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What We Read Today 11 October 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).

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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • OPEC Sees Oil Demand Growth, Hopeful for Market Balance in 2016 (Bloomberg)  Oil demand will grow and non-OPEC supply is due to contract, OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem El-Badri said, hoping to see a more balanced market in 2016.  Oil analysts are optimistic, forecasting global energy demand to grow grow by 1/3 by 2035.  Econintersect:  But how much of that growth will be in oil?

U.S.

EU

Europe’s highest court on Tuesday struck down an international agreement that allowed companies to move digital information like people’s web search histories and social media updates between the European Union and the United States. The decision left the international operations of companies like Google andFacebook in a sort of legal limbo even as their services continued working as usual.

The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, said the so-called safe harbor agreement was flawed because it allowed American government authorities to gain routine access to Europeans’ online information. The court said leaks from Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency, made it clear that American intelligence agencies had almost unfettered access to the data, infringing on Europeans’ rights to privacy.

Turkey

Syria

  • Syria conflict: Assad forces make 'significant gains' (BBC News)  Syrian forces backed by Hezbollah militants from Lebanon are said to have made significant advances against rebels after heavy Russian air strikes.  Government gains are being reported in Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces.  Russia says its aircraft carried out more than 60 missions over Syria in the past 24 hours, and that the Islamic State group was its main target.  But the Russian strikes appear to have impacted heavily on rebels fighting both the government and IS.
  • John Helmer: US Strategy In The Middle East Is Dying, Along With Its Authors, Carter And Brzezinski; Putin, Al-Assad Get To Dance On Their Graves, David Ben-Gurion Too (Naked Capitalism)  With a headline like that who needs an article?  But there is an article and a good one, too, written by John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia.  (Originally published at Dances with Bears.)

Japan

  • Japan Inc sounds alarm on consumer spending (Reuters)   Do not believe in official statistics, Japanese retailers seem to be saying, as they cut earnings forecasts and warn of lackluster consumer spending, a key growth engine for Japan at a time when exports and factory output are stalling.  If you go by the larger-than-expected 2.9% gain in household spending in August - the first year-on-year rise in three months - then consumption looks like it is finally alive and well again, after a sales tax hike last year stifled the economy.  But profits of retailers suggest the spending data, which has a small sample size, has not captured the full picture. Restrained household consumption raises the stakes for a central bank policy meeting on Oct. 30, and for the government's plan to flesh out new economic policies before the year-end.

China

  • This Analyst Says China's Stock Rally-to-Rout Is About to Repeat (Bloomberg)  In August, Thomas Schroeder correctly predicted a rebound in Chinese stocks wouldn’t last. Now, he says, the benchmark equity gauge will plumb new lows as a bear-market rally fails.  The Shanghai Composite Index will climb 29% to 4,100 in the next three months, before slumping as much as 41% to 2,400 in early 2016, according to Schroeder, the Bangkok-based founder and managing director of Chart Partners Group Ltd.

Canada

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • How Artificial Intelligence is Finding Gender Bias at Work (Fast Company)  Hat tip to Babette Inez, Newsana.  Not only is artificial intelligence software useful to detect gender bias in business interactions, but it is also (probably much more useful) a tool for training people to be aware of and correct subtle biases.
  • Health Savings Accounts Offer Triple Tax Benefits (Financial Planning)  HSAs provide powerful benefits for clients such as tax deductions on contributions, tax-deferred growth to retirement and tax-free withdrawals if used for medical expenses.  There are no “use or lose it” issues with HSAs, making them ideal for retirement savings, unlike the better-known flexible spending accounts.
  • Exxon Arctic Drilling Benefitting From Global Warming: Oil Company Denied Climate Change Science While Factoring It Into Arctic Operations, Report Shows (International Business Times)  For the more than 20 years oil company Exxon has sought to cast doubt on the science of climate change, it also quietly has factored climate change calculations into its planning for oil operations in the Arctic, the Los Angeles Times reported after analyzing hundreds of internal documents and published materials. Melting sea ice due to warmer ocean temperatures, one of the effects of climate change, makes searching for oil and gas easier.  For more see What Exxon knew about the Earth's melting Arctic (Los Angeles Times).
  • The Financial Sector is Too Big (Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer, Triple Crisis)  Hat tip to Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism).  Philip Arestis is Professor and Director of Research at the Cambridge Centre for Economic & Public Policy and Senior Fellow in the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Professor of Economics at the University of the Basque Country; and Malcolm Sawyer is Professor of Economics, University of Leeds.  They conclude:

There are many reasons for thinking that the financial sector has become too large. Its growth in recent decades has not been associated with facilitating savings and encouraging investment. It has absorbed valuable resources which are largely engaged in the trading in casino-like activities. The lax systems of regulation have made financial crises more likely. Indeed, and following the international financial crisis of 2007/2008 and the great recession a number of proposals have been put forward to avoid similar crises. To this day, nonetheless, the implementation of these proposals is very slow indeed (see, also, Arestis, “Main and Contributory Causes of the Recent Financial Crisis and Economic Policy Implications,”  [below] for more details).

Arestis, P. (2016), “Main and Contributory Causes of the Recent Financial Crisis and Economic Policy Implications,” in P. Arestis and M. C. Sawyer (eds.), Emerging Economies During and After the Great Recession, Annual Edition of International Papers in Political Economy, Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, Forthcoming).


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