’s G-20 summit. But first this breaking news.

Putin Pushes for Oil Freeze Deal With OPEC, Exemption for Iran

September 2, 2016 — 7:02 AM BST Updated on September 2, 2016 — 7:28 AM BST
Vladimir Putin said he’d like OPEC and Russia, producers of half of the world’s oil, to reach a deal to freeze supply and expects the dispute over Iran’s participation can be resolved.

“From the viewpoint of economic sense and logic, then it would be correct to find some sort of compromise,” Putin said in an interview in Vladivostok. “I am confident that everyone understands that. We believe that this is the right decision for world energy.”

While talks collapsed in April over whether Iran should join in, countries now recognize the country -- freed just months ago from international sanctions -- should be allowed to continue raising production, Putin said. The Russian president said he may recommend completing the plan when he meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Group of 20 summit in China next week.

Below, the state of play pre-G-20 meeting in China.

Japan woos Russia with deeper economic ties in face of rising China

Thu Sep 1, 2016 12:44am EDT
Japan is hoping the lure of deeper economic ties with Russia will strengthen strategic relations in the face of a rising China, but skeptics question whether the approach will generate a breakthrough in a decades-old territorial dispute.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a business conference in Vladivostok to discuss, among other things, closer economic cooperation in such areas as energy and technology.

The meeting at the two-day forum in the Russian port city, which begins on Friday, will be followed by Putin's visit to Japan in December, a Russian official has said. It will be Putin's first visit since Abe took office in December 2012, although Abe has been to Russia several times.

Japan has been eyeing closer ties with Russia to counter China's growing clout, as well as its interest in Russia's natural resources. In a sign of the focus on economic ties, Abe has given his trade minister Hiroshige Seko an additional portfolio in charge of economic cooperation with Russia, the main government spokesman in Tokyo said on Thursday.

Earlier attempts to schedule a visit by Putin were derailed by Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, which prompted Tokyo to join the United States and other Western countries in imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Japan trade minister denies Rosneft investment report

Fri Sep 2, 2016 1:07am EDT
Japan wants to boost its ability to secure natural resources, but the government was not considering an investment in Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said on Friday.

The Nikkei reported on Friday that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) was considering investing as much as 1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) to buy 10 percent of Rosneft through the government-backed Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp, or JOGMEC.

The report came as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepared to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a business conference in Vladivostok to discuss closer cooperation in such areas as energy and technology.

Seko, the newly appointed minister for economic cooperation with Russia who will accompany Abe on the trip to Vladivostok, denied METI was considering an investment in Rosneft through JOGMEC.

He confirmed that cabinet is considering a bill to reinforce the ability of JOGMEC to secure supplies of natural resources, but said the move did not target any particular countries or deals.

Under current law, JOGMEC is able to support Japanese companies when they buy a stake in foreign mines and energy assets, but it is not able to offer support when they buy a stake in foreign resource companies and is not able to buy stakes in foreign companies itself.

The government may make it possible for JOGMEC to acquire stakes in foreign state-backed resource companies on its own, another METI official said.

IMF's Lagarde says likely to cut growth outlook as trade wanes

Thu Sep 1, 2016 12:44pm EDT
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the institution will likely downgrade its 2016 global growth forecast again as economic prospects are dimmed by weak demand, flagging trade and investment and growing inequality.

Lagarde told Reuters in an interview that G20 leaders need to do far more to spur demand, bolster the case for trade and globalization, and fight inequality.

And while some major threats to the global economy have yet to materialize, such as recession sparked by Britain's vote to leave the European Union or a collapse in Chinese growth, she described the overall outlook as "slightly declining growth, fragile, weak and certainly not fueled by trade."

"You could argue that Brexit is not really delivering the massive crisis that we had expected, you could argue that the Chinese transition is proceeding reasonably well, and you could argue that low commodity prices have gone up a little bit," Lagarde said. "So this is on the surface."

"However, when you look deep down at the economic growth prospects, at the growth potential, at the productivity, we are not getting very good signals, and we will probably be revising down our forecast for growth in 2016."

The IMF is due to revise its World Economic Outlook forecasts in early October ahead of its annual meetings. Another cut would be the sixth straight growth markdown in about 18 months.

---- Lagarde said she will tell G20 leaders on Sunday and Monday in Hangzhou, China that further reductions in growth potential and more obstacles to the free movement of goods, services, capital and people would hurt all of them. She said people harmed by trade and innovation need to be helped by policies to allow them to retrain and acquire new skills and job mobility.

"This is something that all countries and all governments should be concerned and mobilized about," Lagarde said.

The IMF said in a briefing note to G20 leaders that falling trade volumes have contributed to lower GDP growth and urged them to make a stronger case for the benefits of trade.

And in yet more sign of rising global stress, even the one percenter’s seem to be running out of cash.

Pernod Ricard's Scotch Needs Some Chinese Love

By Andrea Felsted  Sep 1, 2016 8:54 AM EDT
Don't get too excited about a Chinese luxury recovery. That's the message from Pernod Ricard, seller of high-end spirits.

And despite an improvement in the U.S. market, the company's investors should keep a celebratory bottle of Perrier-Jouët champagne on ice for a while.

The maker of Chivas Regal whisky and Absolut vodka said on Thursday that sales fell 9 percent in China in the year to June 30.

It's a contrast to some tentative signs of recovery in the region in the last few days. Prada said on Friday that it was seeing signs of improvement in Hong Kong and Macau as well as mainland China. And on Thursday, Macau gaming revenue rose 1.1 percent in August, the first increase in more than two years.

The problem for Pernod Ricard is scotch. It's no longer the flavor of the month in China, where across the market sales are down by a double digit percentage. The country's crackdown on extravagance is to blame, as are changing tastes among young drinkers -- they now favor cognac for a night out in bars and clubs, with the added benefit that spending there can escape some of the austerity squeeze.

Pernod Ricard generated the biggest share of sales from Asia and the rest of the world in fiscal 2016, so troubles in China are worrying.

Scotch accounts for almost 20 percent of Pernod's sales in China, according to Trevor Stirling, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. While rivals LVMH and Remy Cointreau have some exposure to this category, the vast majority of their spirit sales in China are of cognac, which is proving more resilient.

The situation is worrying for Pernod Ricard, as the country accounts for about 9 percent of its sales.
Yet the shares were up more than 2 percent on Thursday.

Another Sign Manhattan Real Estate Is Feeling the Pain

September 1, 2016 — 10:00 AM BST
Prospective buyers at one Upper East Side condo project are quietly being offered a 5 percent discount. At an almost-completed Midtown building, five-bedroom homes will be divided into smaller units. Brokers whose clients sign deals at a downtown tower before Labor Day are getting $5,000 gift cards.

Such tactics have become more common in Manhattan, where developers are coping with a luxury-condo glut and adjusting to a new reality after years of building to meet seemingly insatiable demand. With the market now sputtering, they’re altering sales plans and making behind-the-scenes deals in an attempt to create momentum at their projects before an onslaught of even more competition.

“Right now, time is your enemy,” said Jacky Teplitzky, a luxury broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “The first question that people ask is how long has an apartment been on the market?”

Global economic turmoil, slumping oil prices and the uncertainty of this year’s presidential election are weighing on luxury-home buyers’ decision-making across the U.S. In New York, where more than 3,500 new apartments are hitting the market this year, developers have to work even harder for a sale. It’s a turnabout from the boom days just a few years ago, when investors quickly plunked down record-shattering sums for homes still in the planning stages. Wealthy buyers now are taking time to browse multiple options and negotiate before committing to a purchase -- if they make one at all.

For the first 35 weeks of the year, contracts to buy Manhattan homes at $4 million or higher tumbled 21 percent from the same period in 2015, data compiled by luxury brokerage Olshan Realty Inc. show.

And in other bad news this G-20 junket weekend.

Hanjin ships, cargo and sailors stranded at sea

1 September 2016

With South Korea's biggest shipping company filing for bankruptcy protection, the vessels, sailors and cargo of Hanjin Shipping are stuck in limbo, stranded at sea.

Ports, fearing they will not get paid, refuse to let them dock or unload.

That means the ships are forced to wait for Hanjin, its creditors or partners to find a solution.

It's a case of unprecedented scale, with experts expecting the deadlock to last for weeks, if not months.

"[It is] a major disaster for the shipping companies and for the companies that own the goods in those containers," Greg Knowler, maritime and trade analyst with IHS Markit, told the BBC from Hong Kong.

Read more: Shipping giant Hanjin to enter receivership

Peak season

Not only are ships not allowed to unload, containers waiting to be picked up are also being held back by the ports as collateral over unpaid bills.

And even if the ports did allow them in, Hanjing would probably not as the vessels could expect to be immediately repossessed by the firm's creditors.

Beyond the ships and containers, there is of course the cargo within those containers - in many cases part of a tight chain of supply and delivery.

By September, the global shipping industry is already into what is its busiest time of the year ahead of the Christmas season.

"Just imagine, there are some 540,000 containers with cargo caught up at sea," explains Lars Jensen, chief executive of Sea Intelligence Consulting in Copenhagen.

Let's break down the somewhat confusing ownership structure at play here.

Hanjin operates partly with its own ships, and partly with vessels it leases from others. So some of the vessels stuck at sea are owned by other companies who now can't get them back and on top of that have to assume they won't get paid for leasing them in the first place.

The containers on board the ships are also not all Hanjin's own. As the company is part of an alliance with five other cargo firms, there will be a mix of containers on each vessel - some belonging to Hanjin, the rest to the other four partners.

And lastly, there are the firms who own the content of the containers, for instance an Asian electronics firm sending its goods to the US market.

Hanjin's bankruptcy is the largest ever to hit the shipping industry so there's no roadmap as to what will happen now, no precedent of comparable scale.

---- Let's take a container brought from, say, the Philippines to Hong Kong, to then be picked up from there and taken to the US.

Berthing and handling of that cargo at the Hong Kong port costs money. If Hanjin can't pay that, the port will hold on to those containers as collateral until someone will be willing to pay.

A possible solution would be that the companies who own the contents of those containers ask other shipping companies to step in and pick up where Hanjin left off. The cost of this would be immense, and would come on top of anything they had already paid to Hanjin beforehand. Part of it might be covered by insurance but it would still be an extremely costly endeavour.

Stuck at sea

The containers stuck on board the ships are the next problem. While at sea, there is no way to get the cargo off board.

Ships that are only leased by Hanjin could see their actual owner take back control and bring them into a harbour. They would still need to be cleared of their cargo but could then be leased to other companies.

Given that the owners of any leased vessels would probably not want to foot the bill themselves they may try to draft in the four partner lines that have containers on the ship or maybe even the companies whose cargo is inside those containers.

More Hanjin ships seized, as freight rates surge and cargo owners fret

18 Hours Ago
Hanjin Shipping vessels have been seized at Chinese ports in the wake of the South Korean firm's collapse, further roiling the industry as freight rates jump and manufacturers scramble for alternatives.

Seeking to contain the fallout, a South Korean court said it would soon begin proceedings to rehabilitate the carrier - which would allow Hanjin to take legal action in other countries to keep its ships and other assets from being seized.

Rival Hyundai Merchant Marine will also deploy at least 13 of its ships to two routes exclusively serviced by Hanjin, while the South Korean government also plans to reach out to overseas carriers for help.

The court's move to rehabilitate the world's seventh-largest container shipper is seen as mainly procedural, and an eventual liquidation of assets is likely, analysts and industry officials said.

"Unlike dry cargo, liner shipping is all about marketing and service reliability — we haven't seen any large carriers come back from collapse," said Rahul Kapoor, a director at maritime consultancy Drewry Financial Research Services.

"There is a loss of faith among customers. It's very unlikely Hanjin can come back from the ashes."

All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.

Walter Bagehot
At the Comex silver depositories Thursday final figures were: Registered 26.07 Moz, Eligible 136.12 Moz, Total 162.19 Moz. 

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
Today as America heads off to their last long weekend of the summer, and the G-20 leaders head off to China for what looks like an acrimonious summit, America seems to be declaring war on Russia, China and the EU.

U.S. imposes sanctions on 'Putin's bridge' to Crimea

Thu Sep 1, 2016 8:30pm EDT
Companies building a multi-billion dollar bridge to link the Russian mainland with annexed Crimea, a project close to the heart President Vladimir Putin, were targeted by the United States in an updated sanctions blacklist on Thursday.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury added dozens of people and companies to the list, first introduced after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and expanded over its support for separatist rebels in the east of the country.

As well as multiple subsidiaries of Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and 11 Crimean officials, the Treasury named seven companies directly involved in the construction of the 19 km (11.8 miles) road-and-rail connection across the Kerch Strait, dubbed "Putin's bridge" by some Russians.

Chief among those were SGM-Most, a subsidiary of lead contractor Stroygazmontazh which is already under U.S. sanctions, and sub-contractor Mostotrest (MSTT.MM), one of Russia's biggest bridge builders.

"Treasury stands with our partners in condemning Russia's violation of international law, and we will continue to sanction those who threaten Ukraine's peace, security and sovereignty," said John Smith, acting director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which levies sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment, but Moscow has previously said sanctions levied over its actions in Ukraine undermine efforts to resolve the conflict.

Set to be the longest dual-purpose span in Europe when completed, the Kremlin sees its 212-billion rouble ($3.2 billion) bridge as vital to integrating Crimea into Russia, both symbolically and as an economic lifeline for the region. Putin has called the undertaking an historic mission.

But the project has had to contend with Western sanctions since the construction contract was handed to Stroygazmontazh last year, a firm controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally of Putin's and his former judo partner.

Rotenberg is already under U.S. sanctions because of his links to the Russian leader, which the Treasury says have helped him win billions of dollars in state contracts. He cannot raise capital in the West or hire Western sub-contractors to help his firm complete the project.

Officials linked to the bridge's construction say they have all the skills, equipment and supplies required to build it without Western help.

U.S. tax code may allow dramatic retaliation in EU Apple case

Thu Sep 1, 2016 12:49am EDT
U.S. tax law gives the Obama administration power to double tax rates for European companies should it choose to dramatically escalate a dispute with the European Union over Apple's tax bill.

Experts said the administration was unlikely to take such a drastic measure, and even if it did, courts might strike down that action because of treaties.

Section 891 of the U.S. tax code, passed in 1934 but never used, allows the president to double tax rates for citizens and corporations of any country the administration considered was discriminating against U.S. companies.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday declined to comment on whether Washington was considering such drastic measures, which Democratic and Republican lawmakers have proposed putting on the table due to what they see as overreach by the European Commission in a tax grab targeting American companies.

The European Commission on Monday ordered the U.S. technology giant to pay up to $14.5 billion in back taxes to Ireland.

"This is an option that is viable only in the minds of a handful of analysts who seem willing to put the entire global trade order at risk," said Edward Kleinbard, a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the European Commission action appeared highly focused on U.S. companies but did not mention measures the United States might take. A Treasury spokesperson on Tuesday said the department would work with the EU to prevent erosion of tax bases.

Legal scholars considered it highly unlikely Washington would take drastic measures against one of the country's closest allies and biggest trading partners.

U.S. disputes political motive for prosecuting Macau billionaire

Thu Sep 1, 2016 5:47pm EDT
U.S. prosecutors have dismissed as "inflammatory nonsense" a Macau billionaire's claims that he is being prosecuted in connection with a U.N. bribery scheme for geopolitical reasons to slow China's influence over developing nations.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed papers late on Wednesday rejecting as "fantastic" claims by real estate developer Ng Lap Seng's lawyers that his case was politically motivated.

"The sole cause of the defendant's prosecution was a real conspiracy, not an invented one," prosecutors wrote.

Ng's lawyer declined comment.

Ng, 68, was charged last year for engaging in a bribery scheme with John Ashe, a former United Nations ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was U.N. General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014.
Prosecutors said Ng gave Ashe over $500,000 in bribes to, among other things, seek U.N. support for a conference center in the Chinese territory of Macau, which Ng's company, Sun Kian Ip Group, would develop.

Ashe died in June awaiting trial. Ng has pleaded not guilty.

In court papers, Ng's lawyers accuse the government of trying to silence Ng's advocacy for the conference center, which would have given developing nations a permanent meeting venue in China, in order to slow China's influence over those nations.

In arguing the prosecution was not about bribery, they pointed to questions Federal Bureau of Investigation agents posed to Ng after his September 2015 arrest about whether an associate, Qin Fei, was involved with foreign intelligence.

Prosecutors on Wednesday argued agents had reason to focus on Qin, who Ng called a consultant for Sun Kian, to determine what if any relationship he had to Ng's company, the conference center and money Ng wired to the United States.

The Manhattan prosecutors' motion came hours after federal prosecutors across the East River in Brooklyn charged an ex-Air China employee linked to Qin and Ng for smuggling packages onto flights on behalf of Chinese military personnel.

U.S. concerned for welfare of Houston woman as China sets spy trial date

Thu Sep 1, 2016 6:36pm EDT
China has set a Sept. 19 trial date for a U.S. businesswoman accused of spying, charges her husband in Texas said on Thursday were false, and the U.S. State Department said it was concerned about her welfare.
Sandy Phan-Gillis, who was born in Vietnam and has Chinese ancestry, was arrested on suspicion of spying by Chinese authorities in March 2015 while visiting the country as part of a trade delegation from Houston.

In a statement on Thursday, her husband Jeff Gillis accused Chinese authorities of suppressing evidence that would weaken the case against her. "The charges are absolutely false," he said, adding that he wants U.S. President Barack Obama to ask for her release when he attends a summit with China's leader this week.

The announcement of a trial date renewed attention on her case just ahead of a visit to China by Obama, who is due to arrive on Saturday for a G20 summit in the city of Hangzhou. Obama is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday.

Gillis said a main contention of the charge against his wife was that she had gone on a spy mission to China in 1996.

He said her U.S. passport showed she had not traveled to China at that time and accused the Chinese Consulate in Houston of refusing to acknowledge that there were no entry or exit visas from China in that passport. This, he said, prevented her passport from being used as evidence at her trial.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington and the Chinese Consulate in Houston did not respond to requests for comment.

Beijing officials said this week that Phan-Gillis, now a U.S. citizen, had been formally charged with spying.

Solar  & Related Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported. Is converting sunlight to usable cheap AC or DC energy mankind’s future from the 21st century onwards? DC? A quantum computer next?

Self-driving tractors promise to get themselves to work, plow without complaint

Scott Collie August 30, 2016

There's been a lot of focus on consumer self-driving technology recently, but autonomy promises to shake things up in the agricultural world too. CNH Industrial's latest concepts aim to demonstrate how self-driving tractors can deliver faster, more precise results than their human controlled counterparts.

It might look like your run-of-the-mill T8 Blue Power tractor, but the NH Drive is packing some clever self-driving hardware under its skin.
Thanks to its clever inbuilt software and the accompanying apps, farmers are able to kick back and watch as the tractor drives itself to a field, starts working and then returns itself to base afterwards. Okay, so it's not quite that simple: the (private) paths between the tractor's shed and the field need to be mapped, for one.
Once it arrives at the field, inbuilt software is able to consider its shape and size, along with the size of the implement attached to the back of the trailer, and plot the most efficient course around it. If the radar, LiDar or cameras detect an obstacle, the farmer is notified and asked to decide how the tractor should handle the obstruction
That's not quite as easy as, say, just swerving around it, but when you're towing a massive trailer and trying to run in perfectly mapped straight lines, swerving isn't necessarily an option.

Farmers are able to control and monitor the NH Drive through the accompanying desktop and mobile software. There's a path-plotting screen and four live camera views, as well as data about engine speed and fuel levels. The system is also able to autonomously seed, and farmers are able to monitor and tweak a huge range of parameters surrounding seeding.

It's worth bearing in mind, self steering systems already exist. Keeping a tractor tracking straight along rough ground is actually quite difficult, as is following the same predetermined path perfectly. GPS farming systems already do this to a certain extent, although they lack the level of autonomy you get in the NH Drive concept.
Even though it's loaded with clever self-driving tech, the NH Drive looks overwhelmingly normal. That doesn't hold true for the Case IH Concept, which drops the cabin to envision what the future of self-driving tractors might look like.
Like the other autonomous NH Drive, this was designed to be remotely monitored and programmed. It also uses the same combination of sensors to detect obstacles and warn farmers, asking them to plot the ideal course around it without tearing up the field.
"In many parts of the world, finding skilled labor during peak use seasons is a constant challenge for our customers," says Case IH Brand President Andreas Klauser.

Robot Tractor Draws Crowds on Debut at Iowa Farm Industry Show

September 1, 2016 — 1:53 PM BST
As Detroit car makers and Silicon Valley tech giants vie to bring driverless cars to U.S. roads, one of the world’s largest tractor makers is looking to do the same down on the farm.

Case IH, the agricultural-machinery unit of CNH Industrial NV, this week unveiled a sleek, aggressive-looking red-and-black machine at the annual Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.

Another weekend and an interesting one in China. Who will win and who will lose?  Officially all will win. We know that because they all will tell us so. But since they can’t all be winners, some must be lying. Lying, of course, for the good of their nation.  Have a great weekend everyone.

"The international monetary order is more precarious by far today than it was in 1929. Then, gold was international money, incorruptible, unmanageable, and unchangeable. Today, the U.S. dollar serves as the international medium of exchange, managed by Washington politicians and Federal Reserve officials, manipulated from day to day, and serving political goals and ambitions. This difference alone sounds the alarm to all perceptive observers."

Hans F. Sennholz

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished August.

DJIA: 18401  +18 Up NASDAQ:  5213 +16 Up. SP500: 2171 +18 Up.

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