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Monday 02.06.2017

Michael Wolff says media is 'having a nervous breakdown' over Trump

Media columnist Michael Wolff says journalists are "having a nervous breakdown" as they attempt to cover President Trump. The Hollywood Reporter columnist and Newsweek writer told CNN's Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" Sunday that the press goes into a "fit of apoplexy" after every move from the White House -- an overreaction he said damages the media's credibility.

"As we try to go after his credibility, our credibility becomes equally a problem," Wolff said. "I think individual journalists are, in many cases, having a nervous breakdown." Wolff included Stelter in that analysis.

In a Newsweek column last week, Wolff wrote that Stelter "turns to the camera every Sunday morning and delivers a pious sermon about Trump's perfidiousness." Stelter asked Wolff on Sunday: "Do you feel that my style is wrong, or my substance is wrong, trying to fact-check the president?"

Wolff countered: "I think you can border on being, sort of, quite a ridiculous figure. It's not a good look to repeatedly and self righteously defend your own self interests." Wolff also said he thinks the media "does not need defending by the media." And he characterized the Trump administration and the opportunity for reporters to cover it as a "golden media age."

Crime Deterrent Or Inconvenience? Coffee Shop Goes Cashless

After being robbed a handful of times in the past few months, one Baltimore coffee shop is no longer accepting cash to stop the robberies and keep their staff safe.

Nowadays, many people don’t carry cash in their wallets day-to-day, and at Park Cafe in Bolton Hill, cash payments are no longer on the menu. “We’re not going to accept cash anymore,” said Park Cafe & Coffee owner David Hart. “I’m going to take that out of the equation.”

Park Cafe was robbed five times from October to January. While the armed suspect is now behind bars, those crimes pushed Hart to ditch the cash drawer altogether. Most patrons are on board.

“I would say virtually 90 percent of them have said, ‘Listen, you needed to do what you needed to do to protect yourself and protect your staff. We will continue to support you,'” said Hart. Hart said cash normally makes up 22 percent of Park Cafe’s revenue, but so far, they haven’t seen any change in their income since going cashless. The coffee shop is working with a church and local pharmacy to find solutions for customers who only carry cash.

A Punch To The Face For Central Banks The return of volatility may just deliver that

Grant Williams warns that over the past seven years, the various financial markets around the globe have melded into a single world market dominated by trading algorithms and the central banks. This new system only knows how to operate effectively in one direction: Up.

Grant is very concerned that a return of volatility will act as a wrench tossed into the gears, quickly throwing the world financial system into panic.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the incredible amount of counterintuitive moves that we see in markets. It’s all inextricability linked to the rise of computer trading. Once you get momentum, markets start going up based on the back of algorithms. Then we start to see the day traders coming on the back of it, and everyone starts to gain confidence.

Markets are global now. There really is only one equity market around the world, certainly when they’re going up. We’ll see when markets turn and start to go down. And I think that’s definitely something we need to talk about because I suspect it will be very, very different market action when this trend turns.

No President Will Escape Fed's Debt Bomb - Schiff and Santelli Discuss

State Minimum Wage Increases Cost 1.8 Million Jobs So Far

State minimum wage increases phasing in around the country will result in 1.8 million job losses with "minimal" increases in workers' salaries, a report from the American Action Forum reports.

According to the center-right group, 22 states and the District of Columbia will implement minimum wage increases this year – but it'll come at a cost of 383,000 job losses.

"The full minimum wage increases over the next several years will cost 1.8 million jobs," policy analysts Ben Gitis and Curtis Arndt contend. "When combined with recent previous minimum wage increases in some of the same states, the total loss comes out to 2.6 million jobs."

"In the end, the additional earnings transferred from the job losers to the job keepers are minimal," and under minimum wage increases, "for each job loss, total wage earnings only rise by $6,900," the report states. The proposals to raise the minimum wage are "well-intended," the authors write. However, they argue, "it is important to consider the negative labor market consequences."

U.S. refiners face weakening demand at pump for first time in 5 years

U.S. refiners are facing the prospects of weakening gasoline demand for the first time in five years, stoking fears that earnings this year may be even worse than the dismal performances seen in 2016.

The sign of weakening U.S. gasoline demand comes as U.S. refiners are in the midst of reporting their worst year of earnings since the U.S. shale boom started in 2011. The oil boom turned to bust in 2014, and U.S. independent refiners reaped the profits as plunging pump prices and a growing economy helped fuel a surge in demand.

U.S. refiners amassed large inventories that punished margins last year, but record gasoline demand and robust exports helped provided a firewall against further slippage. Now the industry faces the prospects of higher crude prices following global production cuts and fresh federal data that suggests their gasoline demand safety net may be eroding.

“We are very cautious on refining margins, and on demand," Sarah Emerson, a managing principal at ESAI Energy LLC, said. "When oil prices goes up, gasoline demand is going to go down.” The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that the four-week average of gasoline supplied in the United States was 8.2 million barrels per day, lowest since February 2012. U.S. gasoline demand is closely watched by traders since it accounts for roughly 10 percent of global consumption.

Wall St. Lending to Main St. Even as Many Decry Dodd-Frank

President Donald Trump has wasted little time in beginning a push to reverse the stricter banking regulations enacted after the 2008 financial crisis. Trump has branded the Dodd-Frank Act "a disaster" — a regulatory overreach that slowed the economy and stifled lending to consumers and businesses.

Dodd-Frank did impose tighter curbs on U.S. banks and how they operate. And the restrictions fell particularly hard on community banks. Yet it's also true that by just much every measure, the U.S. economy is healthier now: The job market is solid. The housing market has largely rebounded. And the banking system, which nearly collapsed at the height of the crisis, is safer and sturdier.

The Dodd-Frank Act took effect in 2010, a response to reckless risk-taking by banks that inflated a housing bubble, kindled the financial crisis and eventually required a $700 billion taxpayer bailout. The law was designed, most broadly, to guard against another catastrophe.

But Republicans in Congress, emboldened Wall Street lobbyists and the Trump White House argue that the law went too far and want to roll back many of the regulations. Just as vociferously, defenders of Dodd-Frank say it remains a critically important bulwark against excessive financial risk-taking and should stay intact.

Biggest U.S. Asphalt Plant Shuts Just as Trump Plans Road Building

Axeon Specialty Products LLC is shuttering the U.S. largest asphalt refinery when the country might need it the most.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based company announced last month it plans to close its Paulsboro, New Jersey, refinery, and convert it into a terminal. The planned shutdown comes as President Donald Trump has pledged to build new roads, highways and bridges across the country. The U.S. would need 63% more asphalt than its consumes now just to pave roads at the rate it reached a decade ago, Energy Information Administration data show.

Any new road building runs up against the question of funding, and a simple pledge isn’t enough to keep Axeon’s plant running, Gurpal Dosanjh, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said in a phone call from New York.

“It’s very difficult for any company to base its future on a one-sentence policy,” he said. “I don’t think it's too surprising it closed.” U.S. consumption of the road sealant, measured in product supplied, fell to 335,000 barrels a day last year from 343,000 in 2015, Energy Information Administration data show. Demand has fallen since reaching 546,000 in 2005, the second biggest year on record after 1999. U.S. refiners have also been producing less, with domestic output dropping a yearly 2.1 percent to 333,000 in the first 11 months of last year.

Trump preparing for showdown over travel ban

Michigan leads effort to shift workers away from pensions

Struggling under the weight of pension and health care obligations, Michigan lawmakers appear ready to take another whack at public employee benefits — a move that reflects renewed determination to shift workers to 401(k)-style retirement systems, even if it happens in baby steps.

Other states have made more modest changes, but the latest push shows that conservatives want to approve big reforms 20 years after Michigan became the first state to close pensions to future state workers. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is pressing to address $14 billion in unfunded liabilities, mostly from retiree medical costs, spread across more than 330 communities.

“As a state, we cannot get ahead if too many of our local communities have problems,” he said. The proposals could serve as a national blueprint, and they will provoke a pitched battle with public unions that are desperate to preserve traditional benefits.

Michigan is taking a leading role because of its size and the fact that GOP legislators and Snyder turned what was once a stronghold of organized labor into a right-to-work state. They also forced teachers and state employees to contribute a portion of their paychecks to avoid receiving smaller pensions in retirement.

Deutsche Bank Purchases Ads to Apologize for ‘Serious Errors’

Deutsche Bank AG bought full-page ads in all major German newspapers over the weekend to apologize for “serious errors” after two years of losses that cost the lender billions of euros.

Legal cases that date back many years cost the Frankfurt-based company “reputation and trust” in addition to about 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) since John Cryan took over as chief executive officer in 2015, the ad said, blaming the “misconduct of a few” employees.

Cryan, who signed on behalf to the executive board, expressed “our deep regret” that “the conduct of the bank didn’t follow our standards” in relation to the U.S. mortgage business in 2005 to 2007 and was “unacceptable.”

Deutsche Bank has said it could sell stock to shore up capital after reporting a net loss of 1.89 billion euros in the quarter ended in December. Comments by Chief Financial Officer Marcus Schenck on Thursday are the strongest indication yet that the lender is considering turning to shareholders as misconduct fines weigh on earnings.

Tiffany CEO Out After Less Than 2 Years Because of Poor Sales

Another day, another retail CEO departure.

Tiffany & Co. stunned the jewelry world on Sunday by announcing that its CEO Frédéric Cuménal was out of a job immediately after only 22 months, blaming weak sales results, with no successor lined up.

Cuménal — a Frenchman who joined Tiffany in 2011 to oversee worldwide sales and distribution and later also took on design, merchandising and marketing functions before becoming CEO in April 2015 — will be replaced on an interim basis by the New York jeweler's longtime former CEO and current chairman Michael Kowalski while it looks for a new CEO.

"The board is committed to our current core business strategies, but has been disappointed by recent financial results," Kowalski said in a statement. The board also took fault with the slow pace of implementation of strategies to address longtime vulnerable spots for Tiffany. Those include its silver jewelry priced for less than $500, which makes up about a quarter of its sales, and its fashion jewelry. On Cuménal's watch, Tiffany's shares fell 9%.

Clif High-March Chaotic for Dollar & Bonds & 2017 Truth Bombs

Why Gold is the Ace Up Trump’s Sleeve

Trends are born, they grow, mature, reach old age and die… The Donald Trump, businessman/reality show star turned President of the United States trend has just been born. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Never in modern history has the nation stood so divided and nations across the globe so alarmed following the election of the leader of the world’s largest economy and most powerful military. And with each passing day, social tensions rise, equity markets tremble and geopolitical uncertainty grows with each new executive order, accusation, proclamation and tweet. People are taking to the streets.

Immediately following Trump’s inauguration, The Women’s March of nearly 5 million women and men across America and throughout much of the western world took a stand, vowing to protect “our rights, our safety, our health, and our families… and that women’s rights are human rights.”

Just a week later, following Trump’s executive order to restrict immigration into the US from seven Muslim-majority countries, mass demonstrations spontaneously erupted across America. From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, CEOs condemned Trump’s travel-ban directive. In response, equity markets shuddered and gold prices rose. The Wall Street Journal wrote on Jan. 31: “Travel Upheaval Sets Back Stocks. U.S. stocks stumbled, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average in its worst day since the election.”

Consumer Bankruptcies Rise for the First Time since 2010

US bankruptcy filings by consumers rose 5.4% in January, compared to January last year, to 52,421 according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. In December, they’d already risen 4.5% from a year earlier. This was the first time that consumer bankruptcies increased back-to-back since 2010.

However, business bankruptcies began to surge in November 2015 and continued surging on a year-over-year basis in 2016, to reach a full-year total of 37,823 filings, up 26% from the prior year and the highest since 2014. Retailers and companies affiliated with the energy sector, in particular, were sinking deeper into the mire.

Throughout that time, consumer bankruptcy filings continued to decline year-over-year until November 2016. And that was the low point. Then credit stress began to exert its pressure and became apparent in the official channels, when arising number of consumers started throwing in the towel over the past two months to seek protection from creditors in bankruptcy court.

Total bankruptcy filings by consumers and businesses have now also risen year-over-year for two months in a row, for the first time since 2010. Bankruptcy filings are highly seasonal, reaching their annual lows in December and January. Then they spike into tax season, peak in March, and zigzag lower for the remainder of the year. The data is not seasonally or otherwise adjusted. It’s raw and unvarnished, with large seasonal swings.

Trump: ObamaCare plan could take until next year

President Trump said Sunday that it could take “sometime into next year” until his ObamaCare replacement plan is ready, a slower timetable than he and other Republicans have put forward in the past.

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly asked Trump in an interview before the Super Bowl if Americans can “expect a new healthcare plan rolled out by the Trump Administration this year.”

“Yes, in the process and maybe it’ll take till sometime into next year but we’re certainly going to be in the process,” Trump replied. “You have to remember Obamacare doesn’t work so we are putting in a wonderful plan,” he added.

“It statutorily takes a while to get. We’re going to be putting it in fairly soon, I think that yes I would like to say by the end of the year at least the rudiments but we should have something within the year and the following year.” In contrast, last month, Trump said he would be putting forward a plan shortly after his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), is approved by the Senate, a far faster timetable.

A Trump Fed Is A-Coming

For much of the last week, people have been focusing by and large on the Fed's rate decision, excessively so in my opinion. Here's why - the stakes for the Fed are much higher in 2017 now that President Trump is in office.

For one, the Fed governor merry-go-round is about to begin - Yellen's chairmanship is soon ending along with three oncoming vacancies. In addition, note that two governor posts are already vacant.

Now the person who is responsible not only for these appointments but ultimately the future path of US monetary policy is President Trump himself. Through the power of appointment, he holds sway over the Fed's hawkish or dovish leanings going forward and thus, where the USD ends up. Speculation over the next Fed Chair hasn't quite heated up yet but Trump's choice for one of the two vacant seats could indicate the future chairmanship appointment.

In the meantime, the uncertainty stemming from the prospects of Fed governor reappointments will lead to heightened volatility in the markets. Looking back, the Bernanke Fed replacements drove a rally in UST yields. Going by Trump's unfavourable comments about Yellen, it is very likely that the Yellen Fed replacements will drive a major change in the path of Fed policy and by extension, UST yields and the dollar.

Mega-Skyscrapers Are A Sign Of Economic Collapse

Invention That Allows Robots to Make Clothes

Today, sewing relies on the low-tech power of human hands, but soon that may not be the case. Human workers are still needed for the final steps of making clothes, in order to align fabrics and correctly feed them into sewing machines. If robots could do that instead, shock waves of change would surely ripple through global supply chains and disrupt the lives of millions of low-wage earners in the developing world.

For better or worse, plenty of technologists, researchers, and companies are working on the challenge—but so far, getting robots to navigate the imprecisions of flimsy textile materials that easily bend has proven elusive.

One promising solution, though, has come from an unlikely place: the sleepless brain of Jonathan Zornow, a young freelance web developer with no previous background in robotics, manufacturing, or the apparel business. His project, Sewbo, recently demonstrated the world’s first robotically sewn garment, and the inspiration came while watching a late-night Science Channel show called How It’s Made.

“I would watch How It’s Made to help me fall asleep at night, because I found it meditative and soothing to see the machines performing constant repetitive tasks,” Zornow told me. “In one episode they did blue jeans. In this case there were no machines doing serene repetitive motions. There were people involved every step along the way, and rather than help me fall asleep, it kept me up.”

Brick-and-mortar stores are latest victim of online retailers

Retailers swung the ax last month, representing all four of the top major job-cut announcements tallied by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Retail’s sea change from brick-and-mortar stores employing hundreds of people on sales floors to nimbler online sellers is just one example of the rapidly shifting employment landscape nationwide and in New York.

The city’s unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2 percent from a high of 10.2 percent in October 2009 and November 2009, during the Great Recession.

Big growth in the past decade has come in the fields of health care and social assistance, science and technology, education and leisure/hospitality. The FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate) — a traditionally higher-paying stalwart of the local economy — faltered, as did the manufacturing sector.

NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

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