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What We Read Today 14 June 2017

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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • As oil tanks, Saudi Arabia's next effort to boost prices may be targeting US oil inventory data

  • Fed hikes interest rates despite declining inflation, sets plan for balance sheet reduction

  • Shooter had professed deep disgust with GOP

  • Is Trump Now a Subject of the Meuller Investigation?

  • 2 Leading Monitors of U.S. Construction Activity, 1 Public and 1 Private – Early Summer 2017

  • The Eurozone Must Reform or Die

  • Senate overwhelmingly votes to impose new sanctions on Russia over election meddling

  • Nonresidential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – May 2017

  • Odds Rise For "Inverted Yield Curve" & New Recession

  • China approves 9 Trump trademarks previously rejected

  • Miles of Ice Collapsing into the Sea

  • Insights into Imperialism as China's Most Ancient Imperial Palace is Discovered in Shanxi

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Saudi Arabia and other producers are frustrated that growing U.S. production is hurting the oil market.

  • Saudi Arabia is said to be considering holding back exports into the U.S. in July.

  • Reduced exports would show up in weekly U.S. government data and send a bullish signal to the market.


  • The Federal Reserve announced a quarter-point rate hike Wednesday as expected.

  • The central bank last increased its benchmark rate in March.

  • It now believes inflation will fall well short of its 2 percent target this year.

  • The statement gave more detail on how it will unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

  • Shooter had professed deep disgust with GOP (The Hill)  The man who shot a top GOP congressman and several other people early Wednesday morning had a long history of run-ins with the law and for years had professed a deeply held disgust with the Republican Party.  James Hodgkinson, 66, died Wednesday from wounds sustained in the shootout with police, authorities confirmed.

Social media activity and letters to the editor show a man who blamed Republicans for the country’s economic woes going back to the Great Depression. A prolific writer of letters to the editor in his local newspaper, Hodgkinson railed against income inequality and what he saw as the failed policies of GOP lawmakers.

If the former F.B.I. director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee is to be believed, one of the driving factors that led Donald Trump to fire Comey was the F.B.I. chief’s reluctance to publicly state that the President was not a subject of the Russia investigation. But is he now? While the Justice Department and Robert Mueller, the special counsel, have not commented on whether they are investigating Trump, several former federal prosecutors told me that if he’s not yet, he soon will be—or at least should be.

  • 2 Leading Monitors of U.S. Construction Activity, 1 Public and 1 Private – Early Summer 2017 (ConstructConnect)  The percentage levels and changes in Table 1 are based on the Census Bureau’s seasonally-adjusted (SA) April 2017 and earlier put-in-place construction statistics. ‘Put-in-place’ as a concept is meant to mirror work-in-process or progress payments as projects proceed.

    For each type-of-structure, Table 1 takes the behind-the-scenes put-in-place data and compares the percentage changes of latest-12-months-over-previous-12-months versus latest-three-months-over-previous-three-months (annualized).

    If the three-month percent change exceeds the 12-month percent change, then construction activity in that type-of-structure category is considered to be speeding up. A check mark is entered in the far right column. (If the opposite is occurring, a check mark is entered in the ‘slowing down’ column.)

    Click for large image.

    Graph 1 shows moving 12-month totals of ConstructConnect’s construction starts figures (i.e., the ‘Private Monitor’ in the headline).  For example, the residential, nonresidential building and engineering figures for April 2017 are the sums of their monthly numbers for May 2016 through April 2017.  Graph 1 highlights how much more severely residential construction was impacted by the Great
    Recession and its aftermath (2009 through 2011) than was non-residential building work.  During the same time frame, engineering/civil construction starts barely felt a twinge.

    The residential sub-category’s trough-to-current-position jump has been slightly over +100%, but a further rise of +40% will be needed to again scale 2006’s ‘peak of Everest’.

    Click for large image.


  • The Eurozone Must Reform or Die (Kenneth Rogoff, Project Syndicate)  Econintersect:  It took the newly independent American colonies only a little more than a decade to determine that The Articles of Confederation were not going to provide a workable framework for the new nation and to adopt The United States Constitution.  Just how long will it take for the EU to reach some sort of similar conclusion?  If that doesn't happen, we agree with Prof. Rogoff - the EU will die.

With the election of a reform-minded centrist president in France and the re-election of German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeming ever more likely, is there hope for the stalled single-currency project in Europe? Perhaps, but another decade of slow growth, punctuated by periodic debt-related convulsions, still looks more likely. With a determined move toward fiscal and banking union, things could be much better. But, in the absence of policies to strengthen stability and sustainability, the chances of an eventual collapse are much greater.


  • Senate overwhelmingly votes to impose new sanctions on Russia over election meddling (CNBC)  The amendment, attached to a bill about Iran, would impose new sanctions on Russia and prevent the president from easing existing sanctions without congressional approval.  The vote was 97 to two for the legislation, filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill. It is intended to punish Russia over issues including alleged meddling in the election, annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for the government of Syria in that country's six-year-long civil war.


  • China approves 9 Trump trademarks previously rejected (  The Chinese government has granted preliminary approval for nine Donald Trump trademarks it had previously rejected, in whole or in part, The Associated Press found, a turn that is likely to fuel further allegations that Beijing may be giving the president's family business special treatment.  Matthew Dresden, an intellectual property attorney at Harris Bricken in Seattle  said: 

"The speed with which these appeals were decided is mind-blowing.  I have never seen any decisions made that quickly. That suggests special treatment. But that's just procedural. Substantively, it's impossible to say whether any of this is unusual."

  • Insights into Imperialism as China's Most Ancient Imperial Palace is Discovered in Shanxi (Ancient Origins)  The earliest imperial city to be unearthed so far has been found in north China's Shanxi Province. Archaeologists have dated the ruins in the northeast of the Taosi relic site in Xiangfen County to around 4000 years ago. Experts believe that the newly found remains will provide significant evidence of China's capital city system.  The earliest cities in China arose during the Shang Dynasty. This was a period also marked by the development of bronze technology, the first elaborate system of writing, ceremonial religious centers, public roads, monumental public architecture, large scale warfare, taxes and an agrarian peasantry.

By 2000 BC, villages were being constructed with walled ramparts or rammed earth enclosing as much as 35 acres. The rectilinear shape, position of gates and orderly division of space within late Neolithic villages clearly foreshadowed the structure of early Chinese cities, while house foundations suggest the use of classical Chinese beam-and-frame construction easily adapted to the creation of large, public buildings.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

The so-called “yield curve” – the spreads between yields on short-dated Treasuries (notes) and longer-dated Treasuries (bonds) – have been narrowing most of this year, and analysts wonder if this trend is likely to continue.

Some worry we may be looking at an “inverted yield curve” where short rates rise above long rates before too long. Inverted yield curves are bad for the economy and have preceded the last seven recessions.

Click for large image.

When the value of the current month is higher than for the same month a year ago, the line will turn up; when lower, it will dip.

String a couple of similar positive or negative directional changes together over several months and one has a trend.

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