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Oil prices holding gains as demand outlook brightens

September 15, 2017 Energy 0

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Yemen’s Houthi leader says could target Saudi oil tankers if Hodeidah attacked

September 15, 2017 Middle East Monitor 0

Yemen’s Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said on Thursday his group could target Saudi oil tankers should Saudi Arabia attack Yemen’s main port at Hodeidah. “We could target Saudi oil tankers and we could do anything,” he said. In a televised speech, the leader also said his group’s ballistic missiles were capable of reaching the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi and anywhere inside Saudi Arabia. It was unclear whether the Houthi group has the capability to carry out its threats. Abdel Malek said the Houthis had successfully fired a missile at Abu Dhabi earlier this month, meaning the United Arab Emirates was no longer safe from attack. He gave no further details and there has been no indication by […]

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What Does The QE Experience Say About Rates In A Shrinking Fed Balance Sheet World?

September 15, 2017 Tyler Durden 0

Authored by Bryce Coward via Knowledge Leaders Capital blog,
The Federal Reserve is likely to decide next week to begin letting assets roll of its balance sheet as bonds mature, instead of reinvesting the proceeds.
This means that the balance sheet wil…

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Here’s The Latest Sign That Manhattan Residential Real Estate Is Headed For A Crash

September 15, 2017 Tyler Durden 0

Since the late 1990s, Manhattan real estate has become one of the premier destinations for foreigners – particularly wealthy Russian and Chinese businessmen – looking to stash their money offshore, helping to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Soho into trendy hubs for the global elite, while sending housing prices throughout the city rocketing higher, putting the American ideal of homeownership out of reach for millions of middle-class New Yorkers.

But since the beginning of the year, untenably high prices, combined with an expected pullback in foreign investment have dramatically changed the outlook for both commercial and residential real estate in the city. To wit, in research published last month, Morgan Stanley forecast that China’s latest crackdown on capital outflows and corporate leverage would hammer NYC’s commercial real-estate market, leading to an 84% drop in overseas property investment by Chinese corporations during 2017, and another 18% in 2018, potentially resulting in a sharp decline in prices.

And now, the earliest signs of a similar shakeout in residential real-estate are beginning to emerge. As Bloomberg reports, something unusual happened in New York’s residential market last month: Even as the number of newly signed leases rose to an all-time high, the vacancy rate for apartments in the borough climbed – meaning that, even after offering renters tantalizing concessions, landlords struggled to offload all of the newly available supply.

This amounted to a boon for renters, who whittled an average of 2% off their asking rents in August. Landlords also added concessions like a free months’ rent on 24% of new agreements, double the share from a year earlier, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.

Ultimately, they signed 12% more leases than during the same period a year earlier, helping to keep prices stable – for now, at least.  The median Manhattan rent, after concessions were subtracted, was $3,377 last month, up 0.5 percent from August 2016.”

Still, the vacancy rate climbed to 2.27% from 2.14% a year earlier, the first annual increase since February. This problem isn’t confined to residential real-estate. As we noted back in May, commercial landlords are having similar difficulties finding tenants. And with ever more housing units expected to hit the market across the five boroughs next year, the problem is poised to worsen.

In another troubling sign for Manhattan real-estate developers, rents in August declined in almost every Manhattan neighborhood. And while the number of signed co-op contracts climbed 13% from last year, condo sales dropped 11% versus August 2016.

Rent declines were particularly steep in the borough’s trendiest neighborhoods. In Soho and Tribeca, the borough’s costliest neighborhoods for rentals, the median rent was $5,100, down 15% from a year earlier. Upper West Side rents fell 2.8% to $3,698, while leasing costs in the West Village dropped 3.8% to $3,850.

And as the city’s postcrisis construction boom continues, Bloomberg, citing a survey by Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman, noted that Manhattan had 7,497 apartments listed for rent at the end of August, or 31% more than the monthly average since they started keeping the data in January 2008.

“It really does show just how much inventory there is out there,” said Hal Gavzie, who oversees leasing at Douglas Elliman. “Yes, we have so many leases being signed – and yet, you still have so many options for customers out there.”

Or as another NYC real-estate maven put it…

“We’re going to see prices come down a bit as these landlords get concerned about filling the vacancies before the winter,” Gavzie said. “Nobody wants their apartments vacant in November.”

Of course, while these developments might make landlords nervous, they carry a massive benefit for the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. As we noted last month, fluctuations in the size of New York City’s homeless population are incredibly sensitive to real-estate prices. A 5% increase in the average residential real-estate price in New York City can cause the homeless population to climb by 3.9%.

And after the homeless population climbed by an unprecedented 40% over the past year, perhaps this is the solution for New York’s “homelessness problem” that Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking for.  

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Florida Farmers Say Irma’s Damage Is The Worst They’ve Ever Seen

September 14, 2017 Tyler Durden 0

Authored by Mac Slavo via,
Almost half of Florida’s citrus crops were destroyed during the hurricane and when Florida farmers survey the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, and most are saying it’s the worst destruction to their f…

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Lawsuit accuses Google of bias against women in pay, promotions

September 14, 2017 rbksa 0
Thu, 2017-09-14 23:37

MENLO PARK, Calif.: Three female former employees of Alphabet Inc’s Google filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the tech company of discriminating against women in pay and promotions.
The proposed class action lawsuit, filed in California state court in San Francisco, comes as Google faces an investigation by the US Department of Labor into sex bias in pay practices.
The lawsuit appears to be the first to make class action sex bias claims against Google, but is only the latest instance of a major tech company being accused of discriminating against women.
The Department of Labor sued Oracle America Inc. in January, claiming it paid white men more than women and minorities with similar jobs. Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc. are facing sex bias lawsuits, and Qualcomm Inc. last year settled claims for $19.5 million.
Meanwhile, Uber Technologies Inc. in June said it would make a series of changes after a former engineer in a blog post accused the ride-hailing service of condoning rampant sexism.
The plaintiffs in Thursday’s lawsuit are a former Google software engineer, a former communications specialist and a former manager who worked in various roles at the Mountain View, California-based company. They say Google pays women in California less than men who perform similar work, and assigns female workers jobs that are less likely to lead to promotions.
“While Google has been an industry-leading tech innovator, its treatment of female employees has not entered the 21st century,” Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the women, said in a statement.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano denied the claims in a statement. She said employment decisions are made by hiring and promotion committees, and are vetted “to make sure there is no gender bias.”
“If we ever see individual discrepancies or problems, we work to fix them, because Google has always sought to be a great employer, for every one of our employees,” she said.
The plaintiffs say Google violated California laws requiring equal pay for similar work and prohibiting unfair and unlawful business practices. They are seeking to represent a class of women who worked at Google in California over the last four years.
The Labor Department investigation stems from a 2015 audit in which the department says it discovered sex-based wage gaps among Google workers.
The department last month appealed an administrative judge’s July decision that rejected its request for contact information for more than 20,000 Google employees.

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“Unprecedented” Saudi Crackdown Targets Regime Loyalists As King Prepares To Abdicate

September 14, 2017 Tyler Durden 0

Are we seeing early signs of an “Arab Spring” coming to Saudi Arabia, or will the next king emerge stronger than ever? The kingdom is now in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown of both dissidents and even loyalists perceived as less than enthusiastic about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s consolidation of power as he prepares to ascend the throne of his aging and increasingly senile father. It was only last June that King Salman shocked the world by suddenly and unexpectedly removing next in line for the crown Muhammad bin Nayef, which made Mohammed bin Salman heir apparent to the throne.

In a rare front page story airing sharp criticism of the kingdom, The Wall Street Journal assessed the scope of the crackdown today:

In the past week, Saudi authorities have detained more than 30 people, roughly half of them clerics, according to activists and people close to those who have been detained. The campaign goes beyond many of the government’s past clampdowns, both in the scope of those targeted and the intense monitoring of social media posts by prominent figures. It is not known if any charges have been filed.

WSJ further mentions that several senior princes have been essentially under house arrest as they are barred from traveling abroad, which even includes a brother of King Salman. The kingdom has been tight lipped amidst the crackdown, refusing to engage with the media since as the story began breaking early this week.

Current Defense Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Image source: Alayham News

King Salman himself has at times appeared barely able to function or speak coherently in public or government addresses, and aides have had to closely assist when he does make such rare appearances. Prince Mohammed has become the de facto ruler on a day-to-day level.

As the WSJ explains, preparations are underway for the king’s early abdication:

“Mohammed bin Salman is definitely preparing to become king,” said a Saudi adviser to the government. “He wants to tackle the internal debate about him becoming the king and focus on consolidating his power, rather than doing that while being distracted by dissidents.”


The government has denied an abdication is planned, but several people close to the royal family say preparations have already started. The transfer of power, which several people close to the royal family had expected to occur this month, is likely to take place late this year or early next year, these people say.

Analysts point to the fact that most of the detained in the latest crackdown have large social media followings and have expressed criticism of Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic and economic war with Qatar, if not expressing outright support for Qatar. The crown prince is considered a hawk when it comes to the Qatar crisis, and himself had a huge role in the kingdom’s policy of strong arm tactics targeting its small oil and gas rich neighbor. Saudi law further makes membership in the Muslim Brotherhood a punishable offense, and has accused many of those detained with ties with the group.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been the favored political proxy backed by Qatar for much of the “Arab Spring” movements in Egypt, Syria, and throughout the region. The Brotherhood has also historically been active in short-lived protests within Saudi Arabia, such as the so-called Islamic Awakening anti-government protests which occurred in the wake of the first Gulf War as the US military was allowed to assemble in Saudi territory. But the Brotherhood now carries the double stigma of being seen as an arm of Qatari foreign subversion. Saudi state media has lately warned of “intelligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties” within the country.

Last weekend Saudi authorities detained prominent clerics which had previously taught and preached from within the heart of the country’s Wahhabi establishment, including Salman al-Awdah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omary. Though such recently detained clerics hold religious views which do not depart from the state Wahhabi religion, religiously driven criticisms of the royal family tend to focus on impurity, excess, and compromising relations with Western democracies. And lately it appears that the crown prince may even be quietly opening up to Israel, which we predicted could create dissent and instability among the Saudi domestic population. Various reports hint at calls for protests to take place both within and outside the country this weekend. Al-Qaeda itself called for the overthrow of the ruling monarchy with the message, “How can the grandsons of the Prophet and his Companions become slaves of the Family of Saud and its fool headed tyrants?”.

Though most international reporting is playing up the current crackdown as targeting figures that are loosely “oppositionist”, it appears the nature of the move is more nuanced. According to Middle East history professor and expert on Saudi affairs, As’ad AbuKhalil, the crackdown is primarily aimed at regime insiders and prominent voices who threaten push-back against the crown prince’s vision for Saudi foreign policy:

Unlike what some in the media are writing on social media, this crackdown is not directed against dissidents.  Many of those arrested are loyal propagandists for the Saudi regime.  They are being punished not for what they say but for what they are not saying: they are being punished for not being vocal against Qatar and against the Muslim Brotherhood. 

AbuKhalil, who authored a book which examined internal Saudi regime fault lines called The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power, provides a somewhat comical example of how regime insiders are being publicly humiliated should they not fall in line. In the below case, two pro-Saudi writers with connections to the monarchy battled it out on Tuesday:

AbuKhalil translates and describes the Twitter exchange between the two highly visible pundits as follows: Nasir Salih As-Sirami (above) is commenting on the latest tweet by Jamal Khashoggi who wrote – “You arrest Isam Az-Zamil!! Isam was here in DC serving his country accompanying an official delegation. Those are the best of the sons of my country. What is happening?”  So As-Sirami says: “Don’t worry, brother Jamal.  Enjoy America and your spacious home which was bought to you by Saudi Arabia as an adviser to its embassy then.  And don’t forget the London home too.”

Ironically, Isam Az-Zamil is actually close to the Saudi regime as a prominent economic analyst. His recent arrest did much to increase the general climate of fear now descending on those who previously felt themselves safe as firmly within the loyalist camp. As AbuKhalil notes even those with close government ties are now being accused of harboring sympathies for the kingdom’s enemies: “The arrests seem to target those who were accused of Islamist Ikhwan sympathies or Qatar sympathies or Turkish sympathies.”

So it seems Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rule may be faltering before it really even begins. Or alternately, his aggressive stance against dissent will induce enough paranoia for everyone to fall in line the moment his father abdicates. Regardless, once imperceptible cracks in the “stable” kingdom are now beginning to show as external geopolitical pressures (such as the Qatar and Iran rivalries) are being brought to bear.

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Tillerson says Myanmar violence must stop, supports Suu Kyi

September 14, 2017 rbksa 0
The Associated Press
Thu, 2017-09-14 03:00

LONDON: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has delivered the toughest condemnation yet from a Trump administration official of the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, likening the violence against them to ethnic cleansing and demanding it stop.
On Thursday, Tillerson directed the blame toward Myanmar’s powerful military, which is responsible for security operations that have seen nearly 400,000 people flee to neighboring Bangladesh in the past three weeks after Rohingya insurgents launched coordinated attacks on government forces. He reiterated support for civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is facing growing pressure to speak out over the military’s conduct.
Tillerson said the US appreciated the “difficult and complex situation” Suu Kyi finds herself in, sharing political power with the military, but he also described the “horrors” occurring in the Southeast Asian nation as a “defining moment” for its new democracy.
“This violence must stop, this persecution must stop. It has been characterized by many as ethnic cleansing. That must stop,” Tillerson told a news conference in London after talks with Britain and France. “We need to support Aung San Suu Kyi and her leadership but also be very clear to the military that are power-sharing in that government that this is unacceptable.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was more strident in criticizing Suu Kyi. He said the suffering of the Rohingya people was an “abomination,” and that Suu Kyi must use her authority to halt the violence against them.
Johnson said he admired Suu Kyi’s fight against Myanmar’s former military junta — she spent about 15 years under house arrest — but “it is now vital for her to use that moral capital, that moral authority to make the point about the suffering” of the Rohingya. He said the Nobel laureate needs to “make clear that this is an abomination and that those people will be allowed back” to their homes.
Britain was the former colonial ruler of the country also known as Burma. It came under military rule little more than a decade after independence in 1948. The United States under President Barack Obama was instrumental in coaxing the generals give up direct rule five decades later and allow a civilian government. Following 2015 elections won by her party, Suu Kyi became its de facto leader.
But the transition has been blighted by the tensions between majority Buddhists and the Rohingya, who are widely loathed in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
In the past few years there have been periodic explosions of violence, culminating in the current crackdown by security forces that began Aug. 25 and which top UN officials have also described as ethnic cleansing.
On Thursday, Amnesty International said it had turned up evidence of an “orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings” by Myanmar security forces. Based on its analysis of video, satellite photos, witness accounts and other data, the human rights group said more than 80 inhabited sites, each at least 375 meters (1,230 feet) in length, have been torched in strife-hit Rakhine State.
“The evidence is irrefutable — the Myanmar security forces are setting northern Rakhine State ablaze in a targeted campaign to push the Rohingya people out of Myanmar,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s crisis response director said in a statement.
“Security forces surround a village, shoot people fleeing in panic and then torch houses to the ground,” she said. “In legal terms, these are crimes against humanity.”
While the Trump administration has been less active on Myanmar than the Obama administration, the current wave of global condemnation has begun to galvanize a response in Washington, where Suu Kyi has long been idolized for her peaceful struggle for democracy.
Senior Republican Sen. John McCain this week canned legislative plans to authorize deeper military ties between the US and Myanmar. He noted that the international community has called upon Suu Kyi to stop the violence and hold human rights abusers accountable, “but there has been no action to-date.”
On Thursday, the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, who has long been at the forefront of US policy toward Myanmar, came to Suu Kyi’s defense. McConnell said he spoke with Suu Kyi by phone on Wednesday and she repeated her call for “peace and reconciliation” in strife-torn Rakhine state. She told him she was working toward securing immediate and improved humanitarian access to the region.
The Kentucky lawmaker said her civilian government has little control over Myanmar’s military and the nation’s path to a more democratic government will take time.
“Publicly condemning Aung San Suu Kyi — the best hope for democratic reform in Burma — is not constructive,” McConnell told the Senate. “Attacking the single political leader who has worked to further democracy within Burma is likely to hinder that objective in the long run.”

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North Korea fires missile from Pyongyang toward the east – South Korea

September 14, 2017 rbksa 0
Fri, 2017-09-15 01:24

SEOUL: North Korea early on Friday fired an unidentified missile eastward from the Sunan district in its capital, Pyongyang, South Korea’s military said.
The South Korean and US militaries were analyzing details of the launch, the South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The missile has flown over Japan, Japan’s NHK television said.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting.
The North’s launch comes a day after the North threatened to sink Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions against it for its Sept. 3 nuclear test.
The North previously launched a ballistic missile from Sunan on Aug. 29 which flew over Japan’s Hokkaido island and landed in the Pacific waters.

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