Sessions Considering “Outside Special Counsel” To Review “Highly Politicized” Actions Of Obama DOJ

Even though Obama spent the waning days of his administration boasting about how he had managed to spend 8 years in the White House without a single ‘scandal’, current Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to have a slightly different view of how to def…

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Testing Week Ahead for <b>Crude Oil</b> Prices

Crude oil prices have broken to the downside over the past few days, finally reflecting the ongoing imbalance between plentiful supply and limited …The post Testing Week Ahead for <b>Crude Oil</b> Prices appeared first on crude-oil.n…

Credit Suisse: Customer Blowback Over Starbucks’ Refugee Hiring Spree Could Crush Same Store Sales

A few weeks ago we wrote about how the controversial decision of Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz to hire 10,000 refugees, a clear shot at the Trump administration’s immigration policies, seemingly backfired as his “brand perception” took a sudden and massive hit, a clear signal once again that coffee drinkers would prefer to not have a side of political propaganda with their $5 morning java (see “Starbucks’ ‘Brand Perception’ Takes A Massive Hit After Announcing Plans To Hire 10,000 Refugees“).

Now, Credit Suisse’s Restaurant team, led by Jason West, is warning that Schultz’s latest attempt to cram his political opinions down the throats of his customers could cause the company to miss upcoming same-store-sales estimates.

We have analyzed online “net sentiment” data (positive vs. negative online mentions) provided by NetBase to gauge changes in Starbucks’ brand perception. This follows recent media reports that SBUX’s decision to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years could have upset some customers, perhaps negatively impacting sales trends. Our work shows a sudden drop in brand sentiment following announcement of the refugee hiring initiative on Jan. 29th, to flattish from a run-rate of ~+80 (on an index of -100 to +100). Net sentiment has since recovered, but has seen significant volatility in recent weeks. While this is only one data point, the analysis leaves us incrementally cautious on SBUX’s ability to meet consensus US SSS forecasts, which call for SSS to accelerate from +3% in F1Q17 (Dec. qtr.) to ~+3.5% in F2Q and ~+5.5% in 2H17.

 

Potential impact to F2Q SSS: NetBase data show that net sentiment remained depressed for 10 days in late Jan. and early Feb. and was particularly volatile through the remainder of Feb. We see potential for a scenario in which US SSS slowed for a few weeks following news of the refugee hiring initiative, negatively impacting full-quarter SSS by ~70-80bps under a reasonable bear case. This assumes that (1) SSS during the initial 10-day stretch were ~flat, (2) SSS averaged +2% during the remaining 3 weeks of Feb. (when net sentiment saw particularly high volatility) and (3) SSS during the rest of the qtr (Jan. and Mar.) average +3.5% (in line with consensus forecasts for F2Q), putting F2Q US SSS at ~+2.8%. We caveat that we found little to no correlation over longer time periods between the net sentiment data and US SSS. However, in our past work on Chipotle (CMG: Neutral), we found that large and sudden spikes in net sentiment coincided with similar shifts in SSS trends.

CS

 

For those who missed it, here are some excerpts from the politically charged message drafted by Schultz to his employees with “deep concern and a heavy heart”:

I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise. Let me begin with the news that is immediately in front of us: we have all been witness to the confusion, surprise and opposition to the Executive Order that President Trump issued on Friday, effectively banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, including refugees fleeing wars. I can assure you that our Partner Resources team has been in direct contact with the partners who are impacted by this immigration ban, and we are doing everything possible to support and help them to navigate through this confusing period.

 

Hiring Refugees: We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world. This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination.  There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.

 

Building Bridges, Not Walls, With Mexico: We have been open for business in Mexico since 2002, and have since opened almost 600 stores in 60 cities across the country, which together employ over 7,000 Mexican partners who proudly wear the green apron. Coffee is what unites our common heritage, and as I told Alberto Torrado, the leader of our partnership with Alsea in Mexico, we stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans.

Unfortunately, Schultz quickly found out the hard way that while most adult-aged Americans can agree that they like coffee, roughly 50% disagree with his leftist political opinions.

Meanwhile, the only folks that don’t seem to be noticing the controversy surrounding Starbucks’ latest mishap are the company’s shareholders.

SBUX

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NYC Isn’t The Only Place The “Rent Is Too Damn High”; Euros And Canadians Also Struggle To Make Rent

Jimmy McMillan III, the now infamous founder of the “Rent Is Too Damn High Party”, as well as a self-described karate expert, Vietnam War vet, former postal worker and male stripper, has made it his mission for the past two decades to fight rising rent…

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How The Black Market Is Saving Two Countries From Their Governments

Authored by Shaun Bradley via TheAntiMedia.org,

Ever since governments began banning and licensing different parts of the economy, the black market has made sure people still have access to the things they need. Unstable governments always turn on their own citizens by using price controls, heavy taxes, and even the threat of imprisonment to prop up their failing systems. As conditions inevitably deteriorate, as they have in Venezuela and Greece, the underground economy becomes invaluable to those living through the crisis.

The shadow economy refers to more than just the trade of illegal goods. A grey market, for example, provides legal products that have become difficult to find. Since basic things like toilet paper, medicine, and even food have disappeared from store shelves in Venezuela, the peer-to-peer network has become the only reliable way to secure life’s necessities. In desperate situations like this, the existence of independent merchants can mean the difference between life and death.

Even the value of Venezuela’s currency has started to move away from the government’s control.  At one point, the official exchange rate was fraudulently set at 10 bolivars per U.S. dollar, while on the black market it was trading at 1,000 to one. This action hurt millions by suppressing wages across the country and eroding any remaining trust. Inflation has quickly become the most imminent threat to the Venezuelan people, stealing the value of their labor and savings. For years, the bolivar has experienced hyperinflation, increasing the cost of living almost exponentially.

The State’s desperate response was to institute price controls, but that has only led to shortages across the board. Luckily, the unregulated markets have been able to determine the true value of goods and provide vital support for the struggling communities. Many people think that so-called price gouging is unethical, but isn’t it better to buy what you need at twice the price than to not be able to get it at all?

Greece is going through a transformation of its own — but in response to a very different set of circumstances. The Greek people have endured a series of tax increases and pension cuts over the past several years to fund debts owed to the European Union. These austerity measures have created a dire situation for those trying to secure their financial independence. The result has been widespread tax evasion, which has helped grow Greece’s underground economy to nearly 25% of the country’s GDP.

Surprisingly, it’s not only the poor who are utilizing the shadow economy in Greece, but also the professional class. Those earning large amounts of money are subjected to extremely high tax rates, driving many business owners and entrepreneurs to either seek better opportunities abroad or take steps to conceal their income.

By persecuting the most successful members of society and not allowing them to keep what they earn, authorities are only encouraging disregard for the law. Without the grey market in Greece, many more skilled workers would have already left the country. Even though the black market is consistently blamed for taking away tax revenues, it ironically may be the only thing keeping the debt crisis from spiraling even further out of control.

Scarcity is more than just a mindset; it’s a harsh reality that people born in developed nations rarely see firsthand. But any time a bankrupt government seizes control over their citizens’ lives and the economy, the end result is always despotism. The consolidation of power into the hands of a few is rationalized during chaotic times but ultimately puts the rights of all citizens at risk.

Just last year, Venezuelan law enforcement carried out raids that killed 245 people. There was no accountability regarding whether the shootings were justified, but reports claim that many of the victims posed no threat and some were even killed after being taken into custody. Such violent crackdowns are the inevitable result of governments attempting to maintain control amid the chaos of broken economic systems.

In 2011, Robert Neuwirth wrote a report for Foreign Policy that highlighted the importance of this untaxed, unlicensed, and unregulated global marketplace. He called it “System D.”

“They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes are part of ‘l’economie de la débrouillardise.’ or, for street use, ‘Systeme D.’ This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy.”

The nanny state has done an excellent job attacking anything outside of the government’s jurisdiction, but a lack of regulation is what allows for the most rapid growth and productivity. Legislators notoriously overestimate their influence on the millions of people they attempt to rule over, but ultimately, grassroots decisions made by individuals have the greatest impact. People who rely on their own skills and reputation rather than a bureaucratic stamp of approval are labeled criminals, but they’re the ones providing real value to society in many cases.

Merchants in these off-grid markets are often associated with danger and violence, but in reality, they provide the purest form of voluntary transactions. Negative aspects, like organized crime, are only made possible because of the profits created as a result of prohibition. Without the State intimidating the public at gunpoint, there would be no incentive for people to seek out the services of nefarious organizations.

These organic free markets are only strengthened with the circulation of assets like cash, bitcoin, and precious metals. Anonymity mixed with technology is empowering people in ways never imagined. The adoption of cryptocurrencies is bringing the shadow economy into the digital age and expanding its reach internationally. This new economic system represents a very real threat to the current financial and political structures.

However, innovators in this environment have to be careful, and after the Silk Road was taken down, real legal implications became apparent. Most famously, Silk Road co-founder Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison and targeted specifically for challenging the existing system.

The growing progression towards decentralization he attempted to catalyze is on a direct collision course with the central banks and their war on cash.  As the public’s faith in fiat money continues to wane, there will be more and more opportunities to show the benefits that come from peer-to-peer networks over central planning. Those who recognize the inherent extortion of the old system have to lead by example and educate others, regardless of which tactics of intimidation are deployed against them.

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