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.
Asian stocks mixed as investors mull G20 headlines (CNBC) Asian equities were mixed on Monday as investors mulled headlines out of the G-20 finance ministers meeting in Germany at the weekend and China Development Forum over the next two days. Finance ministers from twenty of the world's biggest economies held a two-day meeting, and warned against competitive devaluations and disorderly FX markets but failed to agree on keeping global trade free and open. Oil prices were steady last Friday after dropping nearly 10% for the week on concerns of a continued global supply overhang. But today the declines continued. During Asian time, Brent crude was down 0.35% at $51.58 a barrel, while U.S. crude fell 0.59% to $48.50. The dollar weakened further to 100.13 against a basket of currencies at 3 pm HK/SIN, at a nearly one-month low. Gold prices hit a two-week high on Monday. Spot gold rose 0.4% to $1,233.60 per ounce by 0310 GMT, after earlier touching $1,234.60 an ounce, its highest since March 6. U.S. gold futures gained 0.3% to $1,233.90.
Bullish Crude Bets Cut by Most Ever as Price Falls Below $50 (Bloomberg) The exodus of oil-price optimists has begun. Money managers cut bets on rising West Texas Intermediate crude by a record amount during the week ended March 14, while wagers on a further price drop doubled as oil remained below $50 a barrel.
GOP rep. tells town hall crowd: ‘You don’t know how to listen’ (The Hill) There is bitter irony to this story. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told boisterous crowd of thousands at a town hall meeting Saturday that they didn’t “know how to listen". Thousands of North Texans packed into Richardson High School, the paper reported, asking Sessions to stop the Republicans' Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA). Sessions told the crowd:
"I understand why you're so frustrated. You don't know how to listen."
Republicans revamp health bill, boost benefits to older Americans (Reuters) U.S. House Republicans are working on changes to their healthcare overhaul bill to provide more generous tax credits for older Americans and add a work requirement for the Medicaid program for the poor, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Sunday. Ryan said Republican leaders still planned to bring the healthcare bill to a vote on the House of Representatives floor on Thursday.
Gorka’s own credentials have already come under scrutiny. Before his appointment, he was not a well-known figure among terrorism experts. A report in Politico noted that “several experts … puzzled over the gap between the numerous military academic credentials listed by Gorka - a political science Ph.D. who unfailingly uses the title ‘Dr.’ - and their unfamiliarity with his work and views." This dovetails with a number of reports that raise doubts about his knowledge of Islam and terrorism, as well as about his ties to Hungarian far-right groups - including one, Vitezi Rend, whose members “‘are presumed to be inadmissible’ to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act" - and his claim to have access to confidential information within the White House, despite no confirmation that he has security clearance. The biggest concern: Despite casting himself as an expert on radical jihadi ideology, Gorka does not speak Arabic and has spent no time in the Middle East.
Medical marijuana polling (Ballotpedia) In 2016 polling in North Carolina found the ratio of those who supported marijauna to those that didn't gretaer than 4/1. In 2013 the ratio was than 1.8/1.
According to Public Policy Polling surveys commissioned by NORML of North Carolina, the percentage of North Carolina voters who support allowing a doctor to prescribe or recommend marijuana for medical use increased from 58 percent in 2013 to 74 percent in 2016. (The participants in 2013, 2014, and 2015 were asked if they thought doctors should be allowed to “prescribe" marijuana, whereas the 2016 poll asked if they thought doctors should be allowed to “recommend" marijuana.)
German producer price inflation surges to five-year high of 3.1% (Financial Times) Germany’s producer price inflation is following the path of consumer prices in Europe’s largest economy, hitting a five-year high in February. Annual producer price inflation (which measures cost pressures faced by German manufacturers) increasedt from 2.4% to 3.1% last month, the highest since November 2011. The reading came in just below an average forecast of 3.2% from Reuters. Inflation was pushed up by the climbing cost of energy last month, which was 5.4% more expensive compared to February 2016, according to stats office Destatis.
These Power Plants Survived WWII Bombs But Maybe Not Merkel (Bloomberg) New energy technologies and government red tape may doom decades-old hydro storage plants in Germany and Switzerland. The facilities at risk make money buying cheap power at night to pump water up mountains, then releasing it downhill to turn generators during the day, when prices are higher. While they were cash cows before the era of wind and solar, market conditions are now so bad for pumped-hydro plants because of flattening of prices around the clock that Sweden’s Vattenfall AB and Statkraft AS say they might close plants in Germany, while Alpiq Holding AG wants to unload some units in Switzerland.
Syrian forces and rebels fight fierce clashes in northeast Damascus (Reuters) Syrian rebels launched a major offensive on Sunday that brought them close to the heart of the Old City of Damascus, and government forces responded with intense bombardments of rebel-held areas. The escalation, reported by witnesses, state TV, rebel sources, and a monitoring group, marked a bid by the rebels to relieve army pressure on besieged areas they control to the east of the capital.
Apache Helicopter Guns Down Boat Full of Somali Refugees Fleeing Yemen (Foreign Policy) On Friday, an Apache military helicopter reportedly opened fire on a boat packed with over 140 Somali migrants off the coast of Yemen. Forty-two people were killed in the attack, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). All 42 were reportedly carrying official U.N. refugee papers. Eighty survivors were rescued from the water after the attack and taken to a detention center in Hodieda, Yemen. The boat, containing men, women,and children was attacked 30 miles off the Yemen coast. The operator of the helicopter has not ben identified.
U.P. choice breaks the mould in Modi’s BJP (The Hindu) The elevation of the assertive, visible, and charismatic Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh marks a new pattern in the dynamics of leadership within the BJP, political observers say. The rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has transformed a multi-leader BJP into a party looking upon only one strong leader, but the new rise of Adityanath may signal a subtle shift in this pattern, an Allahabad-based academic, Badri Narayan, says.
Trump's Tariff Could Kill Thousands of Small Businesses in China (Bloomberg) Higher labor costs and stricter regulations keep nudging Eric Li’s glass factory in southeast China toward insolvency, even though his lampshades are on the shelves at Home Depot. President Donald Trump’s threatened tariff on his goods may be the final shove. Thousands of small- and medium-sized factories in China face the same predicament, with some owners considering shutting down or selling out if Trump slaps a levy on Chinese products that he said could reach 45 percent. These makers of clothes, toys and household goods fuel the $462.8 billion annual flow of exports to the U.S. but aren’t cash-rich, making it harder for them to take the tariff punch or pivot their operations toward Southeast Asia.
Trump’s Top China Expert Isn’t a China Expert (Foreign Policy) Peter Navarro has run for office five times, and lost five times. Over the course of his career, he has morphed from registered Republican, to Independent, to Democrat, and back to Republican - whatever it took to give him an edge, according to those in San Diego’s political circles, where Navarro forged a dubious reputation. The economics professor with a Harvard Ph.D. had much bigger ambitions than the quiet, tenured life he led for years. Like his current boss, President Donald Trump, he loved media attention and sought political fame.
But the totality of Navarro’s curriculum vitae reflects someone with greater expertise in public utilities than the complex workings of the Asia-Pacific. He does not appear to speak much Chinese, and has not, by all accounts, spent any significant time in the country, nor is he a frequent visitor. Well-regarded China analysts are almost universal in their derision of his views. What happens when the White House’s top China expert is not - at least according to the yardsticks commonly used in foreign policy circles - really a China expert?
We can also switch from fossil gas to biogas, solar thermal and high-efficiency renewable electricity technologies such as heat pumps, micro-filtration, electrolysis and other options.
Renewable energy (not just electricity) can supply the rest of our needs. Much to the surprise of many policymakers, it is now cheaper than traditional options and involves much less investment risk. Costs are continuing to fall.
But we need to supplement renewable energy with energy storage and smart demand management to ensure reliable supply. That’s where options such as pumped hydro storage, batteries and heat-storage options such as molten salt come in.
This is why the crisis is more political than practical. The solutions are on offer. It will become much more straightforward if politicians free themselves from being trapped in the past and wanting to prop up powerful incumbent industries.
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