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Monday 10.31.2016

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority: Metro budget cuts 1,000 jobs, increases fares and wait times

In what Metro is calling it a “reality check,” the $1.8 billion budget that general manager Paul Wiedefeld has just proposed for the 2018 fiscal year includes cuts to service and staffing to reflect the realities of the transit system’s financial situation and declining ridership.

Under the “austere recommendation” released Sunday, 1,000 employees throughout the system would be laid off. There would also be cuts to employee healthcare expenses. And it would bring about significant changes to the rail schedule if the budget is enacted.

The proposal, which needs to be approved by the Metro Board of Directors, would see Metrorail trains run every eight minutes during peak periods instead of the current six minute gaps. However trains would operate every two to four minutes at stations served by multiple lines in the Metro system core.

Blue Line riders stand to actually benefit. With Rush+ eliminated under the plan, Blue Line trains would also run every eight minutes instead of the current 12 minute gap during rush hour. Off-peak service, which would include middays, evenings and weekends, would see trains run every 15 minutes.

BT CEO: 'It's possible that 80% of the jobs people do today won't exist in the future'

The CEO of BT thinks the global jobs market is on "the cusp of a radical transformation."

Speaking at the second annual HSBC Innovation Summit in London on Friday, Gavin Patterson said: "It's a combination of ubiquitous networks, ubiquitous data, ubiquitous processing capabilities, sensors in everything, augmented reality, virtual reality — the future looks very, very different.

"Frankly, it's quite possible that 80% of the jobs that people do today won't exist in the future. It's not quite clear where we go from here." This is a big claim coming from a man whose company employees over 80,000 people. Stuart Gulliver, the CEO of HSBC, agreed with Patterson's point. HSBC employees over 265,000 people globally.

Gulliver, who was on the panel with Patterson, said: "It's unlikely that there will be the same number of jobs in today's skill set in five years time." The World Economic Forum claims the world is on the cusp of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," caused by the rise of robots and artificial intelligence. WEF estimates that these technologies could potentially put 5 million people out of work by 2020.

Gundlach: 'Look Out' for Exploding US Deficits

Bad times lie ahead for bondholders as rising inflation and resurging deficits conspire to drive up interest rates, according to Jeffrey Gundlach.

“We’re in the eye of a hurricane for the next three to four years,” Gundlach, chief executive officer of DoubleLine Capital, said recently at the Impact 2016 conference hosted by Charles Schwab Corp. in San Diego. “Come 2018, 2019 and 2020, look out!”

Gundlach, 56, has recommended that investors stay on the defensive by reducing exposure to longer-duration securities. The manager, whose firm is based in Los Angeles, has favored emerging-market debt over high-yield bonds amid concern that oil prices will plateau and threaten energy companies’ ability to repay debt. He’s also warned that stocks have more downside than upside.

Gundlach’s $61.8 billion DoubleLine Total Return Bond Fund is up 3.9 percent this year, beating 73 percent of its Bloomberg peers. Unlike many active fund managers, he has continued to attract money, reporting $11.8 billion in inflows this year through September to DoubleLine’s open-end mutual funds.

The Dark Art of Political Intimidation

Facebook Is America’s Fastest Growing Company

Advancements in internet access, computer processing power, data storage capacity, and other technological developments around the world have helped fuel rapid growth in Silicon Valley and in companies across the U.S. tech sector.

To determine the fastest growing companies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most recent three-year annual revenue changes of S&P 500 companies. Facebook grew the most of any company, from $5.09 billion in revenue in fiscal 2012 to $17.93 billion in fiscal 2015. Based on its 252.3% revenue growth in the last three years, Facebook is America’s fastest growing company.

Facebook earns a majority of its revenue through advertising. The major driver of revenue growth in recent years has been mobile advertising revenue, which grew from 65% of Facebook’s total revenue in 2014 to 77% in 2015. An average of 934 million users a day accessed Facebook on a mobile device in December 2015, up 25% from December 2014.

Over the three years ending in December 2015, Facebook reported the fastest growth in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in India. Daily active users in the region more than doubled, from 153 million in December 2012 to 309 million in December 2015, while average daily active users in the U.S. and Canada grew by 25% over the same period. Facebook also posted significant growth in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, where average daily active users grew from 161 million in December 2012 to 319 million three years later.

Solving Social Security woes involve 'a complex set of tradeoffs'

For 81 years, it's been a financial safety net for retirees. But in just 18 years, Social Security could run out of money. Current projections show in 2034, the Social Security trust funds could be broke. While the program is facing a long term funding shortfall, millions of current retirees who rely on Social Security benefits are struggling to stretch those dollars.

Next year the Social Security Administration's cost of living (COLA) increase will be just 0.3 percent. For the average senior that would increase their monthly benefits check by $4. Last year, however, there was no cost of living increase at all.

Why is the cost of living increase so small? "The simple answer is inflation is very low," New York Times writer Neil Irwin explained to CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview. "Energy prices have been falling, food prices have fallen some," Irwin said. "Therefore there's a very low cost increase."

The COLA is based on the Consumer Price index, a basket of goods and services tracked by the federal government. Increases have ranged from more than 14 percent in 1980 to last year's zero change. Despite relatively low fuel and food prices, The Times' Senior Economic Correspondent said there's "plenty of costs that especially seniors — especially people on Social Security receive — that are rising faster than that, health care is a big one."

Americans will drop a record-breaking $8.4 billion on Halloween this year

Despite a chaotic presidential election — or perhaps because of it — Americans will spend a record-breaking $8.4 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

And no wonder. An estimated 171 million Americans — 69 percent of the country — plan to celebrate the holiday, dropping on average about $83 on costumes, candy, assorted decorations and party supplies.

Costumes, in fact, account for $3.1 billion of the total. Half of U.S. adults plan to wear costumes, and 17 percent will dress their pets up. The top themes for adult costumes are superheroes of every persuasion, plus vampires, witches, pirates, political characters and animals.

Speaking of animals, the most popular pet costume of all is a pumpkin, followed by hot dog, bumblebee, lion, devil and Batman. Superhero themes now reign supreme for kids, both boys and girls alike. “Why such interest in Halloween? In the era of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, there is no hiding a bad costume — and a clever costume makes for a buzzworthy addition to digital timelines,” explains Allison Zeller, an analyst for the consumer group.

Sports equipment company to file bankruptcy

Performance Sports Group, the marker of Bauer hockey equipment and Easton baseball equipment, is planning to file for bankruptcy by Monday, The Post has learned. Creditors owed $450 million had given the cash-strapped business until Friday to comply with its loan covenants.

PSG’s shares fell 7 percent Friday to close at $3.48, as investors waited to see what would happen. The Bronfman family’s Brookfield Capital Group, together with PSG creditor and shareholder Sagard Capital Partners, plan to take over the company in a pre-packaged bankruptcy, a sources close to the matter said.

The expected pre-pack reorganization, if it happens, sets up the Brookfield-Sagard team in a face-off against former PSG Chairman Graeme Roustan. Roustan has said publicly he would like to bid for PSG, and has alleged that Sagard should not have nominated its employee, Paul Desmarais, to the PSG board because the firm also has a leading stake in Adidas.

Adidas owns hockey equipment maker CCM, a Bauer rival. In July, PSG said it was the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. The Post reported exclusively in March on alleged revenue misstatements at the company.

Game of Central Banks – Why Currency Printing Could Be $400 billion A Month

During the last 40 years, central banks have gained power they previously could only fantasize about. They were given full control over the currency supply and interest rates. These are the tools to plan booms and depressions. Thanks to such a great authority banks could create economic bubbles and their inevitable bursts. The result is one of the biggest capital migration in history from the middle class to 1% advantaged with access to particular data in advance.

Remnants of the gold standard limited bankers until 1971 but for 40 years they enjoyed free reign with no government nor society being able to meaningfully control them. You must have heard this line that a central bank “has to be fully independent” – by default, it has to be independent from the society.

The last link to the gold standard fell in 1971 and since investment banks and central banks have enjoyed an ever-growing influence. Careless actions and privileged position led to a drastic jump in risk and the first serious crisis in 1998. The first domino to fall was the bankruptcy of Long-Term Capital Management – an investment fund managed by two Nobel Prize winners. Instead of letting this institution fail, lobbyists pushed the government to save it. The message for senior executives on Wall Street was clear. It does not matter how big the risk is, someone will have to save us. At the end of the day, we are too important to be left behind.

As a natural consequence. crises in 2001 and 2007 followed previously laid scenario. The government saved bankrupted entities with taxpayer’s money while central banks lowered interest rates and showered capital markets with additional funds to gamble with. The reason behind the crisis became the bitter cure for financial disasters.

If Hillary Clinton Is Charged With Obstruction Of Justice She Could Go To Prison For 20 Years

In the world of politics, the cover-up is often worse than the original crime. It was his role in the Watergate cover-up that took down Richard Nixon, and now Hillary Clinton’s cover-up of her email scandal could send her to prison for a very, very long time. When news broke that the FBI has renewed its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, it sent shockwaves throughout the political world. But this time around, we aren’t just talking about an investigation into the mishandling of classified documents. I haven’t heard anyone talking about this, but if the FBI discovers that Hillary Clinton altered, destroyed or concealed any emails that should have been turned over to the FBI during the original investigation, she could be charged with obstruction of justice. That would immediately end her political career, and if she was found guilty it could send her to prison for the rest of her life.

I have not seen a single news report mention the phrase “obstruction of justice” yet, but I am convinced that there is a very good chance that this is where this scandal is heading. The following is the relevant part of the federal statute that deals with obstruction of justice…

Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsified, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under Title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

If Hillary Clinton is sent to prison for 20 years, that would essentially be for the rest of her life. I have a feeling that the FBI is going to find a great deal of evidence of obstruction of justice in Huma Abedin’s emails. But unfortunately there is not likely to be a resolution to this matter before November 8th, because according to the Wall Street Journal there are approximately 650,000 emails to search through.

Democrats Used to Really Love FBI Director James Comey

Honeywell Downsizes Annual Bizjet Delivery Forecast

Honeywell Aerospace has lowered its annual 10-year business jet delivery forecast forecast to 8,600 aircraft worth an approximate $255 billion. The avionics and engine maker’s 25th annual Global Business Aviation Outlook, released on the eve of NBAA 2016, is down approximately 6 percent from last year’s demand forecast of 9,200 units worldwide.

“We continue to see relatively slow economic growth projections in many mature business jet markets,” said Brian Sill, president of commercial aviation for Honeywell Aerospace. “While developed economies are generally faring better, commodities demand, foreign exchange and political uncertainties remain as concerns.” For this year, the company estimates worldwide deliveries of 650 to 675 new private jets, down from last year’s tally of 693. According to the report, the decrease is largely due to slower order rates for mature models and stabilization in aircraft deliveries to fractional providers.

Honeywell forecasts a further slight decline in 2017 before it expects deliveries will begin to pick up in 2018 on the strength of several new aircraft entering service.

Each year the company surveys hundreds of business aircraft operators to gain insight into their buying plans over the next five years. This provides the basis for the forecast, which is also based on a number of statistical models past the five-year survey window. “What we ask them is if they have a plan to buy a new airplane either to replace a current aircraft or expand your fleet in the next five years,” said Charles Park, Honeywell Aerospace’s director of market analysis. “If yes, what model and year would you most likely want to take delivery of the aircraft so we can get a timing factor on it, and usually when they time them later in that five-year window there’s less certainty associated with it.”

Stock buyback binge running out of steam?

Google parent Alphabet announced a $7 billion buyback after the close. That got a lot of attention, but the buyback trend has been declining all year.

That $7 billion buyback would reduce Alphabet's share count by about 1.4 percent if fully implemented. Alphabet buys back shares fairly regularly in the last year ... about $5.5 billion in the last three quarters.

Still, buyback activity has been muted recently. Announced buybacks are down 30 percent for the first 10 months of the year compared to last year, according to TrimTabs. And actual share repurchases — what companies are really buying back, rather than just announcements — in the second quarter were down 6.8 percent compared to the same period last year, the smallest quarterly buyback total since the third quarter of 2013, according to FactSet.

It's not any better in the third quarter. With almost half of the companies reporting for the third quarter, actual buybacks are down 6 percent from the second quarter, and down 26 percent over the same period last year, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The Odor of Desperation

It must be obvious even to nine-year-old casual observers of the scene that the U.S. national election is hacking itself. It doesn’t require hacking assistance from any other entity. The two major parties could not have found worse candidates for president, and the struggle between them has turned into the most sordid public spectacle in U.S. electoral history.

Of course, the Russian hacking blame-game story emanates from the security apparatus controlled by a Democratic Party executive establishment desperate to preserve its perks and privileges (I write as a still-registered-but-disaffected Democrat).

The reams of released emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and other figures in HRC’s employ, depict a record of tactical mendacity, a gleeful eagerness to lie to the public, and a disregard for the world’s opinion that are plenty bad enough on their own. And Trump’s own fantastic gift for blunder could hardly be improved on by a meddling foreign power. The U.S. political system is blowing itself to pieces.

The “tell” in these late stages of the campaign has been the demonization of Russia — a way more idiotic exercise than the McCarthyite Cold War hysteria of the early 1950s, since there is no longer any ideological conflict between us and all the evidence indicates that the current state of bad relations is America’s fault. In particular, our sponsorship of the state failure in Ukraine and our avid deployment of NATO forces in war games on Russia’s border.

VW's Switch to Electric Cars to Cost Over 10,000 Jobs: Report

Germany—Volkswagen plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs in coming years as the German auto giant switches its focus to making electric cars in the wake of the "dieselgate" scandal, a top executive has said.

"It's not about dismantling a few hundred jobs," VW's head of human resources Karlheinz Blessing told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Saturday edition.

"Over the years, it will amount to a five-digit figure around the world." VW has turned its attention to clean-energy electric cars as it seeks to move on from last year's massive emissions cheating scandal, which saw the group admit to fitting 11 million diesel vehicles with software designed to dupe pollution tests.

But electric cars require fewer components than combustion-engine vehicles, meaning fewer employees are needed in the long term, Blessing was quoted as saying. He added however that there would be no forced dismissals.

Silver the Metal to Own-Huge Demand Coming

Walt Disney Company Goes Big On Blockchain

The Walt Disney Company is #71 of the top 2000 companies in the world ranked by Forbes. It has an annual revenue in the tens of billions of dollars, assets near 100 billion dollars, and recently developed a keen interest in blockchain technology for use within its massive organization, which includes online retail, television endeavors, and, of course, their world-famous theme parks.

The most obvious benefit of a blockchain system is easier tracking of inventories, sales, shipments, and even people in the case of the parks, but Dragonchain innovates on existing blockchain implementations. According to their design document, they introduce something called “context-based verification.” Their blockchain will have various types of nodes, and a “level 5” of these nodes will interact with an existing public blockchain like Bitcoin, notably providing a “public checkpoint” or “proof of existence” for the blocks within the permissioned ledger.

The other levels of the Dragonchain should be noted for understanding. The first level is the business node, which will process transactions and be able to determine whether a transaction is approved or declined. Level two is an enterprise verification node, which can determine the validity of data submitted by level one nodes.

The purpose of the level three nodes is to ensure requisite diversity of sources of information – it acts as a check against errant nodes which may be compromised, for one thing.

Here’s What Happened When a Seattle Bar Went Completely Cashless

When Sam Largent opened his second bar in the Seattle area, he thought he’d take a bold risk: No cash allowed. Well, no physical currency, anyway. All customers must pay with plastic. Debit and credit only; no greenbacks welcome.

“Dealing with cash brings a lot of issues,” says Largent. Like making change, reconciling at the end of each wait staff shift, going to the bank. “If the till is short at the end of the night, it’s usually a simple error, but it can take half an hour to find.”

Largent opened his first bar, Flatstick Pub, with his brother Andy back in 2014. Located on Seattle’s posh east side, not far from Microsoft headquarters, it’s a relaxed place that serves only local microbrews and includes a nine-hole mini-golf course. And, it took cash. But when the brothers eyed a second spot in Seattle’s Pioneers Square, near downtown, crime concerns were a factor. And that helped tip the no-cash scales. When the second Flatstick opened this June, it was a “cards only” establishment.

“I’d seen a few other places do it, so I thought we’d try it,” Largent said. He anticipated complaints, but he got hardly any. Things went so well that the original Flatstick went “cards only” this month. “There was a little more pushback there, because we had been taking cash there. But overall, it’s working out well,” he said. So well that the additional credit card transaction fees are worth it. “I like the idea from any efficiency standpoint.”

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