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Thursday 12.08.2016

Trump named Time Person of the Year

Time magazine has named Donald Trump its Person of the Year -- calling him "President of the Divided States of America." "I don't think that we have ever seen one person, operating in such an unconventional way, have an impact on the events of the year," said Time editor Nancy Gibbs.

She called this year's choice "one of the more straightforward years." Trump beat runner-up Hillary Clinton for the distinction, which Gibbs said is given to the newsmaker who has the biggest influence on world events, for better or worse.

Placing third was "the hackers," to cover people who breached the records of major government organizations, politicians, celebrities and everyday citizens. The short list also included President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, scientists who developed new DNA-related technology and Beyonce.

The announcement was revealed on NBC's "Today" show. Speaking on the show via phone, Trump called the title a "very, very great honor." The magazine has been selecting the year's most influential person, group or idea since 1927. Its choices have included nearly every U.S. president, Adolf Hitler, Ayatollah Khomeini, Mahatma Gandhi and Pope Francis, along with groups like the "Ebola fighters." The title was changed in 1982 to "Machine of the Year" for the computer.

Restaurant traffic suffers first decline in five years as fear of recession takes hold

Traffic at U.S. fast-food restaurants fell 1% in the third quarter to mark the sector’s first traffic decline in five years, the industry tracker NPD Group said Tuesday. Total restaurant visits were also down 1%, hurt by the now familiar list of factors that have weighed this year, ranging from the higher costs of eating out, changing consumer behavior and higher bills for items such as rent and prescriptions.

“The term growing your business in a 1% world has become a popular mantra for the restaurant industry after six consecutive years of annual traffic gains of just 1%,” said NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs. “However, over the past six months, restaurant industry traffic growth has come to a standstill and quick-service restaurants, which have been the traffic growth drivers, are now experiencing a slowdown in visits.”

Eating out has become more expensive even as the cost of at-home dining has fallen, according to recent government data. The cost of food purchased for home use — that is, groceries — has fallen 2.4% in the past year, according to the October consumer price index. That’s the biggest decline over a 12-month period since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, as MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash has reported.

Food costs have shrunk because of a global glut in farm products such as wheat, rice, soy and corn. Then there’s the effect of U.S. producers increasing the size of egg-laying chicken flocks and cattle herds, which has helped bring down the cost of eggs, beef and milk — egg prices alone have tumbled a staggering 50% in the last year.

EpiPen maker Mylan to restructure, cut workforce - 3,500 layoffs

Generic drugmaker Mylan NV, which has been under fire for price hikes on the life-saving EpiPen allergy treatment, said on Wednesday that it expected to cut less than 10 percent of its workforce in a restructuring to integrate acquisitions.

Mylan, whose shares were down more than 3 percent in mid-afternoon trading, has been under investigation by the U.S. government, and its chief executive officer was called before Congress to testify on raising the price of a pair of EpiPens to more than $600 from $100 in 2008.

The company said in a regulatory filing that it would implement restructuring programs in certain locations. At Tuesday’s market close, its shares had fallen 25 percent since August, when it first came under public scrutiny by former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Mylan, which has about 35,000 employees, said in the filing that it would take cost-cutting measures, including job cuts, after a significant number of acquisitions. It bought Sweden’s Meda earlier this year and Abbott Laboratories’branded specialty and generics business in non-U.S. developed markets in 2015. The company said it would disclose costs and other details of the restructuring as it finalizes the plans.Mylan spokeswoman Nina Devlin declined to comment further.

Pelosi on Ryan's Medicaid Plan: People ‘Won’t Be Able to Go to Their Own Doctor’

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) proposal to cut Medicaid spending over time to help balance the federal budget would prevent seniors from seeing the doctor of their choosing.

“And I might add with what they want to do to the Affordable Care Act and what they want to do in the Ryan budget to Medicaid – a trillion dollars over 10 years taken out of Medicaid,” Pelosi said. “Two thirds of that goes to long-term heath care to our seniors.”

“They won’t be able to go to their own doctor if you take this away,” Pelosi said. “So all of this is connected. This is an assault on the stability of health for seniors in our country. An all-out assault.”

Pelosi was speaking at a press conference with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.). Activists held the event to announce the collection of 1 million signatures on a petition demanding that President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans not only not reform federal entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security but expand them.

Hyper-Inflation Complete Demise Dollar Coming-John Williams

SunPower to cut 2,500 jobs on top of previous cuts

SunPower on Wednesday announced plans to shed jobs for the second time this year as the solar-panel maker navigates turbulence in the renewable energy business.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company (SPWR) said it would cut 2,500 employees, representing about 25% of its workforce, and shutter a 700-megawatt factory in the Phillippines.

The move comes less than five months after SunPower announced plans to lay off 1,200 workers, or about 15% of its workforce at the time. The latest cuts are in addition to the previous job reductions, SunPower spokesperson Natalie Wymer said in an email.

Taken together, the cuts reflect a tumultuous period for SunPower, which has blamed the extension of installation tax credits for eliminating the immediate incentive for installing solar panels.

Hiring falls for third straight month

Hiring fell slightly in October to just under 5.1 million jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday, marking the third straight month in which hiring fell.

The bureau published detailed jobs data indicating that new job vacancies, gross hiring, and quits were basically flat or slightly down in October.

At just under 5.1 million, hiring is lower than it was a year ago and has been trending lower. That is a sign that labor market "churn" may be slowing, although it comes against the backdrop of strong payroll job growth throughout the fall.

Wednesday's release, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, includes detail on job creation and hiring and firing that isn't available in the monthly jobs report, making it valuable to investors and policymakers even though it is released on a one month lag. One reason gross hiring may be slowing is that there are simply fewer available workers ready to be hired. There were just 7.8 million unemployed workers in October, not far from the pre-recession levels. That meant that for each advertised job opening, there were only 1.4 unemployed workers, a ratio as low as in the days of the housing bubble.

JPMorgan’s Dimon New Head of Business Roundtable

Banker Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), was named Wednesday to succeed Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman as chairman of the Business Roundtable. Dimon will serve a two-year term beginning January 1, 2017.

The Business Roundtable is an association of 192 U.S. company CEOs crossing all sectors of the economy. Dimon joined in 2009 and currently serves on the group’s executive committee as well as the education and workforce, smart regulation, and tax and fiscal policy committees.

In announcing the selection, outgoing chairman Oberhelman said: Jamie is one of the most accomplished business leaders in America. He is a strong and positive force for sound economic policies and the need for a diverse and skilled workforce. His depth of understanding and optimistic vision of America’s future make him exactly the right person to lead the Business Roundtable to work with the new Administration and Congress.

Dimon has already agreed to become one of 16 business leaders to join President-elect Donald Trump’s “President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.” Dimon was also reportedly under consideration to become Secretary of the Treasury, but officially squashed those rumors in mid-November.

Trends of Desperation in Venezuela: Women Now Selling Their Hair For Money

'Another bad quarter' coming from Sears, but the struggling retailer is expected to hold on

Executives are abandoning ship during the critical holiday season. The latest round of store closures is in the works. And a key apparel account just recorded another quarterly sales decline.

Yet despite the slew of negative headlines leading into Sears' fiscal third-quarter earnings report Thursday, the department store chain has reason — and likely, the resources — to hang on after the holidays and through early 2017, when retail bankruptcies are typically filed.

As CEO Eddie Lampert continues to inject funds into the company, the chain has been able to purchase inventory for its stores, while garnering returns for ESL. The company also has roughly 250 unencumbered Kmart and Sears stores that it could sell off, potentially generating some $2.4 billion in proceeds, according to Fitch Ratings.

While such maneuvers are seen by many as temporary ways to plug the hole in Sears' operating losses, they should continue to buy it time. At a national real estate conference in New York City this week, chatter swirled that late 2017 would be the earliest date Sears would file for bankruptcy in order to protect the $2.7 billion in assets it sold to Seritage Growth Properties and through joint venture deals last year.

American Apparel Wants to Close 9 Stores Before Its Bankruptcy Auction

Bankrupt clothing company American Apparel is scrambling to close some of its stores as it looks for a buyer that can preserve at least a portion of its retail business.

The Los Angeles debtor filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware on Wednesday looking for permission to shut down nine stores before the end of the year. A hearing date before Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon has not yet been set.

American Apparel wants to close down locations in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York and the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C., among others. Seattle and Dallas would also be hit with store closures. The debtor said that it would be able to generate about $600,000 in proceeds from closing the unprofitable stores.

"Based on discussions with bidders and in light of the [stores'] financial performance, the debtors do not believe the [stores] will generate any value in a going concern retail sale," American Apparel said in its motion. "Rather, these stores are likely to be left behind by any retail purchaser." American Apparel is pushing for expedited closures of the nine stores so that it can avoid having to pay rent on them in January. The company has previously said in court papers that is losing $1-2 million a week and added in the motion that it could face as much as $200,000 in additional rent payments for January if the store closing sales at the nine locations were to be delayed. The company has 107 retail locations in the U.S.

US Steel wants to accelerate investments, bring back jobs, CEO says

United States Steel would like to accelerate its investments and hire back laid-off employees now that Donald Trump will be occupying the Oval Office, CEO Mario Longhi told CNBC on Wednesday.

"We already structured to do some things, but when you see in the near future improvement to the tax laws, improvements to regulation, those two things by themselves may be a significant driver to what we're going to do," he said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch."

In addition, the belief that the U.S. economy can grow at least 3.5 percent also adds to what the company can do, Longhi noted. "I'd be more than happy to bring back the employees we've been forced to lay off during that depressive period," he said, which could be close to 10,000 jobs.

Shares of the Pittsburgh-based company have soared about 80 percent since Trump's stunning victory on Nov. 8. Investors appear to be betting on increased infrastructure spending, which the president-elect has promised, as well as further restrictions on China-produced steel.

Closer look at SoftBank's pledge of $50B investment in US

IBM launches blockchain ecosystem “to help accelerate the creation of blockchain networks”

“The future growth and adoption of blockchain is reliant upon building a strong ecosystem. Business networks will only reach critical mass when innovators, industry experts and infrastructure providers come together in new ways to reinvent how business transactions happen,” sates Bridget Van Kralingen, SVP, IBM Industry Platforms.

“The growing maturity of the Hyperledger Project code is a major milestone,” she adds. IBM says its programme “is designed for innovators looking to build real networks – venture capitalists, start-ups, systems integrators, independent software vendors and enterprise developers”.

The company says it “will provide education and tools aimed to reduce the time required to go from idea to execution. IBM blockchain professionals will hold ‘office hours’ via the Hyperledger Fabric Slack channel providing support to developers and help with troubleshooting.

“This is in addition to the courses and learning modules for business users and developers already available on developerWorks. These will be augmented with code libraries, smart contract templates and tools currently in development to speed the creation of blockchain apps.”

JPMorgan hit with biggest fine over Euribor fixing

JPMorgan was hit with a nearly $350 million fine for its alleged participation in a bank cartel to manipulate a key financial benchmark rate. The European Commission said on Wednesday it fined three banks — HSBC, Credit Agricole and HSBC — a total of penalty of $520 million for colluding between September 2005 and May 2008 to fix the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, or Euribor.

Euribor is a lending rate set by using quotes submitted by a panel of banks and is widely employed in international money markets. All three banks insisted they had not engaged in any wrongdoing.

“We will continue to vigorously defend our position against these allegations, including through possible appeals to the European courts,” JPMorgan said in a statement.

HSBC said it would consider its legal options. Credit Agricole said it would appeal against the commission’s decision, adding the fine would have no impact on its 2016 results given it had already taken provisions.

Fannie Mae: Americans again expect home prices to start rising

Consumers became more optimistic about the housing market immediately following the election, according to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index. What’s more, the share of Americans who expect home prices will only continue to increase grew four percentage points to 35%, reversing the three-month downward trend.

The HPSI decreased in November for the fourth consecutive month, sliding down 0.5 points to 81.2. Four of the six components of the HPSI decreased. The election created a great divide in confidence levels from before and after election day.

“The November Home Purchase Sentiment Index outcome is difficult to interpret as the data collection period occurred across the Presidential election timeline,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist. “The results are fairly evenly split between responses collected before and after the election, and there is evidence of an increase in consumer optimism in the immediate aftermath of the election.”

Those who said now is a good time to buy a home decreased by one percentage point to 30%, while those who said now is a good time to sell fell by six percentage points to 13% in November. Those who said now is a bad time to sell even rose two percentage points to 38%.

Starbucks To Add 12,000 Cafes; Use Artificial Intelligence In Ordering App

If you were worried you wouldn’t be able to score your customary morning cup of coffee from Starbucks whilst traipsing around the world, worry not: The coffee giant unveiled plans to add 12,000 more stores globally by 2021. Starbucks announced the global expansion efforts this morning as part of the five-year plan presented at the company’s investor conference

The expansion plan aims to nearly double the number of stores to 37,000 cafes over the next five years. A majority of those new stores — about 5,000 — will be located in China, which already operates 2,500 cafes. The company says that it currently opens about one store a day in the country, adding that stores in China will one day eclipse those in the U.S.

Not all of the new locations will be regular old Starbucks cafes, the company said. Instead, it plans to open at least one of its new upscale Reserve Roastery stores in Shanghai next year. Starbucks opened its first Reserve coffee and roasting room in Seattle in 2014, a place that CEO Howard Schultz has described as a “magical coffee ride,” where you can buy roasted limited-supply Reserve coffees that sell for up to $50 per eight-ounce bag.

In other plans to drive business, the company says it will focus more on its food offerings, introducing Sous Vide Egg Bites in January 2017, a Certified Gluten-Free Breakfast Sandwich in the spring; and additional Bistro boxes to add to its lunch lineup.

ISIS rise surprised Obama, US intelligence

ISIS' march across Iraq and Syria -- a campaign that's forced President Barack Obama to return small numbers of US troops to the region, even after touting an end to the decade-long ground offensives there -- came as a surprise to US intelligence, the President told CNN in a new special report.

The terror organization's rise in a tumultuous Middle East has provided Obama some of the toughest decisions of his presidency, choices that CNN's Fareed Zakaria explores in "The Legacy of Barack Obama" airing Wednesday.

"The ability of ISIL to not just mass inside of Syria, but then to initiate major land offensives that took Mosul, for example, that was not on my intelligence radar screen," Obama told Zakaria, using the administration's term for the Islamic State terror group.

As Obama's presidency concludes, it's clearer than ever he'll depart the White House with Syrians facing nearly unyielding misery. The city of Aleppo has become a nightmare for the tens of thousands of Syrians still living there, short on food and medical supplies as cold winter weather sets in. The conflict has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, spurred a destabilizing refugee crisis in Europe, and led to the rise of a terror group that Obama admits he didn't see coming.

Americans Are Paying Apple Millions to Shelter Overseas Profits

Over the years, Apple Inc. has become the poster child for U.S. multinationals accused of sheltering overseas profits to avoid the IRS. What’s gone largely unnoticed is that it’s been paid more than half a billion dollars by the U.S. government to do just that.

Taking advantage of an exemption tucked into America’s Byzantine tax code, Apple stashed much of its foreign earnings—tax-free—right here in the U.S., in part by purchasing government bonds, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. In return, the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest, a Bloomberg review of its regulatory filings shows.

The untold story of Apple and its taxes wends its way from Cork, Ireland, to New York and then Reno, Nevada. But according to tax experts interviewed by Bloomberg News, the maker of iPhones is hardly unique. Many of the biggest U.S. multinationals have seized on the same exemption, which lets them avoid or delay repatriation taxes by buying Treasuries with their overseas cash. (The top 10 alone hold over $100 billion of the bonds.) That, in effect, enables the companies to turn billions of dollars in potential tax liabilities into millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies—all while they publicly bemoan the sky-high taxes that make it impossible for them to bring the money home.

From the government’s standpoint, “it’s as if you are paying someone to borrow a bike that’s actually yours to begin with,” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, a professor who specializes in corporate and international taxation at the University of Michigan Law School. “The whole thing is full of uneasy compromises in order to dance around the reality that most of the money isn’t actually offshore—it’s really here.”

Keiser Report: Restoring Faith in Capitalism

Is the US Workforce Nearing Full Recovery? Don't Trust the Unemployment Rate for the Answer!

We've updated our monthly workforce analysis to include last week's Employment Report for November. The unemployment rate beat expectations by dropping from 4.9% to 4.6%, and the number of new nonfarm jobs (a relatively volatile number subject to extensive revisions) was above forecast at 178K. A decline in the unemployment rate is a good thing, right? Not in the November employment report.

The closely watched headline unemployment rate is a calculation of the percentage of the Civilian Labor Force, age 16 and older, that is currently unemployed. Let's put this metric into its historical context. The first chart below illustrates this monthly data point since 1990.

In the latest data, this indicator dropped to 4.6%. The age 16+ population grew by 219 thousand, but the labor force (the employed and unemployed actively seeking employment) more than offset that growth with a shrinkage of 226 thousand. The the number of employed grew by 160 thousand while 387 thousand unemployed vanished. How can that be? Obviously, the lion's share of the unemployed didn't join the ranks of the employed. They simply disappeared from the labor force.

Let's look at the same statistic for the core workforce, ages 25-54. This cohort leaves out the employment volatility of the high-school and college years, the lower employment of the retirement years and also the age 55-64 decade when many in the workforce begin transitioning to retirement ... for example, two income households that downsize into one-income households. In the latest data, this indicator has dropped to 4.0% from 4.2% the previous month. The cohort population grew by 37 thousand, but the labor force shrank by a whopping 231 thousand! The breakdown of the shrinkage is 9 thousand employed, and 222 thousand unemployed. Here we can clearly surmise that the 0.2% drop in the employment rate was the result of the unemployed leaving the labor force.

Privacy Advocates Want Uber To Stop Tracking Users After Rides End

After Uber introduced a controversial app update that tracks users’ locations even when they’re not using the app, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading privacy group, has asked the company roll it back.

In the updated version of its app, Uber offers users two options: you can either allow Uber to always track your location (though the company says it will only track users for five minutes after a ride ends), or you can turn off the app’s tracking entirely. That means you’d have to manually enter your pickup location when requesting rides.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has asked Uber to return to an option that allows users to only share their location while using the app – not afterward, Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director and general counsel at EFF, told BuzzFeed News.

“Tracking you five minutes after you have been dropped off — some people might have very legitimate reasons why they don’t want a record about that,” Opsahl said. “They may be concerned about getting into some database about their location and may get dropped off across the street. It’s sad to take that away.”

NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

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