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posted on 24 August 2016

Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, Oil Steadies, Hillary's Shaky Foundation, GOP 'Healthers', ACA Trends Same As Corp. Groups, Italy Quake, China's Not So Bad Debt And More

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Early Bird Headlines 24 August 2016

Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.




  • Oil up on Iran talk; stockpile build cited by API surprises (Reuters) Oil prices rose on Tuesday after Reuters reported Iran was sending positive signals that it may support joint OPEC action to prop up the market, before the market pared gains on trade data showing a surprise build in U.S. crude stocks. Brent crude settled up 80 cents, or 1.6%, at $49.96 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 69 cents, or 1.5%, to close at $48.10.

  • Big banks plan to coin new digital currency (Financial Times) Four of the world's biggest banks have teamed up to develop a new form of digital cash that they believe will become an industry standard to clear and settle financial trades over blockchain, the technology underpinning bitcoin. UBS, the Swiss bank, pioneered the "utility settlement coin" and has now joined forces with Deutsche Bank, Santander and BNY Mellon - as well as the broker ICAP - to pitch the idea to central banks, aiming for its first commercial launch by early 2018. See next article.

  • The Human Blockchain: Bitcoin Explained Without Technology (Bitkan) This essay explains Bitcoin through the allegory of a pre-electricity village, without referencing any modern technology.


  • Many donors to Clinton Foundation met with her at State (Associated Press) More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president. At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

  • RNC chief: Trump could lead Clinton by Labor Day (The Hill) Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus predicted on Tuesday that Donald Trump could catch Hillary Clinton in the polls by Labor Day. Priebus told reporters on a conference call, that the Republican presidential nominee's "prepared, mature comments on the campaign trail" were doing the trick:

"I think what you are seeing on the campaign is a continuation of a good couple of weeks that Donald Trump has had. It's going to be important for us and for Donald Trump to continue down this measured path that he's on and if he does that, I think he's going to be tied or ahead at or just after Labor Day."

  • The new birthers: Debunking the Hillary Clinton health conspiracy (CNN) From Donald Trump and his top surrogates to the right-wing media and its engine rooms of outrage in the blogosphere, Hillary Clinton's opponents are ramping up efforts to sow doubt over the candidate's health. The campaign -- which goes back years -- has escalated to shouting over the summer, as Trump spiraled in the polls while mostly failing to connect with voters outside his base demographic. Now, as the race enters a crucial phase, there has been a growing push to fundamentally undermine Clinton's candidacy. Much in the way "birthers" (Trump was among the most prominent) sought similar ends by questioning President Barack Obama's citizenship, the "healthers" are using junk science and conspiracy theories to argue that Clinton is suffering from a series of debilitating brain injuries.

  • How healthy is Donald Trump? (CNN) As Donald Trump's campaign attempts to raise doubt about Hillary Clinton's health, the Republican nominee faces scrutiny about his own physical fitness. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports:

  • ‚Äč3 secrets about 2016 group health benefits (LifeHealthPro) One of the criticisms of ObamaCare has been that premiums are rising faster than those for employer provided group plans. The research team at United Benefit Advisors has found differently. It is true that group plan premiums have held pretty steady in 2016 but that has occurred while major increases in deductibles have been imposed. This survey found that when it comes to pricing and deductible trends, the UBA figures for 2016 look comparable to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures for the individual plans that insurers sold through the HHS exchange enrollment system for 2016.


  • Earthquake leaves at least six dead in central Italy (BBC News) A magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck central Italy, leaving at least six people dead and others trapped under rubble, Italian officials said. The quake hit at 03:36 (01:36 GMT), 76 km (47 miles) southeast of the city of Perugia, at the very shallow depth of 10km (6 miles), the USGS said. The mayor of one town told Italian radio that "half the town is gone". In Rome, some buildings shook for 20 seconds, according to La Repubblica newspaper. Shallow earthquakes cause much more surface damage than do deeper ones.


  • Turkish military, U.S.-led coalition launch operation to sweep Islamic State from Syria town (Reuters) Turkish special forces units and jets supported by warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition launched an operation in northern Syria on Wednesday to wipe out Islamic State militants along the border with Turkey, Turkish officials said. The Turkish army began firing artillery rounds into the Syrian border town of Jarablus at around 0100 GMT (0900 ET) and Turkish and U.S. warplanes pounded Islamic State targets with airstrikes as part of the operation, Turkish military sources said.


  • Four reasons why Goldman is upbeat about India (CNBC) The world's fastest-growing major economy is set to accelerate in the current fiscal year, according to Goldman Sachs. India's economy is set to grow by 7.9% on-year between April 2016 and March 2017, accelerating from 7.6% in the previous year, the investment bank said in a note on Tuesday. That growth figure, if achieved, would put India well above China, which is expected to expand at a more modest pace this year, with the Chinese government aiming for growth of 6.5 to 7%.


  • Biden's remark on Japan Constitution raises eyebrows (Associated Press) A recent remark by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that America wrote Japan's Constitution is raising some eyebrows in Japan. A popular front-page column in the national Asahi newspaper said this week that the comment "was unprecedented in its insensitivity" and "could even be considered arrogant". Biden, appearing Monday with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, attacked Republican candidate Donald Trump for saying that Japan might need to consider obtaining nuclear weapons in the future. The vice president said:

"Does he not understand we wrote Japan's Constitution to say that they could not be a nuclear power?"

North Korea

  • Japan, China, South Korea agree to urge North Korea to stop provocation (Reuters) Japan, China and South Korea agreed to urge North Korea to refrain from provocation and follow U.N. Security Council resolutions, after the country's latest missile launch towards Japan early on Wednesday. A North Korean submarine fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday that flew about 500 km (311 miles) towards Japan, a show of improving technological capability for the isolated country that has conducted a series of launches in defiance of UN sanctions. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a news conference after hosting a trilateral meeting with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts:

"We have confirmed that we will urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint regarding its provocative action, and to observe the U.N. Security Council's resolutions."


  • China's Growing Debt Problem Isn't Quite What It Seems (Bloomberg) China's debt pile is huge and - more worryingly - growing fast. And credit isn't delivering the same kind of economic boost it once did. But most debt is in local hands in a largely closed financial system, giving China's leaders some breathing space to fix the mess. And that's good for the global economy. China's total debt is now about two and a half times the size of its economy. It takes almost a third of gross domestic product just to service it. Corporations are by far the biggest debtors, especially state-owned enterprises. What makes the Chinese debt problem less dangerous to the world (and also Japan's debt) is that the corporate debt is backed by physical assets which can be sold, offsetting some of the exposure. And also both Japan and China have savings gluts (much of their debt is backed by domestic deposits). Econintersect: The other factor here which greatly reduces the usefulness of this discussion is that the authors discuss total private (non-financial) plus national government debt as lumped quantities. Private and public debt are two distinct 'beasts' and serve completely separate functions in a nation's financial system. This sloppy analysis is typical of much of what passes for 'responsible' financial journalism. See graphic for China below.


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