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NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

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Black Friday sales fall 10% from last year

Total sales in the US on Black Friday fell 10% to $10.4bn this year, down from $11.6bn in 2014, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

The decline in sales on the traditional busiest shopping day of the year has been blamed on shops opening the day before. But this year, sales on Thanksgiving also dropped, and by the same percentage, to $1.8bn.

A big reason for the decline is increased online shopping, as Americans hunt down deals on their smartphones, tablets and computers. Many retailers are also offering bargains long before Thanksgiving, limiting the impact of Black Friday specials.

Online retailers have been bombarding customers with email discounts and bargains for weeks. Online sales jumped 14.3% on Friday compared with last year, according to Adobe, which tracked activity on 4,500 retail websites. Email promotions drove 25% more sales compared with 2014, the company said.

November jobs report likely to give Fed go-ahead to raise interest rates

The Federal Reserve appears hell bent on raising interest rates for the first time in a decade and only a lousy U.S. jobs report could put a freeze on its plans.

Don’t bet on it, though. With job openings near a record peak and hiring at an 11-month high, employment gains in November will likely be good enough to allow the Fed to act before year end.

Economists polled by MarketWatch project a 205,000 increase in newly hired workers, following a gain of 271,000 in October. That month’s tally, the biggest of 2015, eased worries after hiring briefly slowed at the end of the summer.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, is forecast to hold steady at 5%. Don’t be surprised if it dips below that psychological barrier to 4.9%, but don’t pay it much heed, either. “Whether it’s 5% or 4.9% doesn’t tell us anything more,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial. “ It just tells us we are paring down slack in the labor market.”

Another Sign U.S. Oil Production Is Heading Even Lower

Prognosticators who once expected a half-million-barrel decline off that peak by the end of the year are now estimating that production could fall by 700,000 barrels from the peak before the year is out. Given current industry activity levels, another 900,000 barrels per day of production could be lost in 2015. That number might even prove to be conservative, given some of the preliminary capex budgets producers are putting out, suggesting that activity levels could be heading meaningfully lower in 2016.

One company that's clearly tapped the brakes on shale-fueled growth is ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). Before the downturn, the company had been enjoying strong double-digit year-over-year production growth from its Bakken and Eagle Ford shale assets. However, it now anticipates that its fourth-quarter production will be modestly lower. That's not because it's run out of opportunities, but simply because the company isn't running enough rigs to even maintain its production, let alone grow it. That's something that Matt Fox, ConocoPhillips' EVP of E&P, detailed on its third-quarter conference call:

So to keep Eagle Ford production flat probably requires between seven and eight rigs. Currently we're running six. The Bakken requires about closer to five rigs. We're currently running four. So you'd be looking at maybe three additional rigs to maintain production flat. And if you look at all-in cost, drill, complete, hookup and so on you can use an order of magnitude of $150 million, per rig line per year. So maybe $400 million.

n other words, just to keep its production flat in those two shale plays, the company would need to add three more rigs at a cost of upwards of $400 million for the full year. However, given where commodity prices are right now, the company doesn't see a need to keep its production flat in these two plays. That's partially a function of ConocoPhillips' global business model, where it has about a half dozen major projects that are just beginning to ramp up. So, with production growth coming elsewhere, it could cut back on shale for now.

Everybody Knows This Economy Is Unsustainable

IMF poised to add yuan to elite currency basket

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expected to approve inclusion of China’s yuan in its Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket of elite currencies today, rewarding Beijing’s strong pursuit of the global status.

The IMF executive board is scheduled to meet today to decide on the recommendation by staff experts earlier in November to include the yuan, also known as the renminbi, alongside the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and British pound in the grouping.

While not a freely traded currency, the SDR is important as an international reserve asset, and because the IMF issues its crisis loans — crucial to struggling economies such as Greece — valued in SDRs.

China, now the world’s second-largest economy, asked last year for the yuan to be added to the grouping of world reserve currencies, but until recently it was considered too tightly controlled to qualify. If accepted, the decision would not take effect before Sept 30, 2016, to allow users more time to prepare. The last time the SDR basket was modified was in 2000, when the euro replaced the German deutsche mark and the French franc.

Silver Eagle Sales To Hit Record… U.S. Mint 2015 Production To Halt Dec 11th

Investors looking to acquire 2015 Silver Eagles may just have a few more weeks to purchase the coins. If demand for Silver Eagles by the Authorized Dealers and investors remain strong over the next several weeks, we could see a record 47 million of the coins sold this year.

According to article, 2016 American Silver Eagle Release, Last 2015’s for Record:

It’s out with the old and in with the new. Earlier today, Nov. 24, the United States Mint announced that it would stop producing 2015 American Eagle silver bullion coins by Dec. 11 and that it would begin taking orders for the first 2016-dated issues on Jan. 11.

2015 American Silver Eagles will claim an annual sales record. That should happen by early next week, even as the U.S. Mint limits their sales.

The bureau has rationed sales of bullion American Silver Eagles for most of this year as demand has exceeded supply. The U.S. Mint has the production capability to produce many more of the one-one, .999 fine silver coins but, like other world mints, it cannot always acquire enough silver planchets.

Halliburton refiles bid for EU approval of $35 billion Baker Hughes buy

U.S. oil services provider Halliburton Co (HAL.N) has refiled a request for EU antitrust approval of its $35 billion bid for smaller rival Baker Hughes (BHI.N), four months after regulators rejected an earlier application because of insufficient data.

The European Commission will decide by Jan. 12 whether to clear the deal or open a full investigation, according to a filing on its website.

Halliburton has said it is prepared to sell three drilling businesses in Mexico and an expandable liner hangers unit as well as three Baker Hughes businesses which includes offshore cementing activities in Australia, Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico, Norway and the United Kingdom.

It has previously said it was willing to sell businesses with total revenues of $7.5 billion to appease regulators. The companies, the No. 2 and No. 3 in the oilfield services industry, would leapfrog current leader Schlumberger (SLB.N) after the merger.

Another 54 Tonnes Of Gold Withdrawn From SGE; Chinese Demand Stays Very High

Chinese Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) physical metal withdrawals are at an all-time high, having already this year exceeded the full-year total for 2013 - the previous record year.

Furthermore, the amount of gold being taken out of SGE vaults is rising again as we draw nearer to the year-end, with the latest figure for the week ending Nov. 20th at 54 tonnes, bringing the year to that date total to a massive 2,313 tonnes (as compared with the previous record 2013 full-year total of 2,181 tonnes). The year-to-date figure is equivalent to around 80% of current global new mined production on its own.

If gold withdrawals from the SGE continue at the current rate until the year-end, then the annual figure would come out at just under 2,600 tonnes - nearly 20% higher than in the previous 2013 record year.

Readers may recall that SGE gold withdrawals were huge in the run up to the Golden Week holiday in September, hitting well over 60 tonnes a week (over 70 tonnes on three occasions) in several weeks in July, August and September, but following the holiday, they dropped back to the 40s, although still remaining at a substantial level for the time of year. But recent weeks have seen deliveries beginning to rise again. The year-end period tends to see strength in SGE withdrawals as jewellers and fabricators start to stock up for the demand that comes ahead of the Chinese New Year, which next year falls on February 8th (a Monkey year in the Chinese zodiac). The New Year is a time of gift giving and invariably sees a further surge in gold demand so it would not be unreasonable for weekly withdrawals to continue to increase and perhaps peak again in January.

GE Wants To Move All Your Health Data To The Cloud

In this day and age, you can easily share photos through Dropbox, notes in Evernote, or spreadsheets via Google Drive with anyone. But good luck helping two doctors at two different hospitals to see the same patient records online. Instead, when a patient goes to a medical center for the first time, they often have to repeat tests they've undergone before—such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-ray technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body.

"The holy grail of medical informatics right now is to have a cloud-based place where patients' info can live," says Dr. Alexander Baxter, an assistant professor of radiology at NYU who practices at Bellevue and NYU hospitals in Manhattan. "So that if you go to one hospital, and you get a CT scan and you go to another hospital, you don't have to get the same CT scan again. This happens all the time at Bellevue." That doubles the cost and the dose of radiation.

GE Healthcare just introduced its candidate for that holy grail: a service called GE Health Cloud that will link up medical devices around the world, process the data, and store patient records securely online so they can be viewed from anywhere. The company, which promises Health Cloud meets U.S. HIPPA privacy requirements for healthcare records, is launching the new service in late spring of 2016 with radiology devices like CT, ultrasound, and MRI scanners, and starting off with 500,000 of GE's machines. The company plans to expand the service to cover other aspects of healthcare, says Jan De Witte, president and CEO of GE Healthcare IT.

Health Cloud is the first industry-specific project using GE's new Predix Cloud for connecting and mass-processing data from industrial machines online. Health Cloud promises not only to allow people to access radiology records from anywhere (even on mobile devices), but also to pool resources from GE's 400 computing centers to crunch data radically faster than the desktop computers that hospitals are currently using.

September 17th——-A Date For Monetary Infamy

Depending on how one looks at it September 17th seems both as far in the rear-view mirror as a distant memory, and yet, almost as if it were just yesterday. I believe part of the reason is the fact no one has been able to stop thinking about it in one form or another. For those of you who don’t await with bated breath for the world’s equivalent of monetary dictates, September 17th was the date The Federal Reserve punted on raising interest rates stating reasons that still have many scratching their heads.

However, as of today, by all indications put forth via a myriad of so-called “in-the-know” types. This time they’re really, really, really, no fingers crossed, and Scouts honor going to “just do it.” Unless you listen to Fed. officials themselves. For if you have, “just doing it” may indeed turn out to be: can’t bring themselves to do just about anything except to wait on doing – it. Welcome to monetary policy 21st century style. Where the meaning of “it” can be just as tricky to identify as what “is,” is.

Maybe you think I’m just trying to make a play-on-words type argument. Let me assure you I’m not, for I’m not that good. You can’t make this stuff up. This monetary gibberish writes itself (actually it’s spoken by Fed. officials first) which is why it’s both so laughable, as well as dangerous at the same time.

Remember “forward guidance?” This was for the expressed purpose as to help give markets, as well as any other monetary policy affected entities some form of clarity into what one could expect emanating via future policy decisions. That “clarity” has now evolved into: clarity of confusion. And all I’ll just point to as the latest in a longer run for proof that Sept. 17th announcement. For this was the most debated, signaled, professed, anticipated rate hike in decades – and – it didn’t happen. I mean, what’s left to say?

United Airlines Halts Job-Outsourcing Plan

United Continental Holdings announced on Friday that it would suspend at least through the end of 2016 its program of outsourcing baggage-handling, check-in and other customer-service jobs at some of its airports.

The program at the world’s third-largest airline company had cost approximately 2,300 employees their jobs since it was implemented in 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The move is a response to employee feedback solicited by new CEO Oscar Munoz, who took over for the embattled Jeff Smisek in September. Smisek and two deputies resigned after a federal probe and an internal investigations raised questions about United’s dealings with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Munoz, who was previously president and chief operating officer of railroad giant CSX Corporation, launched a charm offensive upon his appointment, trying to win over both disgruntled flyers and employees. (He is currently on medical leave after a heart attack earlier this month.)

American Way! Bail out Bankers

Nearly 15,000 residents lose access to food stamps under Wisconsin law

Nearly 15,000 Wisconsin residents lost access to food stamps in the first three months under a new law that requires some recipients to seek jobs, government data shows.

The Wisconsin State Journal obtained the data from the Department of Human Services under the state open records law. The agency has since published the data on its website. It gives a first look at the effect of the work requirement, the newspaper reported Sunday.

The rule took effect in April for participants in the state’s food stamp program, FoodShare. It requires able-bodied adults without children living at home to work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program. Participants can get three months of FoodShare benefits before being kicked out of the program if they decline to look for work. About 25 percent of the 60,000 recipients eligible to work were dropped from the program between July and September, the data shows.

Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force, said people kicked off the program will have to rely more heavily on charity. “They will bankrupt our food banks,” said Tussler, whose group supplies food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters with emergency food.

U.S.’s Stimulus of the Economy Has Failed

America has received little bang for trillions of bucks put toward economic recovery. With so much time passed and money spent, we must recognize that the problem is more fundamental than a crisis.

The third quarter’s gross-domestic-product data show another lackluster annualized increase of 2.1%, giving 2015 an annualized average growth of 2.2% over three quarters. That indicates the U.S. economy remains mired in mediocrity. The economy has been limping along in low gear for years now.

Sure, there have been three hopeful quarters of good growth over the past seven quarters (4.6% in the second quarter and 4.3% in the third quarter of 2014, and second-quarter 2015 growth of 3.9%), but they keep getting offset by the others. Last year’s overall growth was just 2.4%, which is right in line with the preceding five years’ weak performances. For coming on nine years, the U.S. economy has yet to equal 2006’s 2.7% GDP growth.

Eight years’ worth of subpar performance has lulled the U.S. into deeming it normal. What was acceptable immediately after the crisis has evolved into nonrecovery. Now, years later, the U.S. has a new normal.

The Real Reason Obamacare May Not Be Affordable After All

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has officially moved into its third open enrollment period, with the Congressional Budget Office forecasting that 10 million consumers will be covered by the end of 2016. Hopes are clearly high in the upcoming year that just shy of 1 million more people will become paying customers.

But there are plenty of concerns, too, that the current open enrollment period could end in disappointment. For starters, the nation's largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group, threatened to pack up shop and leave Obamacare's marketplace exchanges as of 2017. The insurance giant is losing money on balance on its marketplace plans across two dozen states, and it would much rather give up its roughly 500,000 individual marketplace members than continue to take a hit to its margins.

What's more, more than half of Obamacare's healthcare cooperatives are shutting down. Insufficient funds in the risk corridor coupled with inadequate premium pricing caused by high medical expenses from its members doomed many of these low-cost health insurance plans. With shrinking low-cost competition in some markets, premium prices can be expected to rise -- not to mention that this will displace more than 700,000 people who now need to find a new plan and/or primary care physician.

Of course, we also have the most substantial increase in premiums this decade to contend with. Statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggest that average premiums across the country, before accounting for Advanced Premium Tax Credits, will rise by a whopping 10.1% in 2016. Rising premium prices could always make consumers think twice about enrolling.

Saudi Arabia Refuses To Take Even A Single Syrian Refugee

If Saudi Arabia won’t take in Syrian refugees, why should the United States? In recent weeks, we have heard a whole lot from Barack Obama about our “moral obligation” to take in refugees from Syria. Well, if there is a “moral obligation” to help these refugees, then why aren’t more wealthy Islamic nations stepping up to the plate? According to Amnesty International, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war Saudi Arabia has not accepted a single Syrian refugee. Neither has Kuwait. Neither has Qatar. Neither has the United Arab Emirates. These nations are absolutely swimming in money, and yet they have slammed the door on these desperately needy Islamic refugees. So what precisely does that tell us?

When I first learned about this, I was quite upset. So much pressure is being put on the U.S, Europe and other wealthy nations to take in vast numbers of Syrian refugees, and yet the wealthiest Islamic nations in the Middle East are completely shunning them. The following comes from TruNews…

While the United States and Europe argue over how many Syrian refugees to allow in, the richest Persian Gulf states have accepted exactly zero.

he Muslim countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council that include Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates steadfastly refuse to accept any Syrian refugees. Amnesty International, USA (AIUSA) tells The Daily Caller News Foundation they have not accepted a single refugee since the armed Syrian conflict erupted years ago.

“The Gulf States have accepted zero refugees registered with the United Nations and administered through the U.N. resettlement program. They have accepted zero,” Geoffrey Mock, the Syrian country coordinator for AIUSA, tells TheDCNF.

Amazon's latest delivery service drone

Dollar-Denominated Corporate Time Bomb Set to Blow

Emerging economies around the world are already feeling the first pangs of withdrawal as fast yield-chasing investors send their funds back to the U.S. in anticipation of higher Treasury yields and a further appreciating dollar.

In Mexico, the central bank has just published its balance of payments data for the third quarter, 2015. The results do not make for pretty reading.

Net portfolio investment – the total amount of foreign money spent on Mexican financial assets – clocked in at a paltry €933 million, down from $4.47 billion during the same quarter last year. That’s a 79% drop. It was also Mexico’s fifth successive quarterly decline and the lowest level recorded since 2002. Although the rout was across the board, it was particularly pronounced in the private sector which suffered a €241 million net outflow of funds.

Interestingly, while portfolio investment stagnated, foreign direct investment (FDI) flourished, growing by 57.6% in the first nine months of 2015. In other words, those who are investing for the long haul continue plowing funds into Mexico. Which is wonderful news — in the long term! The problem is that investors who are after the quickest of monetary fixes are frantically moving their money out. And that is bad news in the short term! Crises are made of this phenomenon.

Macy's CEO: Despite Web, death of store experience 'greatly exaggerated'

With more shopping shifting to mobile devices, is the in-store shopping experience under threat?

Black Friday brick and mortar sales showing signs of waning amid more shoppers using tablets and smartphones, but Macy's Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren has a different take. Like the rumored demise of Mark Twain, Lundgren thinks the perceived death of the department store "is a statement that's been grossly exaggerated."

In an interview with CNBC's "On the Money," Lundgren pointed to the moment when Macy's opened for business on Thanksgiving night at the retailers' midtown Manhattan flagship store.

"If you saw the traffic when we opened the doors at 6 pm, flowing into stores like Macy's Herald Square, you'd say people definitely want to shop on that night and in a store like Macy's," he said. "So we feel great about what's transpired here."

Monday 11.30.2015

NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

We don't tell you what to think,

but we give you something to think about.