Wednesday, 12 April 2017

In Asia, Travel With Another.

Baltic Dry Index. 1262 +31       Brent Crude 56.35

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

"Gold would have value if for no other reason than that it enables a citizen to fashion his financial escape from the state."

William F. Rickenbacker

We open today with geopolitics dominant in global markets, as the USA seems about to take on North Korea. But will the erratic President Trump really pull the trigger and restart the Korean war? From faraway London, the USA seems to be building its very own corner.

Japan Stocks Tumble, Yen Gains Amid Risk Aversion: Markets Wrap

Benjamin Purvis and Jeff Sutherland
Japanese shares tumbled after the yen jumped to the highest since November as investors avoided riskier assets amid lingering geopolitical concerns. Treasuries extended gains and gold traded at the highest level this year.

Japan’s Topix fell to the lowest level of the year after the yen breached 110 yen per dollar for the first time since November. South Korean shares were steady after a six-day selloff. Chinese shares traded in Hong Kong slipped after data showed factory inflation eased. The yield on 10-year U.S. notes continued to fall after closing below 2.3 percent for the first time in four months. Oil extended its longest winning streak since December.

The VIX, Wall Street’s so-called fear gauge, climbed to a level unseen since November as North Korea warned of a nuclear strike if provoked, while President Donald Trump said the U.S. would “solve the problem” with or without China.

Here’s what investors are watching:
  • The U.S.-Russia relationship will closely monitored as Tillerson visits Moscow. While he is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, it’s not clear whether President Vladimir Putin will agree to see him amid the increasing tensions.
  • In central bank actions, Canada will probably hold its benchmark interest rate at 0.5 percent while Brazil will likely lower its key rate by a full percentage point, the biggest cut since 2009, as inflation has slowed by half in the last year.
  • IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks about the global economic outlook in Brussels.

Up next, China for a change. Below, what was United Airlines thinking? Sum Dim? United’s unfriendly skies (for Asians?)

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

Benjamin Franklin

We’ll thrash United Airlines until we get an apology’: millions of Chinese view eviction video as enraged users vow vengeance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 4:18pm UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 7:57pm
The Sina Weibo topic page of an incident involving security officers forcibly removing a Chinese-American passenger from an overbooked flight in Chicago on Sunday has been viewed by more than 210 million users in China.

The incident sparked outrage across Chinese social media as the airlines’ decision to evict the passenger from the domestic flight was condemned as “racial discrimination”.

The 69-year-old passenger was seen being pulled by aviation security officers from his window seat and dragged down the aisle on a plane set to fly to Kentucky in mobile phone footage posted on social media on Sunday night. The passenger was shown later with blood on his face.

However, doubts over the man’s ethnicity arose after the video emerged on Sunday. Initial reports said the man was a Chinese-American but the BBC on Tuesday quoted another passenger as saying that the man was Vietnamese and had lived in Kentucky for 20 years.

By Tuesday evening, more than 210 million users on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, had viewed #UnitedForcesPassengerOffPlane posts, making it one of the site’s hottest topics.

On Wechat, the popular Chinese social media platform, articles about the incident circulated widely with headlines such as “because he chose United Airlines, he was beaten and dragged off the plane, with blood over his face”.

----United Airlines’ corporate slogan is “Fly the Friendly Skies”, which one Weibo commentator noted was “pretty ironic”.
Calls to boycott the US airline have been rising among Chinese online users.
The airline last year celebrated its 30th anniversary of flights to China, but the incident is likely to upset its ambition to attract more Chinese passengers.

How to not get bumped from a flight (and how to make the most money if you do)

Published: Apr 11, 2017 4:15 p.m. ET
United Airlines UAL, -1.13%   is continuing to weather an onslaught of international outrage after video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a plane in Chicago was posted online Sunday night — bringing into question the policy of selling more tickets than there are seats for flights.

But while overbooking flights is completely legal (and common), there are still measures consumers can take to prevent themselves from being booted off a flight — and get a hefty compensation if they are.

If a flight is overbooked, airlines will start by asking for volunteers to take various forms of compensation for giving up their seats, which can range from a coupon for a cup of coffee or more than $1,000 in cash. If not enough volunteers come forward, the airline is within its legal right to remove passengers from the flight involuntarily. 

----When passengers are involuntarily bumped, they must leave the plane, Lorusso said — so what happened on the United flight would not be illegal. However, in this particular incident, the flight was not oversold but past capacity because four crew members were trying to make it to Kentucky for another job. 
Because of this, the involuntary bump may not have been protected under federal law, Lorusso said, which only covers paying customers — not traveling crew.

Up next, more on the next decade’s coming trend.  How will the unemployed masses survive?

Chinese firm halves worker costs by hiring army of robots to sort out 200,000 packages a day

The machines are cheaper than human workers and are also more efficient and accurate in sorting out parcels, spokesman says
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 12:10pm UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 4:44pm
A viral video showing an army of little orange robots sorting out packages in a warehouse in eastern China is the latest example of how machines are increasingly taking over menial factory work on the mainland.
The behind-the-scenes footage of the self-charging robot army in a sorting centre of Chinese delivery powerhouse Shentong (STO) Express was shared on People’s Daily’s social media accounts on Sunday.
The video showed dozens of round orange Hikvision robots – each the size of a seat cushion – swivelling across the floor of the large warehouse in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
A worker was seen feeding each robot with a package before the machines carried the parcels away to different areas around the sorting centre, then flipping their lids to deposit them into chutes beneath the floor.

The robots identified the destination of each package by scanning a code on the parcel, thus minimising sorting mistakes, according to the video.

The machines can sort up to 200,000 packages a day and are self-charging, meaning they can operate around the clock.
An STO Express spokesman told the South China Morning Post on Monday that the robots had helped the company save half the costs it typically required to use human workers.
They also improved efficiency by around 30 per cent and maximised sorting accuracy, he said.
“We use these robots in two of our centres in Hangzhou right now,” the spokesman said. “We want to start using these across the country, especially in our bigger centres.”
Although the machines could run around the clock, they were presently used only for about six or seven hours each time from 6pm, he said.
Manufacturers across China have been increasingly replacing human workers with machines.
The output of industrial robots in the country grew 30.4 per cent last year.

Up next, fake news Communist Party of China style.

Fake story about US tycoon removed from Chinese school textbook

Move comes amid greater scrutiny of textbooks on the mainland from parents wary of propaganda being taught to their children
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 12:52pm UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 12:52p
A fake story about the American oil businessman Armand Hammer has been removed from a Chinese primary school textbook, its publisher said, after parents and teachers expressed anger over the fabricated information.
A passage in the textbook said Hammer was a refugee in California as a young man who refused to take food from a town official for free. The official was touched by the young man’s dignity and independent spirit and decided to let his daughter marry him, the article said.
The story about the tycoon born at the end of the 19th century was later found to be false.
Beijing-based People’s Education Press said in a statement on its website that the passage had been taken out and it was also excluding other “controversial” articles from updated versions of textbooks.
The publisher, which has a near monopoly in producing textbooks for China’s primary and middle schools, said the story about Hammer was originally reported in a Chinese magazine in 1998 and it was later picked up by other periodicals.
The statement gave no details about the other articles that would be corrected.
School textbooks in China are coming under increased scrutiny from middle class parents who are more wary of propaganda or distorted views of the world being taught to their children.
----The situation has greatly improved since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, but “since this is a society with fake things penetrating everywhere, it’s not strange to see one or two fake stories”, according to Wu.
Other controversial articles found in mainland textbooks include one about how the American inventor Thomas Edison helped save his mother when he was seven by holding mirrors to reflect light from oil lamps so a doctor could operate on her for appendicitis. Critics said the world’s first comparable appendicitis operation was carried in 1886. Edison was seven in 1854.
Other myths taught to Chinese students include the “fact” that Karl Marx left a foot imprint on the floor of the British Library as he always sat at the same spot while researching. It was used to glorify Marx as a diligent scholar, but mainlanders travelling to London discovered the story was bogus.

Elsewhere in Asia, will this turn into the next Lehman?

Just as certain as death, Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a [alternating current] system of any size.

Thomas Edison

Toshiba Warns of Its Ability to Continue as Going Concern

by Pavel Alpeyev and Takako Taniguchi
11 April 2017, 09:18 BST 11 April 2017, 11:32 BST
Toshiba Corp., the 142-year-old conglomerate, warned on Tuesday it may not be able to continue as a going concern as it grapples with billions of dollars in losses from its Westinghouse Electric nuclear business.
The disclosure came as the Japanese company reported earnings for the third quarter after missing two previous deadlines for financial results. Toshiba posted an operating loss of 576.3 billion yen ($5.2 billion) for the nine months ended Dec. 31 and said it had negative shareholders equity of 225.6 billion yen, but, significantly, it wasn’t able to get auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers Aarata to approve those figures.

Toshiba has been at odds with its auditors over Westinghouse, which filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. last month. The auditing firm submitted an independent review with Toshiba’s results that emphasized the risks to its future because of losses in the Westinghouse unit responsible for atomic projects and breach of covenants on 284 billion yen in loans. Toshiba’s inability to report earnings has also raised speculation of a possible delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

“Toshiba has done everything in its power to gain the understanding of the auditors,” Chief Executive Officer Satoshi Tsunakawa said at a briefing with about 200 reporters in Tokyo. “Without clear prospects for auditor approval, we could no longer inconvenience and worry our investors and other stakeholders and decided on this very unusual way of releasing results.”

Toshiba has missed financial filing deadlines even before the current crisis. The company pushed back earnings announcements twice amid an accounting scandal in 2015, delaying the release by about four months. In theory, there is no limit on how many times the company can request an extension.

We close this section for today, with the big fight. In the red corner, President Trump. In the blue corner, everyone else. The next four years will be interesting, though nothing good comes from fighting the world.

Mon Apr 10, 2017 | 12:15pm EDT

Merkel joins IMF, World Bank, WTO in fight against protectionism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement on Monday with leaders of top international economic organizations saying they wanted to strengthen the global trade system in the face of protectionism.
Merkel joined the heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, OECD and the International Labor Organization in calling open markets and free trade necessary for economic growth.
They also said stressed the importance of fighting climate change and protecting resources.
Earlier on Monday, the IMF, WTO and World Bank presented a report in Berlin entitled "Making Trade an Engine of Growth for All". They said the role of trade as a driver of global growth is threatened by a slowdown in trade reform since the early 2000s and a rise in protectionism after the financial crisis.

Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid.

John Wayne

At the Comex silver depositories Tuesday final figures were: Registered 30.29 Moz, Eligible 159.65 Moz, Total 189.94 Moz.

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
Today, the story of cobalt.  As the electric vehicle, solar power, lifestyle transformation grows, so grows demand for cobalt for lithium-cobalt batteries. The trouble is, there’s not that much cobalt around, and about 50% of mined supply comes from the highly unstable “not so” Democratic Republic of Congo. Adding to the unstable supply chain, much of the existing new supply comes as a by-product of copper and nickel mining. It seems reckless to base the “electric century,” on the equivalent of a house of cards. For those interested in taking a punt, the London Metal Exchange has traded the world’s only listed contract since 2010, but until recently, contracts largely traded by appointment.
Below, Andy Home warms to his beat in cobalt.

If you thought lithium was exciting, try cobalt:

Andy Home

Lithium was the super-hot metals story of 2016.

A spectacular price rally propelled lithium out of the metallic shadows onto the global investment stage.

This year it is the turn of cobalt.

The price of cobalt traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME) has exploded from $33,000 per tonne to $55,000 since the start of January. This time last year, the price was bombed out at multi-year lows below $25,000 per tonne.

As with lithium, cobalt's story is all about batteries and the green technology revolution. The lithium-cobalt battery is already standard in many electronic applications and both metals are expected to see usage accelerate thanks to the rapidly evolving electric vehicle and grid storage sectors.

And as with lithium, stellar demand projections have led to increased scrutiny of the supply chain. Which is where cobalt may turn out to be even more of a rollercoaster market than lithium.


The scale and speed of the cobalt price surge over the last few months reflects a scramble for units. The cobalt market has been transitioning over the last year or so from a state of oversupply to one of shortfall, with most analysts forecasting a supply deficit in 2017.

That expectation coupled with all the excitement surrounding the lithium story seems to have led to several high-profile funds such as Switzerland's Pala Investments and China's Shanghai Chaos Investment buying up physical stocks of cobalt.

Which in turn seems to have triggered panic buying by cobalt users along the manufacturing chain. The cumulative effect has been a near straight-line price rally since the fourth quarter of last year. As ever with such rapid and violent price action, though, the drivers have in all probability abated just as the rest of the world sits up and pays attention.

That was how lithium played out last year and that's how analysts think cobalt will play out this year. With the immediate panic about availability over, the upside price impetus should fade, leading to a period of consolidation or mild retreat over the second half of this year.


But cobalt's supply chain is much more fragile than that of lithium, with its big, established players operating brine lakes in the relatively stable environment of the "Lithium Triangle" straddling Chile and Argentina.

Cobalt, by contrast, is massively dependent on one highly unstable African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that last year the DRC accounted for 66,000 tonnes of global mined cobalt production of 123,000 tonnes.

In terms of reserves the country is estimated to have 3.4 million tonnes of cobalt, around half of the world's identified resources, again according to the USGS. Cobalt mining in the DRC is dominated by Swiss trade house Glencore and a variety of Chinese players, all of which extract the metal as a copper by-product. That's another kink in the cobalt supply chain since there are hardly any pure cobalt mines, leaving global production dependent on the economics of other metals such as copper and nickel.

Glencore's decision in late 2015 to suspend production at its Kamoto copper operations, for example, has also taken around 3,000 tonnes of cobalt out of the supply picture. It will bring that production back on line next year but other short-term boosts to supply are likely few and far between because of the resource spending freeze that followed the low base-metals price environment of 2014-2015.


One producer, however, is probably able to react to higher prices and it's a particularly problematic player.

Artisanal mining is the "known unknown" in the DRC and global cobalt supply chain. It may account for anything up to a fifth of the country's output but is difficult to quantify since it exists in the shadows of the official sector.

Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.
Thomas A. Edison

Technology 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?

Early taste of summer sees UK renewables set new records

Published: 11 Apr 2017, 09:58
The UK’s suite of renewables set new records last weekend as the country basked in unseasonably bright conditions for much of Sunday.
Solar PV and wind generation assets benefitted from ideal conditions as much of the country witnessed unspoiled sunshine, followed by increased wind speeds.
Energy monitoring site, which collates data from various sources to conclude which generators are providing the UK grid with its electricity, claimed that Sunday afternoon saw a number of new records set for renewable and low carbon generators.
The site claimed that at 2:33pm yesterday solar set a new record for its contribution to the grid, providing more than a quarter (26.25%) of the UK’s total energy demand.
This was bettered an hour later when two further records were set, this time for contributions from intermittent renewables (46.98%) and broader low carbon sources (70.93%). 
---A spokesperson for National Grid confirmed the records to Solar Power Portal, adding: "On 9 April 17, between 1400-1500 hrs, total GB Energy demand  (National Grid + embedded solar & wind ) was 29 GWh , out of which 13.68 GWh ( 47%) was generated by combination of metered wind ( 4.68 GWh), embedded wind and solar (9.00 GWh). However, overall during the whole day, 25% of the energy  was generated from wind & solar."

The record-setting day for renewables comes less than a month after National Grid witnessed minimum afternoon demand dip below that of overnight minimum demand for the first time in British history, driven by above average solar generation.

It also followed National Grid’s publication of its annual Summer Outlook report, which this year warned that inflexible generators such as nuclear and combined heat & power faced curtailment instructions this summer to make way for increased generation from the country’s burgeoning solar portfolio.

Data from Sheffield Solar’s PV_Live project, conducted alongside National Grid, demonstrates solar’s (light blue) increasing role as the afternoon drew on and how it combined with wind (orange) from 3:30pm.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

Thomas Jefferson.

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished March

DJIA: 20,663  +131 Up. NASDAQ:  5,912 +165 Up. SP500: 2,363 +135 Up.

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