Female Gaza students invent new plaster cement

Four female students from the Islamic University of Gaza have succeeded in inventing a new type of plaster cement which is made up of broken glass amongst other materials. Israeli imposed restrictions on the entry of cement to the beleaguered Gaza Strip inspired the women to create an alternative which would be made from recycled materials found locally. Instead they created a product made up 50 per cent from cement, 30 per cent from broken glass and 20 per cent from ash made of charcoal. “The final product is an environmentally friendly cement which is more than twice as strong as normal cement,” Aya Abu-Hashish, one of the students, said. “This cement is ready for use in tilling floors and […]

Oil To $70? Or Down To $30?

Submitted by Nick Cunningham via OilPrice.com,

Will oil prices rise to $70 per barrel this year or fall to $30? Depends on who you ask.

Oil price forecasts are always all over the map, but the exceptional disparity between some projections for 2017 is pretty stunning.

On the one hand, you have Citibank, which sees oil shooting up to $70 this year as supply continues to tighten even as demand rises.

Citi acknowledges the headwinds in the near-term. “Oil prices are not likely to stray far from their current $53-58 per barrel range in the near term as record investor net length and bearish inventory data will likely cap prices until more tangible evidence of a tighter market emerges,” Citi analysts wrote in a recent research note. However, they see oil prices posting much stronger gains in the second half of the year.

But the bearish threats to oil prices on the downside seem to be a lot more visible right now than the bullish ones. Aside from rising shale production, a dagger looms over oil prices in the very near-term. Hedge funds and money managers have pushed bullish bets to a new record high, equivalent to over 1 billion barrels of oil. The massive one-sided bet leaves the oil market dangerously exposed. When the herd suddenly realizes that they are all making the same bet, there could be a stampede back in the other direction. The buildup in bullish bets is all the more remarkable because it occurred at a time when oil prices were stagnant, stuck in the mid- to low-$50s per barrel. 

The world is awash with oil at the moment and there continues to be endless supply so therefore I don’t see a real reason for prices to rise above $60 or $70…so I’m really seeing probably the risks of the prices falling below $50 for a considerable period of time and probably even touching the levels of $40 to $45 this year,” Eugen Weinberg, Head of Commodity Research at Commerzbank, told CNBC’s Street Signs on February 21.

Some oil watchers are even more pessimistic. Unless OPEC extends its production cut for another six months or so, crude prices could plummet to $30 per barrel, according to ABN Amro Bank NV. The OPEC deal has succeeded in already taking roughly 1 million barrels per day off of the market, but the supply/demand balance is not as tight as OPEC members had hoped it would be at this point.

Prices have firmed up, but oil and refined product inventories are still rising in the U.S., with crude stocks at record highs and gasoline inventories also at their highest level in decades. The OPEC deal is helping, but new output from the U.S., Brazil, Canada, and even OPEC members like Libya and Nigeria are offsetting some of those reductions. If OPEC were to abandon its deal in June, and begin producing back at the levels seen in 2016, the market could crash.

If they don’t continue with this trend, then the oil price could drop back to where it was two years ago,” Hans van Cleef, ABN Amro’s senior energy economist, told Bloomberg’s Oil Buyer’s Guide in an interview. “Oil prices could easily go back to the low $30s.”

Prices are in exceptional danger because the gains stemming from the OPEC deal are already priced into the market. A further tightening of supply is baked into today’s price, so even if OPEC maintains a high compliance rate over the next few months, the oil market might not see any more large price increases. “[W]e don’t see any upside from OPEC anymore,” van Cleef told Bloomberg. The downside risk, on the other hand, is very real.

Which brings us back to the extraordinary buildup in bullish bets on oil futures. Hedge funds and money managers are near unanimous in their belief that oil prices have more room to grow. But since there is little sign that more supply will be taken off the market beyond what OPEC is cutting, then the adjustment may continue at a painfully slow pace. At some point, investors might grow wary of this protracted process and abandon their bullish bets. If crude and gasoline inventories continue to rise, that could force bulls out of the market. The WSJ cited an estimate from JP Morgan analyst David Martin, oil prices could suffer a swift decline of $5 to $10 per barrel if the U.S. sees another few weeks of strong inventory gains, a sharp loss that would occur as investors unwind their bullish bets.

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Germany Government Budget

The German general government, which comprises central, state and local government and social security funds, recorded a net lending of €23.7 billion at the end of 2016, equivalent to 0.8 percent of GDP, compared with a preliminary figure of €19.2 billion, or 0.6 percent of GDP. In absolute terms, it was the biggest surplus recorded since German reunification, as revenues grew to €1,411.4 billion, due to a large increase in income tax and property tax payments (+6.5 percent) and in social contributions (+4.6 percent); while expenditures rose to €1,387.7 billion, driven by higher expenditure on intermediate consumption (+8.7 percent) and a marked increase in expenditure on social benefits in kind (+6.2 percent). The largest surplus in 2016 was achieved by social insurance funds (€8.2 billion), followed by central government (€7.7 billion), state government (€4.7 billion) and local government (€3.1 billion). Government Budget in Germany averaged -2.09 percent of GDP from 1995 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 0.90 percent of GDP in 2000 and a record low of -9.40 percent of GDP in 1995. Government Budget is an itemized accounting of the payments received by government (taxes and other fees) and the payments made by government (purchases and transfer payments). A budget deficit occurs when an government spends more money than it takes in. The opposite of a budget deficit is a budget surplus. This page provides the latest reported value for – Germany Government Budget – plus previous releases, historical high and low, short-term forecast and long-term prediction, economic calendar, survey consensus and news.

The post Germany Government Budget appeared first on Central bank.

China Prepares For “Regime Collapse” In North Korea

Over the weekend, following reports that China has banned all North Korean coal imports – in the aftermath of last week’s North Korean ballistic missile launch- which marked a troubling escalation in relations between the two formerly “amicable” nations, we discussed how China was tipping its hand that not only was Kim Jong-Un potentially losing a “very big ally”, but that it could also lead to “jeopady” for his regime, and a potential political coup in the generally unstable dictatorship.

Now, it appears that the likelihood of a regime collapse in North Korea is being taken seriously by none other than the country’s formerly largest trading partner, China, which as SCMP reports, “will take the necessary measures to safeguard national security in the event of the collapse of the neighbouring North Korean regime”, a defence official said on Thursday.

The recent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam has sparked renewed concerns over the stability of Pyongyang and the possibility of a collapse of the reclusive regime, SCMP adds.

Beijing, long seen as the guarantor of Pyongyang’s security, had mostly largely silent on the incident. However in the aftermath of the abrupt coal import suspension, Chinese officials no longer had the luxury of avoiding the topic. 

Asked whether China had a contingency plan for a North Korean collapse, defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Beijing has maintained its usual policy towards Pyongyang, and urged the “relevant parties to refrain from any actions that will escalate tensions”.

“We are resolute in safeguarding the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula, sticking to the objective of denuclearization and to resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation,”Ren said on Thursday. “The Chinese military will take the necessary measures, according to the need that arises in the security environment, to safeguard national security and sovereignty,” he said.

Ren denied recent reports that China had sent troops to the border between China and North Korea after Kim Jong-nam’s death to prevent potential large-scale refugee crossings. Beijing has often been criticised by US President Donald Trump for not doing enough to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear development. The latest missile test has reaffirmed South Korea’s resolve to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), a US-developed anti-ballistic missile system, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January last year.

South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said on Monday the deployment could not be delayed in the face of the growing nuclear missile threat from the North, despite Beijing’s hostility to the move, Reuters reported. Beijing has strongly protested deployment of THAAD, arguing that the system is not targeted to prevent an attack from North Korea, but could be used to spy on Chinese missile flight tests. Ren at the defence ministry yesterday reiterated China’s opposition to THAAD, saying China would “take all necessary measures to safeguard its national security and sovereignty”.

* * *

Meanwhile, in an inexplicable move, the WSJ reports that in an escalation that is certain to only antagonise China, North Korea lashed out at Beijing in a state-media commentary published on Thursday, in unusually pointed rhetoric from Pyongyang toward a powerful neighbor that it has long relied on for economic support. In Thursday’s piece, North Korea even adopted a mocking tone, saying that the country is “styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S.

The KCNA statement also vowed that cutting its exports wouldn’t deter North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal. “It is utterly childish to think that the DPRK would not manufacture nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic rockets if a few penny of money is cut off,” the statement said.

The commentary, published by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency, didn’t name China, but left little doubt about its target: “a neighboring country, which often claims itself to be a ‘friendly neighbor’.” In particular, the article lambasted China for playing down North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, and for curbing foreign trade—an apparent reference to China’s statement over the weekend that it would suspend coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year.


North Korea remains heavily reliant on its larger neighbor for trade, while China sees North Korea as a buffer against South Korea and Japan, both U.S. allies. But Beijing’s patience wore thin after Pyongyang conducted a series of nuclear and ballistic-missile tests last year, prompting China to back fresh United Nations sanctions in November that target North Korea’s coal exports. According to the KCNA report, the unnamed country “has unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps such as totally blocking foreign trade related to the improvement of people’s living standard under the plea of the U.N. ‘resolutions on sanctions’ devoid of legal ground.”

While an early round of U.N. sanctions restricted coal imports from North Korea, China is widely believed to have used a so-called humanitarian exception to exceed that cap. That loophole was removed in last November’s U.N. resolution, and North Korea’s protest against China suggests that Beijing has made clear it intends to adhere to the new rule, said Adam Cathcart, a scholar who focuses on China-North Korea relations at the University of Leeds in the U.K.

“I would take this editorial as hard evidence that China has told North Korea it is narrowing the definition of coal exports for ‘humanitarian purposes,’” Mr. Cathcart said, adding that it was exceedingly rare for North Korea to criticize China so directly. Mr. Cathcart called the KCNA editorial “a frontal assault on China’s position on the U.N. sanctions issue,” a shift from the oblique critiques of China that North Korea usually turns to when it expresses its displeasure.

* * *

North Korea’s apparent anger at the Chinese comes as Pyongyang has escalated a diplomatic row with another friendly nation in Asia, Malaysia, after authorities in Kuala Lumpur identified a North Korean embassy official and a state-owned airline employee among seven suspects still at large in the killing of dictator Kim Jong Un’s half brother. North Korea has denied its involvement in last week’s public slaying of Kim Jong Nam. Malaysian authorities have refused to turn over the corpse to North Korea, as the embassy there has demanded, instead conducting its own autopsies—a move decried by North Korea as part of a broader conspiracy engineered by South Korea and the U.S.

Just hours before its broadside against China, KCNA published a report blaming Malaysia for an “undisguised encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the acronym for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  “The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” KCNA reported, quoting a group called the Korean Jurists Committee.

* * *

While it remains unclear if there are political pressures mounting on Kim Jong-Un from within (or externally), some have suggested that his reaction to a potential military coup could be terminal, and irrational, resulting in ballistic missile launches at close neighbors, with potentially dire consequences.

The post China Prepares For “Regime Collapse” In North Korea appeared first on crude-oil.news.

Mosul Ops: 7,000 Iraq troops killed by Daesh

As the operation to recapture Mosul from the Daesh militant group continues into its fifth month, Amaq news agency, linked to the militants, released yet another summary of the fighting, this time showing a marked decrease in Iraqi casualty figures. According to Amaq, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), allied Shia jihadists and Kurdish Peshmerga militias have suffered fatalities of 530 men, a considerable reduction in Daesh’s figures over the previous three months. Amaq released these statistics on 19 February via social media networks, including Telegram and Twitter, and this is in line with the extremist organisation’s standard practice of publicising its statistics since the Mosul operation began on 17 October last year. Tracking Daesh statistics The Iraqi government refuses to release […]

Trump’s Top Econ Guy Just ANNIHILATED the Market’s Growth Fantasy

The single biggest story this morning is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin pouring ice-cold water on the market’s mania.

Since Trump was elected November 8th 2016, the market has gone almost straight up on the notion that an economic utopia has arrived and that GDP growth of 5% (yes, CNBC ran numerous stories on this) was just around the corner.

The mania has been incredible. The last time the market had a 1% down day was OCTOBER 11! From a daily RSI reading the S&P 500 is more overbought today than at any point since the 2009 bottom.

But not for much longer.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appeared on numerous media outlets this morning. And NOTHING he had to say supported stocks’ current lofty levels.

First and foremost, Mnunchin stated point blank that the Trump administration HOPES to implement tax reform by August.

Not two weeks from now. Not even two months from now. But AUGUST.

And that is their hope, not a hard deadline.

Then Mnunchin announced that there was “not much administration can do to affect growth in short term”.

Wait, what?

For weeks we’ve been told by the financial media that 5% GDP growth is just around the corner… that the US has already entered an economic utopia… and that stocks are correct to be rallying to all –time highs based on this belief.

Consider the following headlines:

·      Americans brimming with optimism on the economy (The Hill)

·      Investors’ Economic Optimism Surges to Level Not Seen Since 2011 (Bloomberg)

·      US stocks are at all-time highs (Business Insider)

And then, this morning, Trump’s #1 econ guy stated POINT BLANK that the administration cannot juice growth in the short-term. He also stated that GDP growth of 3% or 4% is “achievable” but it will take “two years.”

And stocks are the most overbought in EIGHT YEARS on expectations of GDP growth of 5% occurring RIGHT NOW?!!

This is the sort environment in which Crashes can happen.

And while the odds are low that we get an actual Crash… this environment is more conducive to Black Swan events than any other in the last seven years.

On that note, we are already preparing our clients for this with a 21-page investment report titled the Stock Market Crash Survival Guide.

In it, we outline how the coming crash will unfold…which investments will perform best… and how to take out “crash” insurance trades that will pay out huge returns during a market collapse.

We are giving away just 1,000 copies of this report for FREE to the public.

To pick up yours, swing by:


Best Regards

Graham Summers

Chief Market Strategist

Phoenix Capital Research



The post Trump’s Top Econ Guy Just ANNIHILATED the Market’s Growth Fantasy appeared first on crude-oil.news.

UK asylum claims drop despite rising refugee crisis

Thu, 2017-02-23

LONDON: The number of people applying for asylum in Britain in 2016 was just over 38,500, falling for the first time in six years, official data showed on Thursday.
But refugee advocates said the drop was no cause for celebration, with ever more people fleeing their homes in an increasingly dangerous world.
Britain received a total of 38,517 asylum applications last year, down from 39,968 in 2015, in the first year-on-year drop since 2010, before the Syria crisis triggered the biggest migration crisis since World War Two.
“If the fall in the number of people seeking refuge in Britain was because the world had become a safer, more peaceful place then we’d have cause to celebrate,” said Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council.
“However this is plainly not true. The situation globally has become ever more dangerous and more and more people have been forced to flee from their homes,” she said in a statement.
The greatest number of claims came from Iran (4,792), followed by Pakistan (3,717), Iraq (3,651), Afghanistan (3,094) and Bangladesh (2,234), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Asylum claims made by Syrians, who chalked up the ninth highest application rate, dropped to 1,588 from 2,794 in 2015.
Unaccompanied child migrants seeking asylum in Britain — about one in ten claimants — also fell slightly to 3,175, according to new Home Office (interior ministry) data.
The figures were released amid growing pressure from campaigners for the government to ensure children’s safe passage to Britain after it announced plans to end a scheme to take in lone child migrants stranded in Europe.
“Shamefully, the UK government’s response to this global refugee crisis has been to deliberately cut off refugees’ escape routes and offer safe haven to fewer and fewer people,” said Doyle. “If Britain is truly a global leader, then the government must step forward and ensure we do our bit to help.”
Britain had the sixth highest number of asylum claims in the European Union (EU) in 2016, the ONS said.
The three countries with the most applications, Germany (692,000), Italy (117,000) and France (83,000), accounted for about 75 percent of all the EU claims, the Home Office said.
The number of asylum applications made in the EU also dropped in 2016, falling to 1,189,000 from 1,319,000 in 2015.

— Thomson Reuters Foundation

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