Compliance to OPEC deal has its limits: Expert

Victor Shum, VP of IHS Energy Insight, says he expects U.S. production to increase when prices do but this will be offset by an increase in crude demand.

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Corporate America Setting Up “War Rooms” To Prep For Potential Trump Tweets

Since November 8th, several public companies have unsuspectingly fallen into the cross hairs of Trump tweets sending their stocks gyrating violently while adding or erasing millions of dollars worth of market cap in a matter of seconds.  Here is just a small sample:

Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017

I am working hard, even on Thanksgiving, trying to get Carrier A.C. Company to stay in the U.S. (Indiana). MAKING PROGRESS – Will know soon!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2016

Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all of its 300 workers. This is happening all over our country. No more!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016

General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017

My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017

Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016


As we pointed out back in January, Toyota’s shares, along with the Mexican Peso, tumbled on Trump’s threat to impose a “big border tax” on their Corolla imports as the unprepared and shocked company frantically drafted a response.

As Mr. Trump posted his message, Toyota’s chief communications officer, Scott Vazin, was packing his suitcase and preparing to leave his hotel room in Las Vegas, where he had been holding meetings around a trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association. Mr. Vazin’s phone began to buzz as he faced a deluge of text messages and calls from his communications staff and reporters.


Once the tweet was sent, Mr. Vazin called Messrs. Lentz and Nagata to discuss the statement he would craft, as the company’s stock began to inch downward. The auto maker posted its response on Twitter less than two hours later.


“Toyota has been part of the cultural fabric in the U.S. for nearly 60 years,” said its statement, which bolded the name of the Mexican city where its plant will be located—Guanajuato, not Baja. The company touted its “$21.9 billion direct investment in the U.S.” and its number of employees and facilities in the U.S. Mr. Vazin said the company hasn’t been contacted by Mr. Trump since the statement.

Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Trump’s Twitter blasts, which often drive ‘yuge’ market reactions and come without warning, are forcing companies across the country to draft plans for “war rooms” to address a surprise presidential tweet.  Moreover, other companies are actively exploring strategically placing ads on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” CNN and “The O’Reilly Factor”—programs and networks fro which Trump has often appeared to draw inspiration for his tweets.

“Every business and association in Washington is thinking about how they would respond to a tweet from Donald Trump,” said Alex Conant, a partner at the communications firm Firehouse Strategies and a longtime Republican strategist.


In one recent simulation to prepare for a public attack by Mr. Trump, says consultant Eric Dezenhall, top executives of a science and technology company spent an afternoon in a room responding to various fallout scenarios, such as a stock-price plunge, congressional hearings or questions from investigative reporters.


Mr. Dezenhall says the company that
rehearsed the drill is now looking for something it can use as a potential peace offering to the president in the event of a critical tweet or other Trump tirade, “an equivalent to ‘we’re no longer building a plant in Mexico.’”


Lobbying shops are telling their clients to do a thorough review of their business interests, especially as they relate to federal contracts, so they can tell a story about how the firm invests domestically.

Still others companies have begun aggressively promoting previously announced job creation numbers in an effort to head off any criticism from the White House.  The latest example of such a move came from Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, who recently visited the White House to tout a $7BN investment in a facility in Chandler, Arizona which was already announced under the Obama administration.

Other companies have taken more proactive steps. Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich last week traveled to the White House to roll out the company’s plans for a $7 billion investment in a major manufacturing plant in Arizona—plans that had been in the works for several years. Mr. Trump said following the announcement: “We’re very happy.”


Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Inc., have issued press releases touting U.S. job creation numbers from previously planned store openings and expansions. Some are also turning to “social-listening” tools to monitor mentions of their products on social networks, analyze the fallout from Trump tweets about other companies and track what’s said on the accounts that Mr. Trump follows.


General Motors Co.—whose CEO Mary Barra has frequently spoken with Mr. Trump—said last month it would invest at least $1 billion across several U.S. factories, days after the president accused it on Twitter of moving Mexican-made vehicles across the border.

Guess we can add the cost of establishing these ‘war rooms’ to the list of excuses as to why companies will inevitably miss Q1 2017 earnings…at least they get to blame something other than the “weather” for once.

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SIA Goes Long On <b>Crude Oil</b>

… its costs, as crude oil prices begin to stabilise. No change is expected for its dividend payout levels as a result of such longer forward commitments.The post SIA Goes Long On <b>Crude Oil</b> appeared first on

DOJ Warned Trump That Mike Flynn Is “Vulnerable To Russian Blackmail”, Termination Odds Surge

After last night’s news that Trump (and Steve Bannon) are now actively deciding whether to fire National Security Advisor Mike Flynn over the recent scandal involving his [hone calls with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, discussing the Russian sanction something he denied publicly on several occasions, yet which now appears to have been the case, the ice below Flynn got thinner this afternoon when the  Trump administration for the second consecutive day sent conflicting signals in its support for Flynn amid uncertainty whether Flynn misled Mike Pence about his conversation with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

About an hour after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said in a television interview that Flynn “does enjoy the full confidence of the president,” press secretary Sean Spicer released a statement saying President Donald Trump is “evaluating” the situation involving his top security aide. Trump “is speaking to Vice President Pence relative to the conversation the vice president had with General Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is, our national security,” Spicer said in an e-mailed statement.

One day earlier, Trump adviser Stephen Miller declined to defend Flynn or say whether his job was safe. Miller, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Flynn had served the country admirably, but that “It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the president’s mind.”

Now, following the latest report in the WaPo, the young Trump administration may have no choice but to make Flynn the first casualty. According to the Bezos-owned publication, the acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, “and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.”

The message was delivered by Sally Yates and was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan also reportedly shared Yates’ concerns about Flynn. The pair believed “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position”, thinking that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled, and agreed with Yates’ decision to warn the White House. One official told the Post all three officials believed Pence had a right to know Flynn had possibly misled him about his talks with Kislyak.

Furthermore, current and former officials told the Post they believed Flynn deceived the vice president, adding they could not rule out the possibility he acted with the knowledge of other transition officials.  Yates, who was then the deputy attorney general, considered Flynn’s comments during an intercepted phone call with Kislyak last December “highly significant” and “potentially illegal.”

The WaPo adds that an official familiar with Yates’ thinking told the Post she suspected Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from interfering in diplomatic disputes with another nation. Trump fired Yates last month, after she refused to have the DOJ defend his temporary ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations in court.

Making matters worse – for Trump – is that a senior Trump administration official said that the White House was aware of the matter, adding that “we’ve been working on this for weeks.”

The final nail in Flynn’s coffin is that according to a report in the NYT, the Army has been investigating whether Mr. Flynn received money from the Russian government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015, according to two defense officials. Such a payment might violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without consent from Congress. The defense officials said there was no record that Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, filed the required paperwork for the trip.

 If confirmed, and if Flynn indeed lied, Trump will have no choice but to let him go.

And as if to assure of just that, following angry protests from Democrats demanding Flynn’s head on a platter, on Monday evening, the first Republican called for Flynn’s ouster. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) released a statement Monday night casting doubt on National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s position.

“As national security advisor, Michael Flynn is responsible to the President, Vice President and the American people. It is his duty to be fully transparent and forthright in his actions – anything less is unacceptable. If in fact he purposely misled the President, he should step down immediately.”

— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) February 14, 2017

Finally, while earlier this morning we reported that Sean Spicer had the highest odds of being the first Trump admin appointee to be fired, or quit…

…  as of this moment, Flynn’s odds have soared, and he is currently in first place – with better than even odds – of being let go.

The ball is now in Trump’s court.

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The Four Kinds Of Dystopia – Which One Is Yours?

Authored by Darren Allen via ExpressiveEgg,org,

The twentieth century saw four basic visions of hell on earth, or dystopia.

These were:

Orwellian. Rule by autocratic totalitarian people, party or elite group, limitation of choice, repression of speech and repression of minorities, belief in order, routine and rational-morality. Control by enclosure, fear and explicit violence. Violent repression of dissent (via ‘the party line’). Erotic physicality and sexual freedom suppressed via control of sexual impulses. Control of thought by explicitly policing language (Orwellian Newspeak).


Huxleyan Rule by democratic totalitarian systems, excess of choice, limitation of access to speech platforms, assimilation of minorities, belief in emotional-morality, ‘imagination’ and flexibility, and control by desire, debt and implicit threat of violence. No overt control of dissent (system selects for system-friendly voices). Erotic physicality and sexual freedom suppressed via promotion of pornographic sensuality and dissolution. Control of thought by implicitly enclosing language within professional boundaries (Illichian Newspeak, or Uniquack).


Kafkaesque Rule by bureaucracy. Control of populace via putting them into writing, forcing people to spend free time on bureaucratic tasks, thereby inducing tractable stress and the schizoid, self-regulating self-consciousness (anxiety about low marks, unlikes, official judgements and the like) that bureaucratic surveillance engenders. Generation of a system which structurally rewards those who seek an indirect relationship with their fellows or who, through fear of life, seek to control it through the flow of paperwork.


Phildickian Rule by replacing reality with an abstract, ersatz virtual image of it. This technique of social control began with literacy – and the creation of written symbols, which devalued soft conscious sensuous inspiration, fostered a private (reader-text) interaction with society, created the illusion that language is a thing, that meaning can be stored, owned and perfectly duplicated, that elite-language is standard and so on – and ended with virtuality – the conversion of classrooms, offices, prisons, shops and similar social spaces into ‘immersive’ on-line holodecks which control and reward participants through permanent, perfect surveillance, the stimulation of positive and negative emotion, offers of godlike powers, and threats to nonconformists of either narco-withdrawal or banishment to an off-line reality now so degraded by the demands of manufacturing an entire artificial universe, that only hellish production-facilities, shoddy living-units and prisons can materially function there.

The reader can decide for herself under which of above we currently struggle to eke out a life worth living. I would like to suggest that all modern societies are both Kafkaesque and Phildickian with either a Huxleyan or Orwellian overarching framework; modern, western, capitalist societies tend to be basically Huxleyan (HKP) and pre-modern, eastern, communist countries tend to be basically Orwellian (OKP).

The reason why ideological managers (academics, film directors, journalists, etc) prefer to have two (or more) dystopian systems is that it makes us seem like the goodies and them the baddies. Communism is to blame for their foodbanks and breadlines, but capitalism has nothing to do with ours (or vice versa). Sure our masses have the same miserable lives as theirs, reel under the same bureaucratic insanity, stumble around the same shoddy unreal worlds, and witness the same catastrophic destruction of nature and beauty as theirs do, but at least we’ve got democracy! / at least our families stick together! / at least the trains run on time! / at least GTA 9 is coming out soon / at least the Olympics will cheer us up (delete as appropriate).

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Trump To Unveil “Passive-Aggressive” Currency War With China

Call it passive-aggressive currency war.

While one of Trump’s most sincere desires, both during his campaign, and ideologically from his life prior to politics, has been to publicly declare China a currency manipulator – something he promised he would do on day one of his administration – and crack down on the “undervalued” Yuan (even though over the past 18 months, China has been scrambling to prevent further devaluation of the Yuan in light of over $1 trillion in capital outflows in recent years), lately Trump appears to have gotten second thoughts, and after backing off on his intent to negotiate the “One China” policy, now Trump is looking for a way out of engaging China directly in currency war.

That is the impression we get from reading a WSJ piece, according to which the White House is exploring a “new tactic” to discourage China from devaluing the Yuan to boost exports, without explicitly accusing it of currency manipulation, something the US last did in 1994 under the Clinton administration. Under the plan, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross would designate the general practice of currency manipulation “as an unfair subsidy when employed by any country, instead of singling out China.” Following such a designation, U.S. companies would be in a position to bring antisubsidy actions themselves to the U.S. Commerce Department against China or other countries.

By engaging in such “passive-aggressive” currency warfare, which avoids direct confrontation with Beijing and which may have been conceived during last week’s Trump-Xi phone call, the administration would avoid making confrontational claims about whether China is manipulating its currency for trade benefit, the WSJ reports, in the process allowing Xi to save face and avoid having to defend himself domestically in a key year politically for the Chinese president. Trump also avoids looking weak, as eventually exporter complaints can be addressed via conventional channels, resulting in tariffs and other anti-subsidy actions, as has been the case for many years under the Obama administration.

But there would be no apriori statement of currency manipulation intent singling out any one country, namely China.

To be sure, the WSJ also confirms that “the move could be a sign the Trump administration is softening its stance on China. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump threatened to label China a currency manipulator on the first day of his administration, which he didn’t do. He also threatened to slap 45% tariffs on Chinese goods, an idea he hasn’t raised recently.”

A potential complication emerges in that just like Trump’s border adjustment proposal, the currency move, if effected, may be a violation of World Trade Organization rules, the same as BAT. Other countries are also sure to take similar measures against U.S. exports and could argue that Federal Reserve policies that weaken the dollar qualify as subsidies. They would be completely right.

It also explains why in a world in which – absent a modest detour here and there  – everyone is rushing to devalue their currency. the Obama administration, concerned about such consequences, decided against naming currency practices as a subsidy.

Making things more complicated is that until recently China was actively devaluing the Yuan far more aggressively against all other members of its currency basket, while strengthening relative to the dollar, diluting the American case that China was singling it out in currency warfare, and ironically giving other nations ammo to launch complaints against China.

What appears to have brought on the change in policy is what we – and many others – have been saying for the past three months: China has been manipulating its currency higher, not lower, ever since the dramatic capital outflow out of China started in early 2015.

A string of corporate executives have told the Trump White House that China no longer is pursuing an undervalued currency and has run through $1 trillion in foreign reserves trying to stem the yuan’s persistent decline.


In an interview with the Journal in January, Mr. Trump rejected that claim, saying Chinese leaders talk about supporting their currency “because they don’t want us to get angry.”

In any case, just like most of Trump’s other economic “priorities” – at least as stated during his campaign – now currency manipulation is “not on top of agenda of the American business community in China,” said James McGregor, China chairman for APCO Worldwide, a communications and lobbying firm. Last week he visited the White House and other government offices as part of a delegation of U.S. business officials from China.

As for the “new” approach, it is really nothing new compared to how US-China trade relations were under Obama: categorizing currency manipulation as a subsidy would give U.S. companies a new measure to use in case China reverts to a more mercantilist approach. Companies routinely bring antisubsidy suits to the Commerce Department against imports which they argue are being improperly subsidized by foreign governments. If the U.S. firms prevail, Commerce often assesses heavy duties on those imports, which sharply limits imports.

“It’s a great first move,” said Dan DiMicco, former chief executive of steelmaker Nucor Corp., who has been advising the Trump team on trade issues. “It allows companies to use trade laws to consider currency manipulation, which is rampant in the world, especially in China, as a subsidy.”

As the WSJ adds, prominent Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, have long argued for previous administrations to make such a change.

Finally, the WSj also reports that the Trump admin is also looking to “tighten oversight of foreign acquisitions of U.S. firms that have access to important technology”, in other words curbs Chinese inbound M&A, which emerged one year ago as one of China’s preferred mechanisms of engaging in offshore cash laundering (in addition to buying Vancouver houses of course). 

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, an interagency committee that reviews foreign acquisitions, would get broader scope to reject deals that threaten national interests, said individuals involved in discussions with the White House.

The White House is also examining the creation of an additional panel to look more broadly at the transfer of U.S. technology overseas, whether by acquisition, license or joint venture, these people said.

Beijing has traditionally counted on American corporations to blunt U.S. government policy offensives on the Chinese economy. But that support may be weakening. According to a survey last month by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 81% of member companies feel that foreign businesses are less welcome in China.


“The American business community in China welcomes a pushback because China has overreached,” said Mr. McGregor, the APCO official. “But it has to be smart and well thought-out and focus on real issues between the two countries, such as techno-nationalism and the step-by-step closing of market access for foreign companies in China.”

The take home summary: less than month into the job, Trump is realizing that making any real changes in the global economic status quo, aside from public bluster and tweeting about it, will be far more difficult than he thought. And now that Mnuchin is by his side providing “advice”, it is safe to say that most if not all of Trump’s radical economic promises will soon similarly fade away into the “assive aggressive” horizon.

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Visualizing Where The US-Mexico Border Is Most Susceptible To Illegal Immigration

Last week we highlighted another leaked document from the Department of Homeland Security allegedly detailing the costs and timeline of building Trump’s border wall (see “DHS Report: Trump “Wall” To Cost $22 Billion, Take 3.5 Years To Build”).  Ac…

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