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Monday 03.20.2017

Unions plan massive anti-Trump strike

More than 300,000 workers are planning to walk out of their jobs in protest of President Trump on International Workers Day, according to a new report.

The report by Buzzfeed News said that "350,000 service workers plan to strike on May 1, a traditional day for labor activism across the world, in the most direct attempt yet by organized labor to capture the energy from a resurgent wave of activism across the country since the election of Donald Trump."

The Service Employees International Union, which endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president back in 2015, will be a large component of the protest.

"We understand that there's risk involved in that," David Huerta, president of SEIU's California chapter, told BuzzFeed, "but we're willing to take that risk in order to be able to move forward in this moment, while the most marginalized are in the crosshairs of this administration."

The Record Year The U.S. Imported Nearly A Half Billion Ounces Of Silver

How many precious metals investors know the year the United States imported a record amount of silver? This figure is so great, there is no other single year in U.S. history that comes anywhere close to this amount. Even more impressive than that, it turns out to be more than double the global annual mine supply that year. It is such an unbelievable amount, its record has never been surpassed to this day.

Actually, I was quite surprised by the data when I was researching through some old official records. Even though the United States currently imports a lot of silver to supply its growing jewelry, industrial and investment demand, it pales in comparison to the nearly half a billion ounces imported this record year.

For example, U.S. silver imports are estimated to reach 6,100 metric tons (mt) in 2016, or 196 million oz (Moz), up from 191 Moz in 2015. Thus, 196 Moz of U.S. silver imports last year accounted for 22% of global mine supply which is estimated to be 887 Moz.

However, if we look at the following chart, we can plainly see, it doesn’t remotely compare to the massive 473 Moz of silver imported by the United States in 1935:

As we can see, total U.S. silver imports in 1935 stick out like a sore thumb. Even though U.S. silver imports trended higher from 1980 to 2016, there was this huge anomaly in 1935. So, what gives?

More Proof of Janet Yellen’s Idiocy

During the last 129 months, the Fed has held 86 meetings. On 83 of those occasions it either cut rates or left them unchanged. So you can perhaps understand why Wednesday’s completely expected (for the last three weeks!) 25 bips left the day traders nonplussed. The Dow rallied over 100 points that day.

Traders understandably believe that this monetary farce can continue indefinitely, and that our Keynesian school marm’s post-meeting presser was evidence that the Fed is still their friend. No it isn’t!

Janet Yellen’s sing-song gibberish was the equivalent of a monetary DEFCON 1, alerting all except the most addicted Kool-Aid drinkers to get out of the casino. Our monetary politburo has expanded its balance sheet by a lunatic 22X during the last three decades and in the process has systematically falsified financial asset prices and birthed a mutant debt-fueled of simulacrum of prosperity.

But once it begins to withdraw substantial amounts of cash from the canyons of Wall Street as per its newly reaffirmed “normalization” policy, the whole house of cards is destined to collapse. There will be a stock market implosion soon, and that will in turn generate panic in the C-suites as the value of stock options vanish. Like in the fall of 2008 — except on an even more sweeping and long-lasting scale — corporate America will desperately unload inventories, workers and assets to appease the robo-machines of Wall Street. But there is nothing left to brake the casino’s fall.

JCPenney to close 138 stores, lay off 5,000 workers

Retailer JCPenney announced it is closing 138 stores nationwide this summer because of slow sales.

The company said the locations represent 14 percent of store locations but account for five percent of company sales. A supply chain facility in Lakeland, Fla. will be closed and another in Buena Park, Calif., will be relocated. About 5,000 people will be laid off as a result. The stores will begin liquidating merchandise in April and most stores are expected to be closed by June, officials said.

"JCPenney is in the process of identifying relocation opportunities within the company for esteemed leaders," the company said in a written statement. "Additionally, JCPenney will provide outplacement support services for those eligible associates who will be leaving the company."

The department store chain has been struggling like others amid the growing movement to online shopping. Stores in 41 states will close with the biggest cuts in Texas (nine stores) and Minnesota (eight stores).

H-1B Visa Architect: Program ‘Hijacked’ to ‘Displace Americans’

Former Rep. Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.) said the 1990 H-1B visa program he helped craft has been “hijacked” to routinely replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor during a special that aired Sunday on CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

CBS Evening News journalist Bill Whitaker explored the controversy surrounding the H-1B visa program that allows American corporations to hire foreign workers. Morrison insisted the bill he helped create was intended to help companies fill scientific jobs with difficult to find qualified candidates. He accused companies of shamelessly outsourcing thousands of jobs to younger, cheaper and temporary foreign workers through a loophole that allows companies to hire the foreign workers for jobs paying over $60,000.

“I’m outraged. The H-1B has been hijacked as the main highway to bring people from abroad and displace Americans,” Morrison told Whitaker. “It’s really travesty that should never have been allowed to happen.”

Morrison noted that these types of scientific jobs often earn American workers $120,000 – $140,000 per year. But because foreign workers will take those jobs for far less, American companies often choose outsourcing over valuing their American workers.

Michael Pento-Stock Market Will Fall at Least 50%

Boeing plans layoffs for May

Boeing sent a notice to employees at its commercial jet factories Friday warning of layoffs in May. Workers at the company's Washington state factories were informed by their union that Boeing had issued a federally-required notice that "involuntary layoffs were scheduled for May."

A Boeing spokesman confirmed the 60-day notice, but declined to say precisely when it would initiate the layoffs. Boeing (BA) has been cutting staff to reduce costs since early 2016, primarily through buyouts and the attrition of executives, managers and engineering staff. The notices are the first official signal from the company that it will lay off some of the factory workers who assemble its jets.

A person familiar with the notices said this latest round of cuts in May would affect fewer than 500 staff. The Machinists union in Seattle, which represents thousands of Boeing employees, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After years of record buying, the pace of orders for Boeing's twin-aisle jets, including its 777 and 787 Dreamliners, has slowed significantly. Boeing is cutting back current-generation 777 production, its most profitable large jet, by nearly 60% from its peak.

Trump Administration Eases Restriction On Student Loan Debt Collectors

The Department of Education has told federal student loan debt collectors that they are to ignore previous guidance that restricted the fees they could charge to borrowers who defaulted on their loans — even if they immediately enter into repayment programs.

Until July 2015, guarantors that collected debts on defaulted loans from the public-private Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program were allowed to charge collections fees equal to as high as 18.5% of what was owed on that loan, resulting in bills for several thousands of additional dollars on top of the original amount.

Then the Dept. of Ed. issued guidance forbidding these fees, but only if the borrower responds within 60 days of a final notice, enters into a repayment agreement, and abides by that agreement.

This week, the Department changed course drastically, issuing new guidance to guarantors, telling them to disregard the 2015 letter. These fees are not an issue for loans issued through the federal Direct Loan program; only FFEL. The FFEL program hasn’t issued new loans since 2010, but as the Washington Post notes, there are approximately 7 million borrowers with $162 billion in debt still outstanding to FFEL.

Raising The Minimum Wage Is A Jobs Killing Move

In January, 19 US states raised their respective minimum wages. Washington was among the most generous, hiking by $1.53 (bringing it to $11 per hour). Arizona got an increase of $1.95—their “bottom rung” now sits at $10 per hour.

In all, 4.3 million workers are slated to receive a hike as they earn less than the new minimum wage in their respective states. Well, that’s what’s meant to happen. Judging by the fallout from recent hikes, it seems things aren’t going according to plan.

In February, Wendy’s CEO Bob Wright said the firm expects wages to rise at least 4% in 2017. Wendy’s has three options to offset the rising costs. First, they could cut margins, but with an 8% margin, that’s unlikely. The second option is to raise prices. Given how price-sensitive consumers are these days, that too is a non-starter. Finally, the firm could reduce the amount of labor they use… and that’s exactly what they did. Wendy’s eliminated 31 hours of labor per location, per week.

However, their locations are just as busy. To keep output steady, they are planning to install automated kiosks in 16% of their locations by the end of 2017. David Trimm, Wendy’s CIO said the timeframe for payback on the machines would be less than two years, thanks to labor savings. Market leader McDonald’s has also been automating. Last November, the firm said every one of its 14,000 US stores will be replacing cashiers with automated kiosks. McDonald’s has actually prioritized these changes in locations like Seattle and New York that have higher minimum wages.

Uber's president Jeff Jones quits amid company turmoil

Uber's president of ridesharing, Jeff Jones, is leaving the company after less than a year on the job. Recode first reported the shake-up on Sunday, and Uber has since confirmed the departure with Business Insider.

"We want to thank Jeff for his six months at the company and wish him all the best," the company said in a statement.

Jones' departure is not a direct result of the company's search for a new COO, one that could've outranked him, but because Uber was "not the situation he signed on for," according to Recode.

In an internal email obtained by Business Insider, though, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told employees that Jones "came to the tough decision that he doesn't see his future at Uber" after the company announced its intention to hire a new second-in-command. Since the beginning of the year, Uber has been hit with a blistering few weeks of bad press. In January, over 200,000 customers deleted Uber in one weekend as part of the #DeleteUber movement. Since then, the company has had to launch an internal investigation into its workplace culture after a former engineer published a tell-all blog post about the gender bias and sexual harassment she allegedly endured at the company.

Oil prices drop on rise in U.S. drilling

Oil prices fell on Monday as rising U.S. drilling activity and steady supplies from OPEC countries despite touted production cuts pressured already-bloated markets.

Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, were 20 cents below their last settlement at 0025 GMT (8:25 p.m. ET on Sunday), at $51.56 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 28 cents at $48.50 a barrel.

Traders said that prices were under pressure due to rising U.S. drilling activity and ongoing high supplies by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) despite its pledge to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) together with some other producers like Russia.

“Crude oil has attempted to break out of the trading range that formed last year … However, this uptrend has stalled,” futures brokerage CMC Markets said in a note on Monday. “Now there is good, strong momentum to the downside.” U.S. drillers added 14 oil rigs in the week to March 17, bringing the total count up to 631, the most since September 2015, energy services firm Baker Hughes Inc said on Friday, extending a recovery that is expected to boost shale production by the most in six-months in April.

Say farewell to the Pound: Millennials in U.K. using blockchain could lead to local currencies

Successful ideas have as much to do with good timing as they do with great technology. For Generation Y, ATMs were the right technology at the right time, offering quick cash on demand and changing our relationship with money. For millennials, what's the next big thing in managing their hard-earned wages?

It may just be local currencies. These can be used in certain cities or neighbourhoods to shop in local stores, buy local goods and even pay bills for rent and local utilities. The timing is right for such a paradigm shift in the way we pay. Why? Because of the confluence of three key phenomena.

The first is urbanisation. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. More than half of the world's population lives in cities. By 2030 the number of urban dwellers worldwide will swell to around five billion. That means cities will increasingly become primary drivers of economic growth. And as the municipal hub becomes the global nexus for financial progress, so will demand grow for unique currencies that reflect this shift.

But there's another reason to expect a rise in local currencies, one that's more in line with the social and cultural norms which characterise the coming of age of the millennial generation: ironically, the denser living that comes with urbanisation does not usually engender community. As cities grow and we live in closer proximity, we feel less connected to each another. That's one reason that city living is linked to increased rates of depression.

How a possible Yellen departure could spark a fire under the Fed to cut its $4.5 trillion balance sheet

It's often said that good things come to those who wait — but a bloated $4.5 trillion balance sheet might be a notable exception to that rule.

With the Federal Reserve facing a Herculean conundrum in unwinding its crisis-era monetary policy — and a likely leadership transition on the horizon — Goldman Sachs suggested on Saturday the central bank could move early to reduce the vast sums of government and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) it holds on its books.

In a research note to clients, the bank pointed to the likelihood that President Donald Trumpmay "reshape the leadership" of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Fed's powerful policy-making body, as the terms of Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Vice Chair Stanley Fischer expire in early 2018.

"This could be important for balance sheet policy because many Republican-leaning economists have criticized quantitative easing (QE) and have expressed a preference for rapid balance sheet rundown, perhaps even through asset sales," wrote Daan Struyven, a Goldman economist.

We haven't seen the last recession: Larry Summers

Trump’s Budget Versus the Debt Ceiling

When President Trump announced his skinny budget last week, Wall Street analysts and Washington insiders pronounced it “dead on arrival.” “The proposal should be seen as a starting point for congressional negotiations,” Goldman Sachs wrote in a note to clients. Appropriations bills need a minimum of 60 votes, 8 of which will need to be Democratic, to pass the Senate.

Since cooperating with Trump on any issue would be political suicide for Democratic senators, it would be even more remarkable if they endorsed his massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Labor. Nevertheless, this budget is an important political statement.

It is half the size of its predecessor — if not in dollar terms at least in page numbers — and its core message is to deliver on campaign promises. It boosts defense spending by $54 billion, reserves money for the border wall, and injects resources into the fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and enforcement of trade sanctions and immigration laws.

On the other hand it will take away $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, of the EPA’s budget and $10.9 billion, or 28 percent, from the State Department’s. These cuts mainly defund commitments to foreign aid, multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, and climate change programs under the aegis of the United Nations.

New Study In D.C. Finds That A $15 Minimum Wage Could Cost 1,200 Jobs

A new study that analyzes the potential effects of a $15 minimum wage in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), found that an increase to $15 could cost 1,200 jobs.

The District of Columbia’s Office of Revenue Analysis released a report Thursday, asserting that 150,000 workers in the District would be affected by the higher minimum wage and as many as 1,200 jobs could be lost by 2020 due to the new policy.

The study further states that as many as 2,000 jobs could succumb to the increased minimum wage by 2026. The mayor’s “Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act,” stipulates that the minimum wage increases to $15 an hour by 2020, with incremental increases each year. The minimum wage is currently $11.50.

The findings revealed that nearly two-thirds of the pay increases will benefit non-D.C. residents who work in the District, but live elsewhere (likely Virginia or Maryland, which borders D.C.). While nearly two-thirds of the pay increases go to non-residents, D.C. residents will absorb 80 percent of the job losses.

Gold holds firm as Fed rate hike guidance weighs on dollar

Gold prices edged up on Monday as the dollar stayed on the defensive, finding support from the U.S. Federal Reserve's conservative guidance on the path of rate hikes this year.

Markets were bracing for a packed week of Fed messaging with no less than nine different policy makers set to speak, including Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday.

Yellen's cautious guidance last week has investors pricing in almost no chance of another rate rise at the next policy meeting in May, rising to around 50-50 for June.

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.35 percent to 834.10 tonnes on Friday from 837.06 tonnes on Thursday. Hedge funds and money managers slashed their net long position in COMEX gold for the second straight week in the week to March 14, and also cut long positions in silver, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.

Subway is suing the CBC for claiming its oven-roasted chicken is only 53.6% chicken

Americans are quitting jobs at the fastest pace in 16 years

Employed Americans are quitting their jobs like crazy in another sign that under President Donald Trump, confidence across the U.S. economy is rising.

In January, the number of Americans quitting their jobs rose to a seasonally-adjusted total of 3.22 million, the highest number since February 2001. The quits rate rose in January to 2.2%.

People quitting their jobs in droves is seen as a sign of confidence among workers, as folks are unlikely to quit a job unless they are confident they can get another one.

A new high in job quitters comes amid a flurry of data in the past week showing confidence in the U.S. economy continues to be strong.

NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

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