Saturday, June 25, 2022

StockCats Asks For Clarification

I have a feeling that lands somewhere in "the nebulous region between mere suspicion and probable cause"
 (LaFave & Israel on U.S. v. Ramsey, 431 U.S. 606 [1977])
that there is some sort of misdirection going on that I'm not understanding.
If so, any attempt at analysis of Fed policy and market moves by traditional means, global macro, central bank policy and practice, market internals such as options gamma etc., etc. is just so much blather.
And I keep coming back to the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2019 as the period when things were getting very weird.
More to come (maybe)

Friday, June 24, 2022

Late Night Thoughts



"Reading Ourselves to Death"

Yes, yes, reading about reading, irony can be so ironic.

From The New Atlantis, Spring 2022 issue, online June 21, 2022:

Join me in a thought experiment. Imagine you are imprisoned in a room by a despotic regime and allowed contact with the outside world only through a primitive computer. Called a text-only terminal, the computer lets you send and receive as many written messages as you like. It lets you read as many articles as you like. But it can’t display images or videos of any kind, nor play any sound. The only understanding you would have of the reality beyond your four walls — aside from the trays of food slid under the door — comes from the words on your screen.

What would your grasp of the outside world feel like? Over time, increasingly abstract and dreamlike. Even those with whom you had regular contact would increasingly become simplified, abstracted, flattened characters. The world would come to you doubly translated, first into text by somebody on the outside, then back out of text in your mind. You would end up with a vague approximation of the world, and how close to reality it is you would never know.

Now imagine that, instead of a text-only terminal, a TOT, you had been given a VOT, a video-only terminal. It allows you to interact with the outside world only through video calls, video news reports, TV shows, and so on. This too would be an imperfect way of perceiving the outside world. But it would be what we might call an edited version of reality, rather than an abstracted one. With a VOT, you would be restricted to watching the world through a digital window, but you would still have a reasonably good idea what the world out there was really like.

Clearly, none of us have experienced anything remotely as dramatic as either scenario. But the text-only terminal is a useful exaggeration of what, at a much subtler level, has happened to all of us over the last few decades. We are awash in text. The cumulative cultural effect is a kind of mass delusion. We may believe that all this text somehow captures reality. But as the words engulf us, the world recedes ever more from our grasp.

Swimming in Words
Between 1900 and 1990, the amount of time the average American spent reading and writing remained broadly consistent: somewhere between one and two hours a day. According to a 2012 McKinsey report, the addition of text messaging and the Internet raised that amount to something closer to four or five hours a day. Most people were illiterate four hundred years ago; today Americans spend up to a third of their waking hours encoding and decoding text.

Every minute, humans send 220 million emails, 70 million WhatsApp and Facebook messages, 16 million texts, 530,000 tweets, and make 6 million Google searches. The journalist Nick Bilton has estimated that each day the average Internet user now sees as many as 490,000 words — more than War and Peace. If an alien landed on Earth today, it might assume that reading and writing are our species’ main function, second only to sleeping and well ahead of eating and reproducing.

Our immersion in the written word is but one ingredient in a cocktail of changes we have experienced thanks to cell phones and the Internet, and filtering out all the other factors and isolating the consequences of just text is impossible. Even if we could, we would have to account for the quality of reading too, as much of it involves skimming and darting around the page. But the sheer quantity matters. As both literacy theorists and neuroscientists attest, reading and writing have a profound effect on the way we think.

Your Brain on Text
Consider the experience of reading. From a few signs, we summon into existence a whole world between our ears, our heads becoming a miniature simulacrum snow globe of reality, within which an infinite number of characters and objects and scenarios come alive. The act requires all sorts of imaginative effort — we are costume designer, set designer, sound designer, and casting director all for the tiny holographic play going on in our heads.

Reading a novel, according to a 2013 Emory University study, can activate specific parts of the brain associated with the actions one is reading about. If the protagonist in the story is being chased, for example, your brain behaves in some ways as if you were being chased. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense,” the lead researcher explained. “Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.” The researchers found that some areas of gray matter activated by reading can remain fired up for several days. Reading encourages us to put outside reality on hold, to construct a parallel world in our minds, and retreat into it....


"Corporate Criminal Liability for ESG Initiatives Is on Its Way"

From Columbia Law School's CLS Blue Sky blog, June 23:

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has signaled that it wants to increase enforcement against “greenwashing” – misrepresentation of a company’s environmental actions.  It is not yet clear, though, whether these enforcement efforts will expand the risk of corporate criminal liability. In a new paper, I argue that they will, and that businesses should think about their risks regarding potential criminal fraud in the environmental area.

Setting the Stage for the SEC’s ESG Actions

Frustration with greenwashing has been growing as more and more money chases ESG investments. The term “ESG” – environmental, social, and governance initiatives – is frustratingly vague, as it can include everything from deforestation to diversity and inclusion to the ethics of lobbying. I focus here on climate change and the United  States.

Norms around climate change are changing very fast. In 2021, 76 percent of Americans age 33 to 40 thought that climate change represented a serious risk to society. The investment community is responding. By the end of 2019, 564 actively managed U.S. funds had added ESG criteria to their prospectuses. Twenty-three of the funds had over U.S. $ 1 billion in assets.

As evidenced by the repeated failure to enact national climate change legislation by June 2022, the U.S. is still politically paralyzed over what our reaction to the issue should be. But there is plenty of money to be made from responding to the public’s feelings of urgency. And there is even more money to be made when companies tell the public – customers, investors, employees, and others – what they want to hear to get their  money but do little, or none, of what they promised to earn it. That’s a recipe for fraud.

Will it be civil fraud or criminal fraud? I think it will be both....


Meanwhile In Canada: "Whereabouts of fired Winnipeg scientists at centre of national-security investigation still unclear"

What the hell is going on in Canada?

Obsessive Attentive reader may recall some odd little news bites coming out of Canada in 2019 - 2020:

Then last year (June 4, 2021) the Globe and Mail published "Whereabouts of two scientists fired from Winnipeg virus lab for possible national-security issues shrouded in mystery"

And a couple days ago, this, from the Globe and Mail, June 22, 2019:

Whereabouts of fired Winnipeg scientists at centre of national-security investigation still unclear

A year and a half after two Canadian scientists were fired from Ottawa’s top-security infectious-disease laboratory over alleged national security breaches, it is still unclear whether the couple are now in China or living at an undisclosed location in Canada.

The RCMP are conducting a criminal investigation into allegations related to their time at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

The Liberal government has said only that the firing was related to sensitive national-security matters. It is preparing to provide secret documents about their dismissal to a special committee.

In June of last year, The Globe reported that Xiangguo Qiu, a former head of a virology program at the laboratory, and her biologist husband, Keding Cheng, were no longer living at their home in Winnipeg.

Last week, The Globe returned to properties they own in Winnipeg but did not find the couple, who lost their security clearances in July, 2019, and were dismissed from their jobs in January, 2021.

They have not publicly commented on why they were dismissed. Nor has Dr. Qiu responded to recent questions from The Globe about whether their dismissal was related to the transfer of highly infectious viruses to China’s Wuhan Virology Institute or sharing of scientific data with Chinese Communist Party officials.

The couple own two homes in Winnipeg, including a rental property. They also own a property in cottage country in Gimli, Man. Their two sons live in the principal residence, valued at $1.2-million.

The sons would not talk to the media. Another family rents the second residence, valued at $524,000, but said they do not know where the scientists are. Two neighbours approached by The Globe would not provide their names, but said they thought the couple were in China.

A former colleague of the couple said it’s his understanding that they own a home in China. He did not know where. The Globe is not identifying the colleague, who did not want to speak publicly about his conversations with Dr. Qiu and Mr. Cheng.

RCMP Sergeant Paul Manaigre would not say if the Mounties know the couple’s location, but said the criminal investigation continues.

Exactly why the two scientists were fired has been a contentious political issue in Parliament. At first, the government would not disclose any information about the reasons, and even took House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota to court last year for trying to obtain documents....


To their everlasting credit the Globe and Mail's and are the ones bulldogging the story, along with Shannon VanRaes on the latest piece.

"North Dakota Attorney General's Office Looks into Bill Gates-Related Farmland Sale"

From AgWeek, June 22

The North Dakota Attorney General’s office is asking Red River Trust, a Washington-based entity with offices in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, and an address at Grafton, North Dakota, to prove that it doesn’t violate anti-corporate farming laws, which would require it to sell land it purchased from owners of Campbell Farms of Grafton.

The North Dakota Attorney General’s office is looking into a land transaction between a prominent Grafton, North Dakota, potato farming family and a trust associated with billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

In a letter dated June 21, 2022, and addressed to the Red River Trust, care of trustee Peter Headley, in the trust’s Lenexa, Kansas, office, and also at an office in Grafton, North Dakota, where Campbell Farms is headquartered and still operates, the attorney general’s office notified the trust that all corporations or limited liability companies are “prohibited from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland in the state of North Dakota,” and from “engaging in farming or ranching.”....


Previously on Farmer Bill: 

FT Alphaville Talks With Credit Suisse's Zoltan Pozsar

From FT Alphaville: 

Meet Zoltan, the sellside Jules Verne
FTAV sits down with Credit Suisse’s money savant and man-of-the-moment, Zoltan Pozsar

There are financiers whose names adorn gallery wings and university dormitories. The world of money has even yielded a few who can be identified by first name only — at least to insiders. But there is only one that boasts their own hashtag.

Whenever Credit Suisse’s Zoltan Pozsar publishes research, the financial corners of Twitter will light up with comments on the latest from #Zoltan. (Even the WSJ has noticed the phenomenon.) Not everyone is a fan of his often complex explorations of the most recondite recesses of the financial system, or his far-ranging discussions on its future. But no one denies Pozsar’s influence, which is why FT Alphaville hit him up on a recent visit to New York.

Pozsar’s first brush with fame came in the wake of the financial crisis, when the young Hungarian economist became known as one of the leading taxonomists of “shadow banking”. But it is Pozsar’s recent ruminations on the future of the dollar-based global financial order in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine that have transformed him into one of Wall Street’s most read (and most controversial) analysts....


Capital Markets: "Risk Appetites Improve Ahead of the Weekend"

From Marc Chandler at Bannockburn Global Forex:

Overview: Equities are higher and bonds lower as the week's activity winds down. Asia Pacific markets rallied, paced by more than 2% gains in Hong Kong and South Korea. Japan's Nikkei rallied more than 1%, as did China's CSI 300. Most of the large markets but South Korea and Taiwan advanced this week, though only China and Hong Kong are up for the month. Europe's Stoxx 600 is up 1.3% through the European morning, its biggest advance of the week and what looks like the first weekly gain in four weeks. US futures are trading around 0.6%-0.8% higher. The NASDAQ is 4% higher and the S&P 500 is 3.3% stronger on the week coming into today. The US 10-year yield is virtually unchanged today and around 3.08%, is off about 14 bp this week. European bonds are mostly 2-4 bp firmer, and peripheral premiums over Germany have edged up. The US dollar is sporting a softer profile against the major currencies but the Japanese yen. Emerging market currencies are also mostly higher. The notable exception is the Philippine peso, off about 0.6% on the day and 2.2% for the week. 

Gold fell to a five-day low yesterday near $1822 and is trading quietly today and is firmer near $1830. August WTI is consolidating and remains inside Wednesday’s range (~$101.50-$109.70). It settled at almost $108 last week and assuming it does not rise above there today, it will be the first back-to-back weekly loss since March. US natgas is stabilizing after yesterday’s 9% drop. On the week, it is off about 10% after plummeting 21.5% last week. Europe is not as fortunate. Its benchmark is up for the 10th consecutive session. It soared almost 48% last week and rose another 7.7% this week. Iron ore’s 2% loss today brings the weekly hit to 5.1% after last week’s 14% drop. Copper is trying to stabilize after falling 7.5% in the past two sessions. It is at its lowest level since Q1 21. September wheat is up about 1.5% today to pare this week’s decline to around 8%....


Seventy-Four Years Ago Today The Soviets Blockaded West Berlin and Began Their Attempt to Starve the City Into Submission

A repost from 2018.

At the time it wasn't known as West Berlin but rather the French, British and American Zones of Occupation. But the Sov's did cut it off from from what, less than a year later, May of 1949, was to become West Germany

As with many crises, this one began with a disagreement over money, specifically the surprise currency exchange by the Western powers of the new Deutsche Mark to replace the seriously debased (by the Russians overprinting) Reichsmark.

We mentioned the currency swap in 2016's "Whoa: India Messes With Currency Big-Time":
Although not as dramatic* as the 1948 German currency reform when 10 Reichsmarks were swapped for 1 Deutsche Mark in the Western zones of occupation, this is still a stunning move....

...*Four days later the Soviets blockaded the city of Berlin to starve and/or freeze the population into submission which led to one of my favorite examples of clear thinking.

More to come as the year progresses. It was a pretty big deal.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Now, China Wants to Review All Social Media Comment Before Posting

Coming soon to a country near you.

From WION (India), June 23:

According to reports, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in a new draft has asked internet platforms to hire content moderators to review all user comments and filter out harmful content before online publication.

The proposed guidelines reportedly include all types of comments including those that appear in videos. The controversial move which is being seen as a move to curb free speech is open for feedback until July 1.

The restrictions also include real-time comments and replies made by users on the net. The CAC has demanded content moderation teams to be appointed by internet platforms which "matches the scale of their service" as China continues to clamp down on the internet inside the "Great Firewall".....


The Chinese Communist Party/Government is just so fashion forward in this stuff.

It will be at least one biennial election before the U.S. can catch up.

More on that tomorrow.

Copper: "Codelco reaches agreement with workers to end strike"

Okay. I promise I won't say "Co-effin'-delco" any more. 
As long as the grass shall grow and the winds shall blow. This year.
Two via/from, June 23:
Chile’s state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, reached an agreement with workers on Thursday to end a nationwide strike over the closure of a troubled smelter in a highly polluted region of central Chile....
In spotty trade the futures are up 0.0310 at 3.7700 following the big June sell-off:
TradingView Chart

Those are 30-minute prints,  the futs are up 0.0145 in the last 30 minute period.
Let 'em bounce, then lower for longer

"Could bacteria be used to light our cities?"

We saw some of these ideas in one of our posts on the French tech scene. More after the jump.

From TimeOut, June 16:

Scientists across the Channel think living organisms may hold the future of street lighting

In the picturesque French town of Rambouillet, south west of Paris, a series of cylindrical tubes illuminate a path with soft turquoise light. It’s pretty, but maybe won’t strike you as a bold experiment in the future of street lighting. But it is. Because the path is alight thanks not to electricity, but to bacteria.

The phenomenon is known as bioluminescence – light produced and emitted by living organisms. Fireflies, fungi and deep-sea creatures use it to find mates and confuse predators, but now one company has found a way of harnessing it to illuminate our cities.

French start-up Glowee, which is behind the project in Rambouillet, collects a bacteria called Aliivibrio fischeri and stores it in tubes filled with saltwater. Recharging them simply requires occasionally feeding the bacteria a mixture of basic nutrients and oxygen. ‘Instead of replacing the bulbs in street lamps, we created a whole new approach,’ says Sandra Rey, who founded Glowee in 2014. ‘With this new approach, we found the solution we have today.’....


Here's Glowee's home page

And a repost from August 2016: 

How Scientists Plan To Grow Cities Out Of Living Organisms

From Gizmodo, August 5:
Imagine a future where there is no need to cut down a tree and reshape that raw material into a chair or table. Instead, we could grow our furniture by custom-engineering moss or mushrooms. Perhaps glowing bacteria will light our cities, and we’ll be able to bring back extinct species, or wipe out Lyme disease — or maybe even terraform Mars. Synthetic biology could help us accomplish all that.
The promise of synthetic biology: Paris-based startup Glowee wants to tweak genes of common bacteria so that they are bioluminescent, thereby creating a potential alternative light source for future cities. (Image: Glowee)
That’s the message of the latest video in a new mini-documentary Web series called Explorations, focusing on potentially transformative areas of scientific research: Genomics, artificial intelligence, neurobiology, transportation, space exploration and synthetic biology. It’s a passion project of entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, founder of OS Fund and the payments processing company Braintree.

There’s a good selection of featured voices in the video. You’ve got pioneers like Harvard’s George Church and Drew Endy of Stanford University mixed in with visionaries like Rehma Shetty of Ginkgo Bioworks (which designs custom microbes, like yeast that smells like grapes, and dreams of building furniture from genetically tailored fungi); the folks at Paris-based startup Glowee (who think bioluminescence is the future of lighting); and artist/designer Daisy Ginsberg, who weaves synthetic biology into her creative projects to reimagine systems design.

“The most stunning and consequential development of our time is this: We have built tools of creation that increasingly have the power to literally code any kind of world we imagine,” Johnson wrote earlier this year at the Daily Dot about his conception of the series. “Synthetic biology allows us to program organisms to grow objects. Genomics is starting to allow us to program our bodies. AI allows us to build new forms of intelligence.” He hopes the series will inspire young people in particular to build that visionary future world.

Not everyone is as big a fan as Johnson of synthetic biology and these other cutting-edge fields. Progress brings both promise and potential peril, after all. In 2012, more than 100 environmental groups issued a manifesto calling for a global ban on the use of synthetic organisms commercially until better regulations and safety measures are in place. And a new Pew Research Center poll released last week found that most Americans remain fearful of so-called “designer babies“, implanted brain chips and other biological enhancements....MORE

Somewhat related: 

And Now a Brief Intermission: Dolphins Swimming in Bioluminescence

In May 6ths And Now a Brief Intermission: "Bioluminescent waves in San Diego, Red Tide Blue Waves" I mentioned:

The friend who sent the link said he's heard the dolphins sometimes surf the phosphorescence but that they are usually daytime surfers:

Surfing Dolphins Mission Beach
Photo courtesy of Paul Wilson at

Well, he's come back with a different video, of dolphins off Newport Beach California (nice hood) which causes me to wonder what the dolphins, who in their own way are supposed to be very intelligent, what they are thinking when they see each other illuminated.
Duuuude! (surfer dolphin lingo)

Via the YouTube channel of Patrickc_la:


"West to reap main ‘harvest’ from anti-Russian sanctions in autumn, Medvedev says"

From TASS [Russian state mouthpiece], June 14:

Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council noted problems in the economy of Western countries

MOSCOW, June 14. /TASS/. The authors of anti-Russian sanctions are coming up with ways to circumvent them but the West will gather its "harvest" from the sanctions in the fall, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev asserted.

"We are eagerly expecting yet another package of European sanctions and great sanctions solutions by Grandfather Joe [US President Joe Biden] over which the authors of these very sanctions immediately begin to come up with schemes to circumvent them," he wrote on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.

According to the politician, "particularly gifted characters" in the West "realized that they cannot survive without our country." "Since otherwise they won’t get: food for their citizens, fertilizers to produce food for their citizens, energy sources for food production and heat for their citizens, metals and other products to produce machines and mechanisms for their citizens, fuel for European and American NPPs which produce 20-40% of electric power for their citizens," the official listed. He asserted that "the list can go on."....


'Ol Dmitry seems to have morphed from something of a moderate into a hardliner right before our eyes. 

I wonder what the plan is that makes him sound so cocky?

John Deere, Fertilizer Stocks Breaking Down (DE; IPI; CF)

Slope of Hope highlights Deere, down $21.65 (-6.81%) at $296.28:

Even boring, conservative blue chips like John Deere are falling to pieces. Good.

While Intrepid Potash (IPI) and CF Industries are down 15.95% and 8.61% respectively.

Earlier: Agricultural Commodities: "heavy losses continue to mount"

Agricultural Commodities: "heavy losses continue to mount"

From DTN Progressive Farmer:

Posted 10:41 -- At midmorning Thursday, heavy losses continue to mount and the commodity board has returned to mostly red with ongoing concerns about slowing economic activity around the world. July corn is down 25 1/2 cents and July soybeans are down 58 cents. December corn is down 40 cents and November soybeans are down 60 cents, both on track to finish below their 100-day averages for the first time this year. July soybean oil was up earlier but is now down 2.16 cents September KC wheat is down 31 cents. August crude oil is down $0.85 and Dow Jones futures are up 33 points. The U.S. Dollar Index is up 0.18 and August gold is down $1.50....


Energy Transition: What Will Replace The Revenues Governments Currently Receive From Traditional Energy?

As we've seen with Western sanctions on Russia, the failure to think through and anticipate the effects and ramifications of our actions can lead to disaster.

Of course "Ready, Fire, Aim" is more spontaneous and attuned to the adolescent spirit of the age, feelings over rationality and leadership by undeveloped frontal cortexes

From the Milken Institute Review, March 7, 2022:

Daniel Raimi is a fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF), an independent nonprofit environmental research institution in Washington.

The Cost of the Energy Transition Is More Than Just Jobs

When assessing the costs of the transition to clean energy, policymakers and the media generally focus on one word: jobs. This is understandable and, to a large degree, appropriate. In America, work shapes identity, creates a shared sense of community — and, of course, supports families in a society with a limited safety net.

But another loss may prove be just as important in the energy transition: the loss of government revenue.

Putting the Pieces Together
In a working paper from RFF, I partnered with Emily Grubert, Jake Higdon, Gilbert Metcalf, Sophie Pesek and Devyani Singh to assess the impact of fossil fuels as a source of government revenue. We also estimated how those revenues might change over the next 30 years under different transition policy scenarios.

We found that between 2015 and 2019, fossil fuels generated, on average, about $138 billion per year to governments across the United States. The largest sources are petroleum product excise taxes, which have yielded $48 billion for states and $40 billion for the federal government annually. Oil and gas production (also known as upstream development) has generated about $34 billion annually. Of those upstream revenue sources, some $14 billion came from production on federal, tribal and state lands and waters, about $11 billion from state severance taxes and $6 billion from local property taxes. Other major sources of funds include oil and gas pipelines, oil refineries, coal production and power plants.

NOTE: "Other" includes corporate income, personal income and sales taxes, along with the federal coal excise taxes and local property taxes on natural gas distribution.

Now, let’s get one thing clear: $138 billion is a lot of money, but it is peanuts compared to the cost of delay in containing climate change. If we use the federal government’s interim estimate for the social cost of carbon emissions ($51 per metric ton), annual damages from energy-sector greenhouse gas emissions in the United States amount to roughly $261 billion per year. And that number is almost certainly an underestimate, as recent scholarship points to a social cost that is two or three times larger. Moreover, those higher estimates neglect non-climate damages that emissions from fossil fuels impose on human health and the natural environment.

Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that the transition to clean energy will create fiscal pressures, particularly in rural areas where fossil fuels are an economic and fiscal linchpin. We estimate that fossil fuels account for more than 10 percent of all state and local government direct, own-source revenue in Wyoming (59 percent), North Dakota (31 percent), Alaska (21 percent) and New Mexico (15 percent). Five more states rely on fossil fuels for more than 5 percent: West Virginia (9.4 percent), Montana (7.9 percent), Oklahoma (7.7 percent), Louisiana (7.2 percent) and Texas (7.0 percent). Consider, too, that in some other states fossil fuels don’t provide a large share of state revenue, but they play an outsized role in certain localities — among them are Kern County, California; Weld County, Colorado and Uintah County, Utah....


Biden Administration Puts BlackRock Honcho In Charge Of State Department Policy Board (BLK)

This would be an example of what I was referring to in June 13's:

We Are Governed By Idiots and Psychopaths: Fertilizer Edition

I don't mean President Biden. He's a nasty, corrupt old perv with anger and cruelty issues but he's not the one running the show.

I'm talking about the people around him, the advisors from BlackRock and WestExec and the retreads from the Obama administration. They've had eight years since Nuland and Pyatt and the rest of the gang put together the Maidan coup in Ukraine, eight years to game out: "If Putin does this, we do that."

And all they've seemed to accomplish is wrecking the U.S. economy and absolutely destroying the economies of our European allies....

From Paul Singer's (Elliott Management) Washington Free Beacon, June 22:

Biden State Department Taps Beijing Bull To Run China Shop 
Tom Donilon has promoted investments in China, opposed tariffs on regime

The Biden administration's pick to advise the State Department on "strategic competition" with Beijing chairs an investment think tank that urged Americans to triple their investments in China.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday selected BlackRock Investment Institute chairman and Obama administration national security adviser Tom Donilon to co-chair the Foreign Affairs Policy Board amid the State Department’s pivot to China.

Donilon’s work at BlackRock could pose a conflict of interest for the board, which provides "advice, feedback, and perspectives" to senior State Department officials on foreign policy matters. Under his leadership, the Investment Institute has urged investors to dramatically increase their stakes in Chinese companies. What’s more, BlackRock views "strategic competition" with China as bad for the company’s bottom line.

"Strategic competition between the U.S. and China and resulting tensions have also contributed to uncertainty in the geopolitical and regulatory landscapes," reads BlackRock’s most recent annual report. The firm listed U.S.-Chinese competition as a factor that could hurt its revenue and profit. BlackRock opened a mutual fund in China in September, making it the first American firm approved to sell financial products there.....


No less a political/financial player than George Soros has called out BlackRock's moves in China:

Pouring billions into the country now is a bad investment and imperils U.S. national security.

Donilon ticks two of the boxes, BlackRock and Obama Admin.

Blinken is a co-founder of WestExec and is one of at least 15 of their peeps staffing the Biden White House:



Source: The Intercept, "Meet the Consulting Firm That’s Staffing the Biden Administration"

The FT's Dan McCrum Sells A Book

Not just any book. His book.

This series of tweets is the reason for the post immediately below.

Like Hollywood legend William Goldman showing us how to sell a screenplay, Mr. McCrum shows us how to pitch the reader to spend some time with his narrative.



How to Sell a Screenplay

 A repost from November 2018: 

On the Passing Of Storyteller William Goldman (and how to sell a screenplay)

We had a post earlier today that was in the queue for the weekend but was bumped up on word of Mr. Goldman's death because of its reference to one of his stories: "The Princess Bride".

Goldman wrote a lot of stuff, novels and teleplays a memoir, short stories, just about every medium short of cuneiform tablets. But it was for his screenplays he was best known and for which he picked up a couple Oscars: Best Original Screenplay for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and Best Adapted Screenplay for "All the Presidents Men".

He also wrote a lot of screenplays, adapted and original, that most movie junkies have heard of:
The Stepford Wives
Marathon Man
A Bridge Too Far
Indecent Proposal 
Last Action Hero
For me though, the eye-opener on just how good the guy was, was the light western Maverick.

A Hollywood friend sent a copy of the screenplay and said if I ever wanted to tell my story all I had to do was learn to write like this and the script itself would be the prospectus for the offering and actually sell the deal:
A Western by William Goldman


Rocks. Cactus. The occasional tree.
Not a place you'd like to spend your summer vacation.

Now there are sounds: A WHIPPING WIND begins to get LOUDER. And in the distance, but GROWING: THUNDER.


SLOWLY, INEXORABLY, ACROSS this dead place --

-- suddenly it STOPS. We are in a Sergio Leone TIGHT CLOSEUP of just a hideous looking man. One eye looks straight ahead. The other wanders.


The wind is really kicking up --
-- suddenly, another STOP.

Another Leone CLOSEUP.

A second man. This guy makes the first one look handsome. Both his eyes work, which is an improvement. But his neck has been horribly burned as if from a noose.


LOUDER THUNDER. A storm is coming fast.


We are LOOKING AT the least appetizing of the three. Not that he's scarred, not that all his parts aren't in proper working order -- it's just that he's so damn frightening.
Not to mention huge.

This is THE ANGEL and like the other two, he is seated on a horse. And he is staring intently at something.

FROM The Angel -- we go to...

for this is who the trio is looking at.
Learn to write like that and the screenplay itself is the sales tool so you don't have to read:

We posted that in 2014's "The Tropes You'll Need To Know When Writing Your Dystopian Movie Script" with the comment: "If you score we would appreciate a producer credit and maybe a point or two of participation."

The request still stands.

Responses of Various European States To A Potential Russian Gas Stoppage

From Reuters via, June 23:

Factbox: Europe takes action in case Russian gas supply stops

Several European countries are putting plans in place to manage gas supply and even ration power in case Russian gas flows stop after supply through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline were curtailed.

Russian gas supply to Europe via the pipeline fell last week and Moscow said more delays in repairs could lead to suspending all flows.]

The European Union has rules to prevent and respond to a disruption in gas supplies. It sets out three levels of crisis: an early warning, alert and emergency. Member states are required to have plans in place for how they would manage the impact of a supply disruption at the three crisis levels.

In an emergency, governments can intervene only if market-based measures are insufficient to ensure supplies to households and to customers providing essential services.

Following is a summary of actions by individual European governments (in alphabetical order):


Austria, which gets around 80% of its gas from Russia, has activated the first step of a three-stage emergency plan. It is also examining measures to diversify gas supply and will convert a gas-fired power plant to generate electricity from coal.


The country, which meets over 90% of its gas needs from Russia, has agreed to purchase U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) and has stepped up talks with Azerbaijan to increase gas deliveries....



"Germany Raises Gas Supply Alarm Level, Fearing Russian Supply Cut"

From (also on blogroll at right), June 23:

Germany will move a step closer to rationing supplies of natural gas, fearing a total cut-off of supplies from Russia, German newswire dpa cited unnamed officials as saying, announced on Thursday. 

Europe's largest economy will trigger the second phase of a three-phase plan to guarantee security of supply, making it easier for utilities to restart coal-fired power stations in order to ensure constant electricity supply. However, Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that the government won't immediately activate a clause in the plan that would allow gas suppliers to immediately pass on the sharp increase in their import costs.  

"Gas supply is currently guaranteed. But the situation is tight," the Economy Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. 

Germany's decision comes a week after Russia cut the supply of gas to its largest customer by 60%, blaming the absence of compression equipment that has gotten stuck in Canada due to Ottawa's sanctions. However, Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom (MCX:GAZP) has chosen not to supply gas volumes via an alternative route through Ukraine. It has also cut supplies to Italy, which doesn't use Nord Stream. Habeck rejected Gazprom's explanations and said the move was "politically motivated"....


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Let's Get Ready To Rumble: Société Générale's Albert Edwards vs. Goldman Sachs On Commodities

"Ya'll ready for this?"
(cue mood music)

From FT Alphaville:

Are commodities an inflation hedge or the opposite?
Navigating a course between Scylla, Charybdis and a permabear.

Seems we’re at the stage of the sell-off where analysts turn Homeric. Here’s the latest from Goldman Sachs’ commodities desk: 
Macro markets today are facing a navigational challenge worthy of Odysseus. In the Greek myth, Odysseus chose to risk his ship by sailing close to the rocks of Scylla rather than risk being pulled under by the whirlpool Charybdis. In our view, policymakers are trying to navigate between the Scylla of high physical inflation today, and the Charybdis of supply constraints that could slow future growth. While it appears that much higher rates are needed today to lower demand and inflation, they may also drive a fall in capex and investment that will prolong the structural undercapacity in physical commodities and hence this environment of high headline inflation and lower growth throughout the 2020s....
....The counter argument comes from Albert Edwards at SocGen, whose notes can often make Greek tragedy look like light relief. Predictions of a Fed-guided shallow recession are a “normal spurious landmark we pass at this stage in the cycle before all hell breaks loose and both the economy and markets collapse”, he says....

Winter Is Coming: Whither The Minsk-Vilnius-Kaliningrad Pipeline

At what point does Russia have enough financial resources (and heating-degree-days) to halt all natural gas exports to Europe.

The question arises because of rumblings that the U.S. and Lithuania are considering blocking transit via this pipe:

File:Minsk-Vilnius-Kaliningrad INTERCONNECTOR.svg

Russia would be forced to react.

That and the fact the International Energy Agency this morning, via the Irish Times, said: 

IEA warns Europe to prepare for total shutdown of Russian gas exports

Interestingly enough both Kaliningrad and Lithuania have been preparing to be supplied with LNG rather than pipe gas, with Lithuania completely weaning itself off of Gazprom's special blend. 

Not so the rest of Europe.

"Sri Lanka's PM says its debt-laden economy has 'collapsed'"

Coming soon to a country near you.

From SkyNews via Yahoo, June 22:

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said the country's economy has "collapsed", leaving it unable to pay for essentials such as oil imports.

It follows months of shortages of food, fuel, and electricity, and the realisation that even the credit lines from neighbouring India that have sustained the country so far will not be enough.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Sri Lanka's parliament: "We are now facing a far more serious situation beyond the mere shortages of fuel, gas, electricity and food.

"Our economy has completely collapsed. That is the most serious issue before us today."

Mr Wickremesinghe said that the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is $700m (£572m) in debt, adding: "As a result, no country or organisation in the world is willing to provide fuel to us.

"They are even reluctant to provide fuel for cash."....


Marc To Market: "Risk Appetites are Fickle"

From Marc Chandler at Bannockburn Global Forex:

Overview: Yesterday’s strong US equity gains failed to carry over into today’s session. Japanese and Australian shares fared the best among the large Asia Pacific market, with the Nikkei off less than 0.4% and the ASX off less than 0.25%. However, China’s markets were off more than 1%, while Taiwan and South Korea indices slumped more than 2%. India is off nearly 1.5%. Europe’s Stoxx 600 is down 1.5% and is giving back all of its gains in the past three sessions. US futures are approaching a 2% fall. The US 10-year yield is down about seven basis points to 3.20%. European yields are mostly 8-12 bp lower, but the peripheral premium is widening over the core. The UK's somewhat firmer than expected inflation report did not prevent the 10-year Gilt yield from tumbling more than 12 bp today. The yen and Swiss franc are the most resilient against the dollar today, but the other major currencies, led by the Antipodean and Norwegian krone are 1%+ lower. Leaving aside the Russian rouble, most emerging market currencies are lower, including the Czech koruna, where the central bank is expected to lift the repo rate by over 100 bp today.

Gold is on the defensive as it trades near a four-day low below $1825. Last week’s low was around $20 lower. August WTI is taking another leg down after consolidating yesterday. It has traded at a one-month low around $103.20 before steadying. US natgas is lower for the third consecutive session and is also hovering around one-month lows. The surge in Europe’s benchmark continued with the eighth day of gains. Iron ore bounced yesterday to snap an eight-day slide but is giving it all back plus some today with a 5.85% drop. Copper is off nearly 3.5% to new 15-month lows. July wheat is jumping back almost 3% after falling almost 10% over the past two sessions....


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

"Blue Holes Show Hurricane Activity in the Bahamas Is at a Centuries-Long Low"

From Hakai Magazine, June 8:

Compared to what we’re seeing now, hurricane activity in the region used to be much, much higher.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active in 171 years of record-keeping. The 2020 season was even worse—there were so many tropical cyclones that meteorologists tore through their list of possible storm names and needed the Greek alphabet to keep track of the overflow. But a new study shows that even this flurry of activity may be something of a lull in the centuries-long record of Atlantic hurricanes.

The evidence that hurricane activity is at a historical low is hiding on the Caribbean seafloor, tucked away in odd geological features called blue holes. These open pits form in limestone, often above collapsed caverns. Prolonged erosion weathers the edges into an eerily circular shape.

Blue holes are similar to sinkholes but on a much grander scale. They can be 300 meters deep, like the Dragon Hole in the South China Sea, or 300 meters wide, like the aptly named Great Blue Hole in Belize. The Bahamas is home to the world’s greatest concentration of blue holes, making it an appealing destination for paleotempestologists—scientists who study historical tropical cyclone activity.

The seafloor at the base of a blue hole acts like a calendar of past storms. Much like an ice core or tree ring grows season after season, the sediment at the bottom of a blue hole builds up over time. Natural currents coax a sugary sprinkle of small sand grains into the hole, while violent hurricanes pitch larger grains into the pit. By comparing layers of coarse and fine grains in this sedimentary lasagna, researchers can count how many hurricanes passed nearby. What makes a blue hole a valuable long-term record is that once this sediment settles, there’s very little activity in the pit to disturb it.

Hine’s Hole, a 340-meter-wide hole that penetrates the seafloor in the western Bahamas, offers a prime example of a blue hole hurricane record. It sits halfway between Cuba and the Florida Keys and is far from any landform, so it can chronicle weaker storms that blow in from any direction. The base of the hole is also low in oxygen, so no animals live there to disrupt the delicate sediment. A steady surface current shooting over the hole sends two to three centimeters of sand tumbling into Hine’s Hole each year.

Hine’s Hole, says Tyler Winkler, a geologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts who led the study, has the highest sedimentation rate of any blue hole he and his colleagues have seen.

For the new study, Winkler and his team drilled 18 meters into the sediment at the bottom of Hine’s Hole, recovering cores representing the past 540 years of deposition. After comparing the top layers to the modern hurricane record, the researchers have high confidence that Hine’s Hole recorded every Category 2 or higher hurricane within 75 kilometers. Analyzing the cores even further shows that the number of tropical cyclones roiling this corner of the Bahamas is in a historical lull.....


This research is all well and good and in fact is pretty darn creative but what I would like to know is what the action was like during previous warm periods. Unfortunately we run into what is almost an event-horizon, beyond which, like the black hole's event-horizon, we can't observe

As noted in the outro from "How Wall Street Is Gaming ESG Scores":

When a business/finance researcher uses language like "With supercharged hurricanes, massive floods and unprecedented wildfires sweeping the globe" you can tell he's a newbie to the science.

Just yesterday I was looking for hurricane data from the Roman Climatic Optimum and the Minoan Warm Period and the so-called paleotempestology gets pretty sparse at even 1200 years ago, much less 2000 and 3500.

And that's just a moment ago in time. If we are looking back to previous interglacial periods what were the hurricanes like in the Eemian interglacial, 125,000 years ago? Or the one a quarter-million years ago? Or the interglacial a million years ago. And 50 million years ago? 500 million?

Just what are we comparing the present to when we make these sweeping statements?

We just went through an 11-year period 2006 - 2016 with zero cat 3 and above landfalling hurricanes hitting the U.S. Is that our baseline?

None of the coupled climate models had that happening. (Sandy wasn't much more than a giant tropical storm when it made its New Jersey landfall but throw in a landing at daily high tide and the full moon monthly high tide and Chris Christie walks President Obama to re-election)

The thing is, we just don't know what is "normal" and all we can do is hope that our recency bias doesn't lead us into some very dark (literally and politically) places as we feel our way forward.

War Averted

One of the many geopolitical hot spots we monitor is Hans Island. From the Globe and Mail, June 10:

Canada and Denmark reach settlement over disputed Arctic island, sources say

Canada and Denmark have reached a settlement in a decades-old border dispute over Hans Island, a 1.3-square-kilometre rock in the Arctic sea passage between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, sources say.

The Inuit name for the island is Tartupaluk – describing its kidney-like shape – and under the agreement, a border will be drawn across the island, dividing it between the Canadian territory of Nunavut and the semi-autonomous Danish territory of Greenland.

The Canadians and Danes plan to unveil the settlement June 14 and celebrate it as an example of how countries can resolve border disputes peacefully even as Russia ignored the rules-based international order and launched a full-scale military assault on Ukraine, the sources say. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The dispute over tiny Hans Island dates back to the early 1970s when the countries were negotiating their maritime boundary; they left the status of the islet for future negotiations....


Previously (August 2018), from Your Fact Boy:

Ever heard of Hans Island? Unless you are an overzealous Scandinavian legal scholar, chances are you haven’t. In short, It is a disputed rock.(or Island, call it what you will)

Within the Nares Strait (Between Greenland and Ellesmere) is half-a-square mile piece of rock called Hans Island, notable for absolutely nothing. No one lives there and while the area, generally, was once an Inuit hunting ground, there is little evidence that Hans Island itself is anything more than a dry rest stop across the Strait. To call Hans Island non-notable would, perhaps, be an understatement.

Nevertheless, Hans Island’s legal status is ‘disputed ‘: it is subject to conflicting claims, one by Denmark and another by Canada.

Which, of course, requires a colossally silly “war” which deserves to go down in history as either the most creative use of cross-border understanding to create a living satire out of territorial disputes or as the most humorous conflict of all time. But then again these are Danes and Canadians we are talking about.

But first, lets have some background. After all, we can’t study a ‘conflict’ without understanding the ‘severe’ political grievances behind it. It all began in 1973 when Denmark and Canada endeavored to map out the continental shelf dividing Greenland and Ellesmere. They ended up with the map, below, as a result, which placed Hans Island collinear with the points creating the boundary:
So why do you deserve to know about this conflict over a piece of rock ? Well, because of ‘how’ the conflict has turned out.
War ships from both sides patrol the area, and when they encounter each other they…wait-for-it…show their flags.
When the soldiers leave the ships they…wait-for-it…take the other side’s flag down and raise their own.
If this sounds terribly boring then read on. As successive Danish and Canadian landings on the island erect and dismantle flag poles and markers, they leave Bottles of Whiskey for the next contingent. This ‘whiskey war’ was initiated in 1984, when the Danish minister for Greenland landed on the island leaving a bottle of schnapps and a sign proclaiming “Welcome to the Danish Island.”
Peter Takso Jensen, head of international law department of the Danish Foreign Ministry, noted that
“When Danish military go there, they leave a bottle of schnapps. So when Canadian military forces come there, they leave a bottle of Canadian Club and a sign saying ‘Welcome to Canada’”


Among the other perfidies of New Albion:
Canada Makes A Move In The Arctic, Claims The North Pole: "Santa is Canadian eh"

No Confidence: "European Business in China: Back in Perilous Waters"

The writer of this article, Joerg Wuttke, observes and comments on Chinese - European business relations from his perch as President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and 30+ year residence in China. We found his last piece, linked in May 1's NZZ: "China's Leadership Is Prisoner of Its Own Narrative" to be right on the money. 

From NZZ's The, June 20:

The latest Business Confidence Survey and a recently conducted flash survey by the European Chamber of Commerce in China show a marked drop in confidence.

Throughout 2021, the story of European business in China was one of high risks and high rewards. Revenue and profitability were positive, but doing business also became more difficult for most companies.

As the rest of the world returns to a pre-pandemic level of normality –with few restrictions hampering business operations and travel – the role China played over the last two years in bolstering European companies’ global revenues looks set to diminish, and recent events have led many to question just how many eggs they are willing to keep in their China basket.

In the Business Confidence Survey (BCS) 2021, the European Chamber of Commerce in China predicted that, after navigating the darkness of 2020, more perilous waters lay in wait for European companies in China.

This unfortunately came to pass.

China’s COVID-19 containment strategy throughout 2021 manifested itself in sporadic and highly disruptive measures that had an extremely negative impact on European companies’ operations. The business environment also continued to become increasingly politicised and reform efforts throughout the year were lacklustre, with traditional complaints – such as market access restrictions, an unlevel playing field and regulatory inefficiencies – still present. Despite this, European companies continued to demonstrate their commitment to China by identifying new ways to contribute to its growth story while advocating for deeper reforms.

At the start of 2022, when the new Business Confidence Survey was conducted, more clouds were already forming on the horizon. Conditions rapidly deteriorated and European businesses found themselves in ever-choppier waters due to both the geopolitical fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24th February and the even more stringent approach taken by the Chinese authorities to try and contain Omicron outbreaks, which culminated in mass lockdowns in Jinan, Shanghai, Shenyang and other parts of China....


"Russian bourse to start trading HK stocks"

From Asia Times via MENAfn, June 20:

Russia's Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange has announced it will allow the trading of 12 Hong Kong stocks from Monday, June 20, raising concerns that Russians may use Hong Kong to evade western sanctions. It remains unclear how the proposed cross-border stock trading can be done without the SWIFT.

According to the SPB Exchange's announcement , brokers will be able to trade 12 Hong Kong stocks from June 20. The 12 companies include CK Hutchison Holdings, WH Group, Tencent Holdings, CK Asset Holdings, Sino Biopharmaceutical, Xiaomi Corp, Sands China, Country Garden Holdings, Sunny Optical Technology Group, Meituan, Alibaba Group and

Sputniknews, a Russian news agency, said that the number of the Hong Kong-listed stocks that could be traded on the SPB Exchange would increase to 50 in two months, 200 by the end of this year and more than 1,000 next year....



Nobel Prize Sells At Auction For $103.5M

 From The Associated Press, June 21:

Nobel sold for Ukrainian kids shatters record at $103.5M

The Nobel Peace Prize auctioned off by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov to raise money for Ukrainian child refugees sold Monday night for $103.5 million, shattering the old record for a Nobel.

A spokesperson for Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale, could not confirm the identity of the buyer but said the winning bid was made by proxy. The $103.5 million sale translates to $100 million Swiss francs, hinting that the buyer is from overseas.

“I was hoping that there was going to be an enormous amount of solidarity, but I was not expecting this to be such a huge amount,” Muratov said in an interview after bidding in the nearly 3-week auction ended on World Refugee Day.

Previously, the most ever paid for a Nobel Prize medal was $4.76 million in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA earned him a Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his. Three years later, the family of his co-recipient, Francis Crick, received $2.27 million in bidding also run by Heritage Auctions....


Travel News: Both Bahrain and Egypt Plan To Accept Russia's 'MIR' Payment System

My dream of spreading the word on Sparkasse Chemnitz's Karl Marx-branded Mastercard, tagline: "A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of cash back and low, low interest rates," is fading with each country that adopts MIR.

From eTN (Global Travel News), June 18:

Russian Tourists now have an alternative to Visa and MasterCard

VISA, Master Card, and American Express are out for Russian tourists due to the sanction imposed by many countries in response see to the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The next best solution for Russian travelers is to get a MIR card.

Mir is a Russian payment system for electronic fund transfers established by the Central Bank of Russia under a law adopted on 1 May 2017. The system is operated by the Russian National Card Payment System, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Central Bank of Russia. 

Russian Visa and Master Cards will still work until their expiration date. After that cardholders in Russia will see a MIR replacement card.

Bahrain intends to introduce the Russian payment system “Mir” in the near future for the convenience of tourists. This was announced by the Ambassador of the Kingdom to the Russian Federation Ahmed Abdulrahman Al Saaiti during a meeting with the head of Bashkiria Radiy Khabirov at the ongoing St. Petersburg International Economic Forum SPIEF-2022....


"Jury Decision marks Fourth Consecutive Win in Court for Bayer and Roundup"

I had been wondering why we hadn't been seeing much on the Monsanto lawsuits.
It may be because the plaintiffs are no longer winning multi-multi-million dollar awards and settlements. In fact they may not be winning anything at all.

From AgWeb, June 20:

A jury said on Friday that Bayer’s Roundup did not cause an Oregon man’s cancer. The decision, delivered in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Ore., marked the fourth-consecutive win in court for the company.

“The jury’s unanimous verdict in favor of the company brings this trial to a successful conclusion and is consistent with the evidence in this case that Roundup does not cause cancer and was not the cause of Mr. Johnson’s (one of the plaintiffs) cancer,” Bayer said, in a prepared statement. 

“While we have great sympathy for Mr. Johnson, the jury has weighed the evidence from both sides in this case and concluded that Roundup is not responsible for his injuries,” the statement said. 

Costly Lawsuits Piled Up
The Oregon case marks the latest in a long line of Roundup-focused lawsuits the company has had to contend with in the past few years. On its website, the company says it has already settled 107,000 of 138,000 cases, most of which have come out of the U.S. residential lawn and garden marketplace.

In spring of 2021, Bayer announced its decision to pull out of the law [sic] and garden market. The company developed a process, its Five-Point Plan to Close the Roundup Litigation, for guidance. The plan is available for review at


Worst acquisition ever. 

Australia's Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant Can't Find Enough Coal

This is what I was thinking of in last night's "Step 1: Announce the Restart Of Every Coal-Fired Power Plant In Europe":
Step 2: Find some coal.

From RenewEconomy, June 1:

The fossil fuel crisis affecting Australia’s energy markets took a new twist on Wednesday when Origin Energy, the owner of the country’s biggest coal generator, confirmed it could not source enough coal to keep the  2.8GW Eraring plant in NSW operating at anywhere near full capacity.

The supply problems add to the soaring coal and gas prices, and coal plant outages, that have driven the electricity markets, and analysts, crazy in the past few weeks, resulting in the collapse of some energy retailers, “house full” signs on others, and skyrocketing bills for consumers.

In its quarterly update, Origin confirms its view that the price rises were being driven by coal plant outages and high fossil fuel prices, and warns it will continue in at least the near term until more renewables can be brought into the grid.

“The challenges with coal delivery to Eraring Power Station are expected to persist into FY2023,” it says in its quarterly update.

“This is expected to result in a material increase in coal purchasing costs given high coal prices and continued exposure to high spot electricity prices....


Capital Markets: "Equities Jump, Dollar Slips, and European Yields Drop"

From Marc to Market:

Overview: Stocks are rallying. Nearly all the large bourses in the Asia Pacific region rose with China being the noted exception. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 is up over 1% to post gains for the third consecutive session, the longest advance this month. US futures are up around 2% as they return from yesterday’s holiday. While the US 10-year yield has edged up 3.26%, European yields are mostly softer, with the peripheral premiums falling more than core rates. The US dollar is mostly heavier. The Scandis are leading the move, ahead of Norway’s expected 25 bp hike on Thursday. The yen is the only G10 currency that is not gaining on the greenback today. Emerging market currencies are also mostly higher, lead by central Europe and the South African rand.

Gold appears to be going no place quickly and is trading within the broad range set last Thursday. Today, it is in $5-range on either side of $1837. After trading as low at $106.40 yesterday, in a big outside down day, August WTI has returned bid today and popped back above $110. A move above $112 could sign run at the highs (~$121). US natgas is off a little more than 3% after plummeting 21.5% last week. Europe’s newest gas shock continues. Its benchmark is up another 2.2% today to bring the seven-day surge to 53%. For its part, iron ore snapped an 8-day, 24% drop with an almost 3.7% rally today. July copper has fallen by more than 10% over the past two weeks but is up 0.7% today. July wheat extended last week’s 3.4% fall initially and reached its lowest level in two months earlier today before recovering. It remains around 0.7% below last week’s settlement....


Monday, June 20, 2022

Step 1: Announce the Restart Of Every Coal-Fired Power Plant In Europe

Step 2: Find some coal.

From The Telegraph via MSN, June 20:

Winter blackout fears spark dash for coal across Europe 
European countries have launched a new dash for coal amid a battle to keep the lights on in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Netherlands on Monday joined Britain and Germany in warning that it will have to use more of the dirtiest fossil fuel this winter to stave off a looming energy shortage.
The move risks opening up a split between European Union member states and Brussels, which is committed to the green transition. 
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told the Financial Times that governments must stay focused on “massive investment in renewables”.
She added: “We have to make sure that we use this crisis to move forward and not to have a backsliding on the dirty fossil fuels." 
The price of coal has surged since February 24 as Russian supplies of both coal and gas are shunned, leaving power generators competing for supplies from elsewhere. 
There are growing fears that Russia’s gas will be cut off, adding further to demand and raising the prospect of blackouts or energy rationing on the Continent.

Deirdre Michie, head of the lobby group Offshore Energies UK, said in a speech on Monday that the risk of shortages was real.

Speaking at an event in the House of Commons, she said the transition away from fossil fuels will take time and added: "We could be living through the reality of not getting this right as soon as this winter, if the concerns being raised about blackouts and shortages come to pass."

The price of coal delivered to northern Europe has already reached record highs of $335 [£273] per tonne, compared to averages of around $80 before the coronavirus pandemic hit....


Step 2 looks like the tricky bit.

"The Open Secret of Google Search"

Time to make Google Search and the index a public utility.

From The Atlantic, June 20:

One of the most-used tools on the internet is not what it used to be.

A few weeks ago my house had a septic-tank emergency, which is as awful as it sounds. As unspeakable things began to burble up from my shower drain, I did what any smartphone-dependent person would: I frantically Googled something along the lines of poop coming from shower drain bad what to do. I was met with a slew of cookie-cutter websites, most of which appeared hastily generated and were choked with enough repetitive buzzwords as to be barely readable. Virtually everything I found was unhelpful, so we did the old-fashioned thing and called a professional. The emergency came and went, but I kept thinking about those middling search results—how they typified a zombified internet wasteland.

Like many, I use Google to answer most of the mundane questions that pop up in my day-to-day life. And yet that first page of search results feels like it’s been surfacing fewer satisfying answers lately. I’m not alone; the frustration has become a persistent meme: that Google Search, what many consider an indispensable tool of modern life, is dead or dying. For the past few years, across various forums and social-media platforms, people have been claiming in viral posts that Google’s flagship product is broken. Search google dying on Twitter or Reddit and you can see people grousing about it going back to the mid 2010s. Lately, though, the criticisms have grown louder.

In February, an engineer named Dmitri Brereton wrote a blog post about Google’s search-engine decay, rounding up leading theories for why the product’s “results have gone to shit.” The post quickly shot to the top of tech forums such as Hacker News and was widely shared on Twitter and even prompted a PR response from Google’s Search liaison, Danny Sullivan, refuting one of Brereton’s claims. “You said in the post that quotes don’t give exact matches. They really do. Honest,” Sullivan wrote in a series of tweets.

Brereton’s most intriguing argument for the demise of Google Search was that savvy users of the platform no longer type instinctive keywords into the search bar and hit “Enter.” The best Googlers—the ones looking for actionable or niche information, product reviews, and interesting discussions—know a cheat code to bypass the sea of corporate search results clogging the top third of the screen. “Most of the web has become too inauthentic to trust,” Brereton argued, therefore “we resort to using Google, and appending the word ‘reddit’ to the end of our queries.” Brereton cited Google Trends data that show that people are searching the word reddit on Google more than ever before. 

Instead of scrolling through long posts littered with pop-up ads and paragraphs of barely coherent SEO chum to get to a review or a recipe, clever searchers got lively threads with testimonials from real people debating and interacting with one another. Most who use the Reddit hack are doing so for practical reasons, but it’s also a small act of protest—a way to stick it to the Search Engine Optimization and Online Ad Industrial Complex and to attempt to access a part of the internet that feels freer and more human.

Google has built wildly successful mobile operating systems, mapped the world, changed how we email and store photos, and tried, with varying success, to build cars that drive themselves. This story, for example, was researched, in part, through countless Google Search queries and some Google Chrome browsing, written in a Google Doc, and filed to my editor via Gmail. Along the way, the company has collected an unfathomable amount of data on billions of people (frequently unbeknownst to them)—but Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is still primarily an advertising business. In 2020, the company made $147 billion in revenue off ads alone, which is roughly 80 percent of its total revenue. Most of the tech company’s products—Maps, Gmail—are Trojan horses for a gargantuan personalized-advertising business, and Search is the one that started it all. It is the modern template for what the technology critic Shoshana Zuboff termed “surveillance capitalism.”....