Saturday, 26 November 2016

Weekend Update 26/11/2016 – Uncertainty!

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

Albert Einstein

This weekend, uncertainty. Does OPEC have a deal to cap production and raise prices on November 30? Probably not. Will Italy’s reform referendum pass next weekend? Probably not. Was Donald Trump actually the winner in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania? Hopefully yes, it creates one almighty political mess if he wasn’t, to say nothing about bursting the bubble of Trumpmania. Amid all this uncertainty, China flexed its muscles on Friday.

Below, an uncertain weekend.

Saudis Said to Quit Russia Talks as OPEC Deal No Closer

November 25, 2016 — 2:34 PM GMT Updated on November 26, 2016 — 12:01 AM GMT
Saudi Arabia pulled out of planned talks with non-OPEC nations including Russia as disagreements about how to share the burden of supply cuts stood in the way of a deal to boost prices just days before a make-or-break meeting in Vienna.

OPEC officials were scheduled to meet with non-members including Russia on Monday before a ministerial meeting in Vienna two days later. The meeting was later canceled entirely after the Saudis decided not to take part.

Instead, the group called another internal meeting to try to resolve its own differences, particularly the question of whether Iran and Iraq are willing to cut production, said two delegates, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are sensitive. Saudi Arabia wants an OPEC deal in place before conversations with other producers such as Russia, one delegate said.

The setback suggests that Saudi Arabia remains split from its two biggest Middle Eastern rivals at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Iran insists it should be allowed to restore output to pre-sanctions levels, while it remains unclear if Iraq is still disputing the OPEC supply estimates that would provide the basis for any cuts. With less than a week until the crucial ministerial meeting, the refusal of just one major producer to participate could scuttle the whole of the agreement reached in September in Algiers.

"The whole Algerian deal wasn’t clear from beginning and their approach was ‘leave it to later’,” said Abdulsamad al-Awadhi, a former OPEC official for Kuwait who is now an independent analyst in London. Two months after the initial accord "OPEC leaders are confused and the group’s founding members can’t solve differences, but they want to have a deal with non-OPEC. This is a tough call."

Brent fell 3.6 percent to $47.24 a barrel in London on Friday. In New York, West Texas Intermediate fell to $46.06 a barrel.

Italy’s Padoan Seen as Likely Premier If Referendum Defeated

John Follain and Lorenzo Totaro
Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan would be a leading contender to succeed Matteo Renzi at the head of a new government if the premier loses the Dec. 4 constitutional referendum and resigns as he has promised to do, said a person familiar with the situation.

Padoan, 66, has the potential to reassure financial markets and European Union leaders, according to a senior state official not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. He, the person said, would lead an executive that would stay in power only until parliament approves a new administration, with early elections likely in the first of half of 2017. In the Italian constitution, it is the president who appoints the prime minister.

Investors are unsettled by the prospect of political and economic instability should Renzi’s Senate reform be defeated. The euro has slid and Italy’s 10-year bond yield has climbed ahead of the vote. Padoan himself has not ruled out staying on in his current role -- or even taking a new position -- under a different government.

----Padoan said he expected the referendum to pass, adding that Italy needed a political government -- “that is, the current one” -- rather than one led by a technocrat. The official pointed out that Padoan would be seen as quite political after serving for more than two years under Renzi. Padoan’s office declined to comment on his possible role in a future government.

Renzi was clear on Friday that a technocratic government “would not serve the interests” of the country. He also took a swipe at former Premier Mario Monti’s stewardship of the country as one that raised taxes and the debt load, according to an interview with La Stampa. Italy has a tradition of tapping so-called technocrats.

President Sergio Mattarella’s preferred pick could also be Senate President Pietro Grasso, a former anti-Mafia prosecutor, the official said. The person added that it would be impossible to form a government without Renzi’s approval as he remains leader of the Democratic Party which still has a parliamentary majority.

Italy's Renzi moves toward budget approval ahead of referendum

Fri Nov 25, 2016 | 12:15pm EST
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won a confidence vote in the lower house of parliament on Friday that takes him a step towards passing a 2017 budget law that raises pension and health spending and heads off a huge sales-tax increase.

The Chamber of Deputies backed the government by 348 to 144. Losing a confidence vote obliges the government to resign, but Renzi's healthy majority in the lower house has allowed him to use them to speed up passing legislation numerous times.

The vote came just over a week before a Dec. 4 national referendum on Renzi's flagship constitutional reform. The 41-year-old has said he will resign if he loses.

Opinion polls conducted until a blackout period began last week showed the "no" vote comfortably in the lead, prompting volatility in equity and government bond markets as investors fret about the political instability that could follow.


Jill Stein requests Wisconsin recount, alleging hackers filed bogus absentee ballots

The Green party candidate’s filing cites the sharp increase in absentee voters rather than the expected focus on electronic voting in the key state
Saturday 26 November 2016
Jill Stein has requested a full recount of the presidential election in Wisconsin, alleging that foreign hackers could have skewed the result by obtaining the state’s voter database and then filing bogus absentee ballots.
Stein, the Green party’s candidate in the presidential election, formally filed for a recount with Wisconsin authorities shortly before the state’s 5pm deadline on Friday. She also planned to request recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania in the coming days.

Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to the statewide recount. The process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in the state, is expected to begin late next week after Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said.

The state faces a 13 December federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission.

The Wisconsin filing, a copy which was obtained by the Guardian, focuses on a “significant increase in the number of absentee voters as compared to the last general election”. It had been thought that it would instead focus on the scale of Donald Trump’s victories in counties using only electronic voting.

“This significant increase could be attributed to a breach of the state’s electronic voter database,” Stein said in her petition regarding the rise in the number of absentee ballot filings. Trump won a narrow victory in the state against Hillary Clinton, surprising pollsters.

The 64-page recount filing contains an affidavit from J Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan’s centre for computer security, who is an expert on election integrity.

“One explanation for the results of the 2016 presidential election is that cyberattacks influenced the result,” Halderman writes in his five-page account.

Wisconsin Recount Filed 2016: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Published Updated 12:50 am EST, November 26, 2016
A recount of the 2016 presidential election results in Wisconsin will now be held starting late next week.
The Wisconsin Election Commission “is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for President of the United States,” Administrator Michael Haas announced in a written statement on November 25.

The recount was requested by the Green Party after its nominee, Jill Stein, raised more than $5.4 million in just over one day to fund recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all states that were surprise upsets for Donald Trump and which he won by fairly small margins.

The Wisconsin recount request was first out of the chute because Wisconsin’s deadline for a recount was on November 25. Wisconsin’s electoral votes are not enough to take the presidential election from Trump alone: To prevail, Hillary Clinton would need Michigan and Pennsylvania’s returns to fall too. Demonstrating the steep difficulties in doing so: The Pennsylvania margin was more than 68,000 votes.

Trump won Wisconsin by 22,177 votes in a state that had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984 (although the state has a Republican governor, Republican Legislature, Republican AG, and conservative leaning Supreme Court). Trump’s lead in Michigan: 12,882 votes. His lead in Pennsylvania: 68,814. Stein received 1.4 million votes in the 2016 presidential election overall. She received 31,016 votes in Wisconsin – more than Trump’s margin over Clinton.

Beijing warns against Taiwan ties as Singapore tries to free troop carriers in Hong Kong

Fri Nov 25, 2016 | 12:10pm EST
Beijing on Friday warned countries against maintaining military ties with Taiwan, after Singaporean armored troop carriers were seized en route from the island that Beijing regards as a breakaway province.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that Beijing was verifying reports that Hong Kong customs had seized nine Singapore troop carriers and other equipment in 12 containers being shipped from Taiwan after military exercises.

Singapore's defense ministry said on Thursday it was trying to free the carriers "expeditiously", while Hong Kong customs said on Friday that its officers were still investigating the shipment.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred questions to the defense ministry. The defense ministry did not comment beyond its official statement.

"The entry and exit of foreign personnel and goods in the Hong Kong special administrative region should respect its relevant laws," Geng said.

"I wish to reiterate that the Chinese government consistently and resolutely opposes any form of official exchanges, including military exchanges and cooperation, between countries with which we have diplomatic relations and the Taiwan region."

The seizure comes amid mounting regional uncertainty and signs of rising tension between China and Singapore, which has deepened its security relationship with the United States over the last year and remains concerned over Beijing's assertive territorial stance in the South China Sea.

Regional diplomatic sources say Chinese officials are particularly concerned at Singapore's hosting of increased deployments of U.S. P-8 Poseidon surveillance planes, which are equipped with various sensors that can target China's expanding Hainan-based submarine fleet.

Officials on both sides have unusually traded barbs in public in recent months, including an accusation by Singapore's ambassador to China in September that a major state-run Chinese newspaper had fabricated a report about Singapore's position on the South China Sea.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly told Singaporean counterparts not to get involved in the territorial dispute, in which China asserts sovereignty over waters and islands claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.

Carl von Clausewitz

Finally, the view of all the uncertainty from our commentator Jason, in blue state California.

Observers of Global Events Have Little Choice But to “Expect the Unexpected”

N. Jason Jencka   November 26th, 2016 2:35 AM ET

 The second half of 2016 has been defined by happenings that pundits had previously haughtily dismissed as “impossible”. From Brexit in June, to the election of Mr. Trump as the next American President, to the polling surge of French nationalist Marine LePen, globalism has been battered by populism. Anger and frustration have become dominant political forces as voters have felt increasing marginalized by multinational bureaucracy. To draw attention to this fact is not to take a position inasmuch to suggest that now, more than any time in recent history, anything is possible in global politics. To quote UKIP leader Nigel Farage addressing an overwhelmingly globalist EU Parliament post-Brexit “you’re not laughing now, are you”?

Western society on both sides of the Atlantic is at an inflection point and the political decisions made today have the potential for generational ramifications. Talk of succession has spilled from Scotland across to California (in an admittedly diminished capacity) as those that are politically opposed struggle to coexist. A situation exists in the U.S. where one Presidential candidate (Jill Stein) has raised multiple millions of dollars (2.5 million and rising) to fund a multi-state recount effort against the wishes of a sitting President whose party lost the election. Such a script would have been scarcely believable in any other year (with the possible exception of 2000). Any and all conventions with the exception of the laws of physics are in doubt. The key to a stable global political environment is a willingness to accept democratic election results, without interference or meddling, for the sake of the integrity of the process. If this principle were applied globally, much would be solved however one is best advised to not hold their breath in anticipation.

N. Jason Jencka is presently studying Finance and Economics at Sierra Nevada College, located near the shores of Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada. His interests include the interplay between world markets and the global political sphere, with a focus on developments of both sides of the Atlantic in North America and Europe. In his leisure time he enjoys connecting with those people that have an interesting story to tell and a genuine desire to make an impact in the world.

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