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posted on 13 December 2016

Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, China Econ Nos. Good, Bill Gates Leads Green Invest, Latest Trump News, US Oil Ramps Up, Gov Holds Most Of Aleppo, India's Money Mess, Mexico Drug War Tragedy And More

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Early Bird Headlines 13 December 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.




  • Bill Gates and investors worth $170 billion are launching a fund to fight climate change through energy innovation (Quartz) Bill Gates is leading a more than $1 billion fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation. The Microsoft co-founder and his all-star line-up of fellow investors plan to announce tomorrow the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, which will begin making investments next year. The BEV fund, which has a 20-year duration, aims to invest in the commercialization of new technologies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in areas including electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial processes, agriculture, and energy-system efficiency.

  • Automation Can Actually Create More Jobs (The Wall Street Journal) Evidence shows increased productivity leads to more wealth, cheaper goods, greater spending power and ultimately, more jobs. (Econintersect: It seems to us that the job creation will depend on how the productivity gains of automation are distributed. The Journal focuses on problems of people transitioning from jobs that go away to new job opportunities.) Here is some from The WSJ:

Since the 1970s, when automated teller machines arrived, the number of bank tellers in America has more than doubled. James Bessen, an economist who teaches at Boston University School of Law, points to that seeming paradox amid new concerns that automation is “stealing" human jobs. To the contrary, he says, jobs and automation often grow hand in hand.

Sometimes, of course, machines really do replace humans, as in agriculture and manufacturing, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology labor economist David Autor in a succinct and illuminating TED talk, which could have served as the headline for this column. Across an entire economy, however, Dr. Autor says that’s never happened.

The threat that machines pose to workers is in the news again, after an election that turned on the frustration of working-class voters. Last week, Inc.introduced Amazon Go, a store without cashiers.


‘We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments’

  • Trump Pushes Back Announcement on Business Conflicts of Interest (CNBC) President-elect Donald Trump has canceled his planned Dec. 15 address set to explain how he would address his business conflicts of interest prior to assuming the White House, a senior transition source told NBC News. Instead, the announcement is delayed until January. The news of the cancellation was first reported by Bloomberg Monday evening, with Trump transition officials telling the publication that there is no date for the announcement, but it will be prior to his inauguration on Jan. 20. Trump's last press conference was 138 days ago in July (when he invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's email).

  • Why the CIA Thinks Russia Wanted Trump to Win (NBC News) The CIA's assessment that the Russians favored Trump was not based on any single piece of new intelligence, officials briefed on the matter told NBC News. Instead, it was the result of more stringent analysis of a growing body of circumstantial evidence more detailed than anything the public has seen. Human sources, communications intercepts and other intelligence have allowed analysts to piece together the identities of some of the players, and the steps they took to hurt Clinton's candidacy while boosting Trump's, officials said. The CIA also noted that while Russian hackers gathered information on Republicans, they didn't release any of it, the way they did with Democratic emails leaked to WikiLeaks. The Republican National Committee denies its systems were hacked, but the emails of individual Republicans were collected - something NBC News reported in October.

  • Trump Choice of Tillerson as Secretary of State Sets Up Fight (Bloomberg) President-elect Donald Trump plans on Tuesday to nominate Exxon Mobil Corp. chief Rex Tillerson for U.S. secretary of state, setting off a confirmation fight that puts the oilman’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and Trump’s own -- in the spotlight. The nomination is sure to spark a high-profile battle in the U.S. Senate, where three Republicans and several Democrats have already expressed public misgivings about making Tillerson the nation’s top diplomat, largely over concerns about his two decades of work with Putin.

  • Number of U.S. Oil Rigs Up Over 50% in Last 6 Months (Twitter) U.S. oil is getting ready for $60.

Click for large image.

  • U.S. Oil Production 1980-2016 (EIA) From preceding item, number of rigs down almost 80%, oil production down less than 10%. We bet Saudi Arabia never saw that coming.




  • Syrian army takes over Aleppo areas quit by rebels: military source (Reuters) Syria's army and its allies have taken full control over all the Aleppo districts abandoned by rebels during their retreat in the city, a Syrian military source said on Tuesday. On Monday rebel defenses collapsed, leading to a broad army advance across more than half of the remaining insurgent pocket in Aleppo and a retreat of opposition fighters to a few districts on the west bank of the city's river. Recapturing the entire rebel pocket of Aleppo will constitute the biggest battlefield victory yet for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia's air force, Iran and Shi'ite militias.


  • Gorbachev Says U.S. Was Short-sighted on Soviets (Bloomberg) As the Soviet Union was breaking up 25 years ago, Mikhail Gorbachev expected the United States and its Western allies to provide vital aid. The former Soviet president thinks their failure to offer significant help wasted a chance to build a safer world and resulted from short-sighted gloating at a Cold War rival's demise. In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, the 85-year-old Gorbachev voiced hope that Russia and the United States would do better and ease current tensions during Donald Trump's presidency.


  • Inside India’s Unprecedented Assault on Cash (The Wall Street Journal) Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni. This is an excellent description of the process and timeline of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "demonetization" program. The WSJ says that this puts India at "the forefront of a nascent global campaign against cash". While, to the public this was announced as a "currency replacement" scheme, according to many it is more properly called a "demonetization" process with the objective off reducing the number of cash transactions and increasing the number of electronic (digital) exchanges. That effort is aided (indeed, explained) by the slow rollout of new currency bills, which, to date amount to only about 25% of the $230 billion of old currency so far destroyed. See also next article.

  • Cash is dead, long live cash! (India Info Line) Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni. This Indian author lays the "demonetization" execution mess at the door of the bankers, who he sees harboring corrupt elements that are enriching themselves rather than executing the government's currency exchaange progrm as designed. He writes:

... the starkest reminder of the extremely high levels of corrupt behaviour is to be had from the vivid photographs and video footage of bundles of new currency discovered by authorities all across the country.

The amounts of cash seized are far in excess of what could have been legally withdrawn in the last four weeks from our banks. Remember, even the amount of money made available to individual branches has been rationed.

Dozens of bank staffers - both in the public as well the as in the private sector - have been caught helping launder demonetised currency. What has been seized so far must be only a very small fraction of what would have been laundered by now.


  • China November factory output, retail sales stronger than expected (CNBC) China's factory output and retail sales grew faster than expected in November, while fixed-asset investment was in-line with forecasts, adding to growing signs of stabilization in the world's second-biggest economy. Factory output grew 6.2% from a year earlier, slightly better than analysts' forecasts and October's reading. Retail sales climbed 10.8%, the fastest pace since December 2015 and beating expectations for a 10.1% rise. After a rocky start to the year, China's economy has performed better than expected and looks set to hit Beijing's 6.5 to 7% growth target as increased government spending and a sizzling housing market spur a construction boom. Private investment remains weak, however, leaving economic growth more reliant on a steady stream of government spending, while the property market is showing signs of fatigue, raising fears that this year's momentum will not be sustainable.


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