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Thursday 04.17.2014

Gold lifts on Ukraine conflict concerns
Gold futures prices are up 0.3 per cent as fears of armed conflict over Ukraine outweigh concern China's demand for the metal will wane. Gold prices have edged higher as worries about rising tensions in Eastern Europe slightly outweigh expectations of decreased demand for the precious metal in China. Gold for June delivery, the most actively traded contract, closed up 0.3 per cent, or $US3.20, at $US1,303.50 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The crisis in Ukraine has some investors concerned that it could evolve into a fight between Russia and the West. Those investors are buying gold in the belief it will hold its value if the crisis spreads. Ukraine's military fired its first shots on Tuesday in the fight to regain control of its restive east from pro-Russian separatists, as soldiers repelled an armed mob from a military air base.

US Inflation Up in March on Food, Rent Costs; Inflation Rate at 1.5%
Inflation in the United States pushed up in March as higher costs in food and shelter offset lower energy prices, newly released Consumer Price Index (CPI) data from the US government shows. Most Americans are now very familiar with conditions common to this year, having to pay much more at grocery stores while enjoying some reprieve in prices at the pump. The latter condition is likely to change with summer approaching. US consumer prices advanced 0.2% in March following a more modest 0.1% pick-up in February, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Tuesday, April 15, in its monthly issued CPI report. The CPI measures the change in prices that consumers pay for a select group of goods and services.

Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance
Walmart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, according to a report published to coincide with Tax Day, April 15. Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups, made this estimate using data from a 2013 study by Democratic Staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce. “The study estimated the cost to Wisconsin’s taxpayers of Walmart’s low wages and benefits, which often force workers to rely on various public assistance programs,” reads the report. “It found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.”

Russian and Ukraine Forces Clash

Obama, Biden To Announce $600 Million For Job Grants
Striving to show action on jobs, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are hitting the road to trumpet $600 million in new competitive grants to spur creation of targeted training and apprenticeship programs that could help people land well-paying jobs. They were making the announcement Wednesday at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in the western Pennsylvania borough of Oakdale. Administration officials say they hear from too many businesses that they cannot find skilled workers for jobs they need to fill. On top of that, officials say many people who are looking for work may be open to learning new skills but need assurance that a job will be waiting for them at the end of a training program. Obama and others in the administration often say community colleges are among the best sources for job training and say learn-on-the-job apprenticeship programs provide some of the most direct paths to well-paying jobs.

This Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Corn Dog Is 3,000 Calories—and Only in Arizona
The “D-bat Dog” is an 18-inch corn dog in Arizona that’s pumped full of cheddar cheese and wrapped in bacon. Alone, it weighs in at about 1 pound, but it’s served on top of another pound of fries. Sounds overwhelming, but fans seem to love the gargantuan, $25 corn dog, created for the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field. Michael Snoke, executive chef for ballpark concessionaire Levy Restaurants, takes full responsibility for the aggressively large meat stick. “People are just buying it like crazy,” the jovial chef says. The stadium has sold 120 to 350 D-bat Dogs per game so far. Although regular dogs are still the most popular, the concessions have been selling more of the novelty items than they expected: Snoke says they “blew through” the 300 D-bat Dogs they prepared for Opening Day. ”Because the [preparation] process takes so long, it’s hard to keep up after that.”

Wage Rage: How Good Intentions Lead to Unemployment

Oil and gas production on federal lands is in free fall under Obama
Oil and gas production has stalled on federal lands for the third year in a row under the Obama administration, despite booming energy production on private and state lands, according to a new government report. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) says that the share of oil and gas production coming from federal lands have plummeted from 2009 to 2013. Oil production on federal lands fell by 11 percent over this time period and natural gas production fell by 28 percent. Federal onshore oil production fell for the third year in a row, while offshore oil production increased slightly — just enough to increase total oil production by 15,300 barrels per day in 2013 above 2012 levels.

Retail sales still a disaster
The financial press went all “rainbows, butterflies and unicorns” with headlines like “Retail Sales Sizzle in March” over the supposedly strong retail sales report just released.Unfortunately for average Americans, their spending growth after inflation has been declining at a zero to negative one percent rate for the last two years. This has never happened after a recession since WWII and confirms that the Obama administration’s stimulus spending and the Federal Reserve’s money printing intended to create consumer demand failed. For a third of the amount of deficit spending, the federal government could have just written checks and replaced everyone’s income back to the peak year of 2007. At least this form of socialism would have kept American consumers happy. The Commerce Department reported that retail sales excluding cars rose by 0.7% in March after what had been described by economists as a “weather-induced slump in spending in earlier months.”

Markets dig Janet Yellen's 'loose language
Loose lips don't always sink ships. Investors kept their cool Wednesday as Janet Yellen spoke at the New York Economic Club, a sign that the markets are growing a lot more comfortable with the Fed Chief's view of the economy. Interest rates will likely stay at current levels "for a considerable time after asset purchase program ends," she said. That was exactly what Wall Street wanted to hear. Going into Yellen's speech, the Dow was up over 100 points. While it dipped into 90-point gain territory during some parts of her comments, it was up almost 120 points by the time she stopped talking. Some StockTwits traders weren't impressed by the lack of concrete details.

Planned Obsolescence Disguised as Innovation
The New York Times published another article in its series on the high cost of US health care. This one, focused on the care of type 1 diabetes mellitus and other chronic diseases, shines some light on the business management practices that now determine how our health care system functions, or not, and implies who benefits the most from them. Planned Obsolescence Disguised as Innovation.The article first discussed the brave new world of type 1 diabetes treatment. The introductory theme was: Today, the routine care costs of many chronic illnesses eclipse that of acute care because new treatments that keep patients well have become a multibillion-dollar business opportunity for device and drug makers and medical providers. Much of modern diabetes treatment seems to depend on medical devices and disposable medical supplies.

Max Keiser News global economic meltdown 2014

Gun-Toting Ranchers Defeat Feds
The U.S. government says Cliven Bundy owes $1 million in grazing fees and sent in contract cowboys to round up his cattle. But the 67-year-old rancher managed to fight them off—for now. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has lost in every court his boots have walked into in recent years. But thanks to the Bureau of Land Management’s mismanaged attempt to round up his “trespass cattle” from federal land, Bundy has won a round in the court of public opinion and emerged as a little-guy hero to conservative media outlets and right-wing politicians. The land-use issue isn’t a small one in the Silver State. The federal government rides herd over 86 percent of Nevada’s public space, and ranchers here have long been at odds with the regulatory enforcement style of the BLM. Bundy’s family has run cattle in the Bunkerville and Gold Butte areas 90 minutes northeast of Las Vegas since 1877, and the stubborn 67-year-old has battled the government for nearly 30 years.

"Fed Policies Have Made The Rich Much Richer", Fed President Admits
Despite Janet Yellen's meet-and-greet with the unemployed and criminal classes, the absence of Ben Bernanke has seemingly empowered several Fed heads to be just a little too frank and honest about their views. The uncomfortable truthsayer this time is none other than Dallas Fed's Fisher: FISHER SAYS FED POLICIES HAVE MADE THE RICH 'MUCH RICHER' (but...) FISHER: UNCLEAR IF FED POLICIES WILL BENEFIT THE MIDDLE-CLASS. We wonder how President Obama, that crusader for fairness, equality and all time Russell 2000 highs, will feel about that? In the meantime, just like the Herp, QE is the gift that keeps on giving.. and giving... and giving... to the 0.001%. All of this, of course, coincides awkwardly with Bernanke's heartfelt "admission" that "my natural inclinations, even if it weren’t for the legal mandate, would be to try to help the average person." As long as helped to boost the wealth of the non-average billionaire., all is forgiven.

GM to Ask Bankruptcy Court for Lawsuit Protection
General Motors revealed in court filings late Tuesday that it will soon ask a federal bankruptcy judge to shield the company from legal claims for conduct that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy. The automaker's strategy is in a motion filed in a Corpus Christi, Texas, federal court case, and in other cases across the nation that involve the defective ignition switches that have led GM to recall 2.6 million small cars. The motion asks U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to delay action on the lawsuit until the bankruptcy court rules and other federal courts decide if the case should be combined with other lawsuits. But GM says it's not asking to halt action on a motion to force GM to tell customers not to drive their cars that are being recalled. GM has said at least 13 deaths have been linked to the switch problem.

Philip Morris Struggled Again In The First Quarter As A rising Dollar And Global Regulations Hit Profits
Global tobacco firm Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM), which reports before the market opens on Thursday, is expected to report declining profit again in the first quarter as a strong U.S. dollar weighs on the firm. The U.S. dollar's continuing strength has weighed for several quarters on the company's results. Because Philip Morris reports results in dollars, revenue received overseas must first be converted into dollars. When the dollar rises against other currencies, those currencies purchase fewer dollars, hurting results. Thomson Reuters survey of Wall Street analysts shows that they expect the firm to post net income of $1.86 billion, compared with $2.14 billion in the year-earlier quarter, while earnings per share are expected to fall to $.163 from $1.29 over the same period. Excluding one-time items, analysts expect earnings per share of $1.181, down 7.7 percent from $1.28 in the first quarter of last year.

Wall Street Brokers Caught Bribing Venezuelan Banker
To drum up trade commissions worth $66 million, the CEO and a managing partner of a Wall Street brokerage paid bribes and kickbacks to an official of Venezuela’s state economic development bank, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday. The arrested Wall Street tycoons are Benito Chinea and Joseph DeMeneses, formerly and respectively the CEO and managing partner of the now-defunct Direct Access Partners (DAP).Their racket allegedly siphoned $66 million in bond sales commissions from the state run Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela via deceitful bond purchases and sales made from late 2009 through 2012. Chinea is free after posting the $1 million bail and surrendering his passport. DeMeneses remains in custody.

Hedge Fund Billionaires to Buy NBA's Bucks for $550M
Hedge fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry have agreed to acquire the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks for about $550 million and keep the team in Wisconsin's largest city. As part of the agreement, Bucks longtime owner and former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl pledged a $100 million gift to be matched by the new owners for the development of a new arena for the team. The Bucks' current home, BMO Harris Bradley Center, is more than 25 years old. "This announcement reinforces that Milwaukee is and will continue to be the home of the Bucks. Wes and Marc agree, and they share my commitment to the long-term success of this franchise in Milwaukee,” Kohl said in a statement. The deal, which is subject to league approval, represents a premium from the $405 million that Forbes valued the team at in January. That marked the lowest valuation of any of the NBA’s 30 teams and pales in comparison with the $1.4 billion estimated price tag of the New York Knicks.

A high-ranking UN official told students last week that they ought to take over UN buildings
Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of the billion-dollar UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said this to students gathered to participate in the UN Commission on Population and Development, an annual negotiation of UN member states that tends to be flooded with hard-left advocacy groups. Gilmore said, “…from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street to every movement from Cairo to capital cities... we are seeing young people saying political systems are not serving them.”

KFC brings back its fabled Double Down
KFC is bringing back the Double Down, a bacon and cheese sandwich that uses two fried chicken filets as a bun. But like a spring chicken, it won't be around for long. "Yes, it's true! What is arguably the most talked-about product in KFC history is coming back, but only for a limited time," said KFC spokesman Rick Maynard, in an email to CNNMoney. He said the Double Down will be on the menu nationwide from April 21 to May 25. The news comes just days after KFC unveiled a chicken corsage for prom season. The corsage features a wristlet of flowers that comes with a gift card that the recipient can use to buy chicken at KFC. The unique Double Down sandwich was a big hit when it was first unveiled back in 2010. "It includes bacon, Monterey Jack cheese and Colonel's sauce sandwiched between two 100% white meat Original Recipe filets," said Maynard.

Belgium is buying up tons of U.S. Treasurys
Foreign investors loaded up on U.S. Treasurys in February at the fastest pace since September of 2011, according to Treasury International Capital transactions data released Tuesday. The biggest buyer: Belgium. February marks the latest month where Belgium’s holdings of Treasurys has surged, according to the TIC holdings data. That month, the European nation purchased $30.9 billion in Treasurys, bringing its total to $341.2 billion, behind only mega-buyers China and Japan in total holdings.n the past year, Belgium has added $153.9 billion to its Treasury holdings, accounting for 80% of the total increase in foreign holdings of Treasurys during that time period, according to Stone & McCarthy Research Associates.

Nevada Rancher: ‘The Founding Fathers Didn’t Create A Government Like This
A Nevada rancher said Monday he’s trying to determine if federal agents damaged his cattle when the animals were rounded up then released in a showdown with angry protesters over a decades-long dispute about rangeland rights. U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze said the agency backed off to avoid a potentially violent situation over the weekend. However, he vowed to go to court to collect more than $1 million in back grazing fees he says Cliven Bundy owes for trespassing on federal lands since the 1990s. Bundy, whose family has operated a ranch since the 1870s southwest of Mesquite a few miles from the Utah line, does not recognize federal authority on the land that he insists belongs to Nevada.

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