Vitol Expects U.S. Crude Exports Growing ‘A Lot More’

Rising production in the Permian, coupled with cheap pipeline and railway transport fees to the Gulf of Mexico, will enable the U.S. to significantly raise its already record-high crude oil exports, Mike Loya, head of the Americas business at oil trading giant Vitol Group, told Bloomberg in an interview published on Friday. “We will see a lot more growth in U.S. crude exports,” said the manager of Vitol, the company that handled the first U.S. cargo after restrictions on oil exports were lifted at the end of 2015. Since the restrictions…

Big Oil Regains Deepwater Drilling Appetite

After three years of deepwater exploration in the doldrums, the big international oil companies are resuming their offshore exploration efforts with lowered costs and highly selective smarter choices for drilling areas, as oil prices have recovered from last year’s $30-per-barrel-lows. According to managers from major companies who attended the CERAWeek industry conference in Houston this week, the oil price recovery, low service costs, and the companies’ slashed costs and streamlined operations will be manifesting in increased exploration…

Why Aren’t Americans Filing Their Taxes This Year? IRS Says 6 Million Fewer Filings Than 2016

Disaffected liberals not willing to pay taxes to a government run by Donald Trump?  Families just so flush with cash that they don’t need those tax refunds this year?   Americans just getting lazier?

Whatever the reason, Americans are simply not filing their taxes in 2017.  As the Internal Revenue Service recently reported, we’re now officially halfway through the 2017 tax filing season and nearly 6 million fewer people have filed their returns than at the same point in 2016, that’s an 8.5% decline.  Meanwhile, average refunds are actually up 0.8% but that doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

IRS

 

As Bloomberg points out, this has been a consistent trend throughout the 2017 tax season.

Taxpayers

 

Meanwhile, there are several potential reasons why Americans may not be filing their taxes this year:

Simple Procrastination

“Customers waiting longer to file their returns is a trend we have observed for the last four years, although it’s more pronounced this year,” said Sanjay Baskaran, president of online tax preparer TaxAct.

 

More and more people who used to file in January and February are waiting until the last minute. Last year, IRS data on April 15—the traditional tax deadline—showed individual filings running 5.8 percent behind the previous year. But the deadline was April 18 in 2016, which gave taxpayers an additional three days to file. In the week following April 15, a whopping 12 million tax returns came in, and filings ended up 1.7 percent higher than in the previous year.

It’s Donald Trump’s Fault

The political rhetoric of President Donald Trump may be scaring some taxpayers. With the Republican promising to crack down on illegal immigration, undocumented immigrants may be afraid to create a paper trail with the government by claiming tax refunds.

 

John Hewitt, chairman and chief executive of Liberty Tax, raised the possibility in a call with analysts March 8. Undocumented immigrants often use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) rather than Social Security numbers to file. “Those ITIN filers are filing at a reduced level this year,” Hewitt said. They’re “probably fearful of the Trump initiatives.”

 

It’s also possible that the overall political atmosphere could be affecting filing. The Trump administration is enforcing the health insurance mandate differently this tax season, while Congress moves quickly to gut the Affordable Care Act, and Trump has promised massive tax cuts. Although no tax code changes would affect what you currently owe, Julie Miller, a spokeswoman for TurboTax owner Intuit Inc., speculated that “there could just be confusion, or [people are] waiting for the dust to settle.”

Delayed Refunds

In an effort to crack down on fraud, Congress passed the PATH Act 1 , which requires the IRS to increase scrutiny of certain tax credits often claimed by low-income households. As a result, the agency warned it wouldn’t issue refunds this year until Feb. 15 for the millions of returns claiming the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit.

 

That delay could be a big factor affecting millions of taxpayers who haven’t filed yet, several analysts and tax company executives said. While issues with undocumented immigrant returns may be a “fringe factor,” the PATH act is the main reason for the delay, said Piper Jaffray analyst George Tong.

 

“A lot of early season filers want their money and want their money fast,” Tong said. If filings are delayed, “it throws a wrench into consumer behavior.” Liberty’s Hewitt seemed to agree that the refund delays are a larger issue. “The PATH Act has created a massive change in the industry,” he said.

Mass Confusion

The PATH Act affects taxpayers claiming the earned income and additional child tax credits–about 27 million people claimed the EITC last year–but other taxpayers may wrongly think the rule changes affect them, sowing confusion. “Many people assumed this was the holding of refunds until [mid-February] for everyone,” said Michael Millman of Millman Research Associates.

 

H&R Block Chief Executive Officer Bill Cobb cited this “uncertainty” as a factor in delayed filings. “Taxpayers who typically file in January and early February appear to be less motivated to file quickly, given that their refunds may be delayed,” Cobb said in an earnings call on March 7.

 

Delay all you want—until April 18, that is, when your filing is due—but you’ll pay for that procrastination: Tax prep companies punish late filers by hiking their prices as the tax deadline approaches.

But, delay as you might, in the end there are only two certainties in life:

Death

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Euro Surges, Bunds Tumble On Report Draghi Considering Rate Hikes Prior To QE End

Update: Reuters chimes in with its own headline, saying the discussion was brief, without broad support.

  •  SOME ECB RATE SETTERS RAISED POSSIBILITY OF RATE HIKES BEFORE END QE, DISCUSSION WAS BRIEF, WITHOUT BROAD SUPPORT – SOURCES

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The EURUSD spiked, European stocks faded gains, and German Bund futures tumbled to session lows following B loomberg report that the ECB has discussed whether the central bank can hike rates before the end of QE.

As Bloomberg further adds, ECB policy makers considered the question of whether interest rates could rise before their bond-buying program comes to an end, and notes that the central bank’s Governing Council on March 9 “exchanged views on ways of communicating and sequencing an exit from unconventional stimulus.”

That said, Bloomberg’s sources notes that the council didn’t discuss any specific scenario or timeline and hasn’t made any formal decisions on a strategy. An ECB spokesman declines to comment on the rumor. Bloomberg further adds that the ECB Governing Council currently “expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of our net asset purchases.”

While the report may be merely the latest trial balloon to gauge the market’s response, for the now the market is not taking chances, and has aggressively sold off the German bunds, while paring gains on the Stoxx 600 to only 0.2% on the day: Bund futures tumbled to session low of 159.10 on the news, sending the Bund yield to 0.48%, while Schatz futures likewise drop sharply and the Euribor strip steepens in expectation of future ECB rate hikes.

As to the mechanics of just how the ECB hikes rates while continuing to buy bonds, we eagerly look forward to the details.

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The Conflict Within The Deep State Just Broke Into Open Warfare

Via Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The battle raging in the Deep State isn’t just a bureaucratic battle – it’s a war for the soul, identity and direction of the nation.

When do the unlimited powers of the Intelligence/Security agencies threaten America’s domestic and global national interests? The CIA and its political enablers claim the agency’s essentially unlimited powers, partially revealed by Wikileak’s Vault 7, pose no threat to America’s interests, since they are intended to “defend” American interests.

This is the rationale presented by neocon CIA allies in both political parties: the CIA can’t possibly threaten America’s interests because the CIA defines America’s interests.

This is the wormhole down which civil liberties and democracy have drained. It is an extraordinarily defining moment in American history when the director of the FBI publicly declares that there is no such thing as “absolute privacy” in the U.S.

In effect, privacy is now contingent on the level of interest the Security State has in the private conversation/data. If we read the U.S. Constitution, we do not find such contingencies: civil liberties are absolute. Post-1790 presidents have temporarily mooted civil liberties in time of war, and the CIA-led camp of the Deep State has justified its unlimited powers by effectively declared “a state of war is now permanent and enduring.”

So what’s left to defend if America has become the enemy of civil liberties and democracy, i.e. become a totalitarian state ruled by Security Services and their political henchmen and apologists?

I have long suggested that the tectonic plates of the Deep State are shifting as the ruling consensus has eroded. Some elements of the Deep State–what I call the progressive wing, which is (ironically to some) anchored in the military services– now view the neocon-CIA (Security State)-Wall Street elements as profoundly dangerous to America’s long-term interests, both domestically and globally.

Is the Deep State Fracturing into Disunity? (March 14, 2014)

I have suggested that this “rogue Deep State” quietly aided Donald Trump (by subtly undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign) as the last best chance to save the nation from the neocon’s over-reach that the Establishment’s Wall Street-funded leadership (Bush, Clinton, Obama, et al.) has overseen–including granting the CIA and its allies virtually unlimited powers unhindered by any effective oversight.

Does a Rogue Deep State Have Trump’s Back? (January 18, 2017)

This profound split in the Deep State has now broken into open warfare. The first salvo was the absurd propaganda campaign led by Establishment mouthpieces The New York Times and The Washington Post claiming Russian agents had “hacked” the U.S. election to favor Trump.

This fact-free propaganda campaign failed–having no evidence didn’t work quite as well as the NYT and Wapo expected– and so the propaganda machine launched the second salvo, accusing Trump of being a Russian patsy.

The evidence for this claim was equally laughable, and that campaign has only made the Establishment, its propaganda mouthpieces and the neocon Deep State look desperate and foolish on the global and domestic stages.

The desperate neocon Deep State and its Democratic Party allies went to absurd lengths to undermine Trump via the “Boris ad Natasha” strategy of accusing Trump of collaborating with the Evil Russkies, even going so far as to briefly exhume former President G.W. Bush from deep-freeze to make a fool of himself, saying the Trump-Evil Russkies connection should be “investigated.”

Now the rogue elements have launched a counterstrike–Vault 7. Here is one example of how quickly the CIA’s over-reach has been absorbed by the body politic:

I highly recommend reading Wikileak’s summary of Vault 7: Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed.

We now know that the CIA maintained a special program (UMBRAGE) to mimic Russia-based hackers and create false trails back to fictitious “Russian hackers.” A number of highly experienced analysts who reviewed the supposed “Russian hacks” had suggested the “evidence” smelled of false trails– not just bread crumbs, but bread crumbs heavy-handedly stenciled “this is Russian malware.”

The body count from Vault 7 has not yet been tallied, but it wouldn’t surprise me if former President Obama and his team eventually end up as political casualties. Non-partisan observers are noting all this over-reach occurred on Obama’s watch, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that one of Obama’s last executive orders stripped away the last shreds of oversight of what could be “shared” (or invented) between the Security Agencies.

Indeed, the entire leadership of the Democratic Party seems to have placed all their chips on the increasingly unviable claim that the CIA is the squeaky clean defender of America.

Vault 7 is not just political theater–it highlights the core questions facing the nation: what is left to defend if civil liberties and democratically elected oversight have been reduced to Potemkin-village travesties?

If there are no limits on CIA powers and surveillance, then what is left of civil liberties and democracy? Answer: nothing.

The battle raging in the Deep State isn’t just a bureaucratic battle–it’s a war for the soul, identity and direction of the nation. Citizens who define America’s interests as civil liberties and democracy should be deeply troubled by the Establishment’s surrender of these in favor of a National Security State with essentially no limits.

Americans tasked with defending America’s “interests” globally should be asking if a CIA/NSA et al. with unlimited power is detrimental to America’s soft and hard power globally, and toxic to its influence.

The answer is obvious: a CIA with unlimited power and the backing of a corrupt Establishment and media is more than detrimental to America’s soft and hard power globally–it is disastrous and potentially fatal to America’s interests, standing and influence.

Those of us on the sidelines can only hope that the progressive wing of the Deep State, the rogue elements who see the terrible danger of an unlimited National Security State, will succeed in undermining the powerful political support for this toxic totalitarian regime.

*  *  *

If you found value in this content, please join Charles in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

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