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 rises after drop in U.S. gasoline stocks, but market remains bloated (Reuters) Oil prices rose on Thursday, boosted by an unexpected draw in U.S. gasoline inventories, although bloated crude supplies meant that fuel markets remain under pressure. Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark for oil prices, were trading at $55.52 per barrel at 0758 GMT, up $0.40, or 0.%, from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was up $0.39 cents, or 0.8%, at $52.73 a barrel.
Jump in US crude imports to reverse in March: Goldman (CNBC) The recent jump in U.S. crude imports could reverse from March as major oil exporters start cutting production, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note. The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) report released on Wednesday found that U.S. crude inventories surged in the week ended Feb 3 by 13.8 million barrels - the second largest weekly buildup on record. However, the rise did not shock the market, since preliminary data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) late on Tuesday had indicated an even bigger increase. Goldman Sachs attributed the recent jump to an increase in imports, especially those from the Gulf Coast. However, output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producing nations could reverse this trend.
Senate confirms Sessions as attorney general (The Hill) The Senate voted Wednesday night to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general, capping a vicious debate that left Democrats and Republicans alike seething at times. No Republicans went against Sessions in the 52-47 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was the only Democrat to back Sessions.
Legal battle over travel ban pits Trump's powers against his own words (Reuters) A U.S. appeals court is weighing arguments for and against President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban, but its decision this week may not yet answer the underlying legal questions being raised in the fast-moving case. While the president says he expects a quick decision, this case may drag on for some time.
Trump’s Supreme Court pick: Judge attack ‘demoralizing’ (The Hill) The fury over President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary grew on Wednesday as even his nominee for the Supreme Court criticized his rhetoric as “demoralizing" for the nation’s judges. Speaking to law enforcement officials, Trump made a public show of trying to influence the judges who are wrestling with whether to lift a court order blocking his travel ban. A day earlier, the judges heard oral arguments in the case that were broadcast live on cable news networks. He argued the judges should immediately reinstate the executive order in the name of national security.
If Donald Trump remains a cultural warrior, he will fail (Edward Harrison, Credit Writedowns) EH has contributed to GEI. Early on in President Trump’s new administration, too much of his energy is being placed on divisive ‘cultural’ issues and not enough attention is being paid to economic policies. To the degree Trump has turned to the economy, much of his policy has been focused on issues that will not yield long-term economic benefits but contain considerable risk, like trade with Mexico and China. And so, while Donald Trump is only a few weeks into his presidency, I think we can begin to take stock of what his presidency will mean for the US economy. EH goes on to describe in detail the approach he thinks could lead to a successful presidency.
Russia calls Romania 'a clear threat' and NATO outpost: Ifax (Reuters) Russia views Romania as a NATO outpost and as a threat due to it hosting elements of a U.S. anti-missile shield, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing a Russian foreign ministry official. The U.S. military, which says the shield is needed to protect from Iran, not threaten Russia, switched on the $800 million Romanian part of the shield in May last year. Another part of the shield is due to be built in Poland.
How computer hacking is becoming Russia’s weapon of choice (The Conversation) In his 2007 address to the Annual Security Conference in Munich, Vladimir Putin threw down a gauntlet to the West. Attacking what he called “illegal" unilateral military action by the US, he hinted that Russia would build its capability in information warfare to counter American and NATO expansion. The author concludes:
The internet has changed mass communication in countless positive ways. But it is becoming an increasingly dangerous tool for subversive activity. A re-think and a re-boot are looking increasingly necessary.
What India's Central Bank Is Really Saying (Bloomberg) By holding interest rates steady at 6.25% instead of dropping to the expected 6%, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is being cautious about the recent decline in inflation. They seem to be indicating that could be a temporary sign of distress resulting from the government's bungled demonetization program. While the RBI is stating the expectation of resumed economic growth in the coming months, they may just be holding fire until they see what actually transpires.
Philippines Holds Benchmark Rate as Inflation Pressure Mounts (Bloomberg) The Philippines left its benchmark interest rate at a record low, opting to preserve its firepower even as inflation pressures rise. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas kept the overnight reverse repurchase rate at 3%, it said in Manila on Thursday, as predicted by all 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The inflation rate in the Philippines has risen to 2.7%, so the real rate is close to zero.
China Vice Premier: Must Punish Those Who Falsify Economic Data (Bloomberg) China's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said economic statistics must not be fabricated and that those caught manipulating data should be punished and face consequences in their careers. The central government requires authentic and reliable economic data to set policy, and China should have a traceable system to punish those found responsible for faking statistics, Zhang said Wednesday during a visit to the National Bureau of Statistics. The central government has planned steps that will improve the independence of data collection and reduce the influence of local governments, Bloombergreported last month, citing people familiar with the matter.
Canada warns Trump administration over talk of US tariffs (CNBC) Canada's foreign minister has warned the Trump administration that Canada will retaliate if the U.S. applies new tariffs. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday from Washington that her government strongly opposes any new possible tariffs and would respond. She says they would be mutually harmful. More than 75% of Canada's exports go to the U.S. Of the 50 U.S. states, 35 count Canada as their leading export market.
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