• Left warns Democrats in tax reform fight

    Liberal activists who hounded the GOP throughout its failed Obamacare repeal bid are gearing up to hit any Democrat who strays from the fold on tax cuts for the wealthy — including some of the party’s most politically vulnerable incumbents. Democrats were spared the sight of their progressive base battling centrists on Obamacare, which proved a uniquely unifying issue for both wings of the party. But there’s no guarantee that taxes will be another kumbaya moment for Democratic leaders, who have long struggled to contain tensions between red-state lawmakers facing tough reelections and a grass roots emboldened by resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda. Read more...

  • Trump dumps CEOs before more could abandon him

    Some of America’s top CEOs were preparing to issue a statement criticizing the president — so he effectively fired them from a White House council first. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he was ending two business advisory councils amid a stampede of defections and after one of the groups had decided to disband over the president's much-criticized response to the weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Va. A person close to Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum said the group had already told the White House it had resolved to disband and condemn the president's Tuesday claims that "both sides" were responsible for violence at a white supremacist and neo-Nazi gathering and that some "very fine people" were among the marchers defending a Confederate statue. Read more...

  • Investors cool on Canadian banks, turn to insurers, amid housing fears

    Investors are losing enthusiasm for Canada’s banking stocks as a slowdown in the country’s housing market dents banks’ growth prospects, and they see insurance companies as a better bet to benefit from higher interest rates. Home sales in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, plummeted more than 40 per cent in July from a year earlier and prices were down nearly 19 per cent from April following the introduction of a range of measures designed to cool a housing market amid fears of a bubble, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers. The slowdown in home sales has investors concerned about the impact on Canadian banks, which derive a big chunk of their earnings from residential mortgages. Read more...

  • Turkey Sees Foes at Work in Gold Mines, Cafes and ‘Smurf Village’

    LONDON — Akin Ipek, one of Turkey’s richest men, was staying in the Park Tower Hotel in London when the police raided his television network in Istanbul. The raid was national news, so Mr. Ipek opened his laptop and watched an unnerving spectacle: an attack on his multibillion-dollar empire, in real time.

    It was an oddly cinematic showdown. Through a combination of shouting and persuasion, the network’s news editor convinced the officers that they should leave, then locked himself in the basement control room with a film crew. For the next seven and a half hours, until the police returned, the news editor spoke into a camera and took calls on his iPhone. One was from Mr. Ipek, who denounced the government’s action as illegal.

    “I was shocked and angry,” Mr. Ipek said in a recent interview in London. “But I thought they would leave after a couple days. There was no reason to stay.”

    Actually, the government never left, and the events were the start of a personal cataclysm for Mr. Ipek. His station, Bugun TV, was taken off the air a few hours after that phone call, on Oct. 28, 2015. His entire conglomerate of 22 companies, Koza Ipek, is now owned and operated by the state.

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  • ‘Canada is Hot Right Now’: Port Cities Expect Spike in Cruise Visitors this Summer

    MONTREAL—Canadian port cities expect to get an economic boost this summer from an influx of cruise visitors attracted by a low loonie and the country’s 150th birthday celebrations. Ports across Atlantic Canada, Quebec and British Columbia are anticipating a surge in cruise traffic. “Canada is hot right now,” Pierre Bellerose of Montreal’s tourism board said in an interview. With the opening in May of a $78-million refurbished passenger terminal, the Port of Montreal anticipates the number of cruise passengers and crew members will be up 28 per cent from last year to 110,000 as the city is celebrates its 375th birthday and Canada’s sesquicentennial. “The Port of Montreal is at the heart of those celebrations,” said port CEO Sylvie Vachon. “We know that maritime trade has played an important role in the development of the city and the entire country.”
    The extra passengers are expected to generate an additional $5.5 million in local spending, raising the total this year to about $30 million, says Tourisme Montreal. Ports in Atlantic Canada are also anticipating double-digit increases in 2017 above the nearly 600,000 passengers that landed last year, said Brian Webb, executive director of Cruise Atlantic Canada. “It’s looking great across the board, so every single port looks to be seeing increases,” he said from Nova Scotia.
    Newfoundland and Labrador is expecting a record cruise season with an expected 99,266 passenger and crew visits, up from 50,448 passenger and crew visits in 2016. “We’re definitely excited about the increases because it will mean increased economic activity,” Webb added. While in Canadian ports, cruise ship passengers spent almost $262 million or nearly $150 per person in 2012, according to the latest study conducted by the industry. Average spending was highest in B.C. ports, which accounted for 54 per cent of the more than two million passenger visits and 77 per cent of spending. A new study is slated to be released this spring. Webb attributed most of the growth in visitors to the low value of the Canadian dollar which encouraged cruise lines a couple of years ago to add routes this summer. Canada’s birthday celebrations, the Tall Ships gathering in Halifax from July 29 to Aug. 1 and increased tourism efforts across the region are also contributing factors, said Lane Farguson, spokesman for the Port of Halifax. The Port of Halifax, largest in Atlantic Canada, welcomed 238,000 cruise passengers in 2016, up seven per cent from the prior year. “And things are looking very, very strong for the year ahead,” he said, noting that the favourable currency makes cruising in Canada a cost-effective option for America visitors. Although the number of vessels calling at Halifax decreased last year, the port is seeing larger ships, with the Royal Caribbean’s 4,100-passenger Anthem-of-the-Seas setting a record for most passengers last fall. In Vancouver, Canada’s largest port anticipates a strong cruise season after seeing volumes grow three per cent in 2016 to 830,000 passengers, mainly on Alaskan cruise itineraries. Prince Rupert, B.C., foresees a doubling of the smaller cruise ships that will come ashore at the port on the cruising route near the Alaskan border. “For Prince Rupert, a community of 14,000 people, it’s a significant driver to the economy when a cruise ship sails into Prince Rupert it increases the population by about 13 per cent so it has a huge impact on the local economy,” said port CEO Don Krusel.
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  • Canadian Firms Upbeat About post-election U.S. Growth: Survey

    After downgrading its forecast in October, the Bank of Canada offered a rosier outlook Monday for the Canadian economy in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, as businesses in this country anticipate gains from stronger growth stateside. In its winter 2016-17 business sentiment survey, Canada’s central bank says the new U.S. administration is expected to underpin commodity price gains, although concerns over rising consumer costs and trade protectionism in the U.S. cloud the horizon. Companies are generally more optimistic about future sales than at this time last year, and plan to boost investment and hiring as domestic and U.S. demand picks up, the bank said. In its survey last January —when West Texas crude traded below $32 (U.S.) per barrel — the bank forecast a downturn in business spending along with sluggish GDP growth. The bank in its summer 2015 survey of business sentiment found low oil prices undermining confidence and presaged another rate cut that occurred later that year.
    Last October, the central bank held its benchmark interest rate at 0.5 per cent, but cut its economic forecasts through 2018, citing a rebound in the export sector that had not materialized as anticipated. But the bank in its business outlook released Monday said “forward-looking measures of business activity have improved as domestic sales growth gains momentum.” The outlook is based on interviews conducted late last year with about 100 executives from representative firms across the economy. “The drag from the oil price shock and related spillovers is gradually dissipating, and demand growth remains steady in less-affected regions. Foreign demand continues to support export prospects.”
    Overall, the survey said companies expected faster sales growth over the next 12 months, with support anticipated from services, housing and tourism. Exporters cited the weaker Canadian dollar and stronger U.S. demand as the most important supporting factors for improving sales expectations. The survey also found stronger investment intentions among firms for the coming year, especially in Central and Eastern Canada, as well as more-widespread hiring expectations in most sectors and regions. Some respondents to the bank’s survey said suppliers are moving to stabilize or increase prices following cuts over the past two years, or to pass on anticipated increases in commodity costs. The bank said inflation expectations edged up in the survey period from a low level and remain concentrated in the lower half of the bank’s inflation-control range of 1 to 3 per cent. Most respondents pointed to hiring plans over the next 12 months, although the bank said “material excess slack remains” in staffing at resource-related businesses. And the bank said some companies were optimistic about potential moves by the incoming Trump administration. “Firms’ views . . . are divided: some are optimistic about the prospect of increased infrastructure and military spending as well as changes in energy policies, while others are more pessimistic, often because of the risk of increased protectionism,” the central bank said.
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  • Trump Reverses: Transition is Going ‘Very, Very Smoothly’

    President-elect Donald Trump’s transition into the White House is going “very, very smoothly,” he said Wednesday afternoon, hours after complaining on Twitter that President Barack Obama’s “roadblocks” had made for a rough changeover of power. When asked by pool reporters whether he thought the transition was going smoothly, Trump replied: “Oh, I think very, very smoothly. Very good. You don't think so?” The reversal apparently comes after Trump and Obama spoke privately. “He phoned me,” Trump told reporters. “We had a very nice conversation.” Trump, however, would not say whether he broached his roadblock allegations in his conversation with the president. “We had a very general conversation,” he said. “Very, very nice. Appreciated that he called.” Later, he told reporters outside his Mar-a-Lago residence that he and Obama "had a good talk about things. He was in Hawaii. It was a very nice call and I actually thought we covered a lot of territory. "Our staffs are getting along very well. And I'm getting along very well with him, other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it. And nobody is ever going to know because we're never going to be going against each other in that way. It was a great conversation." After weeks of warm words and promises of a smooth transition in the wake of perhaps the most contentious presidential election in modern history, Trump accused Obama in a Wednesday morning tweet of throwing up “roadblocks.” “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks,” he wrote, referring to the president by his initial. “Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!” The two men, who had little positive to say about each other on the campaign trail, seemingly buried the hatchet during an Oval Office meeting that took place just days after Trump’s surprising victory in last month’s election. Obama and Trump have spoken multiple times since then and both expressed interest in a seamless transition between administrations. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday during the transition team's daily conference call for reporters that "as the inauguration gets closer, both the current president and his team have been very helpful and generous with their time as far as the actual transition, the mechanics of the transition have gone, and I expect them to continue to speak fairly regularly.” But Spicer also refused to tone down his boss' Twitter rhetoric, telling reporters that the president-elect's social media posts "speak for themselves, I think very clearly." The budding relationship between the president and president-elect has frayed in recent weeks, first over the assessment of the FBI and CIA that the Russian government launched cyberattacks targeting the U.S. electoral process with the intention of aiding Trump's candidacy. Trump has been unwilling to concede the validity of that assessment, or even that Russia was behind the cyberattacks at all, a stance that prompted critical remarks from White House press secretary Josh Earnest. The president-elect also lashed out this week at the Obama administration over its unwillingness to defend Israel at the United Nations against a resolution condemning it for new settlement activity. He told reporters that Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech Wednesday defending the U.S. abstention “really spoke for itself” and suggested the United Nations has failed to live up to its potential. “When do you see the United Nations solving problems? They don’t,” he said. “They cause problems. So if it lives up to the potential, it’s a great thing. And if it doesn't, it’s a waste of time and money.” In an earlier tweet Wednesday, he said that “we cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect” and urged Israel to “stay strong” because his inauguration on “January 20th is fast approaching!” Obama also has made veiled criticisms of Trump in various public remarks, indirectly attacking the president-elect multiple times during his end-of-year news conference and in his remarks Tuesday at Pearl Harbor, where he warned that “even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.” And in an interview with CNN’s David Axelrod, his former senior adviser, Obama said he was confident that he could have won a third term in a race against Trump running on his “hope and change” message. The president-elect disagreed. “President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me,” Trump wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon. “He should say that but I say NO WAY! - jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.” Read More..

  • Economists Say Trump Delivered Hope

    Economists say Donald Trump is right to credit himself for sending consumer confidence to a 15-year high this month as Americans reported a rosy outlook for job creation, business growth and the stock market. The news broke Tuesday, when the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index soared to 113.7 in December, the highest level since 2001. The jump surprised economists, who say the economy has been slowing down. But it didn’t surprise Trump. "Thanks Donald!” the president-elect said Wednesday morning on Twitter. Trump’s election put the country in a good mood, economists say. “There’s a lot of hope that things are going to change and get better,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “Let’s see what happens.” American’s weren’t particularly overjoyed about the economy. What made them cheerful was the hope for a new, better economy. The Conference Board’s measure of expectations, a measure of how consumers feel about the future, leapt to a 13-year high as Trump’s promise of more jobs, lower taxes and a better business climate made people upbeat. “Optimism did surge after the election. The question is can we maintain it,” said Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators. “That depends on what happens in terms of the economy and job growth.” It’s not unusual for consumers to feel better after an election, especially when a new party takes office. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama, who won his first presidential campaign in the midst of the Great Recession, enjoyed a boost in consumer optimism the month they were elected. By contrast, optimism sank as the nation waited on hanging chads and Bush v. Gore at the end of 2000. “Elections always give confidence a boost. There’s a sense of relief that it’s behind us,” Vitner said. “There does seem to be something to the Trump bump.” This election year, the economy has been on a long road to recovery since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Consumer confidence has been on the upswing all year. Still, confidence doesn’t boost wages or create jobs, and nine of the past 10 recessions began under Republican presidents. “Trump will be breaking with tradition if we don’t see a recession in the next four years,” PIMCO’s Joachim Fels wrote in a recent blog post. Read More..

  • What Effects Will Donald Trump Have on the Online Gaming Market

    It is no longer news that Donald Trump is the latest United States’ president. From the perspective of those in the igaming world, his existence in the Oval Office may actually be something worth celebrating. The common perception goes like this: Trump operates casinos with his name on them. He likes gambling and might attempt to legalise it nationwide. At least one poker pro considers this to be right and the emotion echoed through the poker world. However, the only thing we have from Donald Trump on the record is that about five years ago, he tacitly supported online betting. For anyone who is familiar with Donald Trump and his presidential campaign, his statement in the past at times has little bearing on what he says or believes now. The Adelson-Trump connection To put more limitation on the idea that a Trump-led administration would never legalise US online betting or poker, consider the following: Sheldon Adelson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp funded the efforts to stop online betting at the federal level. He also donated a huge sum of money towards the Trump campaign. This is a relationship that for some time now has been percolating with the possibility of having an effect on online betting legalisation. Perhaps you think Sheldon Adelson will not have Trump’s ear despite the money he donated, then you do not know much about politics. If Congress forwards a bill to Trump’s desk prohibiting online betting, the possibility of him approving it is hard to guess given his relationship with Adelson. Being a billionaire himself, Trump is perhaps the least likely president to succumb to monetary bribes. Going on record saying how he won’t accept a dollar during his presidency, it throws it up in the air whether Trump will help online casinos, such as royalvegas.com, or hinder them. RAWA efforts have failed to date In spite of having the majority in both chambers, the Republicans have failed to secure RAWA or any iteration of language criticising online betting, anywhere near passage. Hearings held by Chaffetz late last year were nothing but a disaster. However, that does not imply that the powers leading RAWA will surrender. They might be encouraged by the fact that Republicans have the majorities in the Senate and the House, plus having control of the presidency. Even with that, the Republicans have not been totally on board with RAWA and its implications. That is, it will reverse the online betting laws passed in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey and would ignore legalisation efforts in states like New York and Pennsylvania. RAWA takes over the Tenth Amendment, several lawmakers concur, by taking the ability to manage a form of betting from states’ hands. And that is not an awfully popular position to take for several Republicans. The impact of Trump presidency on online betting is definitely unknown, other than it is not expected to be a positive one. The most probable and most positive circumstances would be the status quo. That implies online betting can be legalised by the states as they wish, without any change at the federal level. But in the range of outcomes, is the not too unrealistic chance that online betting is banned in the US.

  • Achieve Financial Success And A Fulfilling Life – Unlock Your Repressed Destiny

    A desire to achieve financial success and a fulfilling life is a fairly ubiquitous goal that we share as humans, but achieving these two goals at the same time seems to elude most of us.  Fortunately for us, Iain Balmain has found his calling in life as both an esoteric healer and career consultant who seeks to impart his spiritual insights about the human soul to unlock a life path that often eludes our conscious state of mind. He has been practicing as an intuitive consultant in Britain and now seeks to bring his energy, experience and wisdom to America, in an effort to help spread more happiness and fulfillment. In the U.S. in particular, our struggles to achieve financial success and fulfilling lives at the same time seem to be often rooted in the confusion we feel, when we are trying to figure out which degree to pursue, in our efforts to obtain a university or college education.  If we do graduate, we often end up pursuing careers that seem to only existentially drag us down.  This feeling often occurs regardless of how much we earn. In our experiences, which have been documented in countless case studies, the efforts to elevate oneself from economic insecurity up the employment ladder to greater levels of financial security, does not lead us to a greater sense of fulfillment. Research on this issue has been the source of many studies by organizational psychologists who have sought to help businesses yield a more productive workforce, for corporate shareholders. While corporations have sought to shape the minds of their workforce, individual workers and managers have been without a champion who could help them individually achieve the happy, fulfilling and “productive” lives they have always wanted but felt they could never attain. Indeed, we may finally access relatively high paying jobs and finally get to enjoy the material comforts of life that we always thought we had wanted, but still not feel fulfilled as human beings.  We may have simply gone from stressful lives without economic security to the correspondingly negative stresses of higher paying jobs, that we dread going to everyday, in our surrender to the “matrix” of a global capitalist economy. In such a context, we may simply seek to pursue moments of “escapism” through vacations or, worse case scenarios, taking our frustrations out on others, in an effort to dump our negative energies, or through taking drugs and narcotics in an effort to “treat” and contain negative energy. However, we often get inspired when we do occasionally hear about some people, who left a job that they didn't care for, to find a career path in which they were able to feel both financially secure and fulfilled as human beings. Luckily, these people, men and women, were able to unlock their own hidden destiny and live their lives in ways that they were meant to live, by tapping into their souls mission.  It is our soul as human beings –the essence of who we really are - that gets hidden from us in the confusion and chaos of modern life. In this confusion, it is often impossible for most of us to pursue the fulfilling lives that we desire to have while also seeking financial security in order to have that which is imposed upon us as part of living up to this competitive environment, which America stands for: the land of tremendous opportunities. In the new era of Donald Trump as President, whether we voted for him or not, we might feel a renewed need to “find ourselves” onto a path of security and fulfillment in these uncertain but exhilarating times. Thankfully, Iain Balmain is now seeking to further share his spiritual insights in helping America unlock much of its untapped potential, one human being at a time; Americans who have not been luckily enough to stumble across and embrace their soul's destiny. By connecting with a person's soul, through his professional consultations, Iain wishes to awaken and clarify who we really are, that “who” repressed by artificial personae molded by society's chaos, which so often stunts the fruition of our identities. These artificial personas are essentially counterfeit or “fakes” that, if adopted, often mislead us into directions that create frustrations and negative stresses, eventually resulting in unfulfilled lives, the cause of bad health and many other problems. If you're feeling frustrated, lost, confused or uncertain about your career path and also seek a more fulfilled life, you may very well owe it to yourself to find a consultant like Iain Balmain who will inspire your divine potential.  A service like Iain's will save, not only precious time and money, but also promise to rejuvenate the course of personal health from the stresses that impact our daily lives. You contact Iain here - http://innerconsult.co.uk/

  • Samsung Electronics to invest more than $1 billion in US chip production

    Samsung Electronics said on Tuesday it planned to invest more than $1 billion by the end of June 2017 to boost production of system chips at its Austin, Texas, facilities in the United States to meet growing demand. The South Korean firm, the world's second-largest chipmaker behind Intel, said in a statement its investment would boost output of chips for mobile and other electronics devices from its existing facilities in the city. The investment comes after Samsung said last week its capital expenditure for 2016 would rise to a record 27 trillion won ($24 billion), with 13.2 trillion won earmarked for its semiconductor business. While most of Samsung's semiconductor profits come from memory chip sales, it has been trying to boost earnings from other products including its own Exynos mobile processors and contract manufacturing deals with clients such as Qualcomm and Nvidia Samsung did not give further details for its investment plans in Austin, such as how much production capacity would be added.
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  • GM sales drop 1.7 pct; U.S. auto sales seen off Despite Discounts

     General Motors' sales in October fell a less-than-forecast 1.7 percent as hefty gains for pickups and SUVs offset declines for its sedans but the industry was expected to report a larger drop.
    U.S. auto sales in October were seen declining between 6 percent and 8 percent, according to industry analysts, as higher consumer discounts failed to prevent a fall-off from last year's record high. GM said on Tuesday U.S. industry auto sales will be 17.4 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, slightly weaker than most industry analysts expected. GM's two full-size pickup truck models, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, collectively fell 7.6 percent. GM's Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon large SUVs collectively gained 69 percent versus a year ago. The vehicles are hugely profitable for GM. The rate of decline in October from a year ago will not be known until later this week because Ford is delaying its sales report due to a fire at its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters on Monday. Fiat Chrysler's sales slid 10 percent, hampered by outsized drop-offs of two sedans it will soon stop making, and a rare decrease of 7 percent for its Jeep SUV brand. Cherokee sales were down 23 percent. Ford, the second-biggest automaker in the U.S. market with a 15 percent share of sales through September, has not said when it will issue its sales report. Analysts expect Ford to show a decline of between 9 percent and 11 percent from a year ago, which some analysts said was due to better discipline on the use of discounts. Others pointed out that the company stemmed production at North American F-150 pickup truck plants and sedan plants to counteract weak demand. Comparisons to last October are pressured because of two fewer selling days. But even with that factored in, sales would likely have been weaker if not for the big consumer discounts, known as incentives, analysts said. TrueCar said October incentives industrywide rose nearly 16 percent from a year earlier, or about $3,600 per new vehicle sold. Nissan's sales fell 2.2 percent, though sales of its SUVs and pickup trucks rose 13 percent.
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  • Asian shares lower; ASX, Nikkei, Kospi, HSI drop more than 1%

    Most Asian markets dropped more than 1 percent after Wall Street's "fear index" spiked on jitters over the U.S. presidential elections. "Markets have been rankled by some polls putting Trump ahead of Clinton for the first time, given Trump's controversial policy platform of re-looking at trade deals and clamping down on immigration," Chang Wei Liang, FX strategist at Mizuho Bank, said in a Wednesday note. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 1.16 percent, or 61.47 points, at 5,229 dragged by its energy subindex, which was down 1.81 percent, and its financials subindex, which fell 1.43 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 ended down 1.76 percent, or 308.07 points, at 17,134.68, likely due to the stronger yen which is seen as a safe haven currency. The yen strengthened against the greenback, fetching 103.86 a dollar as of 1:57 pm HK/SIN, compared to 104 levels seen on Tuesday. In South Korea, the Kospi closed down 1.42 percent, or 28.45 points, at 1,978.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.44 percent as of 3:09 pm local time. Mainland China's Shanghai composite was down 0.62 percent, or 19.48 points, at 3,102.97, while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.63 percent, or 13.06 points, at 2,060.05.
    The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.58 percent at 18,037.1, the S&P 500 ended 0.68 percent lower at 2,111.72, and the Nasdaq composite closed down 0.69 percent at 5,153.58, after a choppy day in which better-than-expected earnings failed to cancel out worries about the U.S. election. The CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX), called the "fear index" because it shows the market's expectations on volatility over a 30-day period, went above the key 20 point during U.S. trading, taking its rise to more than 40 percent over the past six days. It is the first time the VIX has risen for six straight days since the period just before the U.K.'s shock vote to leave the EU, and traders told CNBC the latest climb was due to the increased possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. The VIX last traded at 18.56 as of 4:14 am HK/SIN time.
    Symbol
    Name
    Price
    Change
    %Change
    NIKKEI NIKKEI 17134.68 -307.72 -1.76%
    HSI HSI 22810.50 -336.57 -1.45%
    ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 5228.99 -61.48 -1.16%
    SHANGHAI Shanghai 3102.96 -19.48 -0.62%
    KOSPI KOSPI Index 1978.94 -28.45 -1.42%
    CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX 6837.65 -75.88 -1.10%
    The Federal Reserve will finish its two-day meeting on Wednesday in the U.S. The central bank is considered very unlikely to hike at the meeting, according to the CNBC Fed Survey, which found that 100 percent of respondents did not expect a move, but 86 percent did forecast a quarter-point hike at the December 13-14 meeting. Meanwhile, it's been a bruising few days for Trump rival Hillary Clinton, after the FBI said it was investigating new emails related to her controversial use of a private server while she served as secretary of state. "Even if the Fed does signal an inclination to lift rates in December, markets will take the view that this is unlikely if a Trump victory leads to uncertainty and a surge in financial market volatility. This view was played out in markets last night with the U.S. dollar falling sharply and gold rallying," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a Wednesday note. Spot gold traded at $1,293.02 per ounce, compared to last week's levels as low as $1,266. In currency markets, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, stood at 97.696 as of 3:12 pm HK/SIN, down from 98 levels on Tuesday. The Mexican peso extended its fall against the dollar, fetching 19.308 per dollar as of 3:12 pm HK/SIN. The peso had sold off as much as 1.3 percent against the greenback to 19.1102 pesos on Tuesday. The Korean won weakened against the greenback to 1,148.45, a three-and-a-half month low. In October, the KRW/USD had depreciated as much as 3.5 percent. "The woes surrounding labor strikes in Hyundai and Samsung's battery flame-outs were part of the domestic reasons that led to the underperformance versus the USD. Arguably, these issues may be partially reflected in the price, but we think that the room for more KRW weakness ahead has increased meaningfully." analysts at National Australia Bank said in a Tuesday note. Singapore's major banks were mixed, OCBC stock was down 0.47 percent at S$8.46 per share, United Overseas Bank slipped 1.12percent to S$18.50, while DBS traded up 0.07 percent at S$15.00 A Moody's Investors Service report on Wednesday warned that the three banks could see their profitability come under further pressure, as seen in their latest financial results. The ratings agency assigned a negative outlook to the banks' ratings in March. "The Q3 results for DBS, OCBC and UOB show a further weakening in the banks' asset quality and profitability, because of the persistent challenges that they face in relation to their oil and gas exposures," said Eugene Tarzimanov, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's Investor Service, in the note.
    Australia's CSR sees a lift in H1 profits
    Australia's CSR sees a lift in H1 profits  
    Australia's CSR jumped 8.61 percent to A$3.89 after it reported half-year revenue was up 8 percent to A$1.24 billion, and half-year net profit after tax rose 12 percent to A$103.1 million. The building materials company has risen more than 31 percent year-to-date. Shares in Virgin Australia were down 4.17 percent at A$0.23per share, after the airline operator reported an underlying loss before tax of A$3.6 million. Hong Kong-listed Standard Chartered dipped 6.45 percent to HK$63.05 a share, after it reported a 6 percent decline in income from the previous year on Tuesday. The bank also warned that it might have compliance and regulatory struggles ahead, confirming that Hong Kong's financial regulator planned to take action against it because of its role as a joint sponsor in an initial public offering in 2009. Oil majors in the region were all lower, Australia's Santos was down 4.27 percent, Oil Search fell 1.35 percent and Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.07 percent, Japan's Inpex slipped 1.63 percent, while South Korea's S-Oil was up 1.23 percent, China's Shanghai Pechem was down 1.52 percent and Petrochina was down 0.82 percent. U.S. crude futures were down 0.77 percent, at $46.31 a barrel, after it had settled to $46.67 on Tuesday. Global benchmark Brent was down 0.60 percent at $47.85 after it settled at $48.14. The American Petroleum Institute (API) said crude inventory rose by 9.3 million barrels in the week to October 28. A Reuters poll had forecast stockpiles to rise by 1 million barrels. Traders will likely look to the Energy Information Administration's official inventory data, due for release later Wednesday, for further direction.
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  • Homeowners Twice as House rich as Five Years Ago

    America's housing market is heating up again, fortifying the finances of current homeowners and frustrating potential first-time buyers. After hitting bottom in 2012, home prices took off dramatically before leveling off a bit in mid-2014. In the last two months, though, they turned higher again. The amount of equity homeowners now have — the value outside their mortgage debt — has doubled in the last five years, according to CoreLogic. The latest read on September home prices showed a 6.3 percent annual gain, a touch bigger than August and a clear sign that prices are heating up again after cooling through much of spring and summer. "Home-equity wealth has doubled during the last five years to $13 trillion, largely because of the recovery in home prices," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Nationwide during the past year, the average gain in housing wealth was about $11,000 per homeowner, but with wide geographic variation."
    Housing by the numbers
    Housing by the numbers  
    All real estate is local, and while most states show gains in home values, the variance is wide. Connecticut and Alaska are the only states seeing annual price declines. For Connecticut, it is jobs plain and simple. The loss of major employers there, like General Electric's decision to move its headquarters to Boston, have hit the housing market hard. Other states, like Arkansas, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Maine and Maryland, are barely in the black. On the flip side, as tech companies flee California, nearby states like Washington and Oregon are seeing double-digit home price gains, with Colorado and Utah not far behind. Homeowners today show more wealth on paper, but they are not extracting it at nearly the rate they did during the last housing boom. Near-record-low mortgage rates have certainly prompted thousands of borrowers to refinance and lower their monthly payments, but a very small share have extracted cash in these refinances and home equity lines of credit (HELOC). "That weakness of active home equity withdrawal looks in large part to reflect tight credit conditions. Although lenders have reported loosening lending standards for HELOCs in each of the past 15 quarters, that easing has been modest compared to the conventional mortgage market," wrote Matthew Pointon, property economist with Capital Economics. "Indeed, median credit scores for new HELOC originations have not declined at all over the past couple of years, despite the serious delinquency rate on those loans dropping to its lowest since records began in 2008." So homeowners get richer, and those trying to become homeowners have to face not just higher prices, but a severe lack of homes for sale, especially at the entry level. There is clearly demand, just not enough supply. "After all, measures of home purchase sentiment are elevated, and there is evidence that first-time buyers are making a welcome return to the market," added Pointon. They are returning, but still not hitting their historically normal share of homebuyers. While the National Association of Realtors reported a jump in first-time buyers in September sales, other measures show they have been dropping pretty steadily from a high of 40 percent in May to 34.8 percent in September, according to Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance. That was the lowest level recorded since April 2014.
    The slowdown in first-time buyers is likely due to higher home prices. First-time buyers are much more price-sensitive than the rest of the market, and they are also more limited in credit availability. Housing affordability is now below average in half of the nation's top 20 metropolitan markets, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. These include Denver, Houston, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee. "This means that they are at high risk of a sharp price correction whenever the next recession hits," the Burns researchers said.
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  • The Garbage Indicator: What trash is Telling us About the Economy Now

    It is said that one man's trash is another man's treasure. It also happens that all of our trash could collectively make for a great economic indicator.

    In addition to other, more conventional indicators, Deutsche Bank's chief international economist, Torsten Slok, consults freight rail waste data put out by the Association of American Railroads for a check on how the economy is doing. Given the drop in oil prices and rise in the dollar, "a lot of economic statistics were distorted and you did see a slowdown in a lot of places. ... This indicator is an attempt to get a more pure view of where the business cycle is at the moment," Slok said Monday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." At this point, the garbage transport gauge "is indeed suggesting that the recovery continues, or that the economic expansion is moving forward from here." Slok isn't the first to notice the connection between waste carloads and the GDP growth. Michael McDonough, an economist at Bloomberg, has followed growth in the waste carloads indicator for years. Indeed, the data series has been shown to have a high correlation to changes in GDP. This makes some intuitive sense, given that consumption, construction and other such activities generally create waste. While peering deeply into trash may sound strange, "all joking aside, this is really an attempt to capture what is the economic activity when we measure it from a whole different angle than we normally do," Slok said. He added that it generally confirms what economic data have shown, but "if anything, this also points to that there are some upside risks to the outlook from where we are at the moment." In more conventional data, Tuesday's ISM reading showed that the manufacturing sector expanded in October. The October employment report is set to be released Friday. Read More..

Why These Federal Agencies Should Be Abolished

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The use of marijuana for medical purposes is now legal in 25 states and, as of this writing, two additional states (Arkansas and Florida) have pending legislation or ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana.1

Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and the District of Columbia have also legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults, while 16 states have decriminalized certain marijuana possession offenses.2

According to estimates, between 85 and 95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and nearly 60 percent support complete legalization of marijuana. And, contrary to what you might think, doctors overwhelmingly agree.

A 2013 survey found a majority of physicians — 76 percent — approve of the use of medical marijuana.3 CNN’s chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta also made a highly publicized reversal on his marijuana stance after the production of his two-part series “Weed,” which aired in 2014.4

Despite this trend, many families are still unable, legally or otherwise, to obtain this herbal treatment. Families with a sick child are being forced to split up, just so that one parent can live in a place where medical cannabis can be legally obtained in order to help their child.

A major part of the problem lies at the federal level, where marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance5 — a category reserved for the most addictive and dangerous of drugs, including heroin and LSD.

Marijuana Does Not Meet Criteria for Schedule 1 Controlled Substances

According to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, Schedule 1 drugs are defined as those having a “high potential for abuse” and “no acceptable medical use in treatment.” Research to date shows that marijuana meets neither of these criteria. For example, studies have shown medical cannabis:

  • Stimulates appetite in AIDS patients
  • Reduces neuropathic pain and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Treats chronic pain
  • Reduces (and in some cases eliminates) epileptic seizures
  • In Israel, doctors use marijuana to treat cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome and many other conditions

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has spent the last five years deliberating whether it should reclassify marijuana to a Schedule 2 substance — a class that includes both cocaine and methamphetamines; dangerous drugs that nonetheless have some accepted medicinal use.

DEA Rejects Petition to Lower Classification of Marijuana

Earlier this month, the agency delivered its verdict: Marijuana will remain a Schedule 1 substance. As reported by Newsweek:6

“The decision is the DEA’s response to a 2011 petition by two former state governors who had urged federal agencies to reclassify marijuana as a drug with accepted medical uses.

In a letter to the petitioners, the DEA said it had asked the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] for a scientific and medical evaluation of the issue.

‘HHS concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision,’ the letter said.”

This really challenges logic on many fronts. For starters, in October 2003, the HHS actually obtained a patent for marijuana as a “neural protectant,” claiming it can protect your brain against stroke and trauma.7

How can the HHS own a patent for the medical use of marijuana on the one hand, while concluding that “marijuana has no accepted medical use … and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision” on the other?

DEA and HHS Should Be Abolished

With this decision, the DEA and HHS have completely lost all credibility, proving they will act AGAINST the public good if it means protecting corporate interests. The hypocrisy is so blatant it’s infuriating.

Because who actually benefits from marijuana being a banned? Primarily drug companies, privatized prisons — which make millions of dollars from incarcerating non-violent marijuana users — and law enforcement, including police and prison guard unions.8,9

In 2011 alone, 850,000 people in the U.S. were arrested for marijuana-related crimes.10 As noted by Opensecrets.org:11

“The revenue from waging the war on drugs has become a significant source of financial support for local law enforcement.

Federal and state funding of the drug war — as well as the property police forces seize as a part of drug raids — have become significant financial supplements to local forces’ budgets …

One of the largest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America, even stated in a regulatory filing that keeping the drug war alive is essential to its success as a business:

‘[A]ny changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances … could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.’”

Current Scheduling of Marijuana Ignores Scientific Evidence

As noted by Carl L. Hart, Ph.D.,12 a researcher of behavioral and neuropharmacological effects of psychoactive drugs and the department chair of the psychology department at Columbia University:13

“[T]herapeutic benefits … have compelled citizens to vote repeatedly over the past two decades to legalize medical marijuana at the state level … And yet Federal law still technically forbids the use of medical marijuana …  

As a scientist and educator, I am worried that we have lost credibility … with those seeking treatments for a variety of medical conditions because our current scheduling of marijuana ignores the scientific and medical evidence.

When we make decisions based on factors other than the available empirical evidence, we are less than objective, which means we are no longer acting as scientists.”

Hart also points out that the glaring inconsistencies between the Federal law and so many other state initiatives — not to mention mounting scientific evidence demonstrating the medical benefits of cannabis — really undermines peoples’ trust in federal agencies.

I strongly concur, especially as it relates to the DEA, which really seems more interested in protecting the profits of prisons and drug companies than anything else.

DEA Vows to Make Marijuana Research Easier

In response to rising demand from scientists, the DEA has agreed to loosen restrictions around the growing of marijuana for research purposes. In April 2014, 161 scientists were registered to study marijuana. As of March 2016, there were 244.

At present, the University of Mississippi is the only federally legal grower of cannabis, and researchers who want to study the herb must jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops in order to receive approval from the HHS, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the DEA.

The DEA has agreed to raise the amount of marijuana it will allow to be grown for research purposes. It will also allow other facilities to grow marijuana for research. Many other time-consuming and costly hurdles will remain, however.14,15

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, has pushed for looser restrictions on marijuana research. He told STAT News:16

“The main holdup for researchers is the scheduling, not the ability to obtain the product, which is a secondary issue. This change is a positive one, but will do relatively little to advance our scientific understanding.”

Indeed, while all Schedule 1 drugs must gain FDA approval, researchers studying marijuana must undergo additional review processes by both the HHS and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that no other drug must go through.17

Moreover, there’s no deadline for the HHS/NIDA review, and no formal appeals process should the study be rejected. As a result, marijuana research is easily stifled, delayed or prevented altogether.

Synthetic Pot Drugs Approved While Marijuana Remains Banned

Ironically, while acting DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg states that “no drug product made from marijuana has yet been shown to be safe and effective,” he admits that two synthetic tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) medicines — Marinol and Cesamer — have recently received FDA approval for sale as, you guessed it, patented drugs.

Rosenberg took over as acting director of the DEA in May 2015, taking over the role after scandals drove out Michele Leonhart.18 Leonhart was harshly criticized for opposing the legalization of marijuana, yet Rosenberg is following in the exact same footsteps.19

Earlier this year, Rosenberg even referred to the concept of medical marijuana as “a joke.” Somehow, I don’t think the manufacturers of these synthetic THC drugs would agree with him. In fact, the very approval of these drugs should be sufficient to prove marijuana has medical applications. Why else would they be approved for the treatment of nausea? These synthetic THC drugs are listed as Schedule 3 and 2 respectively, meaning they have acknowledged medicinal value.

THC is a subclass of cannabinoids, the general category of active chemical compounds found in marijuana. Cannabidiols (CBD) is another subclass.20 Cannabinoids produce biological effects because, just like opiates interacting with your opiate receptors, cannabinoids interact with specific receptors located in your cell membranes.

The therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when particular cannabinoids activate their associated receptors, and the effects depend on the areas of your body and brain in which they interact. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, whereas others are not. THC is the most psychoactive, the one that produces the “high” associated with smoking pot.

Why Are DEA and HHS Ignoring Human Endocannabinoid System?

Cannabinoid receptors can be found on cell membranes throughout your body — in fact, scientists now believe they may represent the most widespread receptor system in the human body.21 Two receptor types have been identified:

  • CB1: Cannabinoid receptors that are extremely prolific in your brain (excluding your brain stem), but also present in your heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and other parts of your body
  • CB2: Cannabinoid receptors primarily found in your immune system

Your endocannabinoid system is thought to help regulate nearly every physiological process and plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis, and yet this is not taught in medical school. We’ve shared this important system with all vertebrate species and even sea squirts for more than 600 million years. Science to date suggests that your endocannabinoid system is integral to the following biological processes, and chances are we’ve barely scratched the surface.22

Immune function Inflammation (especially tamping it down) Energy intake and storage
Appetite control and cravings Nutrient transport Cellular communication
Emotional balance Reproduction Pain sensation
Sleep Bone growth Memory

Why Big Pharma Hates Pot

Were marijuana decriminalized nationwide, the drug industry clearly would take a big hit. Not only would people have access to a far less expensive, more effective and natural version of the synthetic CBD and THC drugs currently selling at a premium, many would also turn to marijuana to relieve their aches, pains, nausea, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and more.

The sad fact is that drug companies are fighting to shut down the legalization of marijuana in order to maintain their drug monopoly. For starters, the opioid painkiller market would be severely threatened by marijuana legalization.

Narcotic painkillers have been identified as the new gateway drug to heroin, and even government officials have publicly acknowledged that these drugs have become the No. 1 drug problem in the U.S., addicting and killing people in record numbers. More than 28,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2014 — more deaths than any other year on record according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).23

The number includes deaths from both heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers, but the latter accounted for at least half. Yet little is being done to curb their use. Instead, agencies like the DEA, FDA and HHS are fighting against marijuana! It’s illogical at best. Then again, profit has nothing to do with logic, and this is how you know that many federal agencies have ceased working for the public good.

Why Won’t Senate Release Its Opioid Report?

In 2012, as opioid overdoses continued to rise, two senators — Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — began an investigation into financial ties between the drugs’ makers and the medical organizations setting guidelines on opioid use. The targets of the investigation were Purdue Pharma (maker of Oxycontin), Endo International plc (Percocet) and Johnson & Johnson (Duragesic) along with five organizations, including the Center for Practical Bioethics and the American Pain Foundation (APF).

Senate staffers spent a year working on the investigation and subsequent report, but its results have not been made public (the report is sealed in the Senate Committee on Finance’s office).24 Due to changes in position, it’s now Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), current chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who stand to get the opioid report released.

In 2015, public health advocates requested the release of the findings, noting that many of those targeted by the report continue to “promote aggressive opioid use and continue to block federal and state interventions that could reduce overprescribing.” Still, the report remains sealed. The question is why. What did they find that they don’t want anyone to know?

Drug Companies Downplay Addictive Nature of Opioids

The attorney general of New Hampshire, Joseph Foster, is trying to prove five drug companies — Actavis, Endo, Janssen, Teva and Purdue Pharma — broke the law when they marketed their opioid painkillers. He believes false marketing has contributed to rising abuse of illicit drugs like heroin. According to Foster, these companies are stifling his investigation and refusing to cooperate with the state’s attorneys. In a recent NPR program, Foster said:25

“If they are continuing to mislead the public, we’re going to continue to improperly create addicts in our state. Four out of 5 folks who turned to heroin were addicted to prescription opiates first.”

Chicago, two California counties and Mississippi have already filed lawsuits against one or more of the same companies currently under investigation in New Hampshire. James Boffetti, New Hampshire’s lead attorney on the case told NPR:

“We’re in a mess. You know, we have a country that’s addicted to opioids that move to heroin. So we need to solve this problem, and part of it is we need to figure out what the drug companies did, if anything, to create this problem … [But] I’ve yet to receive one piece of paper from any of these drug companies. And you’ve got to ask yourself, why? Why are they fighting so hard?”

DEA Has Impeded and Rejected Science for 40 Years

Like the drug industry, the DEA has spent decades fighting AGAINST that which is right. As noted by Drugpolicy.org:26 “The DEA has existed for more than 40 years but little attention has been given to the role the agency has played in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities, the surveillance state and other drug war problems.” It goes into further detail in its report, “The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science.”27 The report highlights the following five case studies:

  • DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling, Part One 1973-1994
  • DEA Overrules Administrative Law Judge to Classify MDMA (synthetic cannabinoids) as Schedule I, 1985
  • DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part Two, 1995-2001
  • DEA Overrules Administrative Law Judge to Protect Federal Monopoly on Marijuana for Research, 2001-2013
  • DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part Three, 2002-2013

According to the report, “These case studies reveal a number of DEA practices that work to maintain the existing, scientifically unsupported drug scheduling system and to obstruct research that might alter current drug schedules.” Failing to act in a timely fashion, overruling DEA administrative law judges and creating regulatory Catch-22s are among the agency’s most common tactics.

Unfortunately, with its recent decision to reject the petition to reclassify marijuana, it’s apparent that the agency is still playing the same old game. Meanwhile, families and individual lives continue to be destroyed by a nonsensical drug policy that targets marijuana users — even when the herb is used to treat terminal illness for which there are few other safe options.

It’s hard to understand how federal policy makers can sacrifice the lives of so many, including children, to protect corporate profit centers. But that’s what they’re doing.

 

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